Augusta Jane Evans Wilson

Devoted Confederate....Woman of Achievement

Augusta Jane Evans Wilson (1835-1909) was one of nineteenth-century America's most popular novelists. She was also an ardent supporter of the Confederacy.

Augusta Jane Evans was born May 8, 1835 in Columbus, Georgia. About 1846 her parents moved with her to Texas, first in Galveston, then Houston before settling in San Antonio around 1847. Her father, a merchant, ran a store on Main Plaza near the Alamo. The family lived above the business on the second floor, where Augusta was educated by her mother. Like most 19th century girls, she had no formal education, but she was a voracious reader.

At the age of fifteen, she wrote "Inez, A tale of the Alamo", and presented to her father as a Christmas present in 1854. It was originally published anonymously. The book was a tale of romance and adventure, set in San Antonio during the Texas Revolution. By this time, the family was living in Mobile, Alabama.

Prior to the War Between the States, Augusta wrote another book, "Beulah", published in 1859, which sold 22,000 copies the first year, making possible her family's purchase of "Georgia Cottage", the family's new home.

The WBTS brought both personal tragedy and success. Her engagement to a New York journalist was broken off because of "sectional differences", but her career flourished.

As a young woman of means when the War broke out, she established a private hospital in Mobile to care for the injured and sick Confederates. The soldiers called it "Camp Beulah" in honor of her novel.

Her next book would be "MacAria, Or, Altars of Sacrifice". This book was printed in a true example of Southern deprivation in Richmond in 1864 on surplus wrapping paper and the cover on wallpaper. The book was popular by Rebels and Yankees alike. Although modern critics call her works "sentimental and overblown (woman-stuff)", more than just women read her works. Apparently the book was so detrimental to the moral of Union soldiers that that a Union general ordered all copies of the book in the possession of his Army to be burned and banned his men from reading it.

During the War she communicated extensively with General P.G. T. Beauregard and Confederate congressman Jabez L. M. Curry discussing battle plans, military policy, politics and reporting on the deprivation of the Southern people.

In the gloomy aftermath of the War, Augusta turned out her most popular work, "St. Elmo" (1866). It was a runaway bestseller, rivaling "Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben Hur".

In 1868 Augusta, now 33, married Col. Lorenzo Wilson, 27 years her senior. He was a self made man involved in banking, railroads and wholesale groceries. The couple settled in Ashland, Georgia and became members of St. Francis Street Methodist Church. Miss "Gusta" as she was called, reigned as the social queen of Mobile. Her home in Georgia included frequent notable guests. In 1895, a reporter visited Ashland and penned a description of the then sixty year old writer: "Mrs. Wilson is tall, with blue eyes and dark hair, fast growing gray...Although her face is grave and intellectual, it evidences the womanly sweetness of character that has made her so beloved by all who know her. The culture of rare flowers and plants fill her moments."

Augusta died in Georgia on May 9,1909 and buried in Mobile at Magnolia Cemetery. 12 years after her death, one of her books "At the Mercy of Tiberius" was made into a silent film about a girl accused of killing her grandfather. She is saved from imprisonment when it is discovered that lightening has imprinted the true murder's image on a window pane.


Links about Augusta Jane Evans Wilson: