Expelled from occupied New Orleans by Federal forces after refusing to pledge loyalty to the Union, Henri Garidel remained in exile from his home and family from 1863 to 1865. Lonely, homesick, and alienated, the French-Catholic Garidel, a clerk in the Confederate Bureau of Ordnance, was a complete outsider in the wartime capital of Richmond.

In his faithfully kept diary, Garidel relates the trials and discomforts—physical, emotional, spiritual, and professional—of life in a city entirely foreign to him. Civil War Richmonders were predominantly white, evangelical Protestants in a relatively small, insular city. His living quarters devolved from a private home shared with his family in cosmopolitan New Orleans to a cramped, cold rooming house away from everything familiar.

Trapped in Richmond for the last two years of the conflict and a witness to the eventual Federal occupation of the city, Garidel made daily entries that offer a striking and realistic blend of Southern domestic and political life during the Civil War. From his candid remarks about slavery and race, gender issues, military history, immigration, social class and structure, and religion, Henri Garidel's readers gain a revealing human picture of a major turning point in American history.