COLUMBIA — For decades, maybe for many decades, nobody examined a hard-bound copy of an 1898 compilation of Confederate Civil War soldier rolls at the Richland County Public Library.
Even library employees didn’t know it was there.
Debbie Bloom, who became manager of the library’s local history room three years ago, was stunned early this year when she came across the 18-by-30-inch index. It was stacked in a storage section where nonlocal documents were piled during the library’s 1993 move from its longtime home on Sumter Street to the current Assembly Street location.
“I noticed this big, huge book and thought, ‘What the heck is this? I think this might be important,’ ” Bloom recalled.
The discovery probably isn’t a historical breakthrough. Experts suspect most of the names in the book can be found in other public documents. But the authors of the 1898 ledger tried to dig up new information by interviewing survivors. The book might have new details on some soldiers, such as the battles in which they fought.
It will be interesting to compare the 1898 document with other records, according to Patrick McCawley of the archives center.
The public never will get the chance to physically leaf through the pages. The binding has deteriorated, and the paper is brittle. But anyone can check it out online, thanks to the digitization efforts at the University of South Carolina’s Thomas Cooper Library. You even can search for a particular name at http://digital.tcl.sc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/confedrolls/id/705.