Summer 2009

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The Library Circuit

Sam Patton, Editor, TRUSTEE

Summer 2009 issue of Trustee

What is the longest time you have experienced between an item “going missing” from your library and its surprising return?
How would you feel about 23 years ?  And to top that, how about a lapse of 145 years?
First, a bit of history.  In 1864, Union General David Hunter raided Lexington, Virginia, shelling and burning part of the Virginia Military Institute, and burning and looting Washington College.

Among other damage, several books were taken during the raid.  The first to be returned was accompanied by a letter dated January 20, 1887 from  a Kansas swine farmer named C.S. Day, who wrote the following to the college president, which was pasted in the front of the book:

“The day after the occupation of Lexington by Genl Hunter in 1864, I picked up in camp ‘Precious Faith,’ published in London in 1675, and the name of Thomas Edward Evans, Washington College, April 14, 1814, inscribed on inside page of Cover. The book is well preserved and complete. In looking over a number of mementos of the late war, recently, I thought may be you would like this book returned to your library where I have no doubt it came from. If I am correct in thinking so please inform me and I will return same with pleasure.”

The book was returned and is now part of Leyburn Library’s Special Collections, and the only book in the collection printed before the eighteenth century.

The second book, volume one of “History of the War in the Peninsula and in the South of France, 1807-1814,” by W.F.P. Napier,  took an even longer journey.  It was taken by one C.S. Gates, who wrote in the book, “This book was taken from the Military Institute at Lexington Virginia in June 1864 when General Hunter was on his Lynchburg raid. The Institution was burned by the order of Gen. Hunter. The remains of Gen. Stonewall Jackson rest in the cemetery at this place.”

The book was passed down in the Gates family, eventually going to Mike Dau, once a coach at Wake Forest College. Dau took the book to Harry Goodheart, a dealer in Tyron, North Carolina.  The dealer was an alumnus of Washington & Lee, and he contacted the W&L library.  Finally, the book was returned to W&L in May of this year, and reunited with volume two.

This story is based on articles appearing in the Lexington News-Gazette, Lexington, Virginia on April 22 and May 27, 2009, with permission of the publisher.  The photographs are from  Washington & Lee University, kindly sent to me by Karin R. O’Callaghan, Office Manager, Friends of the Library Coordinator, University Library, Washington and Lee University.

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