Header image  
line decor
line decor


From the Pen of a She-Rebel
The Civil War Diary of Emilie Riley McKinley

Edited by Gordon A. Cotton

A personal look at Mississippi's Confederate home front during a turning point of the Civil War

Shortly after she began her diary, Emilie Riley McKinley penned an entry to record the day she believed to be the saddest of her life. The date was July 4, 1863, and federal troops had captured the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. A teacher on a plantation near the city under siege, McKinley shared with others in her rural community an unwavering allegiance to the Confederate cause. What she did not share with her Southern neighbors was her background: Emilie McKinley was a Yankee.

McKinley's account, revealed through evocative diary entries, tells of a Northern woman who embodied sympathy for the Confederates. During the months that Federal troops occupied her hometown and county, she vented her feelings and opinions on the pages of her journal and articulated her support of the Confederate cause. Through sharply drawn vignettes, McKinley—never one to temper her beliefs—candidly depicted her confrontations with the men in blue along with observations of explosive interactions between soldiers and civilians. Maintaining a tone of wit and gaiety even as she encountered human pathos, she commented on major military events and reported on daily plantation life. An eyewitness account to a turning point in the Civil War, From the Pen of a She-Rebel chronicles not only a community's near destruction but also its endurance in the face of war.

Gordon A. Cotton, a former history teacher and newspaper reporter, is curator and director of the Old Court House Museum in Vicksburg, Mississippi. He lives at Yokena, Mississippi.

"An eyewitness account to a turning point in the Civil War, From the Pen of a She-Rebel maintains a tone of wit and gaiety even as the diarist encountered human pathos."—The McCormick Messenger

"A vivid account of civilian life during the Civil War, Emilie Riley McKinley's brief diary is a valuable addition to homefront accounts of the Vicksburg campaign. Here are the rumors and raids, the fears and hopes described by a Yankee pro-Confederate who brings the reader into her time and place with striking immediacy. The detailed entries contain much valuable information on the activities of the Federal troops and slaves but more importantly recapture the uncertainties and turmoil of ordinary people caught in the jaws of war. A worthy volume in a distinguished series of books documenting the lives of women in the south."—George C. Rable, University of Alabama

"A compelling snapshot by a feisty Confederate convert of Mississippi before and after occupation. Emilie McKinley's diary is replete with everyday occurrences, intimate conversations, and keen observations of human relationships, including old and new tensions between blacks and whites."—Lynda L. Crist, Editor of The Papers of Jefferson Davis



Book jacket for From the Pen of a She-Rebel


6 x 9
126 pages
7 illustrations
ISBN 978-1-57003-356-8
hardcover, $24.95s
Women's Diaries and Letters
of the South

    Copyright ©2018 The University of South Carolina Press