Civil War and Reconstruction

Naval Historical Center, United States Department of the Navy

This website contains collections of photographs and paintings of navy people, ships, and aircraft; historical overviews; chronologies; bibliographies; and documents on the history of the U.S. Navy. “Wars and conflicts of the U.S. Navy” offers material on wars and naval campaigns from the Revolutionary War to Desert Storm, including overviews of naval history, chronologies, bibliographies, and oral histories from World War II. The photographic section offers hundreds of paintings and photographs of U.S. Navy ships and aircraft from the early republic to the present. There are also sections specifically on African Americans and nurses, and the site provides dozens of links to archives holding material on the U.S. Navy.

American Civil War Manuscript Guides, Digital Library and Archives, Virginia Tech

This site contains more than 10,000 documents and monographs from the Civil War era, including roughly 6,000 monographs from the Elden E. Josh Billings Collection. The site also contains transcriptions of Union and Confederate soldiers’ letters and diaries, homefront letters, memoirs, and contemporary research files drawn from 19 collections. Each document group is accompanied by a 300-word biography of the principal author(s), a 150-word description of the scope and content of the collection, a 75-word account of the provenance, and a list of the collection’s contents organized chronologically, with a roughly 15-word description of each item. The site also includes links to nine online Virginia Tech theses and dissertations on Civil War topics as well as a guide to other Special Collections Civil War sources.

Eye of the Storm, Michael Johnson, Adam Stoltman, Alan Dorow, Journal E

Eye of the Storm presents more than 500 watercolor paintings and maps by Union Army Private Knox Sneden. Drawings depict battle scenes, camp life, and maps. Four presentations depict particular incidents that Sneden witnessed.

A Civil War Soldier in the Wild Cat Regiment: Selections From the Tilton C. Reynolds Papers, American Memory, Library of Congress

This collection offers a unique perspective on the lives of a Union soldier and his family. The selected letters lend insight into the wartime dynamics of the Reynolds family, and their words reveal how family members in Reynolds’ regiment looked after him, announced his capture, and gave advice. The letters also describe the daily life of a Union soldier, touching on such topics as food, clothing, shelter, health, and punishment. Soldiers’ feelings, views on slavery and the election of 1864, as well as Reynolds’ account of seeing President and Mrs. Lincoln can all be found in this collection. The site also features two Special Presentations: “Timeline: History of the 105th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865” and one on the Reynolds family.

Images of Battle: Selected Civil War Letters, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

This site reproduces 10 letters by soldiers at the battlefront of the Civil War between April 1861 and April 1865. The letters, written by both Union and Confederates, describe battle conditions at Fort Sumter (SC), Manassas (VA), Hilton Head (SC), Frederick (MD), Fredericksburg (VA), and other important locations. Taken from the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the letters are accompanied by illustrations and short captions. The site also includes eight links to Civil War resources.

Crisis at Fort Sumter, Richard B. Latner, Tulane University

This interactive website provides documents, essays, and questions about the events leading up to the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in 1861 and places the events within a broader context of secession and southern independence. There are nine chronological sections and students must make decisions at five “critical junctures,” soliciting advice from official and unofficial advisors. Students can compare their choices with Lincoln’s, and a commentary section challenges students to explore multiple interpretations of events.

Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War, University of Virginia

The Valley Project traces the lives of two communities—Staunton, Virginia and Chambersburg, Pennsylvania—from the time of John Brown’s Raid through Reconstruction. This massive, searchable archive offers thousands of pages of maps, images, letters, diaries, newspapers, and church, agricultural, military, and public records—all relating to these two communities during the era of the Civil War.

The Crisis of the Union, Schoenberg Center, University of Pennsylvania

This archive contains material related to “the causes, conduct, and consequences of the U.S. Civil War,” many of which relate to Abolition. The collection contains more than 220 books, broadsides, cartoons, pamphlets, and other printed material from 1830 to 1880. Visitors may browse issues of William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator, peruse the 1852 Proceedings of the Democratic National Convention, or view dozens of Thomas Nast cartoons. Visitors can also search the entire archive by keyword, subject, graphic element, or date.

Civil War Women, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University

These Civil War-era documents relate to three American women of diverse backgrounds and political persuasions. These women are Rose O’Neal Greenhow, a Confederate spy and Washington socialite; Sarah E. Thompson, who organized Union sympathizers near her home in Greenville, Tennessee; and 16-year-old Alice Williamson, a Gallatin, Tennessee, schoolgirl who kept a diary about the Union occupation of her town.

Selected Civil War Photographs, American Memory, Library of Congress

This collection offers 1,118 photographs depicting Civil War military personnel, preparations for battle, and the aftermath of battles in the main eastern theater and in the west, in addition to Federal Navy and Atlantic seaborne expeditions against the Confederacy. The site also includes portraits of Confederate and Union officers and enlisted men and photographs of Washington, D.C. during the war. The presentation “Time Line of the Civil War” places images in historical context. “Does the Camera Ever Lie” demonstrates the constructed nature of images.

Freedmen’s Bureau Online, Christine’s Genealogy Websites, Inc.

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands was established by the War Department in 1865 to supervise all relief and education activities for refugees and freedmen after the Civil War. This site contains an extensive collection of Freedmen’s Bureau records and reports to aid family history and historical research. Includes links to records and indexes of labor contracts between freedmen and planters, links to marriage records of freedmen, and more than 100 miscellaneous state record items concerning freedmen.

Reconstruction: The Second Civil War, Public Broadcasting System

This excellent website contains numerous resources for studying Reconstruction. Users may view a general timeline and overall history of the period, including an interactive and detailed state-by-state map detailing life in 1870 America. Numerous primary sources, photographs, historical objects, and documentary features are also available. Materials are divided into ten sections including: “Forty Acres and a Mule,” “Plantations in Ruins,” “Access to Learning,” “Slave to Sharecropper,” and “White Men Unite.” Each section includes a mini-documentary, clips from the original PBS program, primary sources, special features, and further reading.

HarpWeek: Explore History, John Adler

This collection of exhibits offers free access to a wealth of texts and images taken from Harper’s on a variety of subjects (supporting the Standards of Learning) dealing with 19th-century American political and social history. Subjects include: “Presidential Elections,” offering 320 annotated political cartoons; the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments; and political prints and cartoons. Each section includes an introduction, a timeline, biographies, and short essays on aspects of the topic.