This page was last updated: November 24, 2010
Civil War Diarist
Nannie Haskins Williams
Nannie Haskins Williams (b: May 24, 1846 - d. July 13, 1930) Clarksvillian Nannie Haskins kept a diary through much of her life. She was 16 when she began the Civil War portion of the diary in 1863. The family lived in a home on the southwest corner of College and Second streets. The daughter of E. B. Haskins and Tennessee Stark Williamson Haskins, Nannie had three brothers—Benjamin Aaron Haskins, Robert J. Haskins and Tennessee Stark Haskins. Her father is listed as a physician in the 1850 census. Ben Haskins was born in 1841 and served as a first lieutenant in Company A of the 14th Tennessee regiment of the Confederate army. He lived until 1912. Robert was born in 1843 and joined Company A of the 49th Tennessee regiment. He was captured at Fort Donelson and died in Chicago in 1864 or 1865 while a prisoner of war. Both brothers may be buried in Riverview Cemetery. Tennessee Stark Haskins was younger than Nannie and may have died before reaching adulthood. Nannie Haskins married Henry Williams in 1870. They may have lived in Birmingham, Alabama, for a while and then in Todd County, Kentucky. Williams had four children by a previous marriage, and he and Nannie had six children. Nannie and Henry and several of their children are buried in Greenwood Cemetery. Nannie Haskins’ Civil War Diary: Selected Entries from 1863 Monday Morning February 16th ‘63 Again I have commenced a journal. I used to keep one but two years ago when the war broke out, I ceased to write in it just when I ought to have continued. Yes! Our country was then perfectly distracted; To arms! To arms! was echoed from every side; volunteer companies were being gotten up all over the country to fly to her rescue; and of course Clarksville did her part….[Haskins goes on in this first entry to describe the mustering of two Clarksville regiments, the fall of Fort Donelson, Clarksville’s occupation, its brief reprieve from Woodward’s raid, and Col. S.D. Bruce’s recapture of the city.] Sunday evening, 22 February This morning we were all awakened by the ringing of the church bells and the firing of the canon. At first we could not conjecture what it was. Pa thought it was a fire. I was sure Morgan had come, but Ma suggested that it was Washington’s birthday, and she was right. It is the twenty-second of February. This day one hundred and thirty-one years ago George Washington was born the Father of this country and the Prince of rebels. He was the great leader of our forefathers who were his followers when they rebelled against the tyrannical government of our mother country. Thursday morning 16th- It looks like spring is coming again—we have kept (?) an unpleasant winter—I do hope that spring with her sunshine and blossoms will bring us peace to our country; this war has lasted so long—two years! It seems like two centuries. Peace, peace, come to cheer us once again, and we will appreciate thy smile. Friday, March 18- The Yankees will have to pass through a “Longstreet,” level two “Hills” and climb a “Stonewall” before they can get to Richmond—which is a pretty hard business for them to go about. Sunday morning, April 26- They have stolen all the provisions in the whole country, have pressed wagons and teams and negroes to work on the fortifications (to shell our town when the confeds come) and thus they are trying to make every body take the oath even the women; “they cannot support people who are not loyal.” But here is one who will not take an oath of any description. May 12- Those hateful gunboats! They look like they are from the lower regions. Now this is the second night that four of them have been anchored in the river opposite our house; I know they are frightened; there they have placed their gunboats so that if an attack is made they can shell the town, poor cowards. I can just turn my head now and see the men crawling about on the boats like so many black snakes…. May 17- [Diary notes Stonewall Jackson reported dead; Hill wounded.] …Our boys must have been in the fight—they are in AP Hill’s division….I wonder whose heart is to be made sad by this latest battle—I hope that bad news is not awaiting us.—sad, wanted to weep, mourn—But now my heart rebels; I feel as if I could fight myself. Never see a Yankee but what I roll my eyes, grit my teeth, and almost shake my fist at him, and then bite my lip involuntarily and turn away in disgust—God save us! Saturday, May 30- They have forced me to sign the parole of honor(?)—Oh how I do regret it—to morrow if I could do anything against them I would do it; if I was sent to Camp Chase(?) the next moment—if they would have sent me to Evins (?) prison I would have gladly gone instead of signing that thing—but they would have sent me South—There I would have no where to go—no money to live on (for all that Pa has that he can possibly spare he sends to brother.) and I would be an encumbrance to the South. Sunday, July 12- Night before last we heard that Brother Ben was well though a prisoner; he was taken at Gettysburg on the first day’s fight, which was the first day of this month. Yesterday morning Mr. Bringhurst received a letter from his son Ed. who was also taken prisoner and at the same time, he was then on parole in Baltimore, Md. There was eleven of privates of company “H” taken and several from company “A.” They, the privates, are all on parole. This morning Mrs. Moore received a letter from her son Lieut. Moore of Company “H,” stating that himself and Capt. Moore of the same company were prisoners and confined at Fort McHenry, Baltimore; he said they were not exchanging officers at present and he did not know how long they would remain there. We have heard nothing from brother except that he was a prisoner. Sunday, July 19- Last night we received the first letter from brother since he has been taken prisoner; he and the other officers have been sent to Fort Delaware. General Archer is there. Brother says he is in need of clothing. Pa is trying to make some arrangement to have his wants provided for. Last night George Faxon received a letter form Theo. Hartman, who was taken prisoner on the third day’s fight—he gives a few casualties in the regiment: Willie McCullock was killed, he fell pierced through the head by a minnie ball. Charley Mitchell was wounded. Bob Shackelford was wounded and taken prisoner. He said that Irvin Beamont fell but he did not know whether he was wounded or killed. I hope it was not the latter. He spoke of several others but I do not remember their names as I did not know them. I hope we will soon get all the particulars…. Monday, October 23- [Haskins describes her living room with Pa reading, Nannie writing, Ma knitting, a lamp and her French books on the table, noting how tranquil the scene would appear to a stranger, but]…“if he could look into our hearts (and some times into my mothers eyes when all is quiet around her and she sits knitting in the corner) he would know that some thing has happened. Once we were a gay and happy family—once there was six of us—now there is three left at home, two have been taken, one is still battling for “freedom.” Oh God send him back to us, spare Ben (?) I pray! [She then goes on to wonder whether she will ever marry and if she does will he be rich or poor, “a clodpole or a tadpole.” She breaks for awhile and returns to the diary.] “At a later hour-I read what I wrote before I left Ma’s room and see how silly I am. It is a blessed thing that no one will see this book but myself, for one moment I run on a sad strain; the next I dash off on something about marrying. I am a simpleton any way and I am afraid I will never be any thing else. Archival Housing of Diary The Civil War diary, along with some letters to her daughters, is in the Tennessee State Archives. The papers were a gift of Lucy Stark Williams and Rowena Day of Clarksville. Here is the library’s description of those papers: (H)er diaries offer penetrating views of the effect of the war on a small community. The Nannie Haskins Papers may be ranked with other female diarists of the Civil War era, in the detail and perception of her work. For the researcher, the diaries provide a brilliant view of the war in the South. The University of North Carolina purchased later portions of the diary in 1955. Here is the description of its holdings: Williams, Nannie Haskins, b. 1846. Diary, 1869; 1871; 1880-1883; 1885-1890. 1 volume. Intermittent diary of Nannie Haskins Williams, a woman living on a farm in Todd County, Ky., recording family concerns, activities of her children and her hopes for them, everyday life and difficulties, Christmas festivities, thoughts and interests, religious life, her reading, her secret efforts at writing a novel (a "romance of practical life"), and news of the county and of adjacent Montgomery County, Tenn.