1863: “The Leaves Are Falling In Showers”

Friday, November 6th 1863: Clear and warm. The wind blew this morning and the leaves are falling in showers. Thus far there has not been a killing frost here: a thing somewhat rare. My Puppy “Wheeler” sleepth under the steps. Father returned from Houston. Mr. Kemp is home on a short furlough.

Saturday, November 7th 1863: There is no news. The firing on Sumter has slackened. The Legislature met Thursday and elected A.R. Wright President of the Senate and Hardeman Speaker of the House. Mrs. Huguenin is better. Mrs. Whittle sent me two oranges….

Sunday, November 8th 1863: Clear and cool. The Paper did not come. The impression is Bragg will “fall back.” …Went out on my wagon and ate Hickory nuts. The wind blows very hard this evening. My Back has run very little for two or three days, and has been very sore too. Gen. Hood is able to sit up a little. Vague intimations are thrown out that Wheeler is on another raid. 

Monday, November 9th 1863: First cold day of the season. Thomas left on the B.R.R. for Houston. Commenced Rienzi, or the Last of the Tribunes by E. Bulwer Lytton.

Tuesday, November 10th 1863: Clear and cold. Ice thick as a window-pane: the first of the season. Collards, peppers, Tomatoes frozen. Green & Howard are planting Rye. My back is very sore. The Gov’s message is very long. The fire on Sumter slackens. Our men in East Tenn. have captured 840 Yanks, 60 wagons, &c, a thousand mules. Commenced my new scrapbook today.

Wednesday, November 11th 1863: Clear and cold. Heavy frost and Ice. Slept down stairs for the first time. This is my 16th birthday. The Barrel of Apples have arrived. Green left for home. The Fire on Sumter has nearly ceased.

LeRoy Wiley Gresham Journal Entries, November 1863.

LeRoy Wiley Gresham, c. 1857

Old Book, New Book

LeRoy Wiley Gresham was a teenager during the Civil War, but unlike his peers, he couldn’t run after the soldiers in the streets, form a boys’ militia, or go to parties. Severe illness robbed him of mobility and health. However, he followed campaigns, politics, and local news, taking in the details and recording his observations in a private journal as a way to pass the time. LeRoy’s diaries cover the period between 1860 and 1865 in Georgia and end with his death just after the end of the Confederacy.

For decades LeRoy’s history record waited for publication, and this year (2018) after careful transcription and footnote editing, his journal is available in print! Called The War Outside My Window and published by Savas Beatie, this book offers wonderful insight on medical treatments, social issues, war news received on the Confederate homefront, and collapse of the Old South.

General J. Wheeler

General Wheeler

LeRoy covers many war rumors and local news in this week of journal entries – representing the kind of details he recorded for five years and created a window on the Civil War. One of the officers he mentions is General Joseph Wheeler; in fact, LeRoy seems to have named his newest dog after this officer.

Joseph Wheeler took command of the Confederate cavalry of the Second Corps of the Army of Tennessee in late 1862 and carried out famous raids in the western theater. In November 1863, Wheeler and his cavalry continued their harassment of the Union troops in Tennessee and maneuvered around Knoxville, trying to assist General James Longstreet. The cavalry general continued his brilliant efforts through the end of the conflict, then turned his attention to more peaceful pursuits for a time.

Wheeler served in the U.S. Congress, representing Alabama, but in 1898, he went to war again. This time in a Federal uniform, helping to command American troops during the Spanish American War! According to popular legend, he told his men that they had the “Yankees on the run again” during one of the battles, apparently forgetting he was now a Yank.

Historical Musings

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love autumn! The word pictures of the season in this section of LeRoy’s journal are delightful. Leaves, apples, frost… Yet, these autumn images are tucked into the rest of the daily news and happenings that caught the interest of the sick teenager.

The seasons did not stop because of the war. The war did not stop because of the seasons. They intertwined in one saga which, in this case, was watched and recorded by a young man from the confines of the house or front porch.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

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