<i>Revolt</i> Family Troubles in the House Divided

Julia A. Stern

in Mary Chesnut's Civil War Epic

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780226773285
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226773315 | DOI:
Revolt Family Troubles in the House Divided

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In order to appreciate Mary Chesnut's response to black on white bloodshed in her own South Carolina, it is helpful to understand her somewhat idiosyncratic ideas about the institution of African American bondage. Like many elite white Southerners on the eve of the Civil War, Chesnut worried about the looming prospect of “another St. Domingo” or a “second John Brown.” Such terms constituted planters' shorthand for a number of apocalyptic racial fantasies: the slave caste rising up en masse against the masters and slaughtering them, eventually overturning the brutalities of the plantation system (as in Haiti) or an armed white visionary evangelizing enslaved blacks to end their subjugation through violent conflict (as had John Brown). Details from Chesnut's 1880s narrative suggest that, although she shared many of the racist attitudes of her social class, she had come to conclude that slavery was wrong as early as the 1830s.

Keywords: racial bloodshed; Mary Chesnut; African American bondage; Southerners; Civil War; St. Domingo

Chapter.  10555 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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