The Civil War: Reference eReviews | April 15, 2013


The Civil War Collection Accesible Archives


Accessible Archives, publisher of a growing suite of primary-source full-text historical databases, offers access to The Civil War Collection, a wealth of material divided into six themed parts that cover wide range of content and perspective. Editorials discuss pre- and post-war attitudes from both sides, as well as troop movements during the war.

Part One, “A Newspaper Perspective”: Major articles from more than 2,500 issues of The New York Herald,The Charleston Mercury, and The Richmond Enquirer, published between 1860 and 1865. Coverage begins with the events preceding the outbreak of war at Fort Sumter and concludes with the assassination and funeral of Abraham Lincoln. Included are descriptive news articles, eyewitness accounts, and official reports of battles and events, editorials, advertisements, and biographies.

Part Two, “The Soldiers’ Perspective”: An in-depth look at the day-to-day actions of the troops, primarily in the form of personal views of regimental history. Additional content includes rosters with the names of those killed, wounded, and missing in action. Titles include Annals of the Sixth Pennsylvania CavalryIndiana’s Roll of Honor, and T he Story of the Fifteenth Regiment.

Part Three, “The Generals’ Perspective”: This section discusses strategies as planned and executed by the war’s commanding officers. As they are memoirs, many of the books also describe an officer’s entire career. While the emphasis is on the Union, a number of Confederate generals’ narratives are included as well. Titles include Abraham Lincoln: Complete WorksHome Letters of General Sherman, and Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant.

Part Four, “A Midwestern Perspective”: Seven newspapers published in Indiana between the years of 1855 and 1869, providing pre- and post-Civil War information, in addition to coverage of the Civil War itself. Titles include News of the DayStars & Stripes, and Vincennes Western Sun.

Part Five, “Iowa’s Perspective”: Memoirs, pamphlets, and regimental histories from the Civil War holdings at the University of Iowa. The writings reflect the experiences of the state’s soldiers and generals as they fought in nearly all the campaigns and major battles throughout the war years.

Part Six, “Northeast Regimental Histories”: Titles such as First Light Battery Connecticut Volunteers andSeventy-Seventh Pennsylvania at Shiloh provide details on the organization and success of particular units, and include regimental rosters, casualty statistics, photos of unit members, portraits, maps, and additional illustrations.

usability Users can cross search all Accessible Archives documents or restrict their search to particular sources or dates. In the case of the Civil War Collection, which lists six separate sources, it is easy to choose one or more of the six from the drop-down list. We selected all of them for this review. As we had dates in mind, we started with the “Browse the Archives” link on the main search page, finding that The Charleston Mercuryheads the list. Publication titles are displayed, with links to a description and the issues of each. Selecting Issues, we scrolled through to read April 21, 1864 telegraph notices explaining that, “a great battle took place on the 8th instant, at Mansfield, Louisiana”; “Colonel POWERS, with 200 men, dashed into Port Hudson on the 7th instant, and captured one gun and 18 prisoners”; and “Gen. FORREST’S official despatch announcing the capture of Fort Pillow, has been received at the War Department.”

Most articles allow users to display an image of the original document, which can be resized for readability. Navigation links are available to return to the result document, view a list of all articles in the issue, or select the next or previous image page.

Searching offers all levels of users countless options that include the use of search operators, truncation, proximity, and wildcards. Users can limit to a particular publication type (all, newspapers and magazines, books), source, and date.

Checking out a Confederate victory in the “northernmost land action” (Vermont), we entered St. Albans Raid, with date range of October 1864, retrieving 14 items. These included a full account from The New York Herald’s Lake Memphramagog correspondent, and an article detailing “the rebels robbed the Bank of St. Albans, Vt., of $204,000” from the Weekly Vincennes Gazette. The robbery, which involved three banks, got more press than the actual skirmish. Other sources mentioned Canadian involvement, murder, the raider’s trial, and provide a quote from the gang leader who “says he went to Vermont for the express object of burning towns in that State, in retaliation for General Sheridan’s destruction of property in the Shenandoah valley.”

Documents can be printed from a text-only display or emailed one at a time. The system now provides browse links directly to book and chapter titles and MARC records are available, one for each publication title (magazine, newspaper, book) in the database.

pricing This resource is available for permanent-access purchase as a complete collection or in individual parts. Subscription plans are also available; public library subscription fees are based on the population served or active card holders, whichever is less; academic pricing is based on FTE. Accessible Archives follows an “all or nothing” subscription model, which means that subscribers have access to any new content added during the subscription term. The annual maintenance fee is $380.

verdict An all-inclusive pricing model, sophisticated search features, and book linking are just a few of the features of this database that are worth mentioning. Since all major events are described in detail by both Union and Confederate newspapers, opposing perspectives are readily available for comparative evaluations, affording users a unique resource for in-depth research. Additionally, a concentrated effort has been made to include articles describing travel, arts and leisure, geographical descriptions, sports, and social events, making this a valuable primary source for interdisciplinary study of the time period.

American Civil War Research Database Alexander Street Press

CONTENT As a Civil War database that includes a record for virtually every soldier who served in some capacity during the war, Alexander Street Press’s American Civil War Research Database is just one component in the publisher’s American Civil War Online Package (this is a pricing package, not a cross-search platform), which also includes The American Civil War: Letters and Diaries and Images of the American Civil War: Photographs, Posters, and Ephemera.

Considered by many to be “the definitive online resource for researching the soldiers, regiments, and battles of the American Civil War,” the database currently contains indexed, searchable information on more than four million soldier records (2,823,900 Union and 1,439,845 Confederate) and descriptions of close to 4,000 battles, together with nearly 15,000 soldier photographs. Researchers can also access 1,000 officer profiles, 5,302 Civil War regimental rosters, 3,468 regimental chronicles, and 222 volumes of rosters published by the state Adjutants General.

Many of the reports in this database are firsthand accounts of battles, and significant battles are represented by detailed orders and reports such as a 6,600-word item on the Shiloh Campaign, 3,300 words on Fredericksburg, and more than 7,300 on Gettysburg. The database is updated biannually and the extensive bibliography of publications includes state rosters, regimental and additional histories, pension and census data.

A valuable feature is the analysis charts tool, which allows users to examine and identify various criteria down to a particular regiment or soldier, display system-generated tables and graphs, and create user-driven and exportable data. Historical Data Systems, Inc. created the database and offers individual access via a nominal annual membership fee.

usability Civil War scholars arrive at library resources prepared with names of soldiers, battles, and regiments to research, and this database allows that. For the rest of us, it facilitates broad searching or browsing by state, regiment type, allegiance, and rank. The opening screen has a featured display with four records—it currently showcases information on two battles and two regiments. As an example of what these contain, the first featured battle record is from Chickamauga, GA Sept. 19, 1863 to Sept. 20, 1863, and offers statistics of casualties and losses, comprehensive linked data to the 342 regiments taking part in the action, and an extensive (nearly 4,000-word) “accounts and report” from Volume Five of The Union army; a history of military affairs in the loyal states, 1861-65 (nearly 4,000 words).

The navigation toolbar at the top of the screen includes several options. “Soldiers” searches for all people in the database; Regiments” allows a query for any regiment in the database; “Battles” opens the search for any battle summary; “Analysis” retrieves selected charts, graphs, and statistical information on regiments and soldiers; and “Bibliography” displays a list of sources used; a “Help” area is also available. The quick-search option queries the text, titles, and authors of all works found in the database.

The resource’s analysis section offers an interesting graphical view of the war, with a Confederate and Union Losses chart, “Regimental Dynamics” (users can here limit their research to 13 types of regiments, including Band, Cavalry, Pontooniers, and Sharpshooters), and Soldier Statistics. Checking out the comparison option with the losses chart, for example, we found that nearly 7,000 Union troops deserted at the end of 1862 as compared to fewer than 800 Confederate soldiers, staggering data that might prompt researchers to conduct further research into the battles occurring during December 1862.

Starting with a “Soldiers” query, limiting to New York, to the rank of general, and to records that include a photo results in 266 items. The default is all soldiers, but selecting New York equates to “Allegiance=Union” in the system. Additional limiters include soldiers listed on the Roll of Honor, or Medal of Honor recipients.

The results for a soldier search return a sortable table of information matching the search criteria selected. We sorted by “Enlist Place,” and were surprised to find 20 Generals hailing from Albany, N.Y., all but two of whom survived the war. Soldier data includes birth and death date, date of enlistment, pension, mustering information, promotions, wounded information, and sources used for the data. Selecting a random soldier, we discovered that Thomas Alfred Davies enlisted as a Colonel in 1861 and was promoted first to Brigadier General in 1862 for “gallant conduct at the battle of Bull Run.” After the war he devoted a good deal of his time to literature, and was the author of numerous books on “religious criticism and kindred subjects.” Each page has a static URL that can be used to direct others to the work.

pricing Pricing through Alexander Street is scaled to institution size and budget, beginning at $950 per year. The publisher’s American Civil War Online Package, detailed previously, is also scaled to institution size and budget, beginning at $1,300. Historical Data Systems offers individual access to all data for $25 annually or a seven-day visitor pass for $10 (this includes soldier’s military data only).

verdict The database might have few frills, and some limitations with search functionality, but it certainly delivers—and affordable individual membership is huge for Civil War enthusiasts. The ability to get the complete roster of the 107 soldiers who commissioned, enlisted, or mustered into the C Maine Coast Guard Company in 1864 is quite remarkable. The analysis tool is of great importance and provides hard data to supplement additional research on a particular topic, battle, or person.

ProQuest Civil War Era ProQuest

CONTENT ProQuest Civil War Era, a smartly conceived assemblage of primary source materials, features eight geographically dispersed newspapers and two significant collections of pamphlets that add considerable color and depth to the narrative of the news sources. The newspapers, with publication dates covering the quarter century from 1840 to 1865, include The Richmond DispatchThe Charleston Mercury, and The New Orleans Times Picayune. Three Northern titles—The Boston HeraldThe New York Herald, and The Columbus State Journal—complement the group of Southern newspapers. The Kentucky Daily Journal and Memphis Daily Appeal round out the collection. These are full runs of the paper (with classified ads, marriage announcements, editorials, and articles) and not just the material relating to the war and the circumstances leading up to it.

Two pamphlet collections dramatically augment the newspaper holdings. The first, “Slavery and Anti-Slavery Pamphlets” from the libraries of Salmon P. Chase and John P. Hale, includes 166 items covering speeches by government officials and private citizens, sermons, letters, legal opinions, annual reports (on subjects ranging from education to sanitation), minutes and proceedings of various meetings and conventions, and a run of The American Freedman. They cover such subjects as African Americans, black people outside the United States, the Civil War, Freedmen, Native American relations, law and litigation, politics and government, religion, and slavery (including its religious, international, and legal aspects).

The more expansive collection, “Civil War Pamphlets 1861-1865” includes 1,758 items that reveal the full range of issues and perspectives before, during, and after the conflict. It contains eulogies of Lincoln, accounts of battles, addresses by state officials, biographies, campaign songs, legal opinions, memoirs, government documents, journals, sermons, and speeches.

Themes covered in the pamphlets include the anti-Southern sentiment of the period, Lincoln’s assassination, battles, border states, causes of the war, church and war, confiscation of property, conscription, constitutional issues and state rights, economics and war, foreign opinion, foreign relations, the presidency, literature, medicine, military affairs, Northern morale, peace movements, regimental histories, honor rolls, the soldier’s life, veterans’ memorials, and the naval war. Many of these are impressively substantial for pamphlets, with some approaching 200 pages in length.

usability In addition to the standard search features, ProQuest here offers a mix of capabilities geared toward the database’s primary-source materials. Using advanced search options, researchers may look up the distinctive subject headings— ranging from “abolition of slavery” to “western sanitary commission”—assigned to the pamphlets in the collection and pull them into the search. Source-type checkboxes permit the searcher to limit results to either the “Historical Newspapers” titles or the “Pamphlets & Ephemeral Works” material.

The document-type checkbox lets the user easily search for something as benign as the “Weather” in Charleston or as deadly as the “military_war_news” from Vicksburg.

We searched “(draft OR conscription) AND riot*” and produced 1,381 hits from the Historical Newspapers side of the resource and 150 hits in the Pamphlets collections. From here, we could refine our results by city (boston OR “new york” OR troy) although we had to be careful to specify that the city names appear in the document-title field or in the document-text field in order to avoid matches on everything in the Boston Herald and New York Herald newspapers. Finally, adding “Irish*” to the strategy produced 34 hits, headed by a Boston Herald article entitled “English View of the Draft Riots in New York and Boston.” Using the pamphlet subject heading adds some precision, but it automatically limits the results to just the “Pamphlets & Ephemeral Works” collection.

Given that there are only two pamphlet collections and a modest number of newspaper titles in the database, browsing is actually a highly usable way to access its contents. In the case of the newspapers, the browse function enables researchers to proceed date-by-date, issue-by-issue through a paper. Browsing the pamphlet collection is, from our perspective, an even more instructive way than searching of figuring out what gems are included there.

We also took a stab at the “Find Similar” option, which permits users to “Enter or paste text from a document” into an open search box. Pasting in the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article on “Sherman’s March to the Sea” we got nearly 16,000 hits. Only the first few looked relevant, however, and we concluded that keyword searching would be equally productive.

Results may be marked, printed, emailed, exported to a bibliographic management application, or cited using a long list of style guides.

pricing The annual subscription price for ProQuest Civil War Era is $4,900, with perpetual access going for $16,640 plus an annual hosting fee of $825. Free trials are available.

verdict Our immediate impression of ProQuest Civil War Era was that if our library had been subscribing last fall, a number of student research efforts would have gone a lot more smoothly. The short list of important newspaper titles gives users plenty to work with, and it doesn’t pile on more material than they can manage. The pamphlets represent the kinds of things a determined researcher might be at least somewhat successful in turning up on the web, assuming that he or she knows specifically what to search for. Since this is rarely the case, particularly when the searcher is a student, subscribing to ProQuest Civil War Era makes eminently good sense in any setting where the research effort requires access to primary-source material.

The Civil War: Antebellum Period to Reconstruction Readex

CONTENT Reduced to its bare essentials, The Civil War: Antebellum Period to Reconstruction—with 150 newspapers from acrossthe country, roughly 50,000 documents culled from the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, and 4,000 rare broadsides and ephemeral items—is a singularly impressive primary-source collection. Coverage here begins in 1843 with the Antebellum Period, proceeds through the Civil War, and concludes with Reconstruction in 1877. Contents record the day-to-day narrative, the official government record, and the popular sentiment of that 45-year time period, so that there is a lot more here than the numbers alone convey.

The broad geographic sweep of these newspaper titles puts the regional perspectives and regional biases necessary to comprehend the meaning of this period of American history at the researcher’s disposal. Materials range from advertisements and birth notices to cartoons, editorials, and war reporting. Selected from America’s Historical Newspapers, titles include many major papers of the day as well as numerous others of regional interest.

The huge U.S. Congressional Serial Set is one of the underappreciated gems among all the publications of the federal government. It includes House and Senate reports and documents as well as materials from the Executive branch, annual reports from federal agencies and non-governmental organizations, reports on investigations, maps, and of particular interest here, the text of The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

Lavishly illustrated selections from American Broadsides & Ephemera give the researcher a means of exploring popular culture and personal sentiments of the time via the songs, nursery rhymes, juvenile literature, letters, poems, concert programs, envelopes, and other unique materials of this time period.

usability The main search page for this database is understated and cleanly organized for effective searching. With a display of Civil War exhibits (e.g., “Medical Treatment During the Civil War”) on the right side of the site and an interesting selection of documents available for immediate viewing, it will also be incredibly tempting to potential researchers.

A Quick Search-type box at the top of the page allows the user to cross-search all three components of the resource, while someone with more specific research interests can directly access the Historic Newspapers, Congressional Documents, or Broadsides and Ephemera sections individually. Several canned searches (Front page news, Southern newspapers, Citizen claims) are highlighted along with groupings of selected documents—period accounts from the Battle of Gettysburg and military recruiting materials, for example.

Clicking on the “Search this collection” link gives the user access to the full capabilities of the interface for each section. Navigating to the Historic Newspapers collection enables the user to search by presidential or historic era, article type, languages, place of publication, or newspaper titles via a series of tabs. The searcher can also simply enter terms and specify that they come from the full text, headline, standard title, or title as published. It’s also possible to ener custom date ranges.

Users may browse the U.S. Congressional Serial Set using the Antebellum, War Years, and Reconstruction tabs. The first and last tabs permit viewing by subject or personal or geographic name. The War Years tab offers considerably more specificity, with viewing by battle, subject, location, military base, name, State of the Union Messages, and official records. Keyword searching options include limiting by conventional fields such as citation text, full text, and title or by any of the more arcane Serial Set numbers. Basically, this means that the highly sophisticated researcher can craft very precise searches while less-experienced users can effectively mine the browsing capabilities to find primary-source materials that meet their needs.

Again, using a series of tabs, Broadsides and Ephemera may be browsed by genre (from academic exercises to stationers’ embossed stamps), subjects (which combines broad categories such as economics and trade, historic events, and philosophy with more specific subtopics such as boxing, curiosities and wonders, and lyceums, all of which appear under the subject society, manners and customs), author (both personal and corporate), history of printing (namely, booksellers, printers, and publishers), place of publication, and language. Simple and advanced-search modes are available as well, with advanced permitting searching in a specific field (such as the citation or any of the tabs noted above), full-text searching, and searching by date.

Readex also makes it easy for users at subscribing libraries to move from The Civil War database to the company’s more complete Archive of Americana collections.

pricing Readex offers three pricing models for institutions interested in The Civil War. One is purchasing a perpetual license (and paying a modest annual hosting/enhancement, training, and content/continuing service fee). Alternatively, the comapany offers the product as an annual subscription as well as on a leasing/“renting-to-own” basis.

Noncustomers get 50 per cent off the list price, while existing Readex customers interested in adding The Civil War to their holdings will receive credit for any previously acquired collections from which the contents of The Civil War have been derived, specifically Early American Newspapers, U.S. Congressional Serial Set, and American Broadsides & Ephemera. Trials are available.

verdict This massive and fascinating collection will readily meet the needs of student researchers as well as those of scholars working on highly sophisticated projects. Given the range of years covered and the wealth and variety of primary-source materials it includes, The Civil War: Antebellum Period to Reconstruction is likely the single most useful resource available on this subject.


The American Civil War: Letters and Diaries Alexander Street Press

The current release contains 2,009 authors and approximately 100,000 pages of diaries, letters and memoirs, revealing the experiences of the authors, both at home and on the front during the period. The collection also includes biographies, an extensive bibliography of the sources in the database, and material licensed from The Civil War Day-by-Day: An Almanac by E.B. Long to act as a chronology and to provide context around the primary-source materials. Current featured content includes letters, diaries, and memoirs of women from both the North and South grieving the loss of family members and significant others; missives from a young Union spy captured and eventually executed by Confederate forces in 1863; letters reacting to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation; and first-hand accounts referencing the Union Army’s attack upon Southern forces just outside of the Confederate capital in Richmond, VA. This file is part of the American Civil War Online package.

Archives Unbound Gale Cengage Learning

Archives Unbound is an impressive, expanding resource of “topically-focused” digital collections of historical documents that support a wide-range of interdisciplinary research and the diverse study needs of both scholars and students alike. A sampling of collections relevant to this review includes:

The Civil War in Words and Deeds: More than 140,000 pages of firsthand accounts, this collection of histories and personal narratives compiled primarily between the end of the war and 1920, chronicles the highs and lows of army life from 1861 through 1865.

The Civil War Service Reports of Union Army Generals: Chronologically arranged (1864-1887) sketches—from the perspective of the general officer corps—of activities associated with battles and other engagements. It also includes dates of their tours of duty as members of military commissions and court-martials, periods of leaves of absence, and copies of pertinent reports made by other officers during the course of the war.

Confederate Newspapers: A Collection: This file offers a mixture of issues and newspapers from Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, and Alabama that were published between 1861 and 1865.

Access to Archives Unbound includes purchase price plus an annual hosting fee, with discounts when two or more collections are selected.

Harper’s Weekly 1857–1912 HarpWeek, LLC (Alexander Street Press)

“HarpWeek”—a searchable full-text database—is a full-image electronic version of Harper’s Weekly, considered to be the definitive newspaper of record for the latter part of the 19th century through the early 20th century. Segments start with 1857–1865: The Civil War Era and continue through 1908–1912: Gilded Age VI. The database is available through one-time purchase of perpetual rights and libraries can acquire individual segments or buy all as a unit. This resources offers editorials, full-text articles, illustrations, maps, portraits, and cartoons that brought the visual aspects of the war home as events unfolded.

Illustrated Civil War Newspapers and Magazines: Important and Rare Periodicals from Confederate, Union, Abolitionist, and British Presses Alexander Street Press

The database contains 65,000 pages from 49 periodicals, including 15 campaign newspapers, most of them illustrated—3,720 issues published from 1860 to 1865. Titles include Atlantic MonthlyHarper’s WeeklyNew York Illustrated NewsPunchScientific AmericanThe Liberator, and Vanity Fair. Originally printed in 16 different cities, many of the publications are now rare and hard to find. Compiled from 17 museum, library, and private collections, including those of the American Antiquarian Society and the Chicago Historical Society, this database presents four viewpoints—Union, Confederate, Abolitionist, and British. Every page has been scanned at high resolution and the content re-keyed, making the issues fully searchable, either individually or in any combination. Each article is tagged with information on its document type, with more than 15 types represented: advertisement, article series, biographical sketch/obituary, cartoon, editorial, fiction, government announcement, humor/satirical commentary, illustration, map, news story/item, panoramic view, poetry, portrait, publisher’s notice, and travel narrative. The database also contains a sample selection of 600 letters from Alexander Street’s The American Civil War: Letters and Diaries.

Images of the American Civil War: Photographs, Posters, and Ephemera Alexander Street Press

Alexander Street Press has partnered with the American Antiquarian Society, the Virginia Historical Society, the Library Company of Philadelphia, and the New York Historical Society, to provide images of the war as experienced from social, military, and political perspectives. Currently offering 12,200 images, the collection documents camp and battle experiences of both Union and Confederate soldiers of all ranks, time spent in hospitals and in prisons, civilian life in cities and towns, studio and other portraits of celebrity and military figures, and architecture in cities and towns destroyed by the war. Graphical content such as envelopes, song sheets, recruiting posters, imprints, and cartoons are also included.

All images in this database are organized around key, broad subject areas in the field, such as camp life, casualties, cultural figures, entertainers, and socialites, fields and forts, and hospitals and prisons. Users can search using 15 fields such as title/caption keywords, theme, battle/campaign/event, and photographer/creator. Additionally, each image contains indexed metadata such as photographer, year, and setting. Researchers can mine all images, or select just those from the Virginia Historical Society or American Antiquarian Society. This file too is part of the publisher’s American Civil War Online package.

Gail Golderman ( is Electronic Resources Librarian and Bruce Connolly (connollb@union.ued) is Reference & Bibliographic Instruction Librarian, Schaffer Library, Union College, Schenectady, NY

About Bruce Connolly & Gail Golderman

Gail Golderman ( is Electronic Resources Librarian and Bruce Connolly ( is Reference & Bibliographic Instruction Librarian, Schaffer Library, Union College, Schenectady, NY