By Mallory Hisler
A little piece of significant history, a little bit at a time.
That is the goal of a new exhibit from the Texas Collection on-campus library and archive, called “Believe me your own: Letters from the Battlefield to Fanny from Alex (1862-1865).”
The online exhibit, hosted on the library’s website, began Jan. 9 and will continue until Spring Break.
Solely based on the letters of Alex Morgan, a Confederate doctor from Louisiana, to his wife Fanny, readers can follow the American Civil War through Morgan’s eyes.
“Seeking to recreate the cyclical emotions of writing and waiting the Morgans endured during the war, the libraries will publish one letter every Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” according to a press release from the Texas Collection.
John Wilson, director of the Texas Collection, said he was impressed by the impact reading a first-hand personal account can make on someone’s understanding of a soldier’s thoughts on war.
“He’s still pretty upbeat,” Wilson said of Morgan’s tone at the beginning of the letters. But Wilson also alluded to an obvious shift in mood as the war went the way of the North.
“To read them all of the way through, to see how they’re changing — he really comes alive and brings the war to life in the letters,” Wilson said.
Knowing how the outcome of the war makes the story that much more intriguing to Alice Campbell, curator of the exhibit.
“We all know how the war turns out. When he talks about getting ready for battle, we already know how the battle is going to end,” Campbell said. “You have information as a reader that he doesn’t have. I think that makes the experience of the letters that much more poignant.”
The library’s website outlines a brief history of the Morgan family to give readers an idea of who the man writing the letters was, and who the people on the receiving end of them were.
“Dr. Alex Morgan enlisted for a one-year term of service with the 19th Louisiana Infantry of the Confederate Army,” the website states. “He left behind his wife Fanny and their four children, and, though the couple expected to reunite at the end of his year of service, in fact they would not see each other again for nearly four years.”
The letters show a loving relationship between a husband and wife, as well as the constant grind of being at war.
“It’s the human element that comes out and makes this connection, even though it’s a 150-year-old story,” Wilson said. “He’s so steadfast, so consistent. And these are things that get him through the horror. The belief that he will get back to his wife — to have that relationship is pretty amazing.”
Campbell encouraged people to subscribe to the series by entering their email address on the blog where the letters are published. She said she is eager for readers to see the new content that will be added.
“We are trying to give as much context as possible for the letters, so that they can come alive for readers,” she said.
Those interested in the story can go to https://blogs.baylor.edu/believemeyourown/ to view letters that have already been released.
History graduate student Thomas DeShong transcribed the letters from their originals, and the website features his transcriptions, as well as audio recordings and photo copies of the letters.