Hats off to my colleague Stuart Lawrence for sending me information about this source. I posted about the site SoldierStudies.org three years ago, which provides transcriptions of letters written by the men who fought the war. Now, Alexander Street Press has put together an online database of memoirs, diaries, and letters from Civil War soldiers and others. It looks pretty interesting, but the one drawback is that a 30-day trial is available, but then a subscription is required, which limits its availability. The scope of the collection, as described on the website, is as follows:
Perhaps the most exciting descriptions of events during the Civil War are to be found in first person accounts. Detailed firsthand descriptions of historical characters and events, glimpses of daily life in the army, anecdotes about key events and personages, and accounts of sufferings at home written for private consumption, provide an immediacy and a richness that are unmatched in public sources.
The Civil War was responsible for an unprecedented displacement of Americans, and this in turn resulted in an unprecedented number of letters. This also was the last time a major war was fought without significant censorship.
The American Civil War: Letters and Diaries knits together more than 1,000 sources of diaries, letters, and memoirs to provide fast access to thousands of views on almost every aspect of the war, including what was happening at home. The writings of politicians, generals, slaves, landowners, farmers, seaman, wives, and even spies are included. The letters and diaries are by the famous and the unknown, giving not only both the Northern and Southern perspectives, but those of foreign observers also. The materials originate from all regions of the country and are from people who played a variety of roles.
Using a thesaurus of Civil War terms we’ve built specifically for the task, researchers can quickly find references to individuals, battles, theaters of war, and activities. A chronology of key events allows the user to see multiple perspectives surrounding a particular event. This level of indexing is unprecedented. Questions such as “Give me all accounts of letters written about hospital conditions by Union soldiers in the Western Theater” can be answered in seconds.
The collection includes approximately 100,000 pages of published memoirs, letters and diaries from individuals plus 4,000 pages of previously unpublished materials. Drawn from more than 1,000 sources, the collection provides in-depth coverage of all aspects of the war. More than 1,000 biographies will enhance the use of the database.
The collection includes one of the most comprehensive bibliographies of Civil War letters and diaries yet published. It lists over 1,000 published and unpublished items from a variety of sources, including online resources and microform. Subscribers to the collection are encouraged to participate in the maintenance of this bibliography by calling our attention to omissions, suggesting additions, and notifying us of newly discovered materials.
I will check this source out more in the coming days, but wanted to put it out there for readers to consider. On a side note, we are closing in on 100,000 hits and I would really like to do that today, so help me out and thanks for your support.