“gave out and rec’d books”

This quote from the diary of Civil War chaplain William E. Wiatt documents an unusual aspect of the his duties. The chaplain carried a circulating library for the soldiers he was tending. Wiatt’s diary has been published, but the original is still in private hands. (Alex L. Wiatt. Confederate Chaplain William Edward Wiatt: An Annotated Diary. Lynchburg, Va.: H. E. Howard, Inc., 1994. E 635 W52 1994.) However, Swem’s Special Collections holds the account book Wiatt used to record the circulation of the books. (Mss. MsV Ap39)
William Wiatt (1826-1918) was a Baptist minister who also had taught school in Kentucky and Alabama before returning to his native Gloucester County, Virginia. He served the 26th Virginia Infantry Regiment, Confederate States Army, from 1861 until its disbandment in 1865. The unit spent the first part of the war guarding the Peninsula, but later transferred to Georgia and Florida. The troops returned to Virginia and were in defense of Petersburg before surrendering at Appomattox. (See Alex L. Wiatt. 26th Virginia Infantry. Lynchburg, Va.: H. E. Howard, Inc., 1984. E 581.5 26th W5 1984.)
While Wiatt notes giving out New Testaments, religious tracts and newspapers (the Religious Herald and the Virginia Advocate), the books in his lending library are both devout and secular in nature. Two examples of titles from the page below are Sarah B. Judson and Eagle Pass. Sarah Judson was a member of the American mission to Burma (book published 1848), and Eagle Pass, or Life on the Border, was published in 1852. While it is not easy to identify books based on short or popular titles, it might be fruitful study for someone to research these book titles and write an article.

William E. Wiatt Account Book (Mss. MsV Ap39), Special Collections, Swem Library, College of William and Mary

William E. Wiatt Account Book (Mss. MsV Ap39), Special Collections, Swem Library, College of William and Mary

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Colonel Joshua Fry Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Colonists visits Swem Library

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Members of the Colonel Joshua Fry Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Colonists The Special Collections Research Center was pleased to host a meeting of the Colonel Joshua Fry Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Colonists (NSDAC) on September 16, 2013.

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The Things We Know We Do Not Know

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Unidentified Japanese American teenagers on stage, Poston War Relocation CenterWhile there are many things in an archive like Swem Library’s Special Collections that the archivists and staff know we know, there are also the known unknowns. There are some things we may never know, and a person can accept that, but sometimes there is something that you think must be known by someone and it is just a matter of finding the person who knows it – or a person who is persistent enough to do the research to find the answer.  One of the things I will sometimes do as an archivist is take under- or unidentified diaries, correspondence, scrapbooks, or other material to students and other researchers to turn them loose on finding further information. In the best case scenario, the researcher’s work will pay off in identifying a previously unidentified diarist or correspondent.

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