Guide to Civil War Web Sites Keeps the Focus on Quality

Article excerpt

Wether it's the gory details of Gettysburg and Antietam, the heroism of African-American soldiers, or the poignancy of letters and sepia-tinged photos, the Civil War has captured the American imagination as few events in history have.

Accounts such as Ken Burns's PBS series, James McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom," and Michael Shaara's historical novel "The Killer Angels" have fueled the flames of interest. Civil War reenactions are popping up everywhere, and visits to battlegrounds are on the rise. Not surprisingly, the Web has also become fertile ground for discussions, archives, and trivia. Enter "Civil War" in a search engine and you may get 600,000 sites, many with little of substance to offer.

A new book by William G. Thomas and Alice E. Carter, "The Civil War on the Web" (Scholarly Resources Inc.), weeds through the jumble and reviews the 95 sites it says are most valuable. Those that made the final cut - ranging from academic research projects to personal sites posted by Civil War buffs - are divided into eight subcategories: battles and campaigns, leaders, life of the soldier, the Navy, US "colored" troops, slavery and emancipation, women, and regimental histories.

"The interesting thing is to see a democratic medium [like the Web] working on a subject area like the Civil War, where passions are still heated," says Mr. Thomas, who is director of the Virginia Center for Digital History at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

"The Web is full of stories and information that people have a hard time accessing and sorting through," says Thomas. …