Discovering the Civil War

GBP £29.95



ISBN: 978-1-904832-91-1

208 Pages

305 x 229 mm (9 x 12 in)

266 colour illustrations

In association with The Foundation for the National Archives, Washington DC

February 2011


Takes a fresh look at the American Civil War through little-known stories, seldom-seen documents, and unusual perspectives

“Photographs of astonishing detail, reproductions of handwritten records, and personal tales bring one of the most important eras of American history to rich, fascinating life”—Starred review, Publishers Weekly

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With a message from David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States
Foreword by Ken Burns, Documentary Filmmaker

Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the American Civil War, this generously illustrated book peels back years of accumulated analysis, interpretation, and opinion to reveal the human face of history. Discovering the Civil War features over 400 letters, diaries, photographs, maps, petitions, receipts, patents, amendments, and proclamations from the unparalleled holdings of the National Archives, which holds not only the records of the Union forces but also the so-called “Rebel Archives,” captured from the Confederacy, and the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau, the agency that helped African Americans in their transition from slavery to citizenship.

Grouped into themes such as “Spies and Conspiracies,” “Prisoners and Casualties,” “Global War,” and “Raising Armies,” this new book looks beyond the battlefield to the experiences of ordinary people—be they through the names of men from a list of substitutes who were paid to replace draftees, the reminiscences of veterans of the Battle of Gettysburg at their 75th-anniversary reunion in 1938, or pension records revealing that Frank Thompson, who served in the Union Army, was a woman. Famous documents, such as the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, are juxtaposed with others that reveal the broad transformative effects of the war. There are innovative wartime patents, including a multipurpose device that could serve as a tent, knapsack, or blanket, and a message in Chinese script asking for Confederate ships to be barred from Chinese ports—proving that the Civil War became a truly international struggle.

Author biographies

Developed in collaboration between the archivists and staff of the National Archives and the Foundation for the National Archives, edited by Sharon Barry and featuring essays by Bruce I. Bustard, senior curator, Michael Hussey, with the exhibits and education staffs, Jennifer Johnson, curator, Kenneth Kato, archives specialist at the Center for Legislative Archives, Darlene McClurkin, exhibits information specialist, and William J. Sandoval, curator, all with the National Archives in Washington, DC; as well as Joel Walker, education specialist for the National Archives at Atlanta; Budge Weidman, former volunteer manager of the all-volunteer Civil War Conservation Corps (CWCC); and Tom Wheeler, managing director at Core Capital Partners in Washington, DC, and a past president of the Foundation for the National Archives.

Table of Contents

  1. Message from the Archivist David S. Ferriero
  2. Foreword by Ken Burns, Documentary Filmaker
  3. Acknowledgments
  4. Introduction
  5. Chapter 1: Breaking Apart
  6. Chapter 2 : Raising Armies
  7. Chapter 3: Finding Leaders
  8. Chapter 4: We Were There
  9. Chapter 5: A Local Fight
  10. Chapter 6: A Global War
  11. Chapter 7: Spies and Conspiracies
  12. Chapter 8 : Invention and Enterprise
  13. Chapter 9: Prisoners and Casualties
  14. Chapter 10: Emancipations
  15. Chapter 11: Endings and Beginnings
  16. Chapter 12: Remembering
  17. Contributors
  18. Index