Mary Miller Chesnut was the daughter of a prominent South Carolina politician (one-time state senator, governor and U.S. senator) and grew up in an atmosphere of public service. She attended private schools in Camden and Charleston. Her husband, South Carolina U.S. senator, James Chesnut, Jr., was a Confederate staff officer, an aide to General P.G.T. Beauregard, and commanding general of the South Carolina reserves.
Mary accompanied James on his military missions during the Civil War and began recording her views and observations on February 15, 1861, and closed her diary on August 2, 1865. After the war she reworked her manuscript many times in anticipation of publication. But her work, A Diary from Dixie, was not published until 1905, long after her death. Although not a day-by-day account, it is regarded highly by historians for its perceptive views of Confederate military and political leaders and for its insight into Southern society during the Civil War. An annotated edition with a biographical essay,
Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, edited by C. Vann Woodward (1981), was awarded the 1982 Pulitzer Prize in U.S. history.
Naomi Arlund has had a life long interest in history and in 2006 moved from California to Fairfax, Virginia. She was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to visit historic homes and battle ground sites that played an important role in the American Civil War. With the move to Virginia she had a chance to fulfill her desire to participate in 19th century living history programs. In the winter of 2009 she joined a Civil War military reenactment group, the Fairfax Rifles, and spent five years participating in events throughout the state.
Lee’s Lieutenants provided Naomi with a more authentic, first person impression experience and a greater opportunity to interact with the public and a wider range of individuals interested in living history portrayals. In the pursuit of knowledge regarding historic Virginia, she is a volunteer at the Sully Plantation Historic Site in Dulles, Virginia, the home of Richard Bland Lee, uncle to Robert E. Lee and also a docent at Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial, in Arlington National Cemetery. Naomi is a performing member of the Arlington House Victorian Dance Society. Portraying the South Carolina diarist, Mary Miller Chesnut, has allowed her to share Mary’s wit and wisdom with the public providing a more detailed picture of life among the Confederate military and social elite during the Civil War.