After finding the diary, I took it back and studied it that night after Dad had gone to bed. The writing was faded and covered with water marks, making it very hard to read and I will not bore you with that. Instead, I will put down on paper the impressions that I have and make it basically into a story form.
The faded handwriting dated the first entry at what I think was springtime at the end of the Civil War. The writer (Julian Christmas) had been wounded in the retreat from Atlanta and had finally recovered. He had made a deal and pledge with the Union Army and started the long trip home. He walked, hitched a ride where he could and slept in the woods at night. It was a long and teacherous trip back to the Christmas Place near Yazoo City, Mississippi.
The rain fell heavily as the soldier eased down the old Grey Rock Road. He was only a half mile from his home at the Christmas Plantation and was already imagining finally getting into his own bed after all this time. The war had been over for four months and the wound in his side still gave him trouble. It was a long way from Atlanta to home. He had gone slowly and had to rest many times to let his side heal enough to continue the journey. He also had to move a lot at night or cut through the wilderness to keep from being stopped and searched. He had panicked when early in his trip, a Yankee troop had forcibly made him give up an old horse he had bargained for. They laughed at the old rifle he carried with the bent and split barrel that he used as a crutch. He moved forward sticking the twisted gun barrel into the muddy road. He had put splints around the stock, wrapped it in gauze and old bed linen and made a serviceable crutch out of the useless rifle.
A long streak of lightning lit up the abandoned fields as he drew nearer and he thought of the work it was going to take to get the farm going again. Maybe he could at least get a good garden and some clearing done when spring rolled around again. He would have the money to hire labor and take care of buying mules and equipment as soon as he was well, but right now he was tired, hungry, and needed to get home to his wife and family.
A dog barked, then several came rushing out to meet him and turned from angry to loving as he called their names, then knelt down and hugged each of them as they danced around smelling him. A few seconds later he saw the glow of a coal-oil lamp. He had made it home. He had also managed to make it back with the hand-written map and two $10 gold pieces that he had hidden in the secret space in the butt of the old rifle.