The University of Alabama
Exhibitions and Events: Current Exhibitions
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Currently on Display

A.S. Williams III Americana Collection, Reading Room
Making Confederates

Lindsay Rae Smith and Melissa Farah Young
April - September 2015

The formation of the Confederate States in early 1861 threw many southern printers and publishers into turmoil. While many southern intellectuals were pushing for an independent print culture prior to secession, independence and the threat of war made the creation of a new and unique body of Confederate literature a necessity. For many Confederates, the new nation was not only delineated by a separate territory, military, and government, but also by the unique character of its people. They believed that the South’s complete intellectual and cultural separation from the North was as important to the Confederacy’s survival as any military or political victory.

The documents published by southern printers between December 1860 and April 1865—known today as Confederate imprints—sought to legitimize southern nationhood in the eyes of foreign governments and create a culture that would strengthen a sense of unity among the general population. Confederate imprints are divided into two categories. Official publications include military and government documents such as the newly drafted Constitution, and official military decrees. These texts circulated information essential to the nation’s survival.

Unofficial documents, however, were published for the private sector. Many books and journals contained strong pro-Confederate sentiment. Popular novels were reprinted with prefaces centering them within the southern struggle. Textbooks played an important role in educating a new generation of Confederates for service to their country, and history books worked to cast them as the true inheritors of American democracy.

Since the Confederacy lacked a publishing infrastructure that could compete with the North, southern printers were keenly aware of their disadvantages. The Union blockade of southern ports made it difficult for publishers to obtain adequate supplies. To overcome paper shortages, printers advertised for donations of old rags, which could be pulped and boiled to make new paper. Pages from old journals, ledger books, and reams of unused wallpaper were also used in the printing and binding processes. Fig and pomegranate juice were substituted for ink, and seldom-used typesetting blocks were flipped to replace those that became worn. Perhaps the most challenging obstacle was the absence of trained printers and engravers. Presses and supplies could be smuggled or improvised, but skilled tradesmen often demonstrated their own passionate devotion to the Confederacy. They often enlisted in the Confederate Army even though they were exempt from military service.

evertheless, despite the challenges of wartime scarcity, southern publishers were dedicated to creating a distinct national literature. As a result of the nationalism inherent in many of the surviving texts, Confederate imprints continue to relay the beliefs and hopes of a people struggling to create a country in the midst of war.


W.S. Hoole Library, Lobby
When that Cruel War is Over: Sheet Music of the Confederacy

Rachel K. Deale
April - September 2015

Throughout the nineteenth century music played a vital role in American life. Music could be heard everywhere from parlor pianos, to soldiers marching on the battlefield, to church congregations, and to slaves laboring in the fields. Although music played an important role in in the antebellum south, the war escalated the cultural significance music had on southern society. Music was no longer just a form of entertainment. Music became a social outlet for southern soldiers and civilians to express their innermost thoughts, feelings, and concerns during the conflict. 
Once the southern states decided to secede from the Union in 1860 and 1861, they could no longer depend upon Northern presses to produce sheet music. As a result, southerners established their own publishing houses throughout the Confederacy. In 1860, brothers and former music teachers Armand Edward and Henry Blackmar established what would become the most prolific and successful music publishing company in New Orleans, Louisiana. Upon the Union capture of New Orleans in April 1862, Henry moved their business to Augusta, Georgia. John C. Schreiner began another prominent publishing house in 1860 called John C. Schreiner & Son in Macon, Georgia. In 1863, George Dunn quickly rose in notability when he joined the music publishing business by opening George Dunn & Company in Richmond, Virginia.
The W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library collection of Confederate sheet music published by Blackmar and Company, John C. Schreiner & Son, and George Dunn & Company illustrates four themes: sentimental, instrumental, religious, and nationalistic songs. Southerners used sheet music to help encourage a sense of Confederate nationalism throughout the war. Songs such as “Hurrah for Our Flag” celebrated the Confederate flag as their “standard of hope and of trust.” As Confederates struggled to produce a national anthem they decided to write new words to be sung to the tune of the French “Marseillaise” because the song elicited strong emotion, loyalty, and was not originally produced in the north. This initiative led to the publication of A.E. Blackmar’s popular “The Southern Marseillaise.” But as the war continued, Confederates grew dissatisfied with sharing their national anthem with France and were even more discouraged upon learning of the song’s northern popularity. In addition to promoting Confederate nationalism, sheet music also fostered a sense of state pride. Songs such as “The Alabama” eulogized the brave service of the south’s most successful commerce raider the CSS Alabama
Although many soldiers enjoyed mother songs like “Rock Me to Sleep, Mother,” “Call Me Not Back from the Echoless Shore,” and “Mother is the Battle Over,” mother songs were really written for women on the home front. The songs romanticized soldiers by suggesting that their love for family and country took priority over their thoughts, conditions, and feelings on the eve of battle. This sentiment was encouraging to those at home because it presented their sons as strong and selfless individuals. “When This Cruel War is Over” became a popular song both at home and on the battlefield because it encouraged an end to the war and the soldiers’ return home. Instrumental songs were also well liked on the home front. Publishers increased sales of instrumental and dance music by naming the music after famous confederate generals even if the composition shared little to no relation to the general whose name was on the cover. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard appeared on more music than any other Civil War officer having numerous Quicksteps and Grand Marches named in his honor. 
Music also was a morale booster and patriotic outlet for Confederate soldiers. “The Volunteer” or “It is My Country’s Call” became a popular song among soldiers that also helped encourage many to enlist early in the war. The songs sung in camp or while marching often referred to Confederate victories such as Manassas, Chancellorsville, and Chickamauga. While most soldiers learned songs by word of mouth, they also frequently requested their family to send them songbooks to enjoy on the battlefield. Receiving music from home provided soldiers with another way to connect with their families.  


Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, Pearce Lobby
A North Alabama Clergyman's Passion for History: Preserving Black History through Words and Images

Martha Bace
February 2015-April 2015

Highlighting the collections of Rev. Wylheme Ragland of Decatur, Alabama,  A North Alabama Clergyman’s Passion for History: Preserving Black History through Words and Images features cookbooks, scrapbooks, diaries, funeral worship bulletins, letters, and photographs from the Schaudies, Banks, and Ragland families. Their generous gift illustrates the everyday lives of African Americans living and working in the post-Civil War South through a wide variety of materials that will provide unique research opportunities for students and faculty. The beginning of this exhibition is timed to coincide Black History Month. 


W.S. Hoole Library, Reading Room
The Kate Ragsdale Memorial Miniature Book Collection

Amy Chen
June 2014-March 2015

The Kate Ragsdale Memorial Miniature Book Collection contains ninety-six books from eleven countries, including Austria, France, Great Britain, Israel, the Soviet Union, and the United States. The Bible in miniature: or a Concise History of the Old & New Testaments [sic], published in 1780, is the oldest book in the collection. A wide variety of American presses are represented. Additionally, a series of miniature editions of Shakespeare’s plays can be found. The Memorial Miniature Book Collection was created to recognize Kate Ragsdale’s life and career following her death in 2013. Ragsdale earned a BA from Sweet Briar College and a MLS from The University of Alabama. She began her career as a Program Coordinator in the College of Business and Commerce before joining the Libraries administration team as a planning officer in 1987. Ragsdale managed construction and renovation projects, including the building of Mary Harmon Bryant Hall and the Library Annex, during her over twenty years of service at the Capstone. Ragsdale frequently served as an officer in organizations such as the Alabama Library Association, the Special Libraries Association, and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). In 2004, she received the UA Library Leadership Award for faculty. In 2012, she won the UA School of Library and Information Studies Alumni Award.


Mary Harmon Bryant Hall, First Floor Lobby
Centennial Reflections: A Digital Exhibition

Kate Matheny
January-March 2015

In August 1914, when the major European powers mobilized for fighting, the United States attempted to remain neutral. The central question they asked themselves: should we intervene in something that isn't our fight? In February 1917, when the Germans resumed submarine warfare against neutral vessels, including ships from America, President Woodrow Wilson felt the country had little choice -- the fight had come to them. The United States' involvement may have been short lived, but form million Americans were mobilized for the conflict, in addition to countless volnteers working outside the armed forces. The digital exhibition tells the stories of four men: Valentine Oldshue, Civilian aid worker and journalist; Herbert Taylor, Jr., Major in the 37th Infantry Division; Alston Fitts, Captain and medical doctor; George Waring Huston, Lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne Division.