Library of Congress > Collections with Manuscripts > Lewis H. Machen Family Papers

Overview

The Gresham family material in the Lewis H. Machen Family Papers consists of seven diaries kept by Georgia teenager LeRoy Wiley Gresham (1847-1865) during the Civil War, and approximately 550 items of correspondence, primarily letters exchanged by members his family’s inner circle. Among the principal figures represented, all from Macon, Georgia, are John Jones Gresham, an attorney, judge, and plantation owner; his wife Mary Baxter Gresham; and their children, Thomas, LeRoy, and Minnie. Following Minnie's marriage to Arthur Machen in 1873, and for the years of her residence in Baltimore, Maryland, the papers consist largely of letters she received from her husband, family, and friends.

The seven diaries kept by LeRoy Wiley Gresham, an invalid for much of his brief life, were maintained almost continuously from June 1860 to within a few days of his death on June 18, 1865. On the one hand, these diaries provide a poignant record of his physical suffering and the medical treatment to which he was subjected, while on the other, they reveal an unusual precocity of mind and generosity of spirit. His place in the family was firmly and lovingly established, his interests were wide ranging, and he followed assiduously the unfolding events of the Civil War. Of special interest in this latter regard are the entries of November-December 1864 when General William T. Sherman of the Union army made his march through Georgia to the sea. Macon was thought to be in the line of advance, and LeRoy’s diary reflects the uncertainties faced by those in the path of Sherman’s army. In addition, he frequently records the weather in Macon, the price of items purchased by his father, the books and newspapers he reads, and other daily activities that document life on the home front in Macon during the war.

The Gresham family correspondence ranges in date from 1834 to 1925. Preponderantly letters exchanged by members of the immediate family, they frequently concern domestic, social, and religious matters as well as LeRoy’s health. The difficulties and anxieties of the Civil War years are also discussed, and a number of letters written to LeRoy by his brother Thomas provide information on life in the Confederate army. Also revealed are conditions in Macon in the aftermath of the war and during Reconstruction.