Press Release
Center for the Study of the Civil War in the West

Purpose: Western Kentucky University is perfectly positioned to be the home of a Center for the Study of the Civil War in the West. Geographically, we are near important Kentucky battlefield locations such as Bowling Green’s defenses, Perryville, Columbus, Mill Springs/Logan’s Crossroads, and the decisive western battlefields such as Forts Henry and Donelson, Shiloh, Stones River, and Chickamauga-Chattanooga in Tennessee. The Center will draw upon the History Department’s faculty, the strong holdings in the Civil War in the Helm-Cravens Library, and the extensive manuscript and microfilm collections of the Kentucky Library. In addition, there are several natural constituencies from which WKU plans to recruit for summer workshops or weekend seminars. Besides Western’s alumni, there are area secondary school teachers, and the large number of retired military personnel in our service area.

            The goals of the Center include raising public awareness of the historical importance of the Western Theater in the outcome of the Civil War. The Center will also help establish the University as a center of Civil War research, build stronger ties with area schools, and enhance the History Department’s graduate program. We hope to generate public interest and support for our academic mission through summer workshops and institutes.

Faculty: The new endowed Frockt Family Professorship in History provides Western an opportunity to recruit an established scholar in the social and cultural history of the Civil War. Using this professorship as an anchor, the center will build upon the department’s present strengths in the Civil War’s military history, political and constitutional history, and the history of slavery.

Scholarly Resources: The Civil War collection of secondary works and newspapers in Western’s Helm-Cravens Library is one the university’s most extensive holdings, and Helm-Cravens also houses an impressive array of U.S. government documents on the antebellum and Civil War periods. These holdings are supplemented by the secondary and newspaper collections located in the Kentucky Library, and complemented by its important manuscript collections on the Old South and Civil War Era.

In addition, Western is currently in the process of acquiring an extensive microfilm collection of Old South, Civil War, and Gilded Age documents and manuscripts that includes:  Antebellum plantation records, Civil War campaigns and regimental histories, Confederate government and military manuscripts, and the legal history records of the Attorney General.  This collection will greatly expand research opportunities for Western’s faculty and students. The availability of this microfilm collection in the “Heart of the Western Theater” will make Western attractive as a center for research and writing for regional teachers, Western Alumni, and Civil War scholars throughout the nation. The Center’s Web Site is currently under construction, and the first scholarly conference is planned for 2008.

 Opportunities: The Center would work with the new division of Distance Learning to host a variety of summer workshops and institutes. Some of these would be weekend events designed to give WKU alumni an opportunity to revisit the campus as they pursue their interests in the Civil War. We would also host week-long workshops for secondary school teachers. These would be focused on creating teaching modules that teachers could use in their classrooms. Another potential audience for summer programs would be the retired military personnel who now live in the Fort Campbell and Fort Knox-Elizabethtown area.