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Two Civil Wars: The Curious Shared Journal of a Baton Rouge Schoolgirl and a Union Sailor on the USS Essex

Two Civil Wars: The Curious Shared Journal of a Baton Rouge Schoolgirl and a Union Sailor on the USS Essex

Two Civil Wars It isn’t every day that you stumble onto a lengthy unpublished personal diary from the American Civil War. Especially a rare three-year account of life aboard an ironclad gunboat in the Union “brown water” navy that fought along the Mississippi waterways.

In the late 1990s, Katherine Jeffrey encountered just such an unlikely document, in an especially unlikely place – a farmhouse in rural French Canada. It had been preserved as a curiosity but largely neglected by the family who owned it: they were not even sure how the journal’s sailor/author was related to their own ancestor with the same last name, or how the book had come into their possession. Even more mysterious to them were the journal’s opening pages – written in French by a different writer, apparently a young girl from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The discovery of this unusual double-document was the genesis of Two Civil Wars, published in April 2016 by LSU Press. Katherine Jeffrey spent nearly two decades piecing together the stories of Union quarter-gunner William L. Park and of Celeste Repp, a Southern teenager and boarding student at a prominent Baton Rouge academy – and unraveling the mystery of how their compositions ended up in the same notebook.

If you are a Civil War buff, or if you just enjoy a good story about ordinary folks living through the extraordinary calamity and chaos of a nation divided – you’ll enjoy hearing Katherine Jeffrey’s discussion of her remarkable new book, Two Civil Wars.


Katherine Bentley Jeffrey has been a freelance editor and writer for many years. Her opinion pieces, poems, and essays have appeared in both Canadian and American publications. Two Civil Wars is her first full-length history volume, though not the last. She is currently at work on a biography of Father Darius Hubert, Celeste Repp’s priest in Baton Rouge, who became a prominent and beloved Confederate chaplain and winsome spokesman for the Lost Cause.

Katherine is a transplanted Canadian. She now lives on Lake Whitney in central Texas with her husband David, who teaches at Baylor University.