Monday, December 31, 2018

George Bernard's Diary Entry: New Year's Eve 1865 "Many indeed are the difficulties before me. I have resolved to face them."

On New Year's Eve in 1865, George S. Bernard offered the following reflections in his diary. A former member of the 12th Virginia and a lawyer, Bernard had returned home to Petersburg at the war's end. Unable to find much work as an attorney, he served as a local editor for the Petersburg Express and taught mathematics at a nearby school. Eventually, he would build a successful law practice. Over the next several decades, he also engaged in reform-minded politics as an ally of and personal attorney for Readjuster William Mahone. Later in life, Bernard made significant contributions to Civil War history, publishing Civil War Talks of Confederate Veterans in 1892 and gathering material for a second volume that would not be published until 2012, Civil War Talks: Further Reminiscences of George S. Bernard and His Fellow Veterans. In these books, he compiled dozens of soldier reminiscences that received wide praise in both the north and south for their candor and engaging detail.

But, in 1865, all of those accomplishments were years away. With a new year on the horizon, the 29-year-old Bernard offered the following thoughts:

George S. Bernard, 1837-1912
Sunday night, Dec. 31 1865 
            The eventful year of “sixty five” expires tonight. But few there are in the United States to whom the last twelve months have not brought much pleasure or much unhappiness. With myself it has been productive of much of both. Never perhaps, in the course of my whole life have my experiences been so varied. This little book would furnish abundant evidence of a chagrined fortune, but on tomorrow a new year will be commenced. At its end, if living, in how many particulars will my condition be better? Many indeed are the difficulties before me. I have resolved to face them.