Before Jeff Gillespie visited a Civil War battlefield, he read as much as he could about the generals, the troops, the battle strategy, the maneuvers on the field, the terrain. When he got to the site, he'd close his eyes and describe to his wife Linda exactly what happened, down to details such as whether or not certain trees existed at the time of the battle.
"He could stand on the field and paint a visual for you," said Linda Delgross, who estimates that she and Jeff visited dozens of sites during their 15-year marriage. "He really, really just immersed himself in it."
Sports editor for the Citizen for 13 years, Gillespie died in March 2011 at the age of 44, but his love for history, and that of the Civil War in particular, lives on at the Nancy Guinn Memorial Library. Delgross donated what she called "the best of the best" of her late husband's history book collection to the library.
"We both love this community and he was a part of the people who live here -- the coaches, the parents, the kids. Part of him would live here forever, and he would like that," she said.
The donation includes 273 books in excellent condition, 228 of which are about the American Civil War.
The Civil War books present the conflict through mediums such as timeline overviews, photographic encyclopedias, and maps of battlefield sites.
The collection includes 56 books which discuss detailed accounts of specific battles, from well-known Gettysburg to the lesser known land-sea assault on Fort Fischer, N.C. , by Union forces.
There are 34 titles about major and minor campaigns on both sides of the conflict, and 52 biographies/memoirs of military and political leaders from the Civil War.
Other titles are focused on specific topics, such as "Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor," "Fortress America : The Forts that Defended America 1600 to the Present" and "Gunsmoke Over the Atlantic: First Naval Actions of the Civil War."
The gift collection also includes works about other wars, such as the Revolutionary, World War II, and a four-volume set by Peter Cozzens titled, "Eyewitness to the Indian Wars 1865-1990."
The Nancy Guinn Library is the home library for Gillespie's gift collection but patrons across Georgia will have access to the books through the PINES library consortium. Of the 273 new books, 30 titles are singular copies within the entire PINES system.
The titles will be showcased in a special display near the reference collection through September, and are available for check-out while on display.
"We are so excited about this special gift and the broad spectrum of information it will provide to history students of all ages, as well as the many readers with strong interest in this period of history," said Alisha M. Blevins, Nancy Guinn adult services librarian.
"Library material budgets are limited and this was an unexpected treasure donated by the Gillespie family. The fact that out of these books, 30 specific titles are currently the only available copies in the PINES system offers something unique to patrons across all of Georgia."
A native of Pennsylvania, Gillespie held a bachelor's degree in professional writing with a minor in history from Wheeling Jesuit College.
Delgross said that had her late husband not built a career in journalism, he would have been well suited to teach history.
"If you look at history, you can solve a lot of problems and understand the world better today by looking at what happened," she said of why her late husband held such a passion for the subject.
Delgross said Jeff would be happy to know that he is shaping the minds of young people especially, allowing them, through his books, to make connections about history and the present they never made before.
"I think he would think that was fabulous," she said.