Judith Lee Hallock
Perhaps the most exciting accounts of events during the Civil War are found in primary source materials. The people who lived during this stirring time were remarkably prone to write about their adventures and hardships. Many kept meticulous diaries and journals; loved ones wrote letters back and forth; and after the war was over, many people relived what was often the most exciting time of their lives by writing memoirs. Over the years, thousands of these items have been published, making them accessible to the general public.
The primary focus of this chapter is the more recently published or reprinted works that are readily accessible. For fuller listings of published primary sources there are several bibliographies available: Garold L. Cole Civil War Eyewitnesses: An Annotated Bibliography of Books and Articles, 1955-1986 ( 1988), C. E. Dornbusch Regimental Publications and Personal Narratives of the Civil War: A Checklist ( 1961- 1972), and Civil War Books: A Critical Bibliography ( 1967- 1969), edited by Allan Nevins, James I. Robertson Jr., and Bell I. Wiley. To locate the many thousands of unpublished works, the Guide to Archives and Manuscripts in the United States, edited by Philip M. Hamer, and the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections are useful.
Memoirs and reminiscences were the first primary sources to appear in any number, with a few being published during the war. These must be used with caution. Many of the writers served in the lower ranks of the military, thereby limiting their perspectives. Often the writer had a particular point to make, a criticism to refute, or a reputation to rehabilitate. Actions later regretted tended to be ignored or distorted to fit the image the author wished to present to the