Library book stolen during US Civil War returned after 145 years

A library book which was stolen by a soldier during the US Civil War has been returned to a university’s shelves nearly 145 years later.

Last Updated: 15 Apr 2009

The 1842 book, the first volume of WFP Napier’s four-volume "History of the War in the Peninsula and in the South of France From the Year 1807 to the Year 1814", was returned to a Washington and Lee University library in Lexington, Virginia by a friend of one of the soldier’s descendants.

Soldier CS Gates took the book on June 11, 1864, from the library of what was then Washington College, university officials said this week.

The theft took place when Army of West Virginia Gen. David Hunter’s troops raided the area and looted the college’s buildings.

A note Gates inscribed in the book reads: "This book was taken from the Military Institute at Lexington Virginia in June 1864 when General Hunter was on his Lynchburg raid. The Institution was burned by the order of Gen. Hunter."

The book, which covers the early stages of the war between Spain and its allies against France over control over the Iberian Peninsula, was passed down through C S Gates’s descendants.

It eventually came into the possession of Mike Dau, of the Chicago suburb of Lake Forest, Illinois, who inherited it more than 20 years ago from the estate of Myron and Isabel Gates, a couple he befriended during college.

Mr Dau said he wasn’t sure how exactly Gates the soldier was related to Myron Gates.

"I had been meaning to take it back for years," he said. "I got tired of talking about it and decided it belonged in the hands of the rightful owner."

Mr Dau and his wife travelled to Lexington in February to return the book, which he said is in good condition except for a loose binding. He said he was glad he wasn’t responsible for any fines.

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2009

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