Memorial Day: Stories of War by a Civil War Veteran

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian

When Congress declared the last Monday in May a national holiday in 1968, it standardized the many different ways that Americans had remembered our war dead since the Civil War (1861-1865). Defining “Decoration Day,” as Memorial Day was first known after that war, became part of a larger cultural and political conflict about how to remember the Civil War itself.

Wikimedia-Bierce_from_The_Letters_1922-croppedWriter, poet, journalist, and veteran Ambrose Bierce shaped this post-war conversation. As a nineteen year old he joined the Ninth Indiana regiment and served nearly the entire conflict. Bierce later settled in California as a journalist and writer, contributing social criticism and satire to the San Francisco Examiner and other publications.

Of the many former soldiers who put their wartime experiences into literature, Bierce probably had seen the most combat. It never left him. By the 1880s, when American culture was awash in sentimental and nostalgic literature about the Civil War and slavery, Bierce’s stories stood apart. He despised war sentiment and, as one historian put it, “never stopped recollecting the corpses.” (David Blight, Race and Reunion, 2001, p. 248) Bierce’s realism about war’s horrors, most notably expressed in “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and “Chickamauga,” was nearly unrivaled in his generation and distinguished him from other writers until after World War I.

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In addition to the finely-produced first edition of collected short stories featured here, Tales of Soldiers and Civilians, Hesburgh Library holds every first edition work by Bierce, thanks to the generosity of two university benefactors, John Bennett Shaw and Walter Trohan.

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For more about Ambrose Bierce, and where most of this post’s content comes, see, David W. Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2001). See also S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Ambrose Bierce: An Annotated Bibliography of Primary Sources (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999).

 


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Leap Day

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII reformed the Julian calendar in order to bring the date for celebrating Easter closer in line with the date the early Church had celebrated it. He removed 10 days, skipping from October 4 to October 15, 1582, established February 29 as the official day to be added during a leap year, revised how leap years were determined, and also set January 1 as the first day of the year.

Although most Catholic countries adopted these reforms after they were enacted in 1582 by the papal bull Inter gravissimas, Protestant and Orthodox countries resisted. England and her colonies did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until almost two centuries later as this excerpt from the 1752 edition of Poor Richard Improved, an almanac published by Benjamin Franklin, explains.

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Bram Stoker’s Manuscript of His Lecture on Abraham Lincoln

Bram Stoker (1847-1912), when he was manager of the renowned English actor Henry Irving, made many trips to the United States. Over the course of these visits and perhaps after meeting the poet Walt Whitman in 1884, he became intrigued by Abraham Lincoln. In the late 1880s and 1890s, Stoker lectured on Lincoln at numerous venues in both the United States and Europe.

In composing his lecture, Stoker drew on many of the standard sources of the day and also quotes Whitman. Stoker emphasizes slavery throughout and Lincoln’s role as emancipator. A long prelude provides background on the “peculiar institution” in the United States and the sectional crisis of the 1850s. Then follows the life of Lincoln proper. Stoker’s attitude toward his subject is reverent in the extreme. Explaining that “the hour had come for the final struggle . . . between slavery and freedom,” Stoker reiterates to the audience in introducing his subject, “The hour had come—and with it . . . came the man—Abraham Lincoln.”

Notre Dame holds the original, working copy of Bram Stoker’s 152-page, unbound manuscript. Approximately half of the Notre Dame manuscript is a single, essentially sustained narrative though deletions, additions, and corrections abound. The rest consists of variations on portions of that narrative inserted, perhaps, to suit a particular audience.

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Folio 19r, showing the first example of the beginning of the lecture (MSE/IR 5304-1B).
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Folio 98r, showing a variation on the beginning of the lecture (MSE/IR 5304-1B).
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Folio 99r, showing another version of the beginning of the lecture (MSE/IR 5304-1B).
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Folio 160r, showing a third version of the beginning of the lecture (MSE/IR 5304-1B).

Thanksgiving and football

by George Rugg, Curator, Americana

Thanksgiving Day was instrumental to the growth of American football. A season-ending game between the previous year’s top two college teams was first scheduled for Thanksgiving in 1876. In 1880 the contest was moved to New York, where it evolved from game to social event, inaugurating the city’s winter season.

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By the time the 124-page “memento program” shown here was published, in 1893, the Thanksgiving game was attracting 40,000 people and earning the participating schools (in this case, Yale and Princeton) upwards of $10,000. It was also providing ample fodder for the dozens of New York dailies, whose exhaustive coverage brought college football to broad new constituencies. Many faculty and trustees had misgivings about all this attention, about the loss of old Thanksgiving traditions, and about students’ postgame celebrations in the city; these factors and others led to the abandonment of New York after 1897.

Football-shaped programs were published with some frequency in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the case of this 1893 Yale-Princeton Thanksgiving program, the rectos of each leaf contain athletic and school information of various kinds, while the versos contain decidedly upscale advertisements.

 


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Commemorating Civil War Veterans

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian

Americans celebrate November 11th as Veterans’ Day. It commemorates Armistice Day—November 11, 1918—when, at the eleventh hour that day, France, Great Britain, and the United States (the Allied powers) and Germany signed an armistice that ended hostilities of the Great War (1914 – 1918). After World War II the United States officially designated November 11th as a day to remember veterans of all wars. However, its WWI origins remain in the Arlington National Cemetery ceremony, which includes a wreath placed on the Tomb of the Unknowns at 11 am.

Letter, Thomas Francis McGrath to his mother, January 20, 1863 and Veteran’s Badge, Dedication of NY State Monument, Antietam, September 17, 1920.
Letter, Thomas Francis McGrath to his mother, January 20, 1863 (MSN/CW 1001-16), and Veteran’s Badge, Dedication of NY State Monument, Antietam, September 17, 1920 (MSN/CW 1001-44).

Hesburgh Libraries’ Rare Book and Special Collections department holds many unique or rare items by soldiers about war remembrance. The Civil War (1861-1865) created a lot of soldiers who, even as they fought, reflected and recorded. Thomas Francis McGrath (1839 – 1922) traveled from Ireland to enlist in the 69th New York Infantry, a part of the Irish Brigade. In an 1863 letter to his mother, he contrasted Irish and Irish-American soldiers who died fighting for the United States, “that land, which gives a home . . . to the . . . oppressed of all nations,” with Irish men who lost their lives in the British army, fighting “under a Foreign Flag . . . for a government that robs his country and banishes her sons to a distant land.”

Carte-de-visite Portrait of Lt. James C. Woodworth, 1865, and 25th Massachusetts Infantry annual reunion ribbon, October 17, 1899.
Carte-de-visite portrait of Lt. James C. Woodworth, 1865 (MSN/CW 1014-16), and 25th Massachusetts Infantry annual reunion ribbon, October 17, 1899 (MSN/CW 1014-31).

James C. Woodworth (1839 – 1900) served in the 25th Massachusetts Infantry. He kept an 800-page diary of his wartime experience and collected miniature tintype portraits of soldiers in his company (an opening of which is this blog post’s lead image, MSN/CW 1014-15). After the war both McGrath and Woodworth attended soldiers’ reunions until the end of their lives; McGrath appeared at a monument dedication at Antietam in 1920, when he was in his early eighties, and two years after the end of World War I.

 


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Recent Acquisition: World War I Scrapbooks of U.S. Army Officer from Bloomington, Indiana

by George Rugg, Curator, Americana

4 volumes, 29 cm., 678 leaves, with typescript, photographs, postcards, maps and other published illustrations, typed and handwritten documents, and drawings tipped and bound in; 3 additional folders; 1 linear foot.

From August 1917 to May 1919 Humphrey Mahan Barbour (1894-1983) of Bloomington, Indiana served as an officer in the U.S. Army’s 150th Field Artillery Regiment, attached to the 42nd (Rainbow) Division. From February to November 1918 he saw periodic action on the Western Front, fighting at the 2nd Battle of the Marne, at Saint-Mihiel, and in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. On 1 July 1918 he was promoted from 1st lieutenant to captain, and command of the 150th Field Artillery’s Battery B.

Opening, three full length portraits of soldiers at left (two and one), text from July 12, 1918, at right.
Volume 2, opening 95v-96r.

At some point after the war Barbour compiled an extensive four-volume illustrated narrative of his military experiences, entitled “With the 42nd Division, 1917-19.” Around 220 typed pages of memoir, drawn by Barbour from wartime letters and perhaps a journal, are interspersed with more than 400 photographic prints, photo postcards, and published halftones relevant to the text. Also present are more than 500 printed, typed, and manuscript documents and bits of ephemera preserved by Barbour: division and regimental orders, memoranda, reports, and plans; handwritten notes from the battery commanding officer; fire orders and reports of fire; and drawings of sections of the front.

The Barbour scrapbooks were purchased by the Hesburgh Libraries in 2015.

 


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Recent Acquisition: A curious hieroglyphic Bible

by George Rugg, Curator, Americana

Title page and frontispiece of A curious hieroglyphick Bible (Worcester : Printed at Worcester, Massachusetts, by Isaiah Thomas and sold ... at his bookstore, 1788).
Title page and frontispiece.

A curious hieroglyphick Bible, or, Select passages in the Old and New Testaments, represented with emblematical figures, for the amusement of youth: designed chiefly to familiarize tender age, in a pleasing and diverting manner, with early ideas of the Holy Scriptures: to which are subjoined, a short account of the lives of the Evangelists, and other pieces: illustrated with nearly five hundred cuts. Worcester, Massachusetts: Isaiah Thomas, 1788.

Isaiah Thomas’s hieroglyphic Bible of 1788 is both a landmark piece of American children’s literature and a newly ambitious use of woodcut illustration in an American printed book. The idea of a hieroglyphic Bible, in which select scriptural passages were presented in a combination of words and images, was consistent with Thomas’s interest in works for children that simultaneously instructed and amused. He based his book on an English edition first published in 1783. In his preface—dedicated to the “parents, guardians, and governesses of the [newly constituted] United States of America”—Thomas notes the “considerable expense” involved in commissioning the hundreds of woodcuts that fill the book. Some of these, to the modern eye at least, seem a bit opaque; fortunately, Thomas printed the full text of each passage at the foot of the page. The present copy is a first edition, with all of its pages intact. It was acquired by the Libraries in January 2015.

The nativity story as told by Luke from A curious hieroglyphick Bible (Worcester : Printed at Worcester, Massachusetts, by Isaiah Thomas and sold ... at his bookstore, 1788).
The nativity story as told by Luke.

 


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