One of my very favorite primary sources is The National Tribune. The Trib began as a monthly newspaper intended for Union veterans of the Civil War, and was published monthly until 1881. Beginning in 1881, it was published weekly, and continued to be published under that name until 1917, when it finally ceased publication. By then, of course, many of the veterans had passed away. The Trib also published 24 books during the course of its run, many of which are now difficult to find. The Trib was chock-full of first-hand accounts of veterans, ranging from prominent officers to common privates. Most of them are not available anywhere else, and many are entertaining. One must take some of them with a grain of salt, but they are always useful and often fascinating.
I first learned of the existence of the Trib in the mid-1990’s when I got serious about writing Civil War history. In those days, there was no index available, and you either had to have specific citations, or you had to know Dr. Richard Sauers, who was working on indexing it. Fortunately, Rick Sauers is an old friend, and he was always willing to share the information at his disposal. Savas-Beatie has since published Rick’s index in a three-volume set. Needless to say, I was one of the first to order them, and I use them extensively today.
The other problem was accessibility. There are very few complete runs of the Trib to be found anywhere, and almost all copies of it are on microfilm today. Using the Trib either meant a trip to the U.S. Army Military History Institute at the Carlisle Barracks to use the microfilm, or inter-library loan. Either way, it was never easy to get access and it never happened quickly. Fortunately, the entire run of the Trib held by the Library of Congress (which is not a complete run; there are some missing issues) is available on-line in digitized format for free. They can be found here:https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/. The images are available both as PDF and text files, although the OCR on the text files is not great, and it can sometimes be really difficult to work with the text files as a result. The same digital images are also available at www.newspapers.com.
Anyone who reads my work regularly knows that I rely heavily upon the Trib. Like any source based on recollections recorded years after the fact, there are detail issues, and there are accuracy and corroboration issues, but the Trib is perhaps my favorite primary source for human interest stories.