The War Outside My Window (Young Readers Edition)
The Civil War Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham, 1860–1865
Imprint: Savas Beatie
336 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 3 maps, 24 images
- December 2023
LeRoy read books, devoured newspapers and magazines, listened to gossip, and discussed and debated important social and military issues with his parents and others. He wrote daily for five years, putting pen to paper with a vim and tongue-in-cheek vigor that impresses even now, more than 150 years later. His practical, philosophical, and occasionally Twain-like hilarious observations cover politics and the secession movement, the long and increasingly destructive Civil War, family pets, a wide variety of hobbies and interests, and what life was like at the center of a socially prominent wealthy family in the important Confederate manufacturing center of Macon. The young scribe often voiced concern about the family’s pair of plantations outside town, and recorded his interactions and relationships with “servants” Howard, Allen, Eveline, and others as he pondered the fate of human bondage and his family’s declining fortunes.
Unbeknownst to LeRoy, he was chronicling his own slow and painful descent toward death in tandem with the demise of the Southern Confederacy. He recorded—often in horrific detail—an increasingly painful and debilitating disease that robbed him of his childhood. The teenager’s declining health is a consistent thread coursing through his fascinating journals. “I feel more discouraged [and] less hopeful about getting well than I ever did before,” he wrote on March 17, 1863. “I am weaker and more helpless than I ever was.” Morphine and a score of other “remedies” did little to ease his suffering. Abscesses developed; nagging coughs and pain consumed him. Alternating between bouts of euphoria and despondency, he often wrote, “Saw off my leg.”
The War Outside My Window, edited by teachers Janet Croon and Kimberly Conrad, captures the spirit and the character of a young privileged white teenager recording the demise of his world and the early beginnings of another.
Just as Anne Frank has come down to us as the adolescent voice of World War II, LeRoy Gresham will now be remembered as the young voice of the Civil War South.