The American Civil War:
Letters and Diaries

Founded in July 2000 by executives of the former Chadwyck-Healey Group, Alexander Street Press has established itself as a leader in electronic publishing for the education market.  It has garnered accolades from peers and patrons, including awards from The Charleston Advisor (the information pro­fession’s premier review publication) for “Best New Product,” “Best Content,” and “Best Contract Options;” recognition from the History News Network as the “Product of the Month;” and stellar product reviews in leading library journals.  Among its products are:  Oral History Online; Women and Social Movements in United States; Thought and Culture; and, North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories.

The American Civil WarLetters and Diaries database of Alexander Street Press is an anthology of nearly 100,000 pages from over 1,000 memoirs, diaries, and letter collections written by individuals representing Union, Confederate, neutral, and foreign perspectives.  The retyped text of each items allows word- and phrase-searches, while professional tagging provides advanced searches by alle­giance, gender, race, military rank, year written, battle name, personal events, war events, subject headings, and several other categories.  Each document has detailed bibliographic information, and biographical sketches of over 1,000 authors offer valuable information and further historical context to users.


Through the courtesy of Alexander Street Press, HarpWeek has selected 600 documents from The American Civil War: Letters and Diaries to augment the 49 periodicals in the Lincoln and the Civil War collection.  Written between 1860 and 1865, these letters and diary entries are divided evenly between those written by authors loyal to the Union and those with Confederate allegiance.   The writers include experienced generals and raw recruits, plantation mis­tresses and army nurses, high- and low-level government officials, and a wide array of voices form various walks of life.  While the newspapers on HarpWeek’s Lincoln and the Civil War website give current readers various journalistic perspectives of America’s greatest conflict, the 600 letters and monthly diary entries offer more personalized viewpoints through the expressions of individuals directly involved in that epic struggle.

In this compilation of letters and diaries, northern and southern correspondents alike relate their uncen­sored notions about slavery, secession, and the prospects for Confederate independence.  Men explain why they enlisted and fought; discuss the details of training, marching, foraging, and camp life; and relate the sights and sounds of the battlefield.  In addition to skirmishes and naval engagements, the letters and diaries cover nearly 50 land battles and campaigns, including:

First Battle of Bull Run (July 1861)

Shiloh (April 1862)

The Peninsular (July 1862)

Antietam (September 1862)

Corinth (October 1862)

Fredericksburg (December 1862)

Vicksburg (October 1862-July 1863)

Chancellorsville (April-May 1863)

Gettysburg (June-July 1863)

Chickamauga (August-September 1863)

The Wilderness and Spotsylvania (May 1864)

Atlanta (May-September 1864)

Shenandoah Valley (August 1864-March 1865)

March to the Sea (November-December 1864)

The Carolinas (February-March 1865)

Appomattox (March-April 1865)

Military leaders in blue and gray are praised and criticized by enlisted men and fellow officers.  The Confederate and Union drafts and exemptions are debated, prisoners of war and spies reveal their experiences, and a Confederate fugitive writes form Canada.  Observations are made on the contro­versy of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the situation of newly freed slaves, and the contribu­tions of black troops to the Union cause.  HarpWeek’s Civil War letters and diaries provide an exten­sive look at wartime medical treatment through the perspective of surgeons, nurses, and the sick and wounded on both Confederate and Union sides.

Many of the manuscripts portray life on the homefront, with the HarpWeek compilation being par­ticularly strong on the writings of Confederate women.  Readers learn how women dealt with wartime inflation and other privations, the absence or loss of spouses and male relatives, and the Union occu­pation of New Orleans and other Southern cities, as well as their strongly expressed opinions on the Confederate cause.

In addition to military and homefront activities, the difficult task of government administration is reflected in letters of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and C.S.A. President Jefferson Davis, as well as diary extracts from Union Navy Secretary Gideon Welles and Confederate bureaucrat John Beauchamp Jones.




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