Preview – Croon (Ed), “The War Outside My Window”

17 04 2018

9781611213881This is a little different for Bull Runnings. The good folks at Savas Beatie sent me a digital, advance unedited galley of a unique diary, The War Outside My Window: The Civil War Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham, edited by Janet Elizabeth Croon. The story of this diary, which I’ll describe below, has been bouncing around for quite some time – here’s a WaPo article from 2012.

I’ve read snippets of LeRoy’s diary, and enough of other online sources which you can find yourself to get a good idea of his back story (note this is a preview, not a review.) Here’s the gist – he was a very bright, well-read, and articulate young man, living in Macon, GA. He suffered from a disease resulting from a severe injury to his leg – when the diary opens, he’s already an invalid and would need to be pulled about in a wagon of sorts. Unlike the reader LeRoy was of course unaware that his condition was mortal, and he would barely outlive the war that understandably occupied so much of his thoughts. Our knowledge of his impending doom makes his daily writings, spanning the whole conflict and very much of and in the moment, all the more poignant in their innocence, ignorance, and wit. You’ll feel for the kid.

Here’s young Gresham’s entry for July 22, 1861, with the early news of the fighting at Manassas:

Macon July 22 1861: Another great battle at Manassas! Sherman’s Battery taken! Terrible Slaughter on both sides! The enemy retired from the field. The Fight commenced 4 oclock this morning and continued until about seven. The battle raged with terrible force and a heavy loss on both sides. There has evidently been a signal Victory at Bulls Run. President Davis’ message is out. It is not only well written, but beautiful in contrast to the boorish effort of Doctor Lincoln, Chief magistrate of United States. Raining very slightly before breakfast this morning. Sad news Gen. F. S. Bartow is killed. Macon Gaurds in the fight. President Davis commanded in person; Beauregarde + Johnson’s army both engaged 40 000 to 70 000 on a side. Beauregarde’s horse shot from under him. It will be sometime before we can get the truth of it. Dressed my back this morning and its healing though very slowly. General Wise has also gained a signal Victory in western Virginia, killing 150 federals and losing few of his men. Julia Ann is up and about again. Very heavy shower this afternoon. Uncle John, Deo Volente [God willing], leaves for Athens tomorrow. Father comes home but there are no more reliable dispatches. The battles undoubtedly sends a thrill of Anguish to many an anxious heart in the newborn Confederacy. Ave Maria Jose [goodbye].

Undoubtedly, some will latch on to the undeniable fact that LeRoy was a youth of privilege and wealth, a member of a slaveholding family with personal servants, and may argue that these are the most important, or even the only, aspects of his life with which we should concern ourselves, to the exclusion of all others. To the contrary, young Gresham’s story and personal observations give great insight into the mind of someone raised in the reality of the times, and should provide a tool for historians to interpret those times in context as opposed to retrospect. I mean, that’s their job, after all. It’s not everyone’s job. But it is that of the historian.

It’s hard to tell you what you’ll get with the final product. Of course you get the diary and detailed annotations in bottom of page footnotes; illustrations including a few of actual diary pages with what we refer to today as “metadata” (doodling, sweat stains, etc.); Hal Jesperson maps; extensive dramatis personae; and appendices related to LeRoy’s medical condition. A lot of detective work went into this.

I am perhaps dying ebook[7587][Dennis Rasbach, MD, has written an e-book (not yet available), I Am Perhaps Dying: The Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham and the Medical Backstory of his Private Battle with Tuberculosis During the Civil War. Keep on the lookout for that.]

The War Outside My Window is scheduled to drop in June, with national coverage and a feature in the Sunday Parade magazine. Advance orders or signed copies are being taken at the Savas Beatie site linked above. I think this will be an important work, and well worth your time.


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4 responses

17 04 2018
Ted Savas

Harry,

Many thanks for handling this preview. I really appreciate it and all you do to help keep independent Civil War publishing alive and thriving.

The War Outside My Window is a very special book. It hits on so many important threads. I figured you would go for the Bull Run entries. :)

You had noted you were unsure what all would also be in the final version since you had an advance digital galley. Here is a taste:

— Lengthy Publisher’s Preface (I had a big hand in this one, and am smitten by LeRoy and the good work editor Jan Croon has done);

— a Medical Foreword and a Medical Afterword by Dennis Rasbach, who set out at my behest to diagnose what killed LeRoy; turns out his journal is the only one known to exist in the entire world that chronicles the disease firsthand, for years until death.

— a very special addendum consisting of an exceedingly private letter from LeRoy’s heartbroken mom to her sister shortly after his death describing how he learned he was dying, how he died, how the slaves reacted, and the family’s horrific pain. (This was their third child lost, and their clear favorite);

— A detailed Dramatis Personae of a couple dozen people mentioned routinely in the journal, and how many are related, etc.

— Four Hal Jesperson maps;

— Detailed lengthy footnotes on all things military political, medical, etc.

— 8 pages of photos inserted on gloss paper, many previously unpublished of LeRoy, his family members, etc.

— 480 pages, index, note on sources, etc.

I hope everyone clicks over to Amazon also, as the metrics of page hits matters there, especially. Thank you!

Ted Savas
Savas Beatie

Liked by 2 people

18 04 2018
Jan Croon

I echo Ted’s thanks for your review of this work! It was an adventure to work on, both with the transcription itself as well as LeRoy’s observations on life in Macon, the changes brought by war, and how his relationships with family, friends, and the family slaves changed over the five years he worked on his journals. As an educator, I feel this is a work that is accessible to many people, as it does give a detailed view of life before and during the war… and a glimpse at Reconstruction.

With much appreciation,

Jan Croon

Liked by 2 people

12 06 2018
A Few Words on Two New Releases | Bull Runnings

[…] Sorry, man, but this is my hobby, not my full time job! Two of these, from Savas Beatie, are The War Outside My Window, Janet Croon, editor, and a set of regimental rosters for the Georgia regiments (7th, 8th, 9th, […]

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23 07 2018
Interview: Janet Croon [Ed.], “The War Outside My Window” | Bull Runnings

[…] Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham, 1860-1865 has been making quite a ruckus this summer. I previewed it here, and also briefly covered an upcoming companion book here. Editor Janet Elizabeth (Jan) Croon […]

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