Kentucky Historical Society: Second Volume of Unique Civil War Diary

The Civil War experiences of Bowling Green native Josie Underwood were like those of other young Southern women, yet also very different. Like others, Josie experienced the loss of home and friendships, strained family relationships and life in a war zone. But unlike her contemporaries, she also spent part of the war out of the country while her father served as U.S. consul to Glasgow, Scotland.

The fall issue of the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society makes available Josie’s story from 1862 with publication of “Josie Underwood’s Civil War Diary, Part 2” The University Press of Kentucky published the first volume of her diary in 2009, before family members discovered the second volume in a box of papers. Special Collections at Western Kentucky University holds the original documents.

“I think a diary like this helps us humanize people from the past,” said David Turpie, editor of the Register. “Facts and figures are important and can help us better understand the past, but it is also important to understand the thoughts and feelings of one individual, in this case someone who had an unusual journey during the Civil War years. While the war occurred, Josie continued to live her life.”

Besides giving insight into Josie’s life and the Underwood family’s experience, the diary also sheds light on the home front, an aspect of the war not as well documented as the troop movements and military strategy. The second volume starts in 1862 and continues beyond the end of the war with periodic entries through 1871.

“Most studies of war concentrate on the military and its heroes. But what about the trauma experienced by civilians left at home – especially in an area occupied by the military? Josie Underwood’s diary concentrates on the Kentucky homefront during the Civil War; most Southern states experienced similar problems,” said Nancy Disher Baird, who edited both volumes.

Kentucky Historical Society members have online access to the Register. Subscriptions for print copies are available for individuals or institutions. Membership and subscription information is available on the KHS website. Individual copies of the Underwood diary issue can be purchased for $12, plus $3 shipping, by contacting the Register staff at or 502-564-1792, ext. 4421.

For more information about this special issue of the Register, contact David Turpie at or 502-564-1792, ext. 4435.