This book was originally published in 1903 by the D. Appleton and Company of New York. In this entertaining and personal memoir of a Southern woman, originally published in 1903 by New York’s D. Appleton and Company, Nell Duncan Grey (not her real name) relates her memories of the Civil War days to Myrta Lockett Avary at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Nell talks about her life before the Civil War and of her marriage to Daniel Grey. Her family lived at Norfolk, Virginia, a major naval yard. Her family entertained officers of the U.S. Navy and those from other countries. Nell’s family was Roman Catholic, and she mentions aspects of her faith in the narrative. Nell married Dan Grey at the age of 18, just when the Civil War was starting. He was commissioned a Confederate officer in the cavalry; after their marriage, she went to Petersburg, Virginia, with her sister.
Nell and her sister, Milicent, traveled to Baltimore, Maryland to get some fabric and other goods not available in the Confederacy. This meant running the Union land blockade. They teamed up with a Confederate spy who helped them to get across the border. She and her sister got what they wanted and headed back South, but not before dodging suspicious Union officers who suspected them of being spies. They made it back through the lines with the unsuspecting help of some Union officers. Much of this is quite entertaining and comical, although the reality of the times was dangerous.
After Nell’s return, she was able to see her husband off and on and stayed in a house near her husband’s cavalry’s camp. Important generals and other officers like General J.E.B. Stuart and Wade Hampton visited the house, and she entertained them. Her husband was now a major as well as a staff officer (his real name is not given, either). Nell became a good friend of General Stuart, whom she had given a religious medal. She mourned his death in battle, later learning that he had been buried with her medal.
Nell lived with her mother, sister, and nephew in Petersburg with some other people in the last months of the war. Food and other goods were very hard to come by, and when they were available, they were expensive. The war was not going too well for the South at this time. The Union army near Petersburg and began encircling and besieging Petersburg and Richmond. Union shells fell close to where Nell and her family were, and they ran from that place and headed to a safer location in Petersburg. Eventually, though, that place become unsafe, too, and they moved to Richmond in search of safety.
Nell’s husband was wounded, and she went to help him. Later, the two of them were traveling in an ambulance when the Union army began to complete its encirclement of the two cities. He met up with his unit, and she returned to Richmond. General Lee and President Jefferson Davis decided to evacuate Richmond, and after the evacuation, Union soldiers entered Richmond. Nell and her family were visited by Union soldiers, no more than stragglers, demanding food and money. When Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Nell did not know where her husband was. He later returned to Richmond and…
Myrta Lockett Avary helped to write and edited several other books about the Civil War, many of which had Confederate connections. This particular book is highly recommended to Civil War enthusiasts who are looking for an eyewitness account the war experience for women and other civilians. There are no maps, illustrations, index, or bibliography.