Did you Civil War ancestor
fight to save the Union? To defend his home? To free
himself from slavery and bondage?
Was he a Northern civilian, reading about the war in the
newspapers? Was he a Southern civilian, too old or too sick or too
crippled to join a regiment? Was he an immigrant just off a European boat,
short on English but long on draft-ability?
Did she rear her children
with an a hostile army camped in her yard? Did she have to leave her home as
shells whistled nearer and nearer? Did she and her children wait anxiously
for news from a husband and father gone far away to fight? Did she wonder
whether she would ever see her only brother again? Did she join her
neighbors and sisters and aunts to knit socks for soldiers?
What was it like?
It's hard to know today, though diaries and letters and
memoirs do survive. I have only one family story that's been passed down to
me about my own great-grandparents (the generation in my family who lived
through the Civil War), and no physical artifacts other than copies of 2
photographs: one of Mary Virginia Dowdy (1850-1921) and one of James William
and a copy of a photograph of Mary Virginia Dowdy, my
Unfortunately, if you're like me, you may have almost
nothing at all. That's when we rely on historical context: we learn as much
as we can about their communities, their neighbors, their occupations and
the lifestyles of others of their socioeconomic class and social
We learn everything we can about events they would have
experienced, whether those events were local (an early rainy season that
wiped out a cotton crop) or global (a world war, the 1918 flu epidemic).
Ancestry.com has several excellent articles on the subject
context in their online library. Browse their historical
context library archive for more information, including such articles as
Civil War Records: Valuable
Sources for Genealogists by Kip Sperry
The Transition from Slavery
to Freedom by David Thackery
The Civil War Prison at
Andersonville by William G. Burnett
Many other subjects are covered as well.
This is a new section and will
be growing as I add new links. Be sure to stop back by and see what's
Civil War News:
Current events newspaper
covering the American Civil War, Battlefields and Historic Site
Article from Garden & Gun
A Life in Pictures Collector David Vaughan keeps the
memory of Civil War soldiers alive—and on display.
Illinois Civil War Veterans Database
Online Archive of Terry's Texas Rangers
Sharing & preserving the history of the 8th Texas Cavalry Regiment, 1861-1865
NARA Article: The Shady Side of the Family Tree: Civil War Union Court-Martial Case Files
The Civil War in Arkansas
Civil War Haiku
Civil War Newspapers
Clip Art Gallery
The American Civil
War Women - Online Archival Collections at Duke University
War Memories of Robert C. Carden, Co. B, 16th TN Infantry
Louisiana Civil War Records
George Connor's helpful article in the Ancestry.com Library.
Terrell's Texas Cavalry
12th Tennessee Cavalry, CSA
War Soldiers & Sailors System
Search the Brooklyn,
NY Civil War Deaths Database.
My Passage at the New Orleans Tribune:
A Memoir of the Civil War Era
Find out more about the lives of Civil War P. O.
W.'s at the Elmira
Prison Camp Online Library.
Confederate Pension Index
Researching the Military Heroes in Your Family History
The Sultana Disaster, 27 April 1865