News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 4, 2012

Sullivan library showcases Civil War

Traveling exhibit highlights the war between the states

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

Sullivan — The library reading rooms were alive Friday, as the thunder of cannon and drums rumbled through visitors’ minds.

Sullivan County Public Library hosts “Faces of the Civil War” this month, a traveling exhibit created and managed by the Indiana Historical Society. Three panels full of murals, pictures and historical data are spread throughout the building, along with artifacts from the era.

Rebecca Cole, director of the library, said the exhibit was erected Friday morning and will remain in place through March 5.

“This is all part of the Wabash Valley Visions and Voices collection,” she said, explaining Sullivan County’s participation in the ongoing gathering of historical data. The library received a grant from the state last year to help with the digitization of more than 250 genealogical records, as well as Civil War letters and other documents donated by residents. “This way it’s here forever,” she said of the growing digital collection.

In October, St. Mary-of-the-Woods College staff and members of the Sisters of Providence provided a historical lecture on their organization’s activities during the Civil War. Tuesday at 7 p.m., Ryan Rokiki, an expert on Civil War battlefield medicine, will provide an educational speech. Grant funding ends this April, and Cole said the library is seeking to make the most of it.

Meanwhile, the history hits home for her as she explained her own great-grandfather’s journey from Tennessee to Indiana around that time. That ancestor, Anthony Sandusky, went on to serve in the Union infantry, and her family plans to take a trip following his unit’s route this summer.

Panels are covered with several quotations, one of which is attributed to Elijah Cavins, a member of Indiana’s 14th Regiment, written Sept. 18, 1861.

“We have learned to take things cool, and have our fun in the midst of danger as well as anywhere else, but at night our fun must be in whispers,” Cavins wrote.

Indiana native and author of “Ben Hur,” Lew Wallace, served as the state’s Adjutant General during the war, organizing the first six Hoosier regiments, containing 4,683 men, according to another mural.

Wyatt Clouse, a library employee and junior at Sullivan High School, said his interest in the Civil War has been piqued by his U.S. history class. Carrying books to be shelved, he said he’d be interested to read further about the role Hoosiers played.

“Most of what we’ve talked about in class was the effects of the South’s transportation and the North’s economy,” he said, adding he doesn’t know whether or not his ancestors fought in the war.

On the other hand, Margie Cox, president of the library’s auxiliary, said her ancestors served in Indiana’s 14 Regiment.

“I’m very interested in the Civil War and we visit every battlefield we can find,” she said Friday afternoon after checking out the displays.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or