As part of our “RBMSCL Scholars” series, we’ve asked some of the wonderful researchers that the RBMSCL has hosted over the years to contribute a few words on their new books and research projects. Today, we have an essay from J. Keith Jones, editor of The Boys of Diamond Hill: The Lives and Civil War Letters of the Boyd Family of Abbeville County, South Carolina, released in March by McFarland Publishers.
When I first began investigating the Robert Boyd Family Papers at Duke’s Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, I expected to find something that would appeal to genealogists of this family and those researching the history of Abbeville County, South Carolina. I didn’t know that I would discover a rich story about the triumphs of love and the tragedies of war. I would not have believed that two years later their story would be available to the world in The Boys of Diamond Hill: The Lives and Civil War Letters of the Boyd Family of Abbeville County, South Carolina. With the guidance of the staff at RBMSCL and my editors at McFarland Publishers, that is exactly what has happened.
The backbone of this work can be found in the 86 letters of the five Boyd brothers and the husband of their eldest sister lovingly preserved in the RBMSCL. With the additional research of this family and the units they served in, their full story slowly emerged. In April 1861, brothers Daniel and Pressley Boyd joined the Confederate army. Soon the war would sweep the other three Boyd brothers—William, Thomas and Andrew—as well as their brother-in-law Fenton Hall, away from their farm in Abbeville County, South Carolina. Researching this collection uncovered warmth, humor, horror and loss of four long years of war.
I understand from descendants of Fenton Hall that a number of letters from this family had been lost in a house fire. They were thrilled to learn that those destroyed did not constitute the entire body of the brothers’ letters. It is so wonderful that Duke has preserved these surviving letters so the fascinating lives of these young men would not be lost to history. The helpful staff and wonderful facilities made the marathon sessions with this collection a joy and their support through the preparation for the publication process was invaluable.
To learn more about the book, as well as Keith’s other research projects, visit his website!
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