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Cornelia Peake McDonald
Born Cornelia Peake
June 14, 1822
Alexandria, Virginia[1]
Died January 11, 1909
Louisville, Kentucky
Residence Winchester, Virginia
Occupation homemaker, mother

Cornelia Peake McDonald (June 14, 1822 – January 11, 1909)[2] was an American diarist who was the author of A Diary with Reminiscences of the War and Refugee Life in the Shenandoah Valley, 1860-1865 in which she recaps her life as a woman living in Winchester, Virginia. Her writing is significant as it recaps the views of the American Civil War from the point of a view of a woman living in one of the most counter occupied towns of the conflict.[2] She became known as one of the "Devil Diarists of Winchester."

Peake was born in 1822 in Alexandria, Virginia. She was the youngest of six children of Dr. Humphrey Peake and Annie Linton Lane. She married Angus William McDonald in 1847 in Hannibal, Missouri. The couple would have nine children.[3]

During the Civil War, her husband was away from Winchester serving as the colonel of the 7th Virginia Infantry, leaving Cornelia to stay home with the children. (He would die in December 1864, leaving her a widow.)[4] She kept a detailed diary during the Civil War, which was published in 1875, with a second edition in 1934. It was reprinted in 2003.

She was buried beside her husband in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.[5]


  1. MacLean, Maggie (2006). "Civil War Women - Cornelia Peake McDonald". Retrieved 2008-01-02. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Eicher, David J. (1997). The Civil War in Books:An Analytical Bibliography. University of Illinois Press. pp. 125–126. ISBN 0252022734. Retrieved 2008-01-02. 
  3. Descendants of William Peake. Cornelia was the second wife of McDonald, an 1817 graduate of the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.
  4. Find-a-Grave biography for Colonel McDonald,
  5. Find-a-Grave biography of Cornelia McDonald,