What's In a Book?
Way back in 2001, I made my way to Gettysburg for the first time. I was particularly taken by the commemorative significance of the battlefield and town. And it was then that I first hatched my idea that David Blight's popular "reconciliation premise" was not quite right. It seemed that veterans of that war had a lot more to say and do than share their whitewashed war memories. This idea would eventually become the topic of my graduate school research and ultimately, my book: Across the Bloody Chasm...all told it was a near 14-year journey.
But on that first trip, I found something in an off-the-beaten-path used book store (I have since forgotten the name of the establishment) that I had to have in my library: The Report of the Pennsylvania Commission on the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. There were two copies available. One was in extremely good condition considering its age, and another was pretty weathered. I bought the latter...for the inscriptions inside the cover. Here was a micro history of the book itself - the original owner, GAR Vice Commander Francis H. Hoy as well as others who had a connection to the book and the various commemorative events subsequent to the 50th anniversary.
I did a little digging on Francis H. Hoy. It turns out that he enlisted as a private in August 1864 in the 201st Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment - a unit involved in little dangerous action but lots of guarding and deserter hunting. Total losses for the unit: 1 killed and 14 dead from disease. Hoy mustered out with the rest of the regiment in June 1865. As far as I can tell, he was prevalent in veterans activities for the rest of his life.
I've gotten a lot of milage out of this book since 2001 - I've used speeches, roll calls, and images for numerous projects. I've even brought it to class for "show and tell," as it were. So there's my fun little anecdote for the day. Carry on.