Mary Boykin Chesnut (née Miller) (March 31, 1823 – November 22, 1886), was a South Carolina author noted for a book published as her Civil War diary, a "vivid picture of a society in the throes of its life-and-death struggle." She described the war from within her upper-class circles of Southern planter society, but encompassed all classes in her book. She was married to a lawyer who served as a United States senator and Confederate officer. Unlike her husband, Mary secretly held anti-slavery views.
Chesnut worked toward a final form of her book in 1881–1884, based on her extensive diary written during the war years. It was published in 1905, 19 years after her death. New versions were published after her papers were discovered, in 1949 by the novelist Ben Ames Williams, and in 1981 by the historian C. Vann Woodward. His annotated edition of the diary, Mary Chesnut's Civil War (1981), won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1982. Literary critics have praised Chesnut's diary—the influential writer Edmund Wilson termed it "a work of art" and a "masterpiece" of the genre—and the most important work by a Confederate author.