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A House Divided

Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston, February 18th, 1861

Item [513]. Catherine Ann Deveruex Edmondston: Journal of a Secesh Lady pg. 37



Throughout Catherine’s diary, she experiences an ideological and physical division between her family members. While Catherine and Patrick were staunch Southern secessionists, her father, mother and sister remained Unionist. The emotional toll and distress of disagreeing with her father, in particular, exposes the very understanding of her female role as a proper southern daughter in a patrilineal family. For example, Catherine and her father express their support, or lack there of, regarding the succession of South Carolina at the eve of the Civil War.


“It gets almost painful to go to Father’s we differ so widely. He it is true says nothing personal or unhandsome, but he censures so sweepingly every thing that SC does. Mama & Susan do go on so about the “Flag. Who cares for the old striped rag now that the principle it represented is gone? It is but an emblem of a past glory. How can it be upheld when the spirit-nay even the body-that gave it value is lost?” [Item 513] 




As Patrick leaves for his wartime duties with the Scotland Neck Mounted Riflemen of Halifax County, Catherine bids her husband farewell for he has gone to fulfill “a man’s highest & holiest duty!”(Edmondston, 135). However as the time passes, Catherine marital life re-structures as Patrick’s absence leads her to a state of romantic uncertainty as she attempts to battle her emotional urges. On May 11th, 1862 she writes, “ I may expect too much from friends, but from him my highest aspiration, my warmest expectations are fulfilled. He is everything to me. Keep me, O God, from Idols!”(Edmondston, 174).


 One on the most significant outcomes of men’s absence, from the household, was the reliance and satisfaction of handwritten letters and telegrams from loved ones. The communication with loved ones helped woman cope with their loneliness and apprehension, while at the same time providing an emotional muse [Item 57]. As her diary progresses, Catherine expresses the growing anxiety that accompanied her as she constantly waits to hear back from Patrick. “ Still no Mail!” (Edmondston, 585).


This angst of a war would ultimately transform Catherine’s notion of an endearing and passionate wife, which eventually strengthens her romantic and emotional relationship with Patrick. For instance, on August 6, 1862 Catherine wrote, “No, I was not, for I am happier now than I was then. I know him better & have feeling of more entire friendship for him which grows stronger the longer I live”(Edmondston, 232). The yearning for loved ones, along with the anxiousness of war, inevitably deepens Catherine’s female role as an idealistically devoted wife and adoring lover, which re-instates and once again reinforces the conventional ideal gender expectations for women in the 19th century old South. 


Drew Gilpin Faust, <em>Mothers of Invention</em> (1996)

[Item 57] : Mothers of Invention pg. 120