Skip to main content
Support - EBSCO Help

Civil War Primary Source Documents - FAQs

The following are frequently asked questions about Civil War Primary Source Documents, part of EBSCO's Digital Archives Collection. Please click on the question to view the answer.

What are the Civil War Primary Source Documents?
The Civil War Primary Source Documents are unique manuscripts chronicling all aspects of the American Civil War as it was fought on land and at sea, experienced in hospitals and prison camps, and understood by civilians on the home front. The collection, featuring more than 110,000 pages of manuscripts, focuses on the War years from 1861 to 1865 and represents both Northern and Southern perspectives. It also contains important contextual documents leading up to War and after its conclusion. Selected from the premier collections of the New-York Historical Society, these historical documents represent decades of collection and preservation.

The Civil War Primary Source Documents collection provides researchers with access to an unprecedented number of invaluable primary resources such as letters, diaries, administrative records, photographs, illustrations, artifacts - such as reading glasses, wooden boxes, and pocketbooks - various scrapbook journals, family portraits, and maps featuring hand-colored details of troop movements and local landmarks.

Highlights from the collection include:

  • the papers of David Cronin, a famous soldier and artist,
  • the letters of three soldier-brothers to their family back home in the Lyon family papers,
  • soldiers' diaries chronicling daily life and experiences as prisoners of war,
  • women's diaries discussing life on the home front,
  • accounts from famous people, such as Ulysses S. Grant’s letters regarding the fall of Richmond,
  • collections of records from Confederate and Union regiments,
  • Union Defense Committee records,
  • Confederate Army records, and
  • records of the Provost Marshal of the 7th congressional district.

To view a complete product description, key content features, and a title list for Civil War Primary Source Documents, or to initiate a free trial, click here.

Back to top

What types of materials are available in Civil War Primary Source Documents?
Collections include materials from both the Union and the Confederacy, such as:

  • Personal manuscript collections of officers, soldiers, families, businessmen, women, prisoners of war, the sick and wounded, and politicians
  • Organizational records from hospitals, civilian protection and aid societies, diplomats, and businesses
  • Military records and correspondence, including official orders and requisitions, passes, legal documents, and engineering notebooks
  • Maps, photographs, and artifacts

Back to top

How many collections are represented in Civil War Primary Source Documents?
Materials from more than 400 collections are included, such as:

  • David E. Cronin Papers
  • Franz Sigel Papers
  • Gustavus Vasa Fox Collection
  • John Ericsson Collection
  • William Tecumseh Sherman Collection
  • Stonewall Jackson Collection
  • Corps d'Afrique 4th Engineer Regiment Records
  • Confederate States of America Collection
  • Loyal League of Union Citizens Collection
  • Union Defence Committee of the City of New York Records
  • Southern Famine Relief Commission Records
  • United States Sanitary Commission

Back to top 

Why does EBSCO’s Civil War Primary Source Documents stand out from other Civil War collections?
The strength of the Civil War Primary Source Documents collection is that it is largely composed of rare and unique manuscript content. Handwritten materials account for over 85% of the collection, and include correspondence, diaries, memoirs, military records, reports, and eye-witness accounts. Because the manuscripts are presented in their original form, scholars can not only read the words as they were actually written, but also see side notations, notes, drawings, and secret codes. The EBSCO Digital Archives Viewer, designed exclusively for our digital historical archive products, gives researchers the tools to closely examine, browse, search, take notes for their personal use, and share information with others.

Another highlight of Civil War Primary Source Documents is the collection's focus on the personal experiences, largely through letters and diaries. The collection includes diaries kept by soldiers and sailors during combat, as prisoners of war, and while they were sick and wounded. It also includes extensive correspondence written between those serving and their families on the home front, offering first-hand perspectives and eyewitness accounts of the unfolding political and military situation. Gathering a wide array of original sources representing a variety of perspectives, the collection offers researchers an enhanced understanding of the Civil War years and offers the opportunity for new avenues of research.

Back to top

What is the New-York Historical Society?
Founded in 1804, the New-York Historical Society, one of America’s preeminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research, presenting history and art exhibitions, and offering public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. New-York Historical Society has a mission to explore the richly layered political, cultural, and social history of New York City and State and the nation, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history. The library's collection, from which Civil War Primary Source Documents is drawn, contains more than three million items, including manuscripts, books and pamphlets, newspapers and magazines, broadsides, and graphic materials. Its collections document many aspects of American history from the colonial era to the present day, including slavery and Reconstruction and the Civil War. More details can be found at

Back to top