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Wilderness, by Lance Weller

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 Posted in Articles, Washington Reads | Comments Off on Wilderness, by Lance Weller


wildernesspaperbackcoverWilderness: A Novel. By Lance Weller. (New York: Bloomsbury, 2012. 293pp.)

Recommendation by PNW & Special Collections

April 9, 1865 was the day that General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at the McLean House in the village of Appomattox Court House. This is often cited as the official date of the end of the Civil War between the Confederate and Union States, but when Brigadier General Stand Watie of the Trans-Mississippi Department surrendered his Confederate Indian battalion, a mix of Creek, Seminole, Cherokee, and Osage Indians, on June 23 1865, at Doaksville in Indian Territory to Lieutenant Colonel Asa C. Matthews, the ground war was finished. A straggling and uninformed Shenandoah continued to wage an unwanted naval mission until surrendering in London, England on November 6.

As the commemoration of 150 years since the War of Secession winds down, it is important to note that many Union and Confederate veterans headed northwest at the end of their duties, returning to their homes and families or to new lives beyond that terrible time. Lance Weller‘s Wilderness is a fictional account of what one of those lives might look like. The story follows Abel Truman, a soldier badly wounded in the titular battle of 35 years prior, as he and his elderly dog travels inland from his beach homestead near the Quinault into and over the Olympic Mountains. In his travels he encounters natives, scattered settlers, and wanderers — people of both the generous and the violent sort. While there are moments of the pastoral, there are also moments where the reader is flung into the maelstrom.  The story flashes back and forth between Truman’s heroic trek of 1899 and through the Field of the Wilderness of 1864, bearing witness to Abel’s reckoning throughout the ordeal.

Weller’s descriptions are vivid, verging on purple prose at times, but beautifully evocative of the sensual charms of the Pacific Northwest coast. The story is hard-bitten, but specked with lovely and tender passages.

ISBN-13: 978-1608199372

Available in the Pacific Northwest Collection at NW 813.6 WELLER 2012

Washington State Civil War Veterans signed up for a return to Gettysburg.

Thursday, October 27th, 2011 Posted in Articles | 1 Comment »


The Washington State Special Collections contains nearly 600 distinct manuscript collections.  What unifies these collections is their focus on Pacific Northwest and Washington State history, but oftentimes the primary documents contained within each box has broader national or international appeal.

One example of this broader appeal is Washington State Library’s collection of Civil War veterans’ correspondence concerning attendance of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg reunion, 1913 (MS 115).  Consider the following description, taken from the catalog record:

“This is a collection of correspondence concerning the Washington State delegation to the reunion of Civil War veterans’ from the Battle of Gettysburg in Gettysburg, PA. In 1945, the Office of the Auditor of Washington State weeded their general correspondence file and found they had a file of correspondence from the reunion of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
 
In 1913, the Washington State Legislator passed an appropriation bill of about $15,000 to send the surviving Civil War veterans of the Battle of Gettysburg to Pennsylvania to attend the 50th anniversary reunion. It was a reunion of both Union and Confederate soldiers that fought and survived that Battle. The ceremonies were held on July 1-4, 1913 at the battlefield. Because the veterans of this battle were elderly and many financially unable to attend the reunion, the Legislature passed appropriations to pay for their trip.
 
It appears that all the procedures for determining who was eligible to attend were confusing. There are letters from some veterans requesting information about how to apply, what they need to do and what proof was required to prove their eligibility? Because the reunion was for both Union and Confederate soldiers, many of the Confederate soldiers questioned how they could prove their eligibility. It was difficult to prove their participation because they did not receive discharge papers at the end of the War. There is original correspondence from individual soldiers.”

This fascinating collection also contains correspondence from the railroads for proposals with quotes on the cost of the transportation and descriptions of what would be included in the trip, a copy of the itinerary of the special train to attend the celebration, a list of the veterans in the train program, and a typescript of all of the veterans with their addresses that made up the Washington State delegation that attended the reunion.  A few of the items are facsimiles of material kept at the Washington State Archives, but most of the collection is made of originals.

As our nation commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and approaches the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the State Library is taking special strides to provide access to our Civil War-related materials.  Want to get a better look at this collection, or learn more about what the State Library has to offer war researchers?  Feel free to contact the State Library Special Collections or use the Washington State Library “Ask-a-Librarian” service for further information. Too far away to visit?  The library has recently scanned much of the related material to make it more readily available to researchers.

The Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was fought around July 1–3, 1863 and is considered by many the turning point in the Civil War.  For more information about the battle, the American Civil War, and Washington State’s Civil War veterans, please consider some of these links: