Fannie Preston's diary spans 120 pages and reflects her experiences during a stay in Baker County, Georgia, from November 1861 to September 1862, and of life in Baltimore, Maryland, from 1862 to 1863. Preston discussed daily life, wartime hardships, battles, Confederates, Confederate-sympathizers, African American people, slavery, religion, education, and wartime hardships.
Collection processed and finding aid created by Carrie Griffin, September 2018, and Meg Bossio, January 2022
Scope and Content:
Fannie Preston's diary spans 120 pages and reflects her experiences during a stay in Baker County, Georgia, from November 1861 to September 1862, and of life in Baltimore, Maryland, from 1862 to 1863.
Preston's writings while in Georgia include descriptions of daily life and wartime hardships. Preston was elated at finding something as simple as a "tangled skein of black silk" on the floor, having been forced to take apart old garments for thread to repair a dilapidated wardrobe (February 22, 1862). Preston's entries reflect the all-encompassing nature of the war, women's struggles on the home front, and her daily duties and responsibilities amidst the turmoil.
While in Baker County, Georgia, Preston worked as a teacher and taught a variety of fundamental topics to students. She considered herself somewhat proficient in "how to make a good grammarian, or a good reader, or to make [a student] proficient in History, Geography, Mathematics, etc." (January 23, 1862), but struggled with the belief that she did not know how to form her students' character. Deeply religious, Preston often included Christian teachings and practices with lessons.
After Preston returned to Maryland, she continued to write about the effects of the war on civilian life. On April 18, 1863, her family discussed heavy firing heard in the distance that morning, but still "returned to [their] various pursuits and meditations, as if [they] had not just admitted the probability of a murderous conflict within a few miles." This desensitization to war was not new to Fannie: "the idea of war, a year ago, tho' painful, was romantic", but her sensibilities were "somewhat deadened by familiarity with details of carnage and destruction" (March 21, 1862). Mentions of disputes over the American flag--as well as farmers learning how to deal with a lack of an enslaved work force--paint a picture of a Maryland occupied by Union forces, but whose populace leaned towards the Confederacy.
Preston, a Confederate-sympathizing Protestant, also wrote about her internal conflicts regarding slavery and whether it was ordained by God or was a sin. She questioned her personal duties and remarked on what she would do if "Providence made me the slave" (June 8, 1863). She consulted scripture for answers to these questions, but did not seem to draw a hard conclusion. Her brief description of African Americans in Georgia and Maryland during the Civil War includes building entrenchments, attending school, singing hymns, and continuing work as laborers and caretakers. These remarks provide glimpses of the lived experiences of African American communities during a time of extreme tumult. In October of 1863, she noted the passage of Black people escaping enslavement: "Some of them inform their mistresses beforehand that they are getting ready to leave. Most of the men have been gone some time, and every once in a while, the wife and children of one of the absentees disappear into the night carrying with them their effects" (October 18, 1863).
Biographical / Historical:
Born July 18, 1834, to parents Henry D. Bull (1815-1880) and Anna S. Wilmer Bull (1817-), Fannie M. Bull/Preston was the eldest of four daughters. They included Virginia Bull (1841-1847), Mary Elizabeth Bull (1842-1923), and Alice Bull (1847-). Henry formally changed the family surname from Bull to Preston in 1841.
Fannie spent most of her life in Baltimore, Maryland. Around 1860, she worked as a teacher in the home of the Harrell family, also in Baltimore. From November 1861 to September 1862, she lived in Baker County, Georgia, after leaving Baltimore suddenly with her father. Between 1870 and 1880, Preston moved permanently to Jefferson, Georgia, and she became a teacher at a public school there. Preston did not marry or have children, and she died from heart disease in St. Augustine, Florida, on January 21, 1895.
2017. M-6079 .
The collection is a single bound volume.
Rules or Conventions:
Finding aid prepared using Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
Additional Descriptive Data:
"Found Dead In Her Bed." The Morning News [Savannah, Ga.], 22 February 1895, p. 5. gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu
Fannie M Preston, "Find-A-Grave", database, Find A Grave (www.findagrave.com : accessed 11 January 2022) Fannie M Preston (1834--1895) - Find A Grave Memorial# 141155274.
"Fannie M. Preston", 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.
"Fannie M. Preston", 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.
"Fannie M. Preston", 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.
"Fannie M. Preston", 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010.
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