T. Michael Parrish
At first glance, the universe of Civil War bibliographies of printed works and guides to manuscripts and other sources seems rich and rational, but in many ways it remains incomplete and disjointed. For the general reader and beginning student, several outstanding reference works are available, yet for the serious scholar requiring complete coverage on any given topic, research often proves daunting, tedious, and frustrating. Until the United States Civil War Center at Louisiana State University accomplishes its goal of establishing a comprehensive interdisciplinary bibliographical database describing all printed items, manuscripts, and other relevant sources on the Civil War, the task of locating every relevant item will remain an inexact science. Fortunately for most researchers, as Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr. has observed, "Discovering that nugget of golden information in some obscure source gives meaning to the phrase the thrill of the hunt."
A first step for asserting order to the confusion can be accomplished by consulting the best general guide to reference books on all aspects of American history, Francis Paul Prucha Handbook for Research in American History ( Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987; rev. ed. 1994). In addition, recently published reference works on American history are evaluated annually in the March issue of Journal of American History under the heading "Research and Reference Tools: Reviews." Equally valuable is Carol Bondus Fitzgerald American History: A Bibliographical Review (Westport, CT: Meckler Publishing Co., 1985- 1990), an annual publication offering detailed reviews. A comprehensive source for identifying the many reference books published in the United States in all fields of research each year is Bohdan S. Wynar, American Reference Books Annual