Primary Sources: An Introduction

Primary Source – a document, book etc that contains information that has been obtained from people’s experiences and not taken from other documents, books etc (Longman Dictionary, online)

We’re very pleased to start our first official blog series for 2019, and we’ll be taking you on a journey through archives and materials that stack on researchers’ desks. As our writers share about their favorite primary sources from the Civil War era, they’ll be sharing about the documents and their personal favorite that they’ve read or used for reference. Watch for new posts every day for the next couple of weeks!

You’ll find that all the primary sources featured in this series are readily accessible through libraries, online archives, or purchase…so this might be a chance to add to your reading list or add to the conversation about your favorite points from these spotlighted sources.

Journals, letters, newspapers, memoirs, remembrances, eyewitness essays, battle reports, magazines. All those documents written by the folks who really lived the Civil War constitute primary sources. We’re looking forward to sharing some of our favorites and how the original accounts must be the bedrock of historical research – though sometimes considered with caution and understanding.

To get the series started, here’s a quote from a primary source, reflecting that words – spoken or written – may be quickly forgotten, but deeds are remembered. And as we look back on the “honored dead” we can find their words: scribbled in journals, penned in last minute letters, or written long after the fight to justify or condemn. Their words help us understand their deeds.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln, excerpt from the Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863.

2 Responses to Primary Sources: An Introduction

  1. Sounds like a great series! Our folks at FoWB are always interested in learning from primary sources!

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