News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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May 26, 2011

Civil War Sesquicentennial Digitization Project puts records at Vigo residents’ fingertips

More than 1,200 items added to database

TERRE HAUTE — Vigo County residents may not realize it, but their community has some strong and compelling ties to the Civil War.

Consider this:

• Terre Haute native John Blinn was only 23 years old when he was mortally wounded at the battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863.

The Vigo County Historical Society has significant memorabilia about the “boy soldier” who sacrificed his life for his country.

• Some Confederate prisoners of war were incarcerated in Terre Haute in 1862. Documents show that 11 died from typhoid fever, and a monument in their memory stands in Woodlawn Cemetery, where the men were interred.

• In May 1861, Gov. Oliver Perry Morton requested that the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods assist in the administration of City Hospital in Indianapolis, which had been turned over to the federal government for the care of soldiers.

The hospital became known as Military Hospital, and the Sisters of Providence became “Angels of Mercy” to Union and Confederate soldiers alike.

These are but a sampling of materials that have been scanned and are now part of a searchable, online database. They’re part of the Vigo County Civil War Sesquicentennial Digitization Project, completed by Wabash Valley Visions and Voices.

The project focuses on the digitization, or scanning, of historical material relating to the county’s role in the Civil War.

“What’s really wonderful about it is it connects Terre Haute to a national story that people may not be aware of,” said Cinda May, project director for Wabash Valley Visions and Voices and chairwoman of special collections at ISU’s Cunningham Library.

Through a grant, more than 1,200 historical items have been added to the WV3 searchable database, including letters, artifacts, medals, GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) membership applications and artwork.

The Vigo County Civil War homepage also features a photo gallery, an interactive timeline and lesson plans for teachers.

“It’s not a widely known body of material,” May said. “We want to make it freely available through the Internet so they will be used more.”

The project involves four partners, the Indiana State University Library, the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods, the Vigo County Public Library and the Vigo County Historical Society.

The hope is that when people see the Civil War items on line, they’ll want to go see the actual artifact or document in person, May said. “It makes you want to know what else is out there,” she said.

The Vigo County Historical Society has letters written by John Blinn on the eve of battle, she said.

The four partners celebrated the culmination of the year-long effort with a program Wednesday at the ISU Library.

May showcased the Civil War Collections; Marlene Lu spoke about the Underground Railroad in Indiana; and costumed interpreters from the Vigo County Historical Society read Capt. John Blinn’s letters home.

For more information, visit the Wabash Valley Visions and Voices website at http://visions.indstate.edu/visions/partners/civilwar/civilwar.html

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