A Gift with a Story
An acquaintance heard me discussing efforts to establish a Civil War library for the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.
"My husband has some Civil War books that no one in the family wants. He may be interested in donating. Do you think you want them?"
Although wondering if the books were the same titles that had been donated to us many times over, I told her to have her husband Phil email me and we could discuss. It turned out he had a great set of Civil War books--with an even better story!
He had the 1911first edition of A Photographic History Of The Civil War edited by Francis T. Miller. The set is recognized as the best early collection of Civil War photographs and can fetch a good price on the used book market.
What intrigued me, however, was the letter pasted inside volume one.
W. Steele Bryan M.D.
September 8, 1913.
Enclosed you will find a complete set of “The Photographic History of the Civil War.”
As you go through these books, I wish that you would mark with pencil in the margins all the engagements pictured in which you took part, the places visited and give dates when possible.
These books are to be yours as long as you live.
I hope that you will find much enjoyment in them.
W. Steele Bryan gave this set to his father, John R. Bryan, who lived from 1838 to 1920. John Bryan served in the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry, also known as the Fire Zouave Regiment.
They were called the Fire Zouaves because the initial recruits were Philadelphia firefighters. Many Civil War units modeled themselves after the French Zouave fighters of North Africa and wore some variation of the Zouave uniform that could include sashes, baggy pantaloons, tasseled fezzes, and turbans. The uniform pictured below looks more practical and may reflect a later, more functional uniform style that was worn later in the war.
|Image from the 72nd PA Infantry reenactors page.|
He was also in the Valley with his unit at Harpers Ferry both in 1862 and 1863. His unit was in pursuit of Lee after Gettysburg from July 5 to 24 and probably followed him south to the Valley or to Loudoun County.
Bryan is buried in Oakland Cemetery and Mausoleum in Indiana County, Pennsylvania. His set of books passed down through the family to Phil Smith, who gave them to the SVBF Library. Now the books are in Virginia where Corporal Bryan fought so many battles.