ARTS AND HUMANITIES: Historic Augusta Foundation announces sesquicentennial series

  • Posted: Friday, November 1, 2013 7:17 a.m.
Photo courtesy of researchonline.net
The First Presbyterian Church of Augusta is pictured.
Photo courtesy of researchonline.net The First Presbyterian Church of Augusta is pictured.

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States, the Historic Augusta Foundation has planned a symposium series focused on the topics of “family, medicine, and the home front” in 1863.

The two-day event features a variety of presentations that are sure to interest area history buffs, particularly those most intrigued by the Civil War era.

On Friday, Nov. 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, Dr. Stephen Berry will deliver a lecture entitled “House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds, A Family Divided by War.”

The talk will be based largely on his book of the same title, in which he argues that the president’s reluctance to punish the South after the war may stem, in part, from his complicated relationship with his in-laws. Mary Todd Lincoln was one of 14 siblings split between the North and South; she had three brothers who fought for the Confederacy.

The author of four books about 19th-century America, Berry holds an endowed chair in Civil War history at the University of Georgia; he is currently working on a biography of Edgar Allan Poe.

Following Berry’s lecture, there will be a reception at the Boyhood Home of Woodrow Wilson and the Lamar Boyhood Home, both diagonally across the street from the church. These two Friday events, the lecture and the reception, are free and open to the public.

The second day of the symposium – Saturday, Nov. 9 – includes four talks, all at the Morris Museum of Art.

The first is scheduled for 9 a.m.; at that time Erick Montgomery, executive director of Historic Augusta since 1989, will discuss what he has learned from his five-year research on the genealogy of both the Wilson and Woodrow families.

The fruit of his scholarship was published as a book in 2006: “Thomas Woodrow Wilson: Family Ties and Southern Perspective.”

Born in Virginia and raised in Georgia and South Carolina, Wilson identified himself as a Southerner; but his family connections, just like that of Abraham Lincoln, were more complicated than one might suppose.

His father, Joseph Ruggles Wilson, was pro-Confederacy. He was a founding member of the southern branch of the Presbyterian Church in America, which split off from its northern counterpart due to sectarian differences; as the war dragged on, the Rev. Wilson opened up the First Presbyterian Church in Augusta where he was pastor as a hospital for wounded soldiers.

What the average person may not know, however, is that six of the future president’s Wilson uncles were pro-Unionist. Hailing from Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Iowa, and Indiana respectively, several of them served in the Union army. Like so many families during the War Between the States, the Wilson and Woodrow families were a “house divided.”

At 10:45, the topic “Medical Experiences of the Civil War – At Home and in the Field” will be addressed by Dr. Alfred Jay Bollet.

A recognized expert on the medical history of that period, Bollet argues in his book entitled “Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs” that our popular conception of the horrors of the field hospital system is misinformed.

According to Bollet, after the problems encountered in the first year of the war, both the North and the South made significant advances in medical practice; and he cites, in particular, the development of an efficient ambulance corps on both sides and the many dedicated doctors and nurses in the huge military hospitals that sprang up as a result of the national conflict.

Dr. Lee Ann Caldwell, Historian-in-Residence at Georgia Regents University, will speak about the Augusta home front in 1863.

The author of a highly popular eighth-grade social studies text entitled “Georgia: Its Heritage and Its Promise,” Caldwell has written a series of articles about Augusta history for “Augusta Magazine.”

The final two events in the Saturday program are a reader’s theater presentation organized by Dr. Jim Garvey, a retired communications and professional writing professor at Georgia Regents University, and a museum tour of a special exhibition of works on paper from the Civil War era.

Although the Friday program is free, there is a charge of $30 per participant for the Saturday lectures and tour. Advance registration is also required by Nov. 7 at the latest.

One can make reservations by calling 706-724-0436 or emailing Historic Augusta at info@historicaugusta.org.

A check or money order (made out to Historic Augusta) can be mailed to P.O. Box 37, Augusta, GA 30903.

For those mailing in their registration fees, please include name, postal address, phone number, email address, and number of attendees.

A recipient of the prestigious Carolina Trustee Professorship in 2008, Dr. Tom Mack currently holds the G.L. Toole Chair at USC Aiken.

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