Volumes that Saved Civil War Soldiers' Lives Ronald J. Zboray and Mary Saracino Zboray
(In progress for completion in 2015)




Our research into Civil-War-era reading practices reveals that many Americans believed that books could save soldiers’ lives either by warding off bullets, or by absorbing them. Personal testimony, as well as evangelical tracts, newspaper articles, diaries, letters, and memoirs supply abundant primary evidence of these beliefs. But the many books eviscerated by bullets or inlaid with musket balls that can be found in private collections, archives, and museums, bear material witness to these beliefs as they were put into practice. We have been able to document fifty-three cases of bullets striking books carried by Civil War soldiers in their pockets, knapsacks, or caps. Many of these soldiers survived, but others died, their books
offering but feeble resistance to the volley of projectiles. Our book in progress reconstructs ten of these stories for the light they shed not only on the-bullet-in-the book phenomenon, but the reading cultures in which wounded books were embedded.
Funded in part by a 2012 NEH Fellowship (FA-56646-12)