Discovering Your Civil War Past: V

Welcome back to our much-delayed next installment of this interactive blog series on researching your Civil War ancestor or individual soldiers of interest. Today we will be exploring how to glean further information about these individuals by exploring the battles and battlefields in which they participated.

There truly is no more powerful a connection to these men than to walk the same hallowed ground on which they fought, and for some, met their fate on, more than 150 years ago. With the knowledge gained from your previous research, by now you have a list of battles in which they fought, as well as their unit identity. Armed with this knowledge, and through years of preservation efforts by many individuals and organizations, you can walk the same paths these units and men took into combat. When visiting these places, do not forget to take with you any letters, diaries, regimental histories, or writings about that specific battle. It is with these in hand and while walking the fields that you will be able to line up specific geographic or geologic features described in the writings. Having a camera on hand will also make these moments last forever.

In addition to visiting the actual battlefields, many of the visitor centers at these battlefields, especially if they are a National Park, have significant research repositories on the units and individuals that fought at those locations. For example, the Park Library at Gettysburg National Military Park contains files on each individual unit engaged in the battle, many with accounts never before published. They also have research files related to veteran reunions on the battlefield, monument dedications, wounded and killed from the battle, battlefield burials, and the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. If heading to one of these battlefields and their repositories, plan on making a research appointment before you leave.

Dan Welch

1 Response to Discovering Your Civil War Past: V

  1. Museums, visitor centers, libraries, and battlefields…you just can’t beat the “boots on the ground experience” during research.

    I love to take an excerpt from a letter or diary to read out-loud while at the location; that makes an unforgettable experience.

    As for carrying battle maps, reference books, and battle tomes…anyone want to volunteer to haul my library around a battlefield for me? Just kidding… Only the very special books get to go. 😉

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