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Historic Diaries: Emily Quiner, 1863

In the summer of 1863, Emily Quiner was a 23-year-old school teacher in Madison, Wisconsin. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, she had started a diary, like many of her contemporaries. In it she recorded her thoughts about the war as well as her daily routine, which she described as, "have read and worked, visited and received visits, eaten and slept and in short done everything [that] goes to make up what we call life." Her entire manuscript diary is included at Turning Points in Wisconsin History.

In June 1863, wanting to be more useful during the country's crisis, she decided to accompany her friend George C. Smith to Memphis, Tenn., and work as a nurse in a hospital. Given here are the diary entries she wrote that summer. Through them we can witness Emily's decision to go south, her journey to Memphis, her work in the Gayoso hospital, social life among the soldiers and nurses, and finally her return to Madison in August.

The final entries describe Emily's conflict with her father, who insisted that she stay in Madison to help him write his Military History of Wisconsin rather than return to the South. After the war, Emily completed her degree at the University of Wisconsin and in 1869, moved to Chicago to teach in the public schools. A decade later, she moved to Denver, Colorado, where she taught for another 25 years. Emily Quiner died at her sister's home in Chicago in 1919.

Click the bold headlines below to read each entry and its commentary by Society staff. Use the syndication link on the left to have each installment delivered to your Web page via RSS feed.

  • Sept. 27, 1863: Emily's Final Diary Entry
    [...] When I came home at noon, Nellie met me at the gate telling me that Pa had received our transportation papers. I was very glad to hear it at first, and went to work immediately to get my trunk...

  • Sept. 26, 1863: Familial Opposition
    At home until four o'clock, then went up to see the Governor. I wished to find out whether or not he would give us transportation if we should not obtain it of Gen. Pope. He told me that as soon...

  • Aug. 31, 1863: Plagued by Indecision
    Did not feel very well this morning. Went up town. Saw Joe Curtis, an old friend, at home on furlough. He goes back in a few days. Got a new calico dress. Several friends called upon me today. It seems...

  • Aug. 30, 1863: Back on Familiar Ground
    Went to church this morning. Mr. Goodspeed of Janesville preached for us. He gave us a very good sermon. Staid to Bible Class. It seemed good to be in our old church once more. Mr. Campbell came to see me...

  • Aug. 29, 1863: Compliments from the Governor
    Saturday 29th Rose this morning with a strange feeling at finding myself at home, not very well, did not eat any breakfast, unpacked my trunk, made me a white apron, and wiped the dishes, then dressed and went up town....



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