Lee Library to host “Utah and the Civil War” lecture

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The Harold B. Lee library will host the first House of Learning lecture of the winter semester. The lecture “Utah and the Civil War,” will give attendees an in depth look at how the American Civil War affected Latter-day Saints and the Utah territory.

This first free, open to the public lecture about the American Civil War will take place on Friday Feb. 1 at 2 p.m. in library auditorium on the first level.

BYU students and the local community who come to watch the lecture can also visit the Civil War exhibit on the first floor of the library which will contain photographs, letters and artifacts of the Civil War. The Civil War exhibit also offers people the chance to hear speeches and watch videos that are dedicated to that era.

The speaker at this event is Dr. Kenneth L. Alford, a BYU associate professor of Church history and doctrine. During a career in the United States Army, he gained a deeper appreciation for the service that Latter-day Saints and others rendered during the Civil War.

“Regardless of when they served our great nation, soldiers tend to feel a bond with other soldiers,” Alford said. “My military service was a great benefit in helping to understand the various service categories, ranks and experiences that Latter-day Saint soldiers had during the American Civil War.”

While investigating the Civil War, Professor Alford discovered that little research existed regarding Latter-day Saints who served and fought during that tragic conflict.

“In the 150 years since the Civil War began, no research had been undertaken to comprehensively document the service of Latter-day Saints during the Civil War,” Alford said. “The war’s sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) provided the perfect opportunity to do so.”

With the help of a student research team, Professor Alford set out to document the experiences of Latter-day Saints and Utah Territory during the Civil War. After several years of work, the BYU Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book published the book “Civil War Saints” in August 2012.

“Civil War Saints” looks at how the war affected Latter-day Saints and Utah Territory. It also includes the most complete record of Latter-day Saint soldiers and sailors who served during the American Civil War.

One of my primary desires in publishing ‘Civil War Saints’ was to honor the Latter-day Saints, both Union and Confederate, who served in the military during the Civil War,” Alford said. “With the help of great contributing authors, I also wanted to share the largely untold story of how Utah Territory affected the Civil War and how the Civil War affected Utah Territory, both during and after the war itself.”  

Heather Scott, who works with the Harold B. Lee library Public Relations team, enjoyed learning more about the event and found the lecture topic about the Civil War and Latter-day Saints to be intriguing.  

“The lecturer, Ken Alford, has a fascinating background of both military and civilian life that I believe will offer unique insights into faith during a time of turmoil,” Scott said. “The lecture is also paired with our current exhibit on level one, ‘Voices of the Civil War,’ which is a beautifully organized collection of awesome artifacts and historical collections from the Civil War Era. It really is worth the visit.”

BYU students and others who attend this event will be able to learn how Utah Territory was affected by the Civil War and how the Civil War affected Utah.

“Utah Territory is often viewed as having sat on the sidelines during the Civil War, but the complete answer is much more interesting,” Alford said. “While no battles were fought here, this lecture will share some of the many ways that the war deeply affected Latter-day Saints and Utah Territory.”

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