Uniform brings Civil War to life for history buffs
Visitors to the Spencer Research Library examine Civil
War artifacts, including a Union uniform and saber that belonged to KU’s
second chancellor, John Fraser. The items will be on display Aug. 21 at
Lawrence’s Watkins Museum during a presentation by Lt. Col. Brian
De Toy, former professor of military science at KU and current chief of
research and publications at Fort Leavenworth’s Combat Studies Institute.
R. Steve Dick/University Relations
Chancellor John Fraser’s Union jacket, saber were donated to KU
Lt. Col. Brian De Toy will spend the evening of Aug. 21 transporting an
audience of history fans at the Watkins Museum back to the days of KU’s
second chancellor, John Fraser, and thanks to the Spencer Research Library,
he’ll have a few authentic Civil War artifacts to help him do so.
De Toy’s presentation, scheduled for 6:30 p.m., will focus on Fraser’s
experiences as a Union officer during the Civil War. The Spencer Research
Library will provide Fraser’s Civil War uniform and saber for display
during the event.
De Toy, chief of research and publications at Fort Leavenworth’s
Combat Studies Institute, was a professor of military science and head
of the Army ROTC program at KU from 2001 to 2004.
The uniform was given to the library in 1907, according to archivist Becky
Schulte, and is still in remarkably good condition for its age.
As with other chancellors, the library has preserved other bits of Fraser’s
history, including a diary he wrote while in a Confederate prison camp
and photographs from his lifetime.
Fraser was a prisoner of war for more than eight months during the last
year of the war, and he rose to the rank of brigadier general.
He was later the chancellor of what would become Penn State University
and became chancellor of KU in 1868.
De Toy first became interested in Fraser’s history while creating
a walking tour covering KU’s military history for ROTC cadets and
“As I looked at the school’s history and examined the background
to each building’s name, I discovered Chancellor Fraser was often
called ‘General’ Fraser back in his days on campus,”
De Toy said.
Guessing that the chancellor had been a veteran of the Civil War, De Toy
conducted research on Fraser at Spencer and Watson libraries, as well
as at the U.S. military academy at West Point. He also made several visits
to the Gettysburg battlefield to complete his study.
KU’s artifacts remained unknown to De Toy, however, until a member
of the Spencer Library staff saw a notice for De Toy’s upcoming
address and alerted him to the uniform and other Fraser artifacts at Spencer,