The War Outside My Window: The Civil War Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham, 1860-1865

war outside

I normally do not review books (mainly because I read too many books and don’t have time to review them) but this one is special. This book is a diary from a boy that lived in Macon, GA during the civil war and wrote about everything! His name is Leroy Gresham. He wrote about his injury (that left him an invalid), the comings and goings in his house, everyday chit chat and the war itself. There is a little bit of everything for everyone in this diary. What does this mean to you? This means you can read a war years diary and focus on what interests you. Some diary’s I have read in the past focus on one subject or another but this one has something for everyone!

I will admit I have not finished reading this book yet. It has been my go to book this past two weeks to read during downtime at work and we haven’t had much of that. Normally I read much faster but reading this slower has given me the chance to savor all the little details. Some of the details that fascinated me was when he talked about Christmas presents, everyday presents of food and his appetite for reading. Leroy was given so many presents of food on a weekly basis! You can get a feel for what types of fruit(and sweets!)were available in his area of the country too. He mentions many times receiving cantaloupes. I have been studying the Civil War for most of my life and had not realized that they had cantaloupes (though I’m not a food historian by any means!). He also talks about the quantities of peaches his family receives. That should come as no surprise as peaches as a staple in Georgia even today.

The diary spans from 1860 to Leroy’s death in 1865. It is sad that as you read this dairy you can see his heath deteriorating but through it all he maintains his good spirits and sunny outlook. If you are interested in reading this diary I will link it below as well as the book that is all about his medical condition. The editor has done a fabulous job on this book and we hope to see her do more in the future!

The War Outside my Window

I am Perhaps Dying

Origins of Memorial Day

Memorial Day officially started in 1868 as “Decoration Day”. General John A Logan, the Commander in Chief of The Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,”. This specific date was chosen since it was not an anniversary of any battle.

By 1890 all states had made Decoration Day an official state holiday. Southern states did not honor their dead on the same day until after WWI. Eventually Decoration Day was becoming known as Memorial Day. It was first called this in 1882. In 1968, it was officially made the last Monday in May to make a three-day weekend for federal employees. This finally went into full effect in 1971.

Our group The Civilians of Gettysburg, does an 1860’s Decoration Day ceremony in front of the soldier’s monument at the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA. We do poetry readings, talk about the origins of the holiday, and sing a few hymns. Sadly, I did not get any photos of the ceremony since we like to keep modern devices out of the public view for events. But we did get photos afterwards in the cemetery.

Have a fun weekend and remember to honor those who have fought for our freedom.