The Civil War Diaries of Cassie Fennell
A Young Confederate Woman in North Alabama, 1859–1865
Born near Guntersville, Alabama, Catherine (Cassie) Fennell was nineteen when the Civil War began. Starting with her time at a female academy in Washington, DC, the diaries continue through the war’s end and discuss civilian experiences in Alabama and the Tennessee Valley. Fennell believed that by keeping a diary she made a small contribution to the war effort and history itself.
Fennell was fairly well off and highly educated, moving easily in very elite social circles. Most of her relatives were staunch Confederates, and the war took its toll, with multiple members of her family killed or captured. As Fennell recounts the consequences of war—the downward spiral of the family fortune, the withering of hope at news from the battlefront, and the general uncertainty of civilian life in the South—her diaries constitute one of the few contemporaneous records of north Alabama, including the shelling and burning of Guntersville, which has been poorly documented in the historiography of the Civil War. While the first diary is written as a private reflection, the war journals are well researched and rely on extensive familiarity with local newspapers and seem like they are intended for the eyes of later generations.
Ultimately, these diaries amount to a social history of the war years, in a specific region where scholars have recovered relatively few firsthand accounts, and editor Whitney Snow’s compilation adds to the now growing genre of women’s Civil War diaries. Insightful and engrossing, The Civil War Diaries of Cassie Fennell is a compelling portrait of a privileged young woman who suffered devastating losses for her ardent support of a Confederate nation.
WHITNEY A. SNOW is an associate professor of history at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. She is the author of Cathedral Caverns and coauthor of Lake Guntersville. Her articles have appeared in the Alabama Review, Journal of Mississippi History, Journal of East Texas History, Southwestern Historical Quarterly, and Journal of East Tennessee History.