The War Outside My Window: The Civil War Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham, 1860-1865
LeRoy Gresham was born in 1847 to an affluent and prominent slaveholding family in Macon, Georgia. As a young child he suffered a horrific leg and back injury that left him an invalid. Educated, inquisitive, perceptive, and exceptionally witty, the 12-year-old began keeping a journal in 1860--just before secession and Civil War tore the country and his world apart. He continued to write even as his health deteriorated until both the war and his life…

The War Outside My Window is a very interesting and entertaining find, a diary written by a teenage boy who lived in Macon, Georgia during the Civil War. Son of very wealthy parents, LeRoy Wiley Gresham was bright, perceptive, and mature well beyond his years. He also had been crippled by a falling chimney – and was slowly dying due to tuberculosis. Unaware until near the end that he is under a death sentence, LeRoy recounts in detail local and national events, exhibiting an increasing awareness not only of the war but of the unreliability of the news. He also documents the various treatments he underwent and the pain he endured, but his optimistic nature and lively interest in his surroundings, as well as his religious faith, shine through. Many interesting details from the daily weather and details of his life to incidents of houses burning (apparently there were arsonists at large) and deaths due to illness are documented in the diary. The diary ends a few days before his death, which occurred on June 18th, 1865, almost simultaneous with the death of the Confederacy.

The editor has done a fantastic job not only merely transcribing LeRoy’s notes but, with liberal use of footnotes, painting the real events that underlay the news in those notes. The result is a fascinating window into a lost era. I highly recommend this book, particularly to those seeking insight into the “home front” of the war.

Reviewed by John Scales