Torn by War

Written by Mary Adelia Byers Samuel R. Phillips (ed.)
Review by Jo Ann Butler

Mary Adelia Byers was only fifteen when she began keeping a diary in 1862. Her home in Batesville, Arkansas lay on the western edge of the Confederacy and traded hands six times during the Civil War. Though Mary never saw battle or true privation, she helped nurse the wounded and witnessed the upheaval of her agriculturally-dependent society, especially after the Emancipation Act. She also partied and counted her beaux as avidly as Scarlett O’Hara. Torn by War presents Mary and her world to modern readers. Samuel Phillips has done a superb job annotating Mary’s diary entries to introduce readers to her acquaintances and relatives. Maps, photographs, and historical accounts add vital background. Mary’s diary does not include battle scenes or provide overarching insight into national history on the diarist’s part. However, Torn by War does provide readers and Civil War researchers a clear view of civilian life during the War Between the States as experienced by an unusually mature and observant young woman.