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Journal, Frances A. Murdoch, 1861-1863 (Ms2009-132)

 Digital Record
Identifier: Ms2009-132_MurdochFrancisA_Diary


  • 1861 - 1863


Use Restrictions

Permission to publish material from the Frances A. Murdoch Journal must be obtained from Special Collections, Virginia Tech.

Biographical Information

Frances A. "Fannie" Murdoch was born in Mississippi around 1847. Her father, John Murdoch (1813-1861) had been born in Louisiana, attended Yale University (class of 1834), and in 1840 married Frances Louisa Bristol (1819-1875), daughter of a New Haven, Connecticut family. The Murdochs later resided at Cane Mount, their cotton plantation near Rodney (Jefferson County), Mississippi. Fannie was one of eight children and was schooled by private tutors at home with her siblings before briefly attending Professor Baird's school from December 1862 until April 1863. No further information about Fannie Murdoch could be found.

Language of Materials



Journal of a young woman living on a Mississippi plantation during the Civil War, relaying descriptions of a battle between the Natchez militia and a Union gunboat, the death of Colonel Stuart Wilkins Fisk at the Battle of Murfreesboro, the plundering of Bruinsburg by Union soldiers, and other war news.

Scope and Content

This collection consists of a journal maintained by Frances A. "Fannie" Murdoch, a young woman living on a Mississippi plantation during the Civil War. Containing approximately 90 pages, the journal commences with an entry dated May 29, 1861. The journal is largely introspective in nature, as Murdoch dwells on personal feelings, focusing heavily on her religious beliefs. She often questions her worthiness and chastises herself for sins, frequently mentioning her quick temper. At the same time, Murdoch takes pride in the evening Bible studies she conducts with the plantation's slaves. Murdoch also describes the weather and often refers to siblings Willie, Jonnie and Sallie, as well as various relatives, servants and neighbors. As the Civil War commences, Murdoch very briefly mentions reports from Harpers Ferry and Philippi, Virginia. After the Battle of Manassas, her entries focus more on war rumors and news. She mentions a personal telegram received by acquaintances from President Davis, relaying news of the Confederate victory at Manassas, and Davis' proclamation for a day of prayer and fasting. On April 18, 1862, Murdoch expresses thanks for what she considers a Confederate victory at Shiloh, while at the same time disagreeing with those who believe the war's end may soon be drawing near. "...I think we have just begun this long dreary war," she writes. "Still we must fight on, our lives, our homes, our lands, our slaves, depend on the end of this matter." As the war progresses, she becomes ever less hopeful of victory and mentions a prophecy that the war will last four years and result in the reunification of the states. She relays secondhand but somewhat lengthy descriptions of a battle between the Natchez militia and a Union gunboat, the death of Colonel Stuart Wilkins Fisk at the Battle of Murfreesboro, and the plundering of Bruinsburg by Union soldiers. Elsewhere, she reports the surrenders of New Orleans and Vicksburg. On a few occasions, Murdoch expresses her fear of a slave insurrection but feels confident that slaves Ben or Henry would save her and brother Jonnie, "as they say they like us so much." Elsewhere, Murdoch deplores the torture used on Natchez slaves to elicit information about rumored plans for an uprising. On May 3, 1863, she notes that many of the family's slaves have departed, averring that they had forgotten how well they were treated by the family and comparing them to a fly being lured by a spider--the lure in this case being the promise of eleven dollars a month. Also on this date, Murdoch notes that the carriage horses are all gone, and she feels in danger of being "outraged and insulted at any time." After intermittent entries made during the next several months, the journal ends on October 12, 1863.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US