29 August 2013

The United States, Interrupted: 1861 - 1865

The Civil War is a timely topic as the Sesquicentennial commemorations are occurring throughout the nation.  We live amongst the remains of the Civil War fought 150 years ago – and seldom do we acknowledge the sites of horrific battles; the scars on our churches, buildings, and national character; or, its impact on the American psyche.  For four long and terrible years, the United States was interrupted by a brutal war that helped define American democracy. 
Today’s entry will focus on providing an overview of our contribution to the Library system’s soon-to-begin“One County Reads the Civil War” project.
Most Americans know the war as a fight between North and South over slavery or state’s rights, losing sight of how complex the controversy was or that the experience of the war varied considerably by locality.  The experience of the Civil War here in Beaufort County South Carolina was quite different than the experience of Greenville County, or Adams County Pennsylvania, or Richmond, Virginia.  During the “One County Reads the Civil War” project, the BDC will highlight our area’s local experience of the Civil War by showcasing a free traveling exhibit and sponsoring supplemental programs at a variety of locations in collaboration with other cultural heritage organizations based in Beaufort County. We'll also be posting Civil War related "stuff" in Facebook, here in Connections, pinning Civil War books and other materials onto the Library's Civil War Pinterest page, and making an occasional post to the system's "One County Reads the Civil War" blog
What makes Beaufort District’s Civil War era history unique? Secession was nursed to maturity by native son William Barnwell Rhett.  Port Royal Sound was among the first Southern ports to fall into Union hands, yet the mainland stayed under Confederate control until 1865.  The “Port Royal Experiment,” training and educating the former enslaved for their new freedom, was fashioned in this place.  Be sure to drop by your local branch library after Sept. 9th (except for St. Helena Branch because it does not have a display case) to see a reprise of the "Civil War in Beaufort District" displays from 2011.  

The centerpiece of our effort and the catalyst for the Library system's project is Civil War 150. We won the Civil War150: Exploring the War and Its Meaning through the Words of Those Who Lived It national traveling exhibit by focusing on our distinctive story and the matchless resources within Beaufort County that tell our unique history. 

Civil War 150 was created by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in partnership with The Library of America through grant funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This free exhibition goes beyond the surface view of the conflict by revealing the deep divisions in the country before the war and gives an in-depth look at the lives of soldiers and the home front as well as the political process of creating emancipation.  We are one of only 50 sites in the country, one of only 2 sites in South Carolina, selected to host this national touring exhibition during the Sesquicentennial period. 

The Civil War150 exhibit runs Monday, Sept. 9 through Monday, Sept. 30, 10 am – 5 pm with special evening hours on Sept. 12, 19, and 24 until 7:30 pm in the Beaufort District Collection, 2d floor, 311 Scott Street in Beaufort.  We would love for you to come visit the exhibit and share your observations and comments in the guest register.  

We expect that some may be unhappy about several conclusions made in the exhibit.  We expect that some may be unhappy that our schedule includes programs about the Confederate side and/or the crucial role of the United States Colored Troops. Our goal is to support informed civic discourse and to provide service to our multicultural community. In other words, we want to encourage thoughtful consideration to the complex issues of the war by exposing our community to a variety of viewpoints about the Civil War (AKA War of the Rebellion, War Between the States, War of Northern Aggression, Second American Revolution).  

Join us for the free Civil War 150 opening reception on Sept. 14 with historian Dr. Stephen Wise.  Dr. Wise will speak briefly about Beaufort District’s unique role during the Civil War in the BDC. And, if you visit the BDC’s Civil War 150 exhibit at any time between Sept. 9th and Sept. 30th, be sure to pick up a voucher good on select tours and partner exhibits for a limited time discount on admission prices.  This is your chance to go on select local history tours or visit some of the area museums at discounted prices until October 31. 

We are very fortunate to have cooperation from The Humanities Council of South Carolina, Beaufort County Historical Society, Arts Council of Beaufort County, Beaufort History Museum, Bluffton Historical Preservation Society, Coastal Discovery Museum, Heritage Library Foundation, Historic Beaufort Foundation, and the Greater Beaufort Chamber of Commerce that allows us to bring an engaging array of diverse programs to our community.  Many of the opportunities are offered at no, minimal, or reduced cost.

Because we are working together, residents and visitors alike have more than 60 opportunities to better understand the national cataclysm that was the Civil War. For a sample of the variety of programs (details about dates, times, contacts are on the full schedule), here is the Sept. 3 – Sept. 8 line-up: 

Once the Civil War 150 exhibit arrives, the BDC will be hopping throughout the County to share programs on Civil War photographs, newspapers, the role of Native Americans, Confederate piano music, the Beaufort Volunteer Artillery, medical care, and lead discussion groups about what the folks in Beaufort District, 1861 – 1865, had to say about the local situation.  
  • For information about the other displays about Civil War history during September and October 2013, click here.
  • For a list of lectures and presentations, many sponsored by the BDC and its sister cultural heritage agencies in the Beaufort County Historical Resources Consortium, click here.  
  • For participating tours, click here.   
  • For book and author discussions, click here.  
  • For the film series and discussion sessions, click here. 
  • "One County Reads the Civil War: Bibliographies" contains the reading list, Civil War readers, and selections for discussion during "In Their Own Words: Beaufort District during the Civil War" on Sept. 25th and 26th.
Drop by one of our branch libraries or collaborating organizations to pick up the Library’s Fall newsletter which includes the full schedule.  Or, download the Newsletter PDF from our website.  Or, check out the Library system’s “Events and Programs” link on our homepage.  Details about specific programs are on our website at http://www.beaufortcountylibrary.org/civilwar.  Please note: The schedule is subject to change. We'll do our dead level best to make any changes to the schedule as soon as we are notified.

Join Beaufort County Library and our partners as together we try to better understand the Civil War in order that we can better understand ourselves. 

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