The Civil War Letters of Sarah Kennedy

Life under Occupation in the Upper South

  • Author(s): Uffelman, Minoa D., Ellen Kanervo, and Phyllis Smith, editors
  • Series:
  • Imprint: University of Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2023-04-19
  • Status: Active
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  • Available in PDF: Price $29.95 | Buy Now


At the outbreak of the Civil War, Sarah Kennedy watched as her husband, D.N., left for Mississippi, leaving her alone to care for their six children and control their slaves in a large home in downtown Clarksville, Tennessee. D. N. Kennedy left to aid the Confederate Treasury Department. He had steadfastly supported secession and helped recruit local boys for the Confederate army. The Civil War Letters of Sarah Kennedy: Life under Occupation in the Upper South showcases the letters Sarah wrote to her husband during their time apart, offering readers an inside look at life on the home front during the Civil War through the eyes of a slave-owning, town-dwelling wife and mother.

Featuring fifty-two of Sarah Kennedy’s letters to her husband from August 16, 1862, to February 20, 1865, this important collection chronicles Sarah Kennedy’s personal struggles during the Civil War years, from periods of illness to lack of consistent contact with her husband and everything in between. Her love and devotion to her family is apparent in each letter, contrasting deeply with her resentment and harsh treatment toward her enslaved people as Emancipation swept through Clarksville. A useful volume to Civil War historians and women’s history scholars alike, The Civil War Letters of Sarah Kennedy pulls back the curtain on upper-middle-class family life and social relations in a mid-sized Middle Tennessee town during the Civil War and reveals the slow demise of slavery during the Union occupation.


MINOA D. UFFELMAN is professor of history at Austin Peay State University. She and her colleagues have published two other Civil War–era primary works by Clarksville women: The Diary of Nannie Haskins Williams: A Southern Woman’s Story of Rebellion and Reconstruction, 1863–1890 and The Diary of Serepta Jordan: A Southern Woman’s Struggle with War and Family, 1857–1864.

ELLEN KANERVO is professor emerita of communications at Austin Peay State University and executive director of the Clarksville/Montgomery County Arts and Heritage Development Council.

PHYLLIS SMITH is retired from the US Army and is the historian of Mt. Olive Cemetery Historical Preservation Society in Clarksville, Tennessee.