The Civil War Still Rages at Chapel Hill Rare Books
By Michael Stillman
This month we review our first catalogue from Chapel Hill Rare Books, of, naturally, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Chapel Hill Rare Books specializes in Americana and 19th and 20th century American and English literary first editions. However, they note that they also carry material from other fields, so there's no need to feel constrained when searching their inventory. The Carolina bookseller has been in business for close to three decades and maintains memberships in both the ABAA (Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America) and ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers).
We start with Chapel Hill's Catalogue 162: Civil War: Recent Acquisitions. This is an extensive catalogue of over 400 items pertaining, either in full or in part, to the Civil War or Civil War personages. These include books by and about various generals and other military leaders, but also many from the pens of privates and other enlisted men. In these latter instances, the books are often short-run privately printed titles. The lowly enlisted soldier's name may be long forgotten, and his book rare and obscure, but their portraits of war may be more realistic than those of the generals. These were the men who did not participate in the glorious strategies, or share in the adulation received by their superiors, but they certainly knew what war was all about.
There is one bias in the titles, at least in terms of quantity. Located in the heart of the old Confederacy, it is not surprising Chapel Hill would have more books written by people who served the Southern cause. There are many books here that come from the Union point of view as well, but collectors of the Confederacy will be particularly amazed by the selection of titles available. And there were plenty of "unreconstructed" confederates who still celebrated their cause in writing long after the last shots were fired. Here are a few samples from the catalogue.
One Union soldier by the name of Hubbard found himself in a terrible dilemma in the notorious Andersonville Confederate prison. Nicknamed "Poll Parrot" for his incessant chattering and beak-like nose, he was quite unpopular with his fellow prisoners. The fact that Confederate guards pulled him aside at various times made them leery of his intentions, so it was no great surprise that when an escape tunnel they were digging from under a tent was discovered, suspicions fell on him. When evidence pointed toward Hubbard as the snitch, a crowd surrounded "Parrot" with the intention of lynching him. Hubbard broke away, and to avoid his fellow prisoners, went to the one safe place, across the so-called dead line, where guards were ordered to shoot anyone who so passed. Hubbard was ordered to return, but fearful of what awaited him with his fellow prisoners, refused, telling the guards to shoot him. Perhaps he thought that as a cooperator, they would not. If so, he was wrong. The guards shot and killed him. The guard who fired the shot would be tried in 1873, but was acquitted. The story of this incident can be found in Over The Dead-Line, or Who Killed "Poll Parrot," by K.C. Bullard, published in 1909. Item 82. Priced at $650.