In the introduction to their classic Civil War Books, A Critical Bibliography ( 1969), editors Allan Nevins, James I. Robertson Jr., and Bell I. Wiley discuss their criteria for selection of the materials covered. Regarding unpublished manuscripts they note that these "were excluded because . . . in many instances the manuscripts are so widely scattered that compilers would have been unreasonably burdened if they attempted to include them and . . . for the most part, users of manuscripts are professional historians who already know where and how to gain access to these sources" (p. vii). Not only were manuscripts excluded, but most published guides to manuscript collections were as well.
One can sympathize with the desire not to burden compilers. However, while it is true that in most cases the users of these documents are professional historians, it is doubtful that even they always have a clear idea about where the manuscripts they seek are located and how to access them.
In 1967, when Civil War Books was published, the primary method of communication between scholars about the location of primary sources was word of mouth. Thankfully this is no longer true. In the years since its publication, a number of useful tools have emerged to aid the researcher in search of unpublished manuscript collections relating to the Civil War.
Manuscript collections are the raw material on which scholarly research is built. To state that the Civil War was well documented is, of course, an understatement. In fact, perhaps no other single event in our history was so well documented; it is the subject of over 50,000 published works. This is not surprising. Individuals involved in the conflict sensed that what they were involved in was monumental. Many, like President Rutherford B. Hayes, would