Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ancestors in the Civil War? Don't Forget to Research the Alexander Street Press Collections

If you have ancestors who were in the Civil War, you might want to include in your research the American Civil War collection at Alexander Street Press.   Some of Alexander Street Press's collection is searchable online, but not all of it.  However, the LDS Family History Centers offer free access to three critical databases via their FHC Portal (below).
What's on the Alexander Street Press site pertaining to the American Civil War?

1.  Civil War Research Database.  It is the definitive online resource for researching the soldiers, regiments and battles of the American Civil War.  The database is indexed, and searches over 4 million soldiers, thousands of battles, together with 15,000 photographs.  It also includes the military records for every soldier in the collection as well as Official Records, pension index records, 1860 census records, Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) records, Roll of Honor records, Medal of Honor records, and regimental histories.  Information has been compiled from personal items, graveyards and newspaper reports.

2.  Civil War Images, Photographs, Posters and Ephemera.  Alexander Street Press has partnered with the American Antiquarian Society, the Virginia Historical Society, the Library Company of Philadelphia and the New York Historical Society, and at completion the collection will present 50,000 images.  These images document the camp and battle experiences of Union and Confederate soldiers of all ranks, time spent in hospitals and prisons, civilian life, etc.  What is "ephemera?"  Collectible items that are not otherwise classified, but most interesting, like the card below (which is quite funny for its time).

3.  Civil War Letters and Diaries.  This section contains 2,009 authors and approximately 100,000 pages of diaries, letters and memoirs.  It includes 4,000 pages of previously unpublished manuscripts.  The collection also includes biographies, an extensive bibliography of the sources in the database, and material licensed from The Civil War Day-by-Day, by E.B. Long.

How did the Alexander Street Press help me?

I did a search of a couple of my ancestors whom I knew had been in the Civil War (one for the North, and one for the South).  I could not find any information on my Yankee ancestor, but I did find some information on my Confederate ancestor, Gad Morris.  It had his enlistment information (Private in C Company, 40th Infanty for Georgia), including his capture and POW status following the battle of Vicksburg, MS, on July 4, 1863.  He was released 2 days later, and somehow ended up a POW again about a year later.  On July 27, 1864, he signed an Oath of Allegiance at Louisville, KY, and was to remain north of the Ohio River.

I knew most of that information, but what is great about this site is I was able to find a historic photo of Vicksburg and the steamboats used to transport men and supplies (see below).  I also found the entire account/report of the "siege" of Vicksburg that occurred from May 18 to July 4, 1863, where Gad Morris was captured.  It was sobering to read that some 31,600 were captured as prisoners of war, and that the North lost 763 soldiers, and the South lost 1,260.  There were almost 7,000 injured in total for both the North and South, and about 162 were listed as missing from the North.  The fall of Vicksburg opened the Mississippi to the Federal armies coming just at the same time as General Lee's defeat at Gettysburg -- both marking the turning point in the fortunes of the Confederacy.
I would suggest you include the Alexander Street Press when researching your American Civil War ancestors -- you'll never know what you'll find!



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