Edited by Janet Elizabeth Croon
Savas Beatie, 2018, 480 pp., $34.95
Image courtesy of amazon.com
There is something essential to primary sources as we study the American Civil War. And yet, when we look at those sources, especially with those who served in the military, there are some who say that we should take what they claim with a grain of salt. However, the same cannot be said for some of the primary sources which come from the civilian end of the American Civil War. There is something sincere about them, something which screams truth at the reader. The War Outside My Window is one such work that, to me, had a great deal of truth to it. Edited by Janet Elizabeth Croon, this work is one which every Civil War Scholar should take a look at.
Janet E. Croon graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelors in Political Science, Modern European History, and Russian Language and Area Studies. She also holds a Masters Degree from the University of Dayton in International Studies. For twenty years, she has been teaching International Baccalaureate History and as she lives in northern Virginia, she has gained a great interest in the Civil War. As of this review, this is her first book.
The War Outside My Window chronicles the diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham during the American Civil War. We learn much about his lifestyle and family as the dates go by throughout the book, learning that he had come from a slaveholding family in Georgia. Mainly living as an invalid, he had leg and back injuries, but was educated and quite witty at times. He began this journal as secession started to take place and his own observations proved quite interesting as he saw what this conflict was going to do, not only to America, but to the world as he saw it. For a young boy of twelve years old, his scholarly pursuits and educated readings truly came out in his writing as the war went on. Not only were there poignant statements about what was happening to the world that he knew, mainly the slaveholding south, but his health which was constantly in decline. Much of that enters his writing which shows that he had maturity to pen such horrid thoughts about his life and how his declining health was getting the better of him at times. But what I took the most from this source was the interesting dynamic of the loss of his way of life, the concerns which the family had over the outcome of the war. His words truly brought life in the Civil War south to life for me, especially coming from such an affluent family such as his. It’s books like these that leave a stamp on you, and The War Outside My Window will always remain in my mind.
I’m not sure what else I can say about this book. It’s truly a great insight into the mind of a child as the world he knew was crashing down. I highly recommend this work to anyone interested in the Civil War, especially if you are interested in the civilian life. The work which Janet Elizabeth Croon accomplished here should be praised and remembered for ages to come. Not only does she give us that proper look into the life of the civilian in the South, she adds on top of that the outlook of a young teenager. This is not to be missed. Highly Recommended!