The Civil War is a timely topic as sesquicentennial commemorations are occurring throughout the nation. We live among 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 the war's 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.
This year, the Beaufort County library system will launch the "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 Beaufort District Collection, the special collections and archives unit of the library system, will highlight our area's local experience of the Civil War by showcasing a free national traveling exhibit and sponsoring supplemental programs at a variety of locations in collaboration with other cultural heritage organizations based in Beaufort County.
We won the "Civil War 150: Exploring the War and Its Meaning through the Words of Those Who Lived It" 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 homefront as well as the political process of creating emancipation. We are one of only 50 sites in the country, one of only two sites in South Carolina, selected to host this national touring exhibition during the sesquicentennial period.
The "Civil War 150" exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 9 through Sept. 30, with evening hours through 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 12, 19 and 24 in the Beaufort District Collection, 311 Scott St., second floor, Beaufort. Join us for the free opening reception on Sept. 14 with historian Dr. Stephen Wise, who will speak about Beaufort District's role during the Civil War. And, if you visit the BDC's "Civil War 150" exhibit, be sure to pick up a voucher good on select tours and partner exhibits for a limited time discount on admission prices.
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, which 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 many opportunities to better understand the national cataclysm that was the Civil War. For a sample of the programs, this was the lineup from the past week: Civil War Picture Display at Heritage Library on Hilton Head; "From Slaves to Soldiers to Citizens" exhibit at Beaufort History Museum in Beaufort; "Slave Dwelling Project" at the Heyward House Historic Center in Bluffton; "Cold Mountain" screening at Hilton Head Island library; "Becoming Harriet Tubman" performance at ARTWorks.
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 and medical care; and will lead discussion groups about what the folks in Beaufort District, 1861 to 1865, had to say about the local situation.
Drop by one of our libraries or collaborating organizations to pick up the library's fall newsletter, which includes the full schedule. Download the newsletter from our website. Or check out the library's "Events and Programs" link on our homepage. Details are on our website at www.beaufortcountylibrary.org/civilwar. Please note: The schedule is subject to change.
Join Beaufort County libraries and our partners as together we try to better understand the Civil War in order that we can better understand ourselves.
Grace Morris Cordial is the Beaufort District Collection Manager/Historical Resources Coordinator for the Beaufort County Library.