On the night of March 11, 1862, as the heavy tramp of Confederate marching troops died away in the distance - her husband's regiment among them - Cornelia Peake McDonald began her diary of events in war-torm Winchester, Virginia. MacDonald's story of the Civil War records a personal and distinctly female battle of her own - a southern women's lonely struggle in the midst of chaos to provide safety and shelter for herself and her nine children. For McDonald, history is what happens ""inside the house"". She relates the trauma that occurs when the safety of the home is disrupted and destroyed by the forces of war - when women and children are put out of their houses and have nowhere to go. In an introduction to McDonald's autobiography, Minrose C. Gwin stresses the importance of this diary not only for its view of the Civil War through a woman's eyes but also for its insistence that history is as much a domestic subject as an account of the public affairs of men.
Born in 1822 in Alexandria, Virginia, Cornelia Peake McDonald lived in Winchester, Virginia, with her nine children during the Civil War. Her record of events was first published in a volume of family history in 1935 from one of the eight handwritten copies made for each of her surviving children before her death in 1909. Minrose C. Gwin is professor of English at the University of New Mexico.