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Coastal history professor has new book on Civil War diarist

October 26, 2004

Coastal Carolina University history professor Robert T. Oliver has a new book out, A Faithful Heart: The Journals of Emmala Reed, 1865 and 1866, published by the University of South Carolina Press. Oliver holds degrees in history from Coastal Carolina and Clemson University.

Emmala Reed (18391893) was a South Carolinian who witnessed the collapse of the Confederacy. With the fall of Charleston and the burning of Columbia, waves of refugees flooded into her hometown of Anderson. Reeds journals from 1865 and 1866 present a detailed account of life in western South Carolina as war turned to reconstruction.

Reeds postwar writings are particularly important given their raritymany Civil War diarists stopped writing at wars end. As the daughter of Judge Jacob Pinckney Reed, a prominent lawyer, merchant and prewar Unionist, Reed offers a perspective different from the usual ardent secessionist. Also unlike many diarists of the period, Reed lived in a small town rather than on a plantation or in an urban center.

In her journals Reed captures the disheartening, chaotic period known as Presidential Reconstruction, the short span of time between the Confederate surrender and the beginnings of Congressional Reconstruction. Into her account of public travail Reed intertwines details about her private life. She depicts social engagements, religious events and school activities while often recording her hope for the return of her longtime suitor.

A valuable part of this saga, as recorded by the diarist, are the hundreds of individuals that she interacted with, people that the author has meticulously identified and connected to the town and the surrounding region. This is less a story of an individual than one of a community, said historian Louis P. Towles. Oliver lives in Myrtle Beach.