The Clements Library website includes events, exhibits, subject guides, newsletter issues, library staff, and more.

Home » Explore Collections » Subject Guides » Civil War

Civil War

Civil War Subject Guide

Overview

The Clements Library’s holdings on the American Civil War are broad in scope and span all four divisions. Particular emphasis on the experiences and observations of individual soldiers and civilians during the conflict is present, along with popular media representations of events, and post-war reflections. The bulk of the materials are found in the James S. Schoff Civil War Collection of manuscript letters and diaries, published memoirs and regimental histories, manuscript maps, photographs, and original soldier’s art.

Notable rarities and unique items of historic importance include documents in the hands of Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, Davis and Lee; photographs; and hand-drawn battlefield maps.

The perspective of the pro-Union north predominates, however Confederate views appear in southern newspapers, sheet music, manuscripts, “copperhead” Democratic Party publications, and satiric prints.

The crucial topics of slavery, emancipation, and post-war Reconstruction are strengths of the collection.

Research topics supported by the Clements Civil War holdings include:

  • Battles and campaigning
  • Death, mourning
  • Diplomacy
  • Fortifications
  • Imprisonment
  • Journalism and satire
  • Military tactics
  • Nursing, medicine, and disability
  • Politics
  • Post-war veterans associations
  • Reconstruction and the Freedmen’s Bureau
  • Religious faith
  • Slavery and emancipation
  • Technology
  • The Lost Cause
  • Women’s participation

Selected examples of the resources to be found in each division include:

Book Division

  • Newspapers and illustrated weekly magazines such as Harper’s Weekly, Frank Leslie’s, the New York Illustrated News, Southern Illustrated News, and the Illustrated London News. There are also Confederate newspapers including rare wallpaper examples.
  • Regimental histories
  • Biographies and published memoirs
  • Political tracts
  • Broadsides

Manuscript Division

  • The James S. Schoff Civil War Collection is comprised of over 300 discrete collections largely representing the experiences of everyday soldiers in the field. Also present are important individual documents of political leaders including Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis and military commanders Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, among others. The role of African Americans, the enslaved, and the recently emancipated surface in many sub-collections within Schoff.
  • The Clinton H. Haskell Civil War collection has over 120 select individual items from both obscure and well-known authors. Included are William H. Seward, George B. McClellan, John C. Fremont, Robert E. Lee, G.T. Beauregard, and Nathan Bedford Forrest.
  • The activities of women in the war appear in the collections of Cornelia Hancock and Helen M. Noye Hoyt who were volunteer nurses.
  • John R. Goldsborough Papers describing former slave and future U.S. Congressman Robert Smalls’s commandeering of a Confederate steamship at aid escaping slaves
  • Starbird Family Papers include a first hand account of reading Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved blacks.
  • The impact of the war on family life appears frequently with a notable description of the Siege of Vicksburg in the Eaton-Shirley Family Papers.
  • John E. Boos Collection contains remembrances of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.
  • Handy Family Papers include the diaries of Isaac W.K. Handy, a Presbyterian minister imprisoned at Fort Delaware for his Confederate sympathies; and materials from Isaac Handy’s son Moses, courier for the Confederacy.

Graphics Division

  • Lithograph broadsides featuring battle scenes, military camps and hospitals, regimental tributes, and recruiting images
  • Patriotic stationery
  • Political satires from the contentious elections of 1860, 1864
  • Portraits — engraved, photographic, and original artwork
  • Soldiers sketchbooks. Of note are those of Private Edgar Klemroth of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry; and Surgeon’s Steward Harry Simmons, medical officer onboard the U.S.S. Sophronia under Admiral David G. Farragut’s Vicksburg assault.
  • Photographs including Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War ; George Barnard’s Photographic Views of the Sherman Campaign; Mathew Brady Portfolio; Andrew J. Russell’s documentation of infrastructure projects; Levi & Cohen’s photographic views of Richmond; numerous carte de visite portraits and albums including soldiers’ pocket albums
  • Sheet music. Published sheet music and note sized song sheets represent almost all aspects of wartime politics, military heroism, martyrdom, emancipation, and social concerns of the home front. Many have lavish color illustrated designs.

Map Division

  • Over 200 printed maps and 50 manuscript items.
  • Military maps, with some produced in the field.
  • Popular home-front maps tracking the movements of the armies in the “seat of war.”
  • Maps showing the slave population of the United States.
  • Hand-drawn maps showing personal and local information appear in in many soldier’s letters.

Bibliography

“The Civil War,” The Quarto No. 33 (Spring-Summer 2010)
“The Civil War Revisited,” The Quarto No. 34 (Fall-Winter 2010)
“New Series,” The Quarto No. 1 (Spring 1994)
“The Bitter, Enduring Legacy of Slavery in America,” The Quarto No. 47 (Spring-Summer 2017)

General Reference
Dornbusch, C. E. Military Bibliography of the Civil War. New York: New York Public Library, 1967. Four vols.

Selected Subject Headings

Confederate imprints.
Confederate States of America.
Confederate States of America. Army.
Confederate States of America–Politics and government.
James S. Schoff Civil War Collection.
Military prisons.
Prisoners of war.
Secession–Southern States.
Soldiers–Confederate States of America.
Soldiers–United States.
United States–History–Civil War, 1861-1865.
United States–History–Civil War, 1861-1865–Campaigns.
United States–History–Civil War, 1861-1865–Medical care.
United States–History–Civil War, 1861-1865–Personal narratives.
United States–History–Civil War, 1861-1865–Personal narratives, Confederate.
United States–History–Civil War, 1861-1865–Prisoners and prisons.
United States–History–Civil War, 1861-1865–Regimental histories.
United States–Politics and government, 1861-1865