Rose Cottage Chronicles
Civil War Letters of the Bryant-Stephens Families of North Florida

Edited by Arch Fredric Blakey, Ann Smith Lainhart, and Winst

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July 31, 1859
My Angel of purity love and Goodness!
Forgive this offence and I’ll be guilty of the like again the first time I feel like writing. You had as well bid the Sun cease to wander the earth with its heat as to bid the heart of Winston not to commune with the object of its adoration . . .

March 12, 1862
My own dear husband,
I hardly know what to write and how to write to you my poor heart is so full of anxiety . . . I think you may as well give up and come home as to try and keep the enemy back . . . I suppose you heard that the Government has abandoned this state and the Governor has ordered all the regiments that are mustered into the Confederate service away from East Fla. What is to become of us?

Feb 2, 1864
My Dear Wife,
Oh! That I could have you by me to talk to . . . We get no news here, still it does seem that something must be doing to make ready for a grand move. . . I often think and wonder if our Government sees the awful truth and is preparing to meet and defeat the attempt to crush us. . . .

As fresh and poignant today as when they were written, these touching letters and diaries capture the heart of everyday life during the Civil War. Set both at home in north Florida and on the front, the letters were written from 1856 to mid-1865 by two generations of the Bryant and Stephens families, ordinary Confederate folk whose members included radical secessionists, moderates, and even a few Unionists.
The domestic letters, written mostly by mothers and daughters from their homes near Welaka, Florida, describe their hatred of Yankee invaders, their emotions in dealing with slaves, and their flaming patriotism as well as their fear of being abandoned by the government. They offer a rare picture of the expanded roles of women as farm managers; their naive hopes for a quick victory; and their yearning for peace. From the military camps, soldiers and officers write about Abe Lincoln; "coloured troops"; endless marches; Florida's two best-known battles, Olustee and Natural Bridge; and all the skirmishes around Jacksonville and the St. Johns River as well as distant military events like the Battle of Gettysburg. For all of the letter writers, death has become as familiar as Spanish moss.
Especially, though, the letters tell a love story. The courtship of Winston Stephens and Tivie Bryant was prolonged, erratic, and stormy; their married life at Rose Cottage was nearly perfect--and brief. Four years and three months after their wedding--during the final ticks of the Confederate clock--Winston was killed in battle. Days later their only son was born.
Virtually all of the letters--more than one thousand exchanged between eight major and four minor correspondents--survive in this family saga, a riveting human and historical chronicle set in the foreground of the Civil War.

Arch Fredric Blakey, retired military historian, has written several books and numerous articles on the Civil War and Florida history, including General John H. Winder, C.S.A. (UPF, 1990), a History Book Club selection. He lives near Bell, Florida.

Ann Smith Lainhart, a descendant of the Bryant-Stephens families, is a professional genealogist. She lives in Peabody, Massachusetts.

Winston Bryant Stephens, Jr., also a descendant of the Bryant-Stephens families, is a retired businessman in Jupiter, Florida.

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Certificate of Commendation, American Association for State and Local History - 1999

"a perfect selection for readers during Confederate History Month."
--Pensacola News Journal

"This is a rare volume indeed." - Southern Living
--Southern Living

"Will be of interest to those who want to learn more about the events in Northeast and middle Florida during the Civil War, especially about the daily living at that time." -- Florida Times-Union
--Florida Times-Union

"A must read for anyone with a penchant for the Civil War, in particular, but more so for its people -- those who loved, laughed and cried, who married, fought and died. A family's intimate thoughts have become a record of the era -- the diction, the lifestyles, the morality and even the prejudice of the times. It's a historic account of Florida during the Civil War, but it's also a testament to those who lived it." -- Florida Living
--Florida Living

"This book is a must for anyone interested in their own family history." -- Greenacres, Lake Worth, Lantana Forum
--Greenacres, Lake Worth, Lantana Forum

"This book is of special interest to students of women's history, social history, and the history of disease." -- Choice

"The value of the collection lies not in what it can tell us about politics or war. . . . The collection is instead rich with information about courtship, marriage, white attitudes toward slavery, extended kin ties, gender relations, family economics, and child rearing. . . . The strength of this correspondence is its invaluable contribution to nineteenth-century American social history." -- The North Carolina Historical Review
--North Carolina Historical Review

"This book has many strengths. Most importantly, it offers a vivid 'picture of what most people in the Confederacy experienced, how they coped with the daily challenges unleashed by the war, and especially what it was like for women of the home front.' It will be hailed as a substantial contribution to the social and military history of the Civil War." -- Georgia Historical Quarterly
--Georgia Historical Quarterly

"A solid, well edited and fascinating group of letters from two families intertwined by marriage in which they capture the essence of the procession to and through civil war as they experienced that epic in north Florida. . . . Just about everyone will be the richer for reading these letters, perusing ably-done maps and imagining the real people captured by prose and portrait in the Rose Cottage Chronicles." - Civil War Courier
--The Civil War Courier

"A true gem. . . . The writers are thoughtful and erudite, and what emerges is an engrossing portrait of antebellum north Florida, with its frontier life, kinship dynamics, slavery, agriculture, and the dislocation and hardship caused by the Civil War. . . , a welcome addition to Civil War and southern studies, as well as Florida history, for the haunting words of the letters invoke the pathos of a horrid conflict and help readers to understand better the average people that endured it." -- Florida Historical Quarterly
--Florida Historical Quarterly

"A 'contribution to Civil War, southern, state, local, and family history' (p. ix). It is all that and then some. . . . Part of a critical new perspective on the Civil War put forth by historians of southern women whose contributions to the literature are rewriting southern history."-- Journal of Southern History
--Journal of Southern History

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