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Reference on the Web: Civil War

last modified 2011-08-25 10:31 AM

The Sesquicentennial Commemoration of the Civil War

Reference on the Web: The Civil War

Mulac, Carolyn (author)

FEATURE. First published June 1, 2011 (Booklist).


“It’s a bottomless treasure, this Civil War, much of it encrusted in myth or still unexplored. Which is why, a century and a half later, it still claims our attention and remembrance.” —Tony Horwitz

The sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War has just begun and will continue for the next few years. Whether referred to as the War between the States, the Late Unpleasantness, the War of the Rebellion, the Lost Cause, the Brothers’ War, the War against Northern Aggression, the Second American Revolution, or the Civil War, the events of April 12, 1861, through April 9, 1865, continue to capture our interest. That interest is expressed in a variety of ways, from reenactors who adopt historical personas to military-history buffs who study campaigns and strategies to those who read historical fiction set in the period. The Civil War is well represented on the web on the individual pages of Civil War buffs, the digitized historical collections of museums and other institutions, and numerous other sites. Here is a sampling of free websites about the Civil War intended to illustrate the variety of Internet resources available about this seemingly inexhaustible subject. All sites were viable as of April 12, 2011.

Commemorative Sites

In this sesquicentennial year, there are commemorations galore, and one way to locate information about them is at the Civil War Trust’s Civil War 150th Anniversary page ( ). Here you will find links to individual states’ 150th anniversary websites. The Civil War Trust is a nonprofit organization “devoted to the preservation of our nation’s endangered Civil War battlefields.” The site has a This Day in the Civil War feature and also links to the Civil War blogs of the New York Times  ( ) and the Washington Post ( ). For a look at news reporting during the Civil War, go to TheCivil War ( ) for a complete run of Harper’s Weekly, 1861–1865. LSU Libraries’ Special Collections: The United States Civil War Center ( ), whose mission “is to promote interdisciplinary study of the American Civil War,” also publishes the Civil War Book Review ( ).

No discussion of the Civil War is complete without a mention of the sixteenth president. Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial was celebrated in 2009, and Lincoln at 200 ( ) includes an online exhibit about his role in the Civil War. Other notable Lincoln sites are The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln ( ) and The Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana ( ).

The Civil War: 150 Years ( ) is the National Park Service’s new website with a variety of special features for the sesquicentennial. One of them is The Gettysburg National Military Park Virtual Tour ( ). CivilWar@Smithsonian (, produced by the National Portrait Gallery, highlights artifacts and images from various collections of the Smithsonian Institution.

Maps and Images

Maps are an important part of the history of any war, and Civil War Maps ( ) and the Gilmer Civil War Maps Collection ( ) are rich cartographic resources.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Civil War photographs, prints, and drawings speak volumes. A few notable sites highlighting those images are The Becker Collection: Drawings of the American Civil War Era ( ); Brady-Handy Collection ( ); Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints ( ); Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs ( ); Rosenthal Lithographic Prints of Civil War Encampments ( ); and Selected Civil War Photographs ( ).

Those Who Served

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System ( ) provides basic facts about those who served, and New York Draft Riots ( ) tells the story of some who didn’t. History of African Americans in the Civil War ( ) provides some missing history. Also among the missing in earlier histories of the Civil War are women. Civil War Women: Primary Sources on the Internet ( ) and Women Soldiers of the Civil War ( ) help to fill the void.

Music and Poetry

In any era, music and poetry reflect the sentiments of the time and offer another way to experience history. Band Music from the Civil War Era ( ) and Poetry and Music of the War between the States ( ) do that for the Civil War.

Personal Histories

Walt Whitman wrote that “the real war will never get in the books.” Civil War diaries, letters, and journals chronicle the war in a way that history texts do not. Some of the digitized collections of these very personal documents include American Civil War Collections at the Electronic Text Center ( ); United States Civil War Collection: Civil War Diaries ( ); Hospital Sketches, by Louisa May Alcott (; A Diary from Dixie, by Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut ( ); and “My Precious Lulie . . .”: Love Letters of the Civil War ( ).

After looking at some of these websites, you just may find yourself in agreement with Gertrude Stein’s opinion: “There will never be anything in America more interesting than the Civil War, ever.”

Note to attendees of the 2011 ALA Annual Conference: Louisiana’s Civil War Museum at Confederate Memorial Hall ( ) houses the second-largest collection of Confederate memorabilia in the U.S. Located nine blocks from the French Quarter in New Orleans’ historic Warehouse District, at 929 Camp Street, it’s worth a real as well as a virtual visit.


*Carolyn Mulac is Division Chief, General Information Services, Chicago Public Library, Illinois.


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