Near the end of 1862, he writes:
“I close this record with the earnest hope that ere another Christmas is gone we may have peace and prosperity, and . . . the crisis of my disease may have passed and I may at least be released from constant confinement to a horizontal position.”
The year 1863 brings the Battle of Chancellorsville and the death by friendly fire of Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. “The pride of the nation is gone,” LeRoy writes. “Dearly was the victory won at such a price.”
Then come Confederate defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, soldier funerals in Macon, and the melting down of the town’s bells to make cannon — “an altogether useless proceeding.”
As 1863 closes, he writes, “the year goes out weeping, weeping. We might well think over the blood that has been shed and the fiery trials this poor country has been called upon to undergo.”
‘The town is in a furor of excitement’
All this time Macon had been geographically distant from the front lines, but with the approach of the Union Army under Gen. William T. Sherman, things start to change.
Slaves are impressed and put to work building defenses in Atlanta. Men between 17 and 50 are liable for military service. LeRoy’s father is summoned to the militia. The town fills with wounded.
Suddenly, Yankee raiders show up outside town, and his father, taking a slave, Howard, with him, joins his company to do battle.
“Shells have fallen over this side of the river,” LeRoy writes on July 30, 1864.
“I went upon the top of the house but could only see the smoke. Every man in town is under arms. . . . We sit anxiously waiting for news, too excited to read or do anything but think of Father . . . and listen to the booming of the cannon. . . . A thousand wild rumors are afloat.”
When Yankees retreat and the elder Gresham returns home safely, LeRoy writes, “I felt so thankful to eat our supper safely and in peace again and Father with us covered with the glory of a right severe campaign.”
But inglorious events come next. On Aug. 6, 1864, he reports that one of his cousin’s slaves was hanged for “insubordination” and other slaves were “paroled” for “joining the raiders and declaring themselves free.”
The reader can fairly guess what he meant by “paroled.”
On Nov. 11, 1864, he writes, “this is my 17th birthday and I am old enough to be in the reserve forces of the C.S.A. . . . What a farce!”
With the approach of Sherman’s entire army, panic in Macon sets in.
“We do not know what to do or think,” he writes on Nov. 17, 1864. “We have no place to run to where we could be safe, and we feel awfully about it. The town is in a furor of excitement.”
His father has gone to Virginia to bring Thomas home. In his absence, his mother decides to send sister Minnie out of town for safety.