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Tuscaloosa News: Copy of Quran only book saved from Union’s 1865 burning of UA

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TUSCALOOSA | A copy of the Quran dating from 1853, its spine missing, its pages browning and its front cover almost detached, sits today in a library at the University of Alabama.

While Islam’s holy book now appears safe from a Florida pastor’s plan for a bonfire, the Quran at UA had its own dramatic rescue from the flames. It was the only book saved from burning of the university library at the hands of Union troops in 1865.

“We don’t know who chose it, why they chose it or how it got back to the university. All we know is that for a long, long time, we’ve had this book,” said Clark Center, W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library curator.

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The order to burn the University of Alabama had been given long before federal troops arrived in Tuscaloosa on April 3, 1865. They believed that

the university, along with a

local textile factory and hat factory, provided materials to the Confederate army.

On the morning of April 4, 200 Union soldiers led by Col. Thomas M. Johnston approached the center of campus, the Rotunda, which held the university’s collection of books and natural history.

As the troops marched down the long, gravel street lined with cedar trees, they were met by a group of university faculty that included Andre Deloffre, the university’s librarian, and William Wyman, professor of Latin and Greek.

Deloffre begged Johnston to spare the library, one of the finest of its time. Johnston responded by sending a courier to headquarters, asking if the library could remain unscathed, but he was instructed by his general to burn the Rotunda as planned.

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Muslim American born in Brooklyn, NY with Guyanese parents currently living in Virginia working full-time as a web developer.

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