S.C. Digital Library includes some of diocesan archives

CHARLESTON—Some of the Diocese of Charleston’s history during the Civil War can now be seen and read online thanks to the S.C. Digital Library.

The Internet based library, www.scmemory.org, is a group effort by the state’s schools, libraries, archives, museums and other cultural heritage institutions. SCDL initiated the project to provide the knowledge, resources, and capacity necessary for collaborators to complete their digital projects, according to its website.

Their mission is to encourage participants, such as the Diocese of Charleston Office of Archives, to create, maintain, and promote digital collections that represent South Carolina’s historical and cultural resources, particularly for educational purposes.

The repository has regional sites thanks to the cooperation of institutions including the University of South Carolina, Clemson University and the College of Charleston. The Lowcountry branch digital library, http://lowcountrydigital.library.cofc.edu, was funded by a Donnelley Foundation grant at the College of Charleston.

Officials there hope to have 50,000 items from public and private archives in the area and asked the Diocese of Charleston’s Office of Archives to participate, according to Brian P. Fahey, archivist.

“The Lowcountry Digital Library wanted portions of our collection that had a national scope,” Fahey said. “So we used Bishop Patrick Lynch, who was an emissary to the Papal States for the Confederate States to seek diplomatic recognition.”

The collected works include personal letters from 1858 to 1866, letters from family members in Cheraw, and his sister, Sister Baptista Lynch, mother superior of the Ursulines in Columbia.

“Most of the correspondence relates to the hardships, trials and tribulations of living during a Civil War,” Fahey said.

Bishop Lynch was the third bishop of the diocese, serving from 1858 until his death in 1882. The diocese consisted of North and South Carolina, Georgia, the Bahamas and Bermuda, and was embroiled in the Civil War.

Bishop Lynch was born in Ireland and came to Cheraw in 1819. He was ordained in 1840 in Rome. He was appointed vicar general to Bishop Ignatius Reynolds in 1850 and ordained bishop at the Cathedral of St. John and St. Finbar in 1858.

In 1864 Southern President Jefferson Davis sent the bishop to Rome as a delegate to obtain the Vatican’s recognition of the Confederate states. He met with Pope Pius IX who condemned slavery and refused the request. While he was away, the Cathedral burned in the Great Fire of 1861, and the diocese was devastated by the war. The online collection includes a letter from the bishop’s brother, Francis, expressing his sorrow over the loss.

Until his death on Feb. 26, 1882, Bishop Lynch raised money to rebuild from the ruins.