The barbarian invader will often destroy his victim’s institutions of religion and learning, symbols having no meaning for him. This invader will also destroy literature which he sees as counter to his narrow vision, replace it with that which extols his more primitive culture and base ideals, and then inform his captives that this is progress.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Toys and Fuel for Goths and Vandals
“Almost in the twinkling of an eye the whole social fabric of the South was swept away, and a half-century has hardly sufficed to produce an entire readjustment to new conditions, so fundamental was the change. The libraries and colleges, indeed all institutions that fostered and conserved its culture, suffered heaviest.
Almost every school building in the South was occupied at one time or other by soldiers as barracks or hospitals, and books and instruments of unknown value were used as fuel or served as toys for the idle hours of high privates. In many of the libraries, broken sets and mutilated volumes still remain as pathetic reminders of the days of blood and fire.
The famous library at Charleston was partially destroyed, the building being used as a military hospital; all the Virginia institutions suffered greatly, as did those in Kentucky and Tennessee. The most astonishing episode, however, of the kind, in that most astonishing conflict, was the burning of the library building and collections of the University of Alabama, during the final days of the war. This library, which was one of the largest and best selected in the South, was ruthlessly destroyed at a time when the issue of the conflict had been decided, and no conceivable gain could have resulted from such an action.
Of the influence of his books upon the man of the early South, we are permitted to judge by the work the Southerner did in the forming of the nation. [The] schools and libraries of ante-bellum days surely had a large share in the development of the men who defended, by impassioned speech and heroic deed, social traditions and an ideal of the state doomed by the spirit of progress.”
(The South in the Building of the Nation, Volume VII, Edwin Wiley, Southern Historical Publication Society, 1909, pp. 500-501, 510)