Readings — From the April 2013 issue

Southern Discomfort

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From the unpublished diaries of LeRoy Wiley Gresham (1847–65), son of John J. Gresham, twice mayor of Macon, Georgia. LeRoy, a longtime invalid confined to his bed or to a mattress in a wagon drawn by slaves, wrote his final entry on June 9, 1865; he died nine days later. Bill, Allen, Florence, and Julia Anne are the given names of the Greshams’ slaves; Minnie is LeRoy’s sister. Selected pages of the diary are on display until June as part of The Civil War in America, an exhibition at the Library of Congress.

february 23, 1865

Cloudy. Rained a little between 8 and 9 a.m. Sherman is marching on Charlotte N.C. tearing up the R.R. and destroying everything. Father returned from Houston with 5 partridges, doves, and blackbirds, also “Bill” to pull me. Allen is “played out.” Aunt Ann sent me cake, pudding, syllabub, turkey, jellies, pickle etc.

february 27, 1865

Clear and beautiful day. The Militia have been furloughed indefinitely. It has been raining since half past 4. Nothing reliable from Sherman. I have been trying to clothe “Bill” in the garments of civilization today and have improved his appearance wonderfully.

april 20, 1865

Clear and warm. Great excitement! The Yankees are on the outskirts and no resistance will be made. Gen. Johnston and Sherman have declared an armistice for the purpose of settling existing difficulties and great uneasiness exists for fear Lee is captured as Johnston made the truce. The city is full of Yankees; but everything is quiet now. They came with torches into the horselot and took Prince.

april 24, 1865

Clear and cold. Sitting around the fire all day. Our present condition is the most anomalous ever heard of in the annals of war. Confeds and Feds walking the streets together and still Gen. Wilson claims every soldier in the city a prisoner. I saw Prince with a U.S. officer on him this morning.

april 30, 1865

Clear and warm. Father and Minnie walked to church and on coming out found some Yanks had crossed two U.S. flags over the sidewalk coming up our way and were standing by awaiting the effect. Most of the ladies quietly, but indignantly, walked around. Dr. Hall called to see me this morning and examined my back and the abscesses. He is afraid to trouble them but is going to make me some tonic pills and see if he cannot relieve the indigestion and Dyspepsia from which I continually suffer.

may 3, 1865

Clear and cool. Took Paregoric last night and today have suffered tortures with my leg. I am perfectly helpless and have no appetite. There is one Yankee camp near Mrs. Mitchell’s and another in the woods in Collinsville and we hear their bands and bugles playing constantly. As I write they are playing the “Star Spangled Banner.”

may 12, 1865

Clear and cool. The wildest rumors are afloat concerning the whereabouts of President Davis and bands of cavalry are scouring the state to capture him. He is making for Texas.

may 22, 1865

Clear and very pleasant. Had a fine shower before breakfast. My bowels still trouble me and it does not seem to matter what I eat. I am taking Bismuth every three hours. I am in bed in the wing today. I change every day for variety. We get no news from the outside world but it is supposed all the negroes will be declared free in a day or two. Last night a Yankee sergeant harangued them at Church and told them of the priceless blessing of freedom which the federal authorities had given them.

may 29, 1865

Cloudy and cool. Julia Anne came and left, telling Mother Farewell. She announced her intention to leave because Mother slapped Florence. Joy go with her! She will repent of it to the day of her death. After every meal I suffer pain no matter how little I eat.

may 30, 1865

My “valet” Bill left this morning. I suppose Julia Anne induced him to go. Very unwell today and so will miss Bill the more.

june 8, 1865

I have slept pretty well for the last two nights under the influence of a quarter grain of Morphia. Nothing definite from Bill as yet — doubtful whether I will ever see him again. I have read nothing at all for the last ten days and consequently know little of the outside world. My puppies Fosco and Guy have grown to double their former size so that I scarcely know them. I eat very little and even that nauseates me.

june 9, 1865

I am perhaps —

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