Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Civil War Sesquicentennial


Today marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, when Confederate forces began bombardment of Fort Sumter, South Carolina. What ensued was a five year long war that forever changed American history, and shaped every facet of life as we know it today, from music, to baseball, to medicine, civil rights, women's rights, international relations and military strategy.

The Louisiana Research Collection (LaRC) contains many major Civil War archival and print holdings. Some of our American Civil War archival holdings include the papers of Jefferson Davis, the Gettysburg letters of Robert E. Lee, the papers of Albert Sidney Johnston, a strong set of Stonewall Jackson's papers, and numerous collections of papers, photographs, memoirs and diaries from individual soldiers. Recently, LaRC has made a special effort to acquire materials documenting the experience of Union soldiers serving in the Gulf region. These letters and diaries provide eyewitness accounts of what life in Louisiana was like during the war, the soldiers' own feelings regarding slavery and war, and descriptions of numerous battles and skirmishes.

Some of our recent Civil War archival acquisitions include the following collections (click on the link for the finding aid):

Manuscripts Collection 993

This collection consists primarily of Antebellum and Civil War letters collected by donor Al Lippman. The letters were primarily written by Union soldiers in the south to their families in the north. The letters describe news of skirmishes and fighting, daily camp life, illness and disease, slavery and opinions and observations about their experiences. Many of the letters were written by soldiers stationed in Louisiana. The collection also contains 41 Civil War postal covers.

The postal covers in this collection have been digitized, and can be viewed here.


Manuscripts Collection M-1164

Civil War diary of Henry C. Caldwell, Company E, 7th Infantry, Louisiana. Entries concern details of weather, skirmishes and camp life.

Manuscripts Collection M-1156

The diary of Simon M. Bott, private in the 120 infantry regiment of Ohio (E Company). Bott was a Union soldier whose regiment was in Louisiana from 1863-1865. Bott mustered out of the army while in New Orleans on June 5, 1865.

Interesting entries include: a brief mention of an injured friend in a lone entry on April 4th 1864, dated accounts of marching travel between Alexandria and Morganza (May 12th to the 21st), the mentioned burial of C. Bandanston on Aug 11th 1864, and Bott’s meticulously dated and timed journeys from Morganza to New Orleans then from New Orleans to his home in Wayne County Ohio (throughout that September).

Lansing Porter family papers
Manuscripts Collection 1065

Lansing Porter, a captain in the 75th New York Infantry, frequently corresponded with his wife and children during the war. The 75th New York had assignments at Fort Pickens and Pensacola early in the war, and was later involved in the Battle of Port Hudson. This collection contains over 100 letters written from the family members to one another. We very recently acquired this collection, and it is still being processed.

These represent just a few of our Civil War collections. My colleague Susanna Powers recently blogged about some additional collections featuring Civil War letters in last week's blog post.

The newest title concerning New Orleans' role during the Civil War is Justin Nystrom's New Orleans after the Civil War: race, politics and a new birth of freedom. LaRC recently acquired a copy of this book, which is available to researchers in our reading room.

Posted by Eira Tansey.

(Image of Fort Sumter Artillery Stereograph, Louisiana Historical Association Collection, Manuscripts Collection 55, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University Libraries. Image may not be reproduced without permission.)

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