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Apollo Library blends Civil War display with interactive sessions

| Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
A panel depicting Robert E. Lee surrendering on April 9, 1865, on the 'Civil War 150' exhibit at the Apollo Memorial Library

The Apollo Memorial Library is hosting a traveling-panel exhibit commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The panels are paired with several programs through Nov. 23 at the library.

“Our library has hosted Civil War events in the past with the help of local library patrons who are also Civil War re-enactors,” says Paula Mahar, library board president and longtime volunteer, “After we received the grant, the library decided to take part in the 150 anniversary of the war with a blend of historical programming.”

The exhibit, titled “Civil War 150,” is making its way across the nation showcasing letters, images, personal stories and information from the war. The collection traces major events during the Civil War through the eyes of freedmen, soldiers and families affected by a war that raged from 1861 to 1865.

“We want to show people that history isn't something that collects dusts on shelves,” Mahar says. “History-lovers know that the Civil War is a part of America's autobiography, but there's no way to understand our country we live in without an awareness of what happened between the North and the South.”

Amanda Kunkle of Apollo, a substitute teacher at Apollo-Ridge High School, volunteered to spearhead the library's programming. “I saw the posting for volunteers, love Civil War history and have made a ‘pilgrimage' to Gettysburg every year in July with my family since I was a kid, so I thought I would offer my services.”

Kunkle had a great-great grandfather, Samuel Young, who fought with the Ninth Pennsylvania Reserves.

“They marched overnight from Washington, D.C., and arrived at the (Gettysburg) battlefield on July 2. They built the breastworks at Big Round Top, and that is where the ninth monument is now,” Kunkle says. “My grandfather survived the war and came back to the Apollo area and became a school teacher. It is part of the reason I became a social-studies teacher.”

Kunkle hopes people can take away a better understanding of the Civil War and “learn something they didn't know.

“Being a history teacher, I hope people will be more interested in our past and have an appreciation of the war,” she says.

Mahar says that, in addition to the classic film “Gone with the Wind,” which was shown Nov. 9, the library will screen “Glory,” a film about the 54th Regiment Massachusetts, one of the first African-American units to see Civil War action, on Nov. 13.

“These men from the 54th Regiment brought their legacy of slavery as well as their commitment to freedom to the battlefield,” Mahar says.

Apollo-Ridge School District teacher Kelli Higgins will lead a discussion after the showing of “Glory.”

Two other programs will feature historians. Ray Rusz will talk about Apollo troops who fought for the Union, and Civil War re-enactor Edward Boots will present a - portrayal of his relative who fought and died in the war.

“I grew up in Charleston, S.C., a very historic city, and where I really became interested in history,” Boots, 51, of Beaver County, says.

“I have had a passion for re-enacting for 20 years, and when I learned my third great-uncle, Edward Nicholas Boots, had become a prisoner of war and died at Andersonville prison, I wanted to learn even more,” he says.

“My family didn't want to talk about my uncle, it was considered shameful to have been caught by the enemy and imprisoned. My dad and grandfather didn't want to discuss it; it was more honorable to die on the battlefield,” Boots says. “But I love re-enacting, and portraying my uncle brings his memory back to life and I can honor him. I don't want him to be forgotten.”

Boots used more than 140 letters written by his uncle and saved by his uncle's mother, to create an accurate portrayal of Uncle Edward, who was in prison for four months and died there.

“Andersonville prison had the highest death rate of any war prison during the Civil War,” Boots says.

The panels are sponsored by a grant from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History with the Library of America, and the exhibit will travel to 50 libraries nationwide. All events are free.

Joyce Hanz is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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