Sunday, November 11, 2012

Invalid Macon boy's diary 1861 - 1865

Via Nan Scott


(Michael Ruane/ THE WASHINGTON POST ) - A little-known diary of invalid teenager, LeRoy Wiley Gresham, who chronicled the Civil War, and his own ailments, from his home in Macon, Ga. He wrote seven volumes that cover from June 1860 to June 9, 1865. He died June 18, 1865 at age 17. The library said the diary apparently never been published.


On a blazing Wednesday in July 1862, an invalid teenager from Macon, Ga., opened the journal he was keeping to make his daily entry. “Terribly hot,” he wrote. It was so hot that beads of his sweat fell onto the page.

He tried to rub them off, but they smeared the ink. Mindful of his readers, he explained, “notwithstanding we have just eaten a nice melon . . . perspiration pours off me and drops on the book.”

A century and a half later, LeRoy Wiley Gresham’s smudges still mark the page, in a kind of communion with students of his remarkable record of the Civil War, the collapse of the Old South, and the last years of his privileged but afflicted life.

It is a chronicle — in neat, legible handwriting — of the excitement of the war’s early months, the seeming endlessness of the conflict and the approach of the dreaded Yankees as they steamroll through Georgia.

From his rooftop, LeRoy sees the smoke and hears the booming of cannons in the distance. At night there is the glow from burning houses.

The Library of Congress is featuring selected pages of Gresham’s little-known diary as part of an extensive display of its voluminous Civil War material to mark the sesquicentennial of the war years.
The exhibit, which opens Monday, is called “The Civil War in America,” and includes more than 200 items — maps, song sheets, letters, photographs and the contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets the night he was assassinated.

As for Gresham’s journal, numerous Civil War diaries exist, and some are famous. Those of South Carolina belle Mary Chesnut and New York lawyer George Templeton Strong are among the best known.

But Gresham’s apparently has never been published, the library said, and it offers a unique view of the war and an intimate personal story. The library acquired it in the 1980s from family descendants.
The diary also speaks about slavery and its demise — about “servants” and “valets,” always in the background and almost always referred to by first name only, Howard, Eaveline and “Mammy Dinah.”

And it is the saga, in seven volumes, of a precocious, delicate boy who was a voracious consumer of books and newspapers, but who was often confined to a special wagon that was pulled about town by slave.

Crippled by a broken left leg years before, and tormented by what sound like bedsores, and a host of other infirmities, LeRoy is exposed to a full range of Victorian remedies — opiates, whiskey, syrup of lettuce, spirits of lavender, and various powders, plasters and poultices.
Little of it works.

From his wagon, he can only watch the other children play “town ball,” a precursor to baseball. He has to be carried at times — he weighs 63 pounds — and in one case his mother drops him. He is often despondent.

“I feel more discouraged [and] less hopeful about getting well than I ever did before,” he writes on March 17, 1863, at the age of 15. “I am weaker and more helpless than I ever was.”
And on Feb. 7, 1864: “It seems to me that as I grow older, the dreary, monotonous life I lead seems more burdensome. If I just had some regular employment I could get along better.”

More @ Washington Post 

Via comment by Terry

The 1842 Inn

 The house, built in 1842 by John Gresham, is a fine specimen of Greek revival architecture. Mr. Gresham, a former mayor of Macon, attorney, judge and cotton merchant lived in the home until 1900 when it was purchased by the B. F. Adams family.

The Adams family made significant changes, which include extending the front porch and erecting columns as well as installing parquet floor and Victorian tile insets on the fireplaces. The Victorian Cottage, which sits across the courtyard from the main house, was moved onto the almost 2 acre property to supplement the main house in 1983. The Cottage consists of nine fully furnished guest rooms with 12-foot ceilings, original heart of pine flooring and a large front porch overlooking the courtyard.

The inn now consists of nineteen guest rooms, hospitality parlors, service facilities, as well as a courtyard and porches for entertaining. 

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  1. After a long discussion with my younger son on the phone of where and how I should be warehoused for the rest of my time, this post of yours could not be more timely for me. At dinner Friday night we saw a young man in a wheelchair with only one leg. I had just been discussing the purchase of a wheelchair with my wife and there he was. I am never allowed to feel sorry for my self because soon there comes one along with bigger problems. Today is the greatest day of my life. Last week I took the grandchildren and their parents to dinner to celebrate November 2 and 30 years without a Salem Menthol. How can North Carolina schools survive?

  2. How can North Carolina schools survive?

    Does this question come from another piece? I didn't see anything related in this post. Oh, you must be referring to your NC publix skool learnin'.:)

  3. I went to the link and finished the article. I must be a partisan Southerner since I totally agree with the young man's views on that tyrant Lincoln.
    Great post, thanks Brock.

    1. Thanks and it is just amazing at what keeps surfacing.

  4. Well, how could I have ever made it without tobacco tax money? Every thing at NC State had an R. J. Reynolds touch in the 50's. Home schooling just wasn't done in the 30s and 40s, although my mother with a tenth grade education would have done well by me. She taught me to read at home long before I entered first grade. And while my dad was in Europe she brought home arm-loads of books from the Pack Library, next to the Vance monument, so I salute her also on Veteran's Day. They also serve who only teach their kids right from wrong and how to work for a living.

    1. They also serve who only teach their kids right from wrong and how to work for a living.

      Damn, if that ain't a keeper and posted.

  5. I have the greatest respect for my parents generation's education and before. Did you ever wonder why many of the captains of industry during and after WW2 reportedly never had more than an 8th grade education? Simple they didn't need one. Most eighth graders were far better educated than most college graduates today.
    I guarantee you don't know anyone who could pass this eighth grade civics test.

  6. Most eighth graders were far better educated than most college graduates today.


  7. Tried to post this but computer won't let me this afternoon. I sent the post about
    LeRoy Wiley Gresham to my best friend in middle Georgia. He sent this web page back.
    It appears to be the house young Gresham grew up in.
    Father John, mayor of Macon mentioned in both the article and on the web page about the house.

    Thought you might enjoy seeing it.


  8. What a sad story of a brave young man. More of a man at his age than most now will ever be in their 30's. God Bless the South!

    Remarking on Public Education, I do believe we have been sold a load of crap. As a taxypaying citizen as we all (I think) are. Public education should be everything that a private school can be and more. We are all putting our quarters in a fixed slot machine. The house always wins.


  9. More of a man at his age than most now will ever be in their 30's.

    Well said.

  10. Researching and getting referral is a good way to find a
    Attorney Macon

  11. We are proud to announce that Savas Beatie will be publishing these journals in their entirety, edited and annotated, soon. It is not up on our website yet because it is a 2018 title.

    They are utterly remarkable, and we believe will be one of the most important firsthand accounts of the Civil War ever published.

    1. Thanks!