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Haley donates books to historical center
Local attorney Robert Haley holds one of a set of books he donated to Bassett Historical Center. The set, “War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies”, contains 130 volumes. It is shown behind Haley. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Monday, July 29, 2013
By SAM JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer
Robert Haley of Bassett recently made a sizable donation to the Bassett Historical Center — sizable in the amount of shelf space it occupies, that is.
Haley donated the entire 130-volume “War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies” to the center, making it one of the few libraries or historic societies to possess an entire copy of what the National Archives refers to as the “official records” of the Civil War.
Haley, an attorney and avid book hunter, said he is “always scanning eBay, Craigslist (and) other places for books,” and he found the set on Craigslist at a reasonable price.
He said the owner was a woman who lived near Charlotte, N.C., so “we swung down there and looked at them. I don’t know if she was moving or what her situation was,” but the books were loosely boxed, two or three to a box.
“We made an offer and she took it,” Haley said. Though the attorney doesn’t consider himself a Civil War buff, he said, “I basically bought it because it was such a great deal.”
The books are not old, he said.
“The thing that interested me was what’s in them,” he added, noting that he had been told that his great-great-grandfather had served in the Virginia 124th Infantry, Company I for the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Using the archives, he confirmed that Samuel Henry Haley had fought at Gettysburg and was wounded, losing a leg.
The records contain formal reports of operations during the war by both sides written by the armies and governments, correspondence from soldiers, orders from officers, details on prisoners of war and other information. Editions of current 130-volume set set date back as far as 1902, according to the National Archives website.
Other than looking up his great-great-grandfather’s war record, Haley said he never looked at the set and had it less than a year before talking to Pat Ross, executive director of the historical center.
Ross said the center previously held pieces of the records, but never the whole work.
“The cost of them is so astronomical, it did not fit into our budget,” she said.
However, Haley called her one day, knowing how rare the set was and that the center had more use for it than he did. “I asked if they’d like the whole set,” he said.
He didn’t have to ask twice. In fact, Ross said, Haley brought the volumes over almost immediately. Though the historical center had to wait until a proper place opened up to display them, she said they now are shelved and available for use.
“If any student or serious researcher needed to research the Civil War,” Ross said, “this is the set to go to for Army and Naval records.”
The books are accessible to anyone who visits the historical center, she said. However, none of the historical center’s books can be checked out, so all research must be done on site.
The volumes are meant for deliberate research, Ross said, and you have to know what you’re looking for in order to find it.
“You can’t just take a book and flip through it and try to find something,” she said. Each book has an index, and the final volume also serves as an overall index. “It’s a very comprehensive primary source.”
The center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays.