Henry L. Benning Civil War materials available online

The Digital Library of Georgia (DLG) is pleased to announce the availability of the Henry L. Benning Civil War materials collection at http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/CollectionsA-Z/ghlb_search.html. The collection, which belongs to Columbus State University Archives, is available online thanks in part to the DLG’s Competitive Digitization grant program, a funding opportunity intended to broaden DLG partner participation for statewide historic digitization projects.

Henry L. Benning was born in Columbia County, Georgia in 1814. After finishing first in his class at the University of Georgia in 1834, he moved to Columbus in 1835. There, he was admitted to the bar, married Mary Howard in 1839, and entered his father-in-law’s firm. In 1840, Benning lost a race for the General Assembly, but was later elected to the state Supreme Court in 1853. After Lincoln’s election, Benning became one of Georgia’s most vocal supporters for secession. During the war, he served as Colonel of the 17th Georgia Infantry in twenty-one engagements including Antietam, Gettysburg, and Chickamauga.  By the beginning of 1863, Benning rose to the rank of brigadier general. His regiment was the first part of the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee and later under Braxton Bragg in the Army of Tennessee. After the war, Benning returned to Columbus and resumed the practice of law, dying on his way to the court in 1875.

Benning’s war correspondence deals with his service throughout the war and includes orders sent to him, reports of engagements, both those sent to him and those he submitted to his superiors.

David Owings, head of Columbus State University Archives states: “General Benning is certainly an important figure in Georgia’s history, who resonates nationally because of his role in the Civil War. This material will attract broad national interest from scholars as well as those with a casual interest in the Civil War. We are excited that the Digital Library of Georgia has helped us increase access to our collections by making General Benning’s involvement in this important period of our history available online.”

About the Columbus State University Archives

Established in 1975, the Columbus State University Archives, located on the third floor of the Simon Schwob Memorial Library, serves as a repository for materials documenting the history of Columbus State University as well as the city of Columbus and the broader Chattahoochee Valley area.

About the Digital Library of Georgia

Based at the University of Georgia Libraries, the Digital Library of Georgia http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/ is a GALILEO initiative that collaborates with Georgia’s libraries, archives, museums and other institutions of education and culture to provide access to key information resources on Georgia history, culture and life. This primary mission is accomplished through the ongoing development, maintenance and preservation of digital collections and online digital library resources.  DLG also serves as Georgia’s service hub for the Digital Public Library of America and as the home of the Georgia Newspaper Project, the state’s historic newspaper microfilming project.

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Georgia’s Hidden Historic Gems

If you plan on going for a drive to enjoy the fall foliage, why not take a look at some of these historic Georgia sites? From colonial forts and vibrant theaters to Savannah museums and prehistoric Indian mounds, chances are, with Georgia’s rich history, you can find a cultural resource that anyone in the family will enjoy. So buckle up and take a (virtual) road trip, starting with these sites.

Kolomoki Mounds State Historic Park, located on a tributary of the Chattahoochee River in Early County, contains seven preserved prehistoric mounds that were occupied from 1000 BC to AD 900. The mounds were likely used for various ceremonial and mortuary rites by the indigenous Swift Creek and Weeden Island cultures. At the height of Kolomoki civilization, it was possibly among the most populous settlements north of Mexico. The mounds were excavated between 1894 and 1897, and again from 1948 to 1953. The results of these excavations, such as the kneeling ceramic figure (left), can be viewed by the public in a museum built on the park property. The museum’s exhibits present patrons with a history of the site, while also allowing them an interior view one of the mounds. More information about the Kolomoki mounds, as well as other Georgia state parks, can be found in the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Established by General James Oglethorpe in 1735, Fort Frederica is located on St. Simons Island. The site served as a British colonial military base; the star-shaped fort was strategically located on a high bluff, offering both protection and a superior view of the surrounding waterways. In 1742, the Spanish launched a siege to take possession of the fort after British forces failed to overpower Spanish possession of the city of St. Augustine during the War of Jenkins’ Ear.  Despite being outnumbered, the British, led by Oglethorpe, forced a Spanish retreat after a two-week skirmish at Bloody Marsh. This was the last time the Spanish threatened English holdings in the area,  and the British regiment disbanded in 1749. Nine years later, a fire reduced much of the fort to ashes; however, its ruins (pictured above) have been retained as the Fort Frederica National Monument, a reminder of the military struggles of the colonial era. More images of Fort Frederica can be viewed in the Vanishing Georgia collection.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Springer Opera House in Columbus was built in 1871 by Alsatian immigrant Joseph Frances Springer, who wished to establish a European-style theater in the American south. The Springer Opera House quickly established a reputation for being one of the finest opera houses in the country. In its heyday, the theater boasted a diverse series of lectures and performances from renowned figures that included politicians William Jennings Bryan and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth, and Georgia blues singer Gertrude “Ma” Rainey. However, the theater fell into disuse after the stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent decline of Columbus’ commercial district. Community support saved the Springer from demolition in 1964, and it reopened in 1965 after a series of renovations (see above image). Today, the expanded Springer Opera House serves as the official state theater of Georgia and is home to a thriving theater community. To view more images of the Springer Opera House, check out related items in the Vanishing Georgia collection. More information about the history of the theater and current showings can be located at the Springer Opera House website.

Originally constructed in 1818 by Savannah mayor James Wayne, this Federal-style “Savannah box” home was sold to the Gordon family in 1831;  Juliette Gordon Low was born here in 1860. In 1911, Low met Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the worldwide Scouting movement; their meeting inspired her to become involved with the Girl Guides of Great Britain. Recognizing the need for a similar organization for American girls, Low returned to Georgia and founded the Girl Scouts of the United States of America; the first registered members were located in Savannah. She dedicated the rest of her life to scouting. In 1925, two years before her death, there were over ninety thousand Girl Scouts active in America. Today, the Wayne-Gordon house (see image on right), is a museum dedicated to the history of the Girl Scouts and the memory of their founder; the home has become a congregating point for modern-day Girl Scouts all across America. More images of the Wayne-Gordon House can be found in the digital collection  Historic Architecture and Landscapes of Georgia: The Hubert Bond Owens and John Linley Image Collections at the Owens Library. Further information about the house’s history and tours can be found at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace website.

These sites are just a few of Georgia’s historic gems, why not hit the road this fall and discover them?

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