Spring in Belfast was not measured by the temperature this year; rather it was measured by the 165+ people venturing forth in the cold weather to the Belfast Public Library for Civil War themed events.
In March, “Friday Night Flicks” presented four Civil War themed films which spanned the decades from the 1926 silent film The General to more current movies including: Lincoln, Ride With the Devil, and Glory. April’s screening of the MPBN film Sixteenth Maine at Gettysburg uncovered a local Belfast connection. A regular patron and Friend of the library shared that she has a piece of the flag from the Sixteenth Maine; it belonged to her husband’s great-grandfather George D. Bisbee, 2nd Lt. Co. C.
Patricia Bixel, Professor of History at Maine Maritime Academy, facilitated three well-attended book discussions. Participants read and discussed the battle of Gettysburg through the lens of Michael Shaara’s classic novel The Killer Angels and the more visual lens of The Graphic History of Gettysburg by Wayne Vansant.
The mixed group of teens and older Civil War buffs had great discussions on the individual books and how the books taken together enhanced their understanding of those three bloody days in 1863. One Civil War buff said that “for the first time the battle had some order to it”–the graphic novel laid out the sequence of the battle in a format that made sense to her. The discussions covered the battles, the different perspectives of the books (one told from the perspective of officers and the other through visual representations of the men in the field), and how both books inspired readers to read more.
April brought three additional Civil War events to town. Bob Rackmales presented a talk entitled “Belfast Divided: Political Conflict in the Civil War Era.” Ron Jarvella, a Local & Legendary team member, taught a one-day seminar titled “Shifting Racial Attitudes From Uncle Tom’s Cabin to The Birth of a Nation” at the Senior College at Belfast. Megan Pinette, historical society president and Local & Legendary team member gave the final talk of the month: “The Good Works of the Ladies of Belfast during the Civil War.” Megan’s talk focused on the many projects that the Ladies’ Volunteer Aid Society undertook to support the soldiers. Projects included sewing shirts, pants, and handkerchiefs, as well as sending great quantities of sanitary and food supplies. Additionally, in June of 1864, a group of young and unmarried women stitched the Belfast Civil War quilt and sent it to a soldiers’ hospital in Washington, D.C. That quilt, after being stored in a home in Montana for over 100 years, was returned to Belfast in 2011.
The final Local & Legendary Belfast event, an original theatrical presentation, followed by a memorial plaque dedication at City Hall, will be held on Sunday, May 18, at First Church, 8 Court Street, at 3PM. It is open to the public.