Old Independence Regional Museum will host a book signing for Torn by War editor Samuel R. Phillips Saturday, October 11, from 1-3 p.m. Torn by War is a transcription of Mary Adelia Byers’ diaries. Byers began recording her thoughts and observations during the Union occupation of Batesville in 1862.
Only fifteen when she starts her diary, Mary is beyond her years in maturity, as revealed by her acute observations of the world around her. At the same time, she appears very much a child of her era. Having lost her father at a young age, she and her family depend on the financial support of her Uncle William, a slave owner and Confederate sympathizer. Through Mary’s eyes the reader gains surprising insights into local society during a national crisis. On the one hand, she is flirting with Confederate soldiers in the Batesville town square and, on the other, facing the grim reality of war by “setting up” through the night with dying soldiers. Her journal ends in March 1865, shortly before the war comes to a close. Enhanced by extensive photographs, maps, and informative annotation, the volume is a valuable contribution to the growing body of literature on civilian life during the Civil War.
Torn by War reveals the conflicts faced by an agricultural social elite who were economically dependent on slavery but situated on the fringes of the conflict between North and South. “These diaries provide invaluable insight into the mind of teenagers during the Civil War,” said museum director Amelia Bowman, “not only on personal matters but social and economic issues as well.”
Phillips is a descendant of pioneer Arkansas families. He was raised in Newport and Batesville by his grandmother, Mary’s daughter. He was educated at Brooks School and at the California Institute of Technology. After serving as an engineering and manufacturing executive, in the 1980s he started a consulting firm and began serving as an expert witness in patent litigation. At about the same time he began transcribing and editing Mary’s journal, which he had inherited.
He is a member of the Arkansas Historical Association and the historical societies of Independence and Jackson Counties, Arkansas, and of Nevada County, California. He is related to Col. Robert Gould Shaw, who commanded the all-black 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment.
The program will be free and open to the public. Normal museum hours are: Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and from 1:30 to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $3.00 for adults, $2.00 for seniors and $1.00 for children. The museum is located at 380 South 9th street, between Boswell and Vine Streets in Batesville.
Old Independence is a regional museum serving a 12-county area: Baxter, Cleburne, Fulton, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Marion, Poinsett, Sharp, Stone, White, and Woodruff. Parts of these present-day counties comprised the original Independence County in 1820’s Arkansas territory.