Faces of the Civil War: Mary Chesnut's photographs back in family hands

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Mary Chesnut, wife of U.S. Sen. James Chesnut Jr. of South Carolina on the eve of the Civil War — a man who played a pivotal role in the war's first shot at Fort Sumter and later served as an aide to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, wrote an extensive diary widely praised as one of that era's greatest works of literature.

But she also collected a few hundred photographs, primarily of the people who were her subjects. These photos likely jogged her memory as she continued to rework her diary up throughout Reconstruction and until her death in 1886.

Since then, the photographs and her written words were split up.

Her diary, first published in 1905, would become famous. Her photographs, however, disappeared — at least from the scholars and family members most involved in keeping Chesnut's legacy alive....

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