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Civil War, 1861-1865: Introduction


The American Civil War from 1861 through 1865 is sometimes described as the crucible from which the nation was forged. The cost to the States, north and south, in blood and treasure, is almost inconceivable. This one war accounted for nearly half of all casualties the United States has suffered since its formation.

The Battle of Opequon of Winchester, 1864

From the beginning of the war with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, SC, April 12, 1861, to the last battle at Palmito Ranch, Texas, May 13, 1865, the number of lives lost in battle, in prison camps, from disease and exposure, and through causes directly related to the war reached staggering proportions. (See the National Park Service Website for an informative presentation of facts about the war.)

This Library Guide will provide a staring point and information to aid in your research about the Civil War.   Please spend a few moments clicking on the tabs above to familiarize yourself with the layout and content of the guide.  Suggestions for additional websites, corrections, and comments are appreciated. Please find the email address for this purpose under the Guide Info tab above.


Books, DVDs, etc

Library of Congress Classification System - Civil War

The library organizes its materials using the Library of Congress Classification System.  For a full understanding of the War, it will be advantageous to also explore the period immediately preceding the onset of military action.  Note that in this classification system the letter "E" represents all United States History.

Class Range Subject
E 415-416 Middle Nineteenth Century
E 416-420 President James Polk
E 421-423 President Zachary Taylor
E 426-430  President Millard Filmore  
E 431-435 President Franklin Pierce
E 436-440.5 President James Buchanan
E 4566-459 President Abraham Lincoln's Administrations, 1861-April 15, 1865
E 456-665 Civil War Period
E 470-478 Military History, Civil War
482-489 Confederate States
E 591 - 600  Naval History,  Civil War
The Slavery Question arises in several administrations:
E 423 Taylor's administration 1849-July 9, 1850
E 433 Pierce's administration, 1853-1857
E 438 Buchanan's administration, 1857-1861
E 441-453 Slavery in the U.S.   Antislavery movements




E-Book Databases

Artifacts, Images, etc.


Article Databases

Primary Sources

Primary Source Databases


Streaming Video

Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life

Presented By Richard Carwardine, Oxford University and made available trough the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

YouTube Videos

American Experience: Robert E. Lee

(Click "Watch on" for link to the complete film on PBS)

YouTube Videos: Documentaries

The Divided Union: The Story of the American Civil War 1861-65, Part 4: Total War 

(Part of a five-part 1987 Arts & Entertainment TV Series)

Scenes from American History (Part 5): A House Divided

[United States Information Service (USIS), 1960]

Battle of Gettysburg

(History Channel, 2011)

Antietam: A Documentary Film

(Historical Films Group, 2000. Narrated by James Earl Jones. Filmed at Antietam National Battlefield and produced in cooperation with The Civil War Trust.)

Civil War Journal: The Battle of Fredericksburg

(History Channel, 1993)

YouTube Videos

Causes of the Civil War: Part 1

Causes of the Civil War: Part 2

Selected Websites

Selected Websites - Primary Sources

Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress

A Collaboration of the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, and Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. 

The American Civil War: A Collection of Free Online Primary Sources

by Susan Birkenseer

[Published in the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) College & Research Libraries News, vol. 76, no 5 (May 2015), pgs 269-273]Hundreds of websites offer insight into the American Civil War. This guide is not comprehensive, but it highlights a diverse collection of free websites of primary sources for the study of the war. These websites include digitized newspaper archives for both the Union and Confederate sides of the struggle, collections of letters and diaries, digitized photographs, maps, and official records and dispatches from the battlefields.

The Center for Civil War Photography (Note: as of Feb. 2017, this website is under construction)

A not-for-profit organization dedicated to discovery and preservation of Civil War photography

The Civil War

From the National Park Service, the site is beautifully presented and comprehensive in its content. 

The Civil War, 1861-1865 - Primary Sources

Part of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History website

Civil War in the American South

The site, maintained on the Galileo server, provides access to more than 10,000 digitized items contributed by more than thirty libraries that are members of the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL). 

Civil War Maps

Digitized maps from the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, the Virginia Historical Society, and the Library of Virginia are searchable on this site.

Civil War Primary Documents, Personal Diaries, Journals, Letters, etc.

Part of Mrs. Ozborn's  Kingdom of History. Thanks Mrs. Oz. 

Civil War Primary Sources

From Civil War Trust

Official records, addresses and speeches, maps, correspondence, document collections, and more.

EyeWitness to History: The American Civil War

First-hand accounts gathered and presented by IBIS Communications, Inc., a digital publisher of educational programming.

Fold 3: The Civil War Collection

Soldier records, photographs, slave records. . .854 million records in all including original records form the U.S. National Archives.

Library of Congress: The Civil War, Primary Source Sets 

Includes the following sets: Abraham Lincoln Takes a National Role; Civil War Music; Civil War Soldiers' Portraits: The Liljenquist Family Collection; The Civil War: The Nation Moves Towards War, 1850-1861; and Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln: Three Great Presidents.


Teaching Resources:


Civil War 150: Educator's Guide


A multi-page document, in PDF format,  packed with school-related activities for elementary and high school.

Educator Resources: Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877) 

From the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

Guide Info

Guide Information and Terms of Use

This Library Research Guide was developed by Bruce Whitham.  It is posted on the Rowan University Libraries' Research Guides site for the purpose of offering an introduction and a selection of resources accessible through the library and on the Internet.  Rowan University Libraries' Research Guides are hosted on the Springshare LibGuides Portal, to which Rowan University Libraries subscribes.  

Rowan University makes no claim to freely available websites nor does it accept responsibility for the information or opinions expressed by those who have created or authored the content or by those who are quoted on the sites. Some resources to which this guide links are subscription based and may require a current user-name and password.  This page and all links from this page are provided expressly for educational purposes.