Question of the Week: 1/21-1/27/18

What is your favorite primary source from the Civil War? How has it helped your studies or why is it special to you?

8 Responses to Question of the Week: 1/21-1/27/18

  1. “more than Conqueror”, the letters and journals of Col. J. Howard Kitching, Sixth New York Heavy Artillery, Army of the Potomac. My great grandfather marched with the sixth from Cold Spring, NY to Cold Harbor, VA subsequently crossing the James River to Bermuda Hundred.
    To follow that journey with primary source material is an honor.

  2. This was not originally one of my primary sources, but, very recently, I have come upon a series of hand written letters from Matthew Calbraith Butler, a Confederate from South Carolina, who entered the hostilities as a Captain of a Calvary unit and after suffering a gruesome wound at Brandy Station which resulted in him losing a foot, rejoined the Calvary and reached the rank of Major General a war’s end.
    What I find so compelling about this source is that, looking at the dates that the letters were written, for example, December 23, 1862, gives me the feeling that I am peering over Calbraith’s shoulder as he writes his wife of the accounts of his day. Just that the fact that they are handwritten (and sometimes very hard to read) and not typed, makes the authenticity of the source very real and very intimate.
    I think things like this add to the understanding of the men who fought and gave their all for a cause.


  3. Once in a while something shows up in my research that just makes my heart flip flop. It varies as to what it is–pressed flowers from Ellsworth’s New York funeral, a coffee ring on the corner of some Wide-Awake correspndence, doodles on the side of a letter or in a diary–just something that brings home the undeniable fact that the person I am interested in was human, a real person with loves and laughter, pain and yearning, hopes, dreams, a mom and dad–absolutely no different that I am, except they lived in another time. I love those best.

  4. Probably my ancestor Isaac’s diaries which he kept for the three years he served in the Army of the Potomac. Because he made entries for most dates, they are a great insight into the many aspects of soldiering in that army which don’t necessarily make their way into books. There are the big events – battles/campaigns – but also the weather, foraging, building winter quarters, getting mail from home, etc.

  5. It changes with each project. While I was working on General Lee’s Immortals, it was Branch’s letters home to his wife (although he had horrible penmanship), the letters of Col. William A Speer (28th NC), and the Bennett Smith letters (37th NC). Now that I am neck deep into my next project, they are the letters of a member of the 35th Georgia (Red Dirt and Ininglass) and the letters of BG James Conner. There are just some incredible details in those.

  6. Harper’s Weekly front pages. I downloaded enlarged copies of the front pages from the internet site sonofthesouth and posted each week’s edition’s front page on the store front window of my law office on the sesquicentennial anniversary week from 2011 to 2015. Got a lot of favorable comments.

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