The Diary of Serepta Jordan
A Southern Woman's Struggle with War and Family, 1857–1864
“This book will be of immense value to historians of the secession crisis and Civil War in the Upper South, and it will shed new light on the lives of women and families experiencing the trials of war and emancipation.” —Aaron Astor, author of Rebels on the Border: Civil War, Emancipation, and the Reconstruction of Kentucky and Missouri
Discovered in a smokehouse in the mid-1980s, the diary of Serepta Jordan provides a unique window into the lives of Confederates living in occupied territory in upper middle Tennessee. A massive tome, written in a sturdy store ledger, the diary records every day from the fall of 1857 to June 1864. In this abridged version, Jordan reports local news, descriptions of her daily activities, war news, and social life. Orphaned at twelve, Jordan—her first name shortened to “Rep” by family and friends—lived in bustling New Providence (now part of Clarksville), Tennessee, on the banks of the Red River. Well educated by private tutors, Jordan read widely, followed politics, and was a skilled seamstress interested in the latest fashions.
Jordan’s descendants worked tirelessly toward ensuring the publication of this diary. In its carefully annotated pages, readers will learn about the years of sectional conflict leading up to the war, the diarist’s dizzying array of daily activities, and her attitudes toward those she encountered. Jordan takes a caustic tone toward Union occupiers, whom she accused of “prancing round on their fine horses.” She routinely refers to the USA as “Lincolndom” and describes her contempt toward the African Americans in the blue uniforms of the Union army. She seems to have also harbored a bitter resentment toward the “elites” on the other side of the river in Clarksville. This one-of-a-kind volume not only adds a distinct female voice to the story of the Civil War, but also a unique new picture of the slow but steady disintegration of the “peculiar institution” of slavery.
MINOA D. UFFELMAN is a professor of history at Austin Peay State University.
ELLEN KANERVO is professor emeritus of mass communications at Austin Peay State University.
PHYLLIS SMITH is retired from the US Army and is the historian of Mt. Olive Cemetery Historical Preservation Society in Clarksville, Tennessee.
ELEANOR WILLIAMS is the Montgomery County historian.