In A Promise Fulfilled: The Kitty Anderson Diary, Kitty declares, "What terrible days those were of anxiety and suspense in a country and at a time when much less conspicuous men than our Father were mysteriously killed for their sentiments or spent weary years of imprisonment. Alas, in times of war power will abuse the innocent offender and stain the purest cause!"
Details of the chaos created by secession enliven this small historic diary, which Kitty's father asked her to keep as a record of the events of 1861. The Andersons were a wealthy and influential Union family in San Antonio when Texas joined the Confederacy, and he would not abandon his principles. There were bound to be consequences.
Editor Nancy Draves writes, "The strength of the diary lies in Kitty Anderson's gifted prose and her willingness to catalogue all her experiences, including the names of those she encountered, the dates, and the places. The challenge," she notes, "was to support and complement the story she weaves with the background needed to fully understand and appreciate its significance."
A former teacher, Draves is up to this challenge. After an informative introduction, she presents selected sections from the diary, as well as a second manuscript by Kitty Anderson, following each part with her context-building commentary. Extensive notes are set at the back of the book and provide further clarification, specifics, and resources.
There are a few times when the commentary feels redundant, but that small complaint is well outweighed by appreciation for Draves' effort to paint the larger picture of politics and events in Texas and the nation. Her meticulous research adds helpful detail about people that Kitty mentions. Draves creates a sense of history overtaking individuals, as in the drama surrounding a speech by Kitty's father in San Antonio many months before the war began, a speech with drastic results when Texas seceded. The family was suddenly required by law to leave the Confederacy within 40 days.
"Boldly, fearlessly my Father has expressed himself always," Kitty writes, "but seeing too truly that he must leave the country or, profess what he did not believe he felt obliged to go, and in going, to sacrifice a great part of his Texas property."
Hurry as they might to prepare, the family waited too long. Her father was arrested and separated from his wife and two daughters. The women were forced out under military escort to Mexico. It was an arduous and dangerous journey, though Kitty often records the kindness with which they were treated. Once they are safe again, the diary simply ends, no longer needed.
The second part of the book is a description that Kitty wrote much later, telling what her father experienced as a prisoner and his perilous journey on a longer and riskier route to meet his family in Vera Cruz. Draves makes it clear what an accomplished man he was, as were his notable forebears, all playing significant roles in history far beyond Texas. Revolutionary War pride and principles were real for them, and so was the notion of Manifest Destiny that would transform the country. The Andersons were a family that owned slaves, yet they were uncompromising believers in the Union. They freed their slaves when they left Texas, but did not provide for them. In her chronicle, Kitty Anderson sketches her family in a particular place and time, and 150 years later, they are still relevant and important. Their story raises issues we still struggle with, like racism, economic disparity, and gender inequality.
Nancy Draves has done a great service in bringing us an opportunity to know about the Anderson family, to remember them, and to recognize the larger social/political changes and shifts that shaped their lives, and continue to shape our own.
Nancy Draves taught high school in San Antonio for twenty years, and now is a prize-winning author, still living there. A Promise Fulfilled is her first book.
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