Minerva Leah Rowles McClatchey was born around 1820 in Maryland. Most of her married life was spent in east Tennessee, before the family moved to a farm a mile south of Marietta in 1862. The relocation to Cobb County was an attempt to get away from Union sympathizers and to bring the family close to the Georgia Military Institute in Marietta, where the two oldest sons had been students and where the youngest would enroll during the war.

McClatchey was a writer, having published a number of articles while living in Tennessee. Her husband was slave-owner and farmer. Suffering from a broken hip, he was unable to join the Confederate army. In 1864 he fled with his slaves and silver to middle Georgia, leaving behind his wife, a disabled son, and a niece. The strong-willed Minerva McClatchey was determined not to abandon her plantation, regardless of the consequences. Her nineteen-year-old son, Devereaux, was exempt from military duty, having lost three fingers in an accident. The narrative starts just after a skirmish at the McClatchey farm where Southern troops were forced to retreat.

July 3rd. . . "Firing ceased after a while—two were killed and buried near the house and several wounded and carried to the rear. Their limbs were amputated in Mr. Goodman's yard. General Hooker and his staff came up and by this time the whole face of the earth, as far as could be seen in the road, yard, garden and lot—everywhere was crowded with soldiers. Many of the officers came into the house and behaved gentlemanly towards us. They asked us thousands of questions about the army, the roads, and the way the army would go. General Hooker came in and shook hands cordially as an old friend—saying he was glad to see a citizen at home; that all the houses he had yet passed were deserted and shy was it that the inhabitants would run away from their friends.

He supposed I did not believe all the tales I had heard about Yankee cruelty, etc. I told him that this was my home—I had none other—and had stayed with the hope that all gentlemen and true soldiers would recognize a woman's right to stay at home. "You are right, Madam—you have acted wisely and will be protected. We did not come to war with inoffensive citizens, but to preserve the Union and establish the authority of the Government. Let the rebels lay down their arms, and we give them the hand of friendship," and much more in the same strain. Finally the Genl. left giving orders to some Captain to place guards and have the premises protected. I felt somewhat relieved supposing that General Hooker meant what he said. But the guard only stayed while the Corps was passing—when they left followed by a succession of others, Negroes, wagons, men on foot and horse, a continual stream. Many officers still lingered, as they said "glad to see ladies at home." One jumped up saying "I'll go in the parlor—haven't been in a parlor in six months." He seemed to know the way. "Oh, here's a piano"—and threw it open and played quite well. Several of them went in and danced for dear life. I said to one who was standing near me in the hall, "This is Sunday. I never encourage nor permit dancing in my own house—and I think it is particularly wrong on the holy Sabbath day." "Is this Sunday? Well, we never know when Sunday comes in the Army. I'll stop that." And so he did. They all behaved very well after that and soon left—only a few surgeons remaining, who were powerless, or pretended to be so to prevent the men who were prowling about everywhere outdoors, stealing everything they fancied. They did not come in the house, but took everything we had in the storeroom and kitchen. Killed all my fowls but one or two that escaped somehow, took the mothers from little chicks a few days old—and left them chirping. They took all our corn, flour, meal, honey, molasses and meat they found, and left us with a very small supply that we happened to have in the house. Took cooking vessels—flatirons, crocks, pans—pitchers—everything that was outside the house.

Took all the children's books—and valuable files of newspapers—pictures, slates, everything out of the office, went to the carriage house and cut the carriage all to pieces—tore the green grapes from the vines, and the green apples were beaten from the trees. The garden was tramped all over and everything destroyed. A field of fine corn near the house that was cut down in 15 minutes and fed to their horses. That though, was done first thing in the morning—and even General Hooker's horse not-with-standing his master's loud professions, shared a part of that. Evening was drawing on and I thought if this is the way they do in daytime, what we may expect tonight. My feelings of loneliness, helplessness and dread cannot be described. Hearing that General Thomas was camped at the [Georgia Military] Institute, I sent Devereaux with a note to him, asking for a guard. He sent me two soldiers and I felt quite relieved. They were a great protection and satisfaction to us, but quite an eyesore to other soldiers when they came about on evil business. I have no doubt that the house would have been ransacked from top to bottom if they had not been here. An officer came one day and cursed them bitterly. O, such wicked oaths—said "You are volunteer guards, and if you are not gone in an hour—you will be arrested and punished." I went out and spoke to him politely—told him that I had applied to General Thomas for a guard, and he had sent me those men—I supposed they knew their duty, I had nothing to do with it, but would rather they would stay. He seemed pacified and went off. In a few days the Provost Marshall sent two other men to relieve them, and they very reluctantly went to their command. . .

August 5th. I was half asleep, half awake this morning—and thought I was up, and out on the porch—giving the men drinks of buttermilk, as I often did, there was a crowd around, each waiting his turn, when my son John came up from the gate—he looked as pale as death and emaciated till no one but his mother would have known him. I thought I was awake and it was really my dear boy I saw. The surprise awoke me—and it was only a dream—but oh what a sad one. It fills me with fear and anxiety. What does it portend? I am cut off from them and can hear nothing. O my God preserve—comfort, save my poor boy, for Thou only canst be of service to him in his perils and privations.

Oct. 18th. O sad terrible heart sickening news has reached me. A friend from Tennessee writes me –he has heard from below from our friends there, that my poor boy was wounded on the 11th of June and died on the 11th of July. Can it be? My God, my God must I believe it—I did not know what it was to have a child cruelly wounded, and to die away from me—did not know all this time that I have been suffering so much, that this last most severe drop was to be added to my already full and bitter cup. The Lord has been good to me. I must not question his doings. . . .

Nov. 15th. Now they are all gone, I can but think of the terrors of last night. The Institute was on fire, a sick lad was here to stay with Mary—the officers were upstairs, so I knew the house was safe. Mr. Underwood said he would watch the door so Devereaux and I and a couple of the officers concluded we would go up on the hill and see the wretches at their work—at least that was my motive. Every house was in flames, it was as light as day. The houses in town were burning, many of them. Kinesaw (Kennesaw) Mountain was in flames and as far as the eye could see the railroad was burning too and looked like a fiery serpent stretched through the darkness. Not a man was to be seen for some time. We went all round the buildings, and finally saw about a half dozen very young soldiers, mere lads, who were doing the horrible work. I asked them if they liked to burn houses, they said "No matter whether we like it or not we have to obey orders. . . ."