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Civil War Diary of Lt. Col. John Withers and Anita Dwyer Withers
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Civil War Diary

The Civil War
through the Eyes of Lt Col John Withers
and His Wife, Anita Dwyer Withers

(American Civil War Diaries of a Confederate Army Officer and
His Wife, a Woman in Civil War History)

by John Withers, Anita Withers, and Jennette Green


This book weaves together the diaries of Lt. Col. John Withers, an Assistant Adjutant General for Jefferson Davis, and his wife, Anita Dwyer Withers. Reports of battles fought meld with domestic life in these journals, creating a multi-dimensional picture of the Withers’ lives together during the “War Between the States.” Jointly, their diaries encompass the entire length of the Civil War; from May 1860 – September 1865.

A West Point graduate, John Withers served as an officer in the U.S. Army in Michigan, New York, California, Washing-ton, Oregon, and Texas. As a Brevet Captain in 1857, Withers was appointed as Staff-Assistant Adjutant General for the Department of Texas.

Captain John Withers’ wife, Anita Dwyer Withers, was “the daughter of a very distinguished citizen of San Antonio, and who was connected with the exciting scenes that delivered Texas from Mexican rule and Indian terror,” later wrote John Withers’ friend, D.S. Stanley. Anita married John on June 15, 1859.

In September 1860, six months after the birth of their first child, Captain Withers was ordered to Washington, D.C., and assigned for duty as an Assistant in the Adjutant-General's office. As Anita was very close to her family in Texas, she was deeply troubled by the move. She wrote, “I regret it mightily.” In Washington, D.C., John served under General Samuel Cooper’s command until March, 1861.

John Withers’ family was from the south. His uncle, Clement Comer Clay, was the 8th Governor of Alabama, (and also in his lifetime, Chief Justice of Alabama, Congressman, and U. S. Senator). When Withers received a letter from his aunt, Susanna Withers Clay (Clement Clay’s wife), urging him to resign his commission in the U.S. Army and come south to join the Confederate cause, Withers did so. He joined the Con-federate Army in March, 1861, and “was appointed a Major in the Adjutant-General's Department.” (Stanley)

As an Assistant Adjutant General working in Richmond, VA, both Lt. Col. Withers and his wife were closely acquainted with many of the notable figures of Civil War history, including C.S.A. President Jefferson Davis, his wife, Varina Davis, and the Secretary of War. Edward A. Palfrey later wrote, “his relations with the President and Secretary of War were of an intimate character, as was necessarily the case from the posi-tion he held.” In addition, Withers mentioned meetings with famous Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee, Joe E. Johnston, A.S. Johnston, and others. He casually alluded to other heads of state that he met as a matter of course in his position.

While stationed in the Confederate capitol of Richmond, Virginia, both Anita and Lt. Col. Withers recorded Civil War events as they happened, including the Seven Days Battles, and other battles that took place during the “War Between the States.” Each also wrote of the more personal aspects of their lives, such as Anita’s near fatal illness and the agony of their young son’s death.

Anita’s diary records the family’s transition from Texas to Washington D.C., then to Richmond, VA, and later to Texas again near the end of the war. In all, her journal records events from May 1860 – September 1865. Many selected excerpts from her diary are included, which complements Lt. Col. John Withers’ journal (October 1860 – December 1862).

Both Lt. Col. John Withers and Anita’s diaries provide a detailed Civil War timeline rich in facts and details. John and Anita were ordinary people living in extraordinary times. Their story is well worth being remembered.

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Publication Date: April 12, 2011
Book Type: Paperback, eBook
Category: History, Civil War
Pages: 236
Price: $15.97 print, $2.99 eBook
Rating: PG
ISBN: 9780984404438