George Lovick Pierce Wren

George Lovick Pierce Wren



George Lovick Pierce Wren was born in Bienville Parish, Louisiana in 1836. After moving to Putnam County, Georgia, he later moved to Oxford, Georgia in 1858 to attend Emory College. During his junior year (1858), Wren began a diary where he documents his life as a student. Following this, Wren writes two more diaries during 1861-1864 that primarily document his army service experience. Wren joins the army in 1861 and serves in Louisiana, (Company G, 8th Louisiana Infantry Regiment) his birth state and earns high ranking as private and then second lieutenant. Along with an injury, Wren is captured imprisoned twice (1862 and 1864) during service. He is finally released in 1865 with an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. in Fort Delaware, Delaware. He writes about these experiences as well, describing the hardships and difficulties of fighting during the Civil War. Later on, Wren goes into the field of education and works as a schoolteacher in Claiborne, Louisiana before he dies in 1916 (George Wren Diaries 2013).

Particularly, Wren’s first diary is interesting because it serves as an example of how many people felt on certain controversial issues in the South and at Emory College. Because he does not have much to gain from writing this diary, one can be sure that he is being honest and authentic.  Indeed, one is given a glimpse of academic and social life at Emory during this time period through Wren’s work. Interestingly, one sees the large role that education plays in shaping minds. When he writes about the debates at school, he forces one to question the basis of his sentiments on certain political issues regarding race, laws, gender, etc. Surely, Wren could be characterized as the stereotypical southern white male who is somewhat a “product of his environment” when it comes to his beliefs because they are influenced by outside sources.




During the time that Wren writes his diaries, there is a lot going on in the United States. The U.S. went through a process of religious and political change that affected the entire nation. These issues particularly involved the issue of slavery. For starters, James Buchanan served as president from 1857-1861. In regards to his political views, President Buchanan is not much different from George Wren. “In his third annual message Buchanan claimed that the slaves were ‘treated with kindness and humanity’ ”, an idea that became strikingly pervasive in the U.S. (James Buchanan 2013). In regards to the westward expansion of the United States which involved the removal of Native Americans he says, “Prevent the people from crossing the Rocky Mountains? You might just as well command the Niagara not to flow. We must fulfill our destiny” (James Buchanan 2013).

Because the President has such a large role in influencing popular opinion, it is not difficult to understand why people held similar beliefs. Many people looked up to and respect presidents. Regarding his presidential strength, “his inability to impose peace on sharply divided partisans on the brink of the Civil War has led to his consistent ranking by historians as one of the worst presidents in American history” (James Buchanan 2013). Surely, President Buchanan’s failure to address the issues regarding the war was problematic. At the least, it led to prolonged tension and anger between the North and South.

Furthermore, the Dred Scott case was a pivotal event during this time period. Dred Scott, was a slave who, attempted to sue his master after being brought to free states. This case ruled that African-Americans, free or enslaved, were not citizens and had no right to sue in 1857 (Dred Scott 2013). The idea that blacks are inferior to whites is illustrated through this case. The issue of slavery was a difficult one because of the amount of whites benefitted financially. People did not want to let go of their sources of income. During the Panic of 1857 many people, especially in the North, lost large sums of money in a short period. This panic inspired The Great Awakening of 1857-1858 that swept the nation. In a time of despair, this religious revival “brought over one million new converts into the American Church” (Smith 2013). In 1858, the debate over slavery continues as Missouri is admitted into the Union. The government had agreed to keep a free/slave state balance but things began to change. “Kansas was paired with Minnesota for admission, but the admission of Kansas as a slave state was blocked because of questions over the legitimacy of its slave state constitution” (Minnesota Office of Secretary 2013). This in turn angered a lot of Southerners that wanted to expand slavery and felt that the federal government had no right to decide whether or it should persist.

For the most part, this time period is heavily concerned with Christianity, state’s rights, and slavery. These issues are all brought up during Wren’s academic career during lectures and debates.




This source is significant because it exhibits how people felt on the topic of slavery. What makes this work more interesting is that it is a firsthand account from a student at Emory College where topics like slavery can be taboo. Many people are not aware of the history of slavery and Emory College which is why this work is compelling. When Wren writes about slavery on March 15th, 1858, he makes it clear that his ideas are directly from his Professor’s lecture. Many people might find it hard to believe that an Emory professor would lecture of the righteousness of slavery. The fact that he learns in school could open the eyes of many people who are not aware of how slavery plays a part in the things they interact with on a daily basis. Of all the debates and discussions Wren has in class, he writes the most on slavery which indicates its importance.

Professors, historians, and students with a passion for African-American history can see that his words explicitly reinstate the common ideologies that support slavery. For example, Wren writes, “The government of negroes must be strong, from their inferiority and their natural instinct differing from the white race”. This shows that may whites actually believed and justified slavery with the idea that blacks are mentally incompetent and biologically different from whites. Equally important, Wren writes that slavery is in “no doubt doing good for the slaves to be brought from there, because they are enlightened and many learn a knowledge of religion”. Once again, slavery is benefitting blacks because it exposes them to Christianity. For the “over one million new converts”, this claim made sense. Many Christians consider it their duty to expose people to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Because slavery was doing this, Christians would not see a problem. The fact that religion, one of the main components of society, justified slavery influenced everyone. Furthermore, he writes that “the slave race is better paid than any other class of laborer”. The idea that slaves were treated kindly that President Buchanan spoke about serves as one of the main reasons why slavery lasted as long as it did. The fact that Wren was being taught this at school speaks to the ignorance of many whites concerning the brutality of slavery. Because only a small percentage of whites actually owned slaves, these claims went easily uncontested.









Further Reading

Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. “George Lovick Pierce Wren Diaries.” EmoryFindingAids:George Lovick Pierce Wren Diaries, 1858-1864. (accessed December 16, 2013).

“Minnesota Office of the Secretary of State.” Congressional Act: Admission of Minnesota into the Union. (accessed December 16, 2013).

Smith, Stephen. “The Great Awakening of 1857-1858.” The Great Awakening of 1857-1858. (accessed December 16, 2013).

Wikipedia contributors, “Dred Scott v. Sandford,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed December 16, 2013).

Wikipedia contributors, “James Buchanan,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed December 16, 2013).


Archival Holdings

The Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) at Emory University holds the diaries of George Lovick Pierce Wren. The collection includes three original diaries of George Lovick Pierce Wren, a transcribed version of one of the diaries, and a photo. See for more information.