A sheet that speaks volumes

Today’s discovery, by Eric Boutin (grad student at URI’s library school): a Confederate ballad, one of almost 200 in our collection–surely one of the largest such collections in the country.

According to E.L. Rudolph’s bibliography, Confederate Broadside Verse (1950), “In the Southern ballads one may trace the changing morale of the secessionists along with their shifting military fortunes. The early ballads describing the victories at Fort Sumter and Manassas reveal an almost boundless exultation at the ease with which battles were won. On the Peninsula, at Fredericksburg, and at Chancellorsville the Confederate victories were dearly bought, and the ballads reflect the surprise and horror of those who had come to realize the horrors of war. With the defeats culminating in the surrender at Appomattox came the bitterness of defeat for the unreconstructed rebel and a sense of relief for all.”

But here’s a rather profound and symbolic twist. It was printed (as many ephemeral pieces were) on “waste paper” that had already been used for something else. In this case, it was a sheet of blank receipts for the sale of slaves.

Eric is creating an inventory of these ballads which will soon be mounted online, and eventually be accompanied by digital images.

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