The diary (1861-1865) of Lucy Rebecca Buck which forms this collection is a mimeographed copy of the material used for publishing. The diary was first published in 1940 as Diary of Lucy Rebecca Buck. In 1973, it was published under the title of Sad Earth, Sweet Heaven, and the volume is part of the holdings of the library at Temple University. A comparison between the published version and Ms. 159 showed some variation in the entries. The location of the original manuscript is unknown.
Lucy Rebecca Buck's entries in the diary begin December 25, 1861. The diary is a record of a Southern family in Front Royal, Virginia during the period of the Civil War. Lucy Rebecca Buck was an elder daughter (19 years of age) in the Buck family when she began the diary. The entries describe the daily life at Bel Air, the family farm, with an extended family including parents, a grandmother, aunts, cousins, younger siblings, and visitors. Two brothers, Alvin and Irving, are serving with the Confederate army and their absence is often noted. The diary is unique in that it provides a personal perspective on the rapid advances of the Civil War in Virginia. It also provides an insight into the effects of the war on one family. In January 1861, Buck details the occupation of Front Royal by the Union army under the command of General Nathan Kimball. General Kimball established his headquarters at Bel Air, and his troops were quartered in the meadows surrounding the house. When Southern troops regained command of the area, Buck describes a visit of General Robert E. Lee on July 22, 1863.
Three photographs are included in the diary: one of Lucy Rebecca Buck, one of Bel Air, and one of the brass door knocker from Bel Air. At the back of the diary is a map of Front Royal which gives locations for residences of relatives and neighbors. The last entries are for June, 1865 and relate Lucy Rebecca Buck's sorrow as the outcome of the Civil War becomes known.