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The American Civil War is unquestionably the most written about event in American History.  The Civil War was the first time in American history that governmental records and letters, diaries, and memoirs were produced in mass.  This mass production of original source material has resulted in significant scholarship and a wide range of professional researchers and hobbyists producing published histories which explore the events, factors, and lives the civil war impacted.

For the Genealogist, the American Civil War presents a goldmine of historical information and facts that can be used to research ancestors and expand upon their experiences.  History and Genealogy has long collected Civil War Research materials in support of genealogists and the Civil War has been a regular subject in our PastPorts Newsletter

History & Genealogy staff have made a concerted effort to expand Civil War collections to better aide researchers. Early collecting focused on large reference sets such as the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Today, we have a sizeable collection of published regimental histories, letters, diaries, memoirs, accounts, action and campaign histories, battle maps, and regional histories related to the Civil War era obtained from source publishers from all over the United States. 

Bibliography of sources for Union Volunteer Units including histories, letters, diaries, memoirs, and biographies held and maintained by the library.

Resources for Union Regiments are divided into three categories:

The History & Genealogy Department has made the acquisition of published diaries, letters, and memoirs a collection development focus. Those resources related to American Military Conflicts are of particular interest - and the American Civil War is among the most well-documented such events in American History. This map connects the letters, diaries, and memoirs of Civil War Soldiers and Civilians to their place(s) of residence(s) prior to and during the war. All attempts were made to track migration patterns and connect individuals with published sources to all the communities in which they resided.

Visit Detailed Map

Google Maps indicating locations connected to Civil War letters, diaries, and memoirs

What was a Slave Compensation Claim?

During the Civil War, two acts of Congress – one passed in 1864 (13 Stat. 11) and one in 1866 (14 Stat. 321) – allowed loyal slave owners whose slaves enlisted or were drafted into the U.S. military to file a claim against the Federal government for loss of the slave's services. The law allowed for up to $300 compensation for slaves who enlisted, and up $100 for slaves who were drafted. Although a third act of Congress passed in 1867 (15 Stat. 29) suspended the claims process, paperwork created by this claims process has survived.


Guide to Civil War Slave Compensation Claims     Indexes to Civil War Slave Compensation Claims

The filmed Southern Claims Commission files for the approved claims for Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, and West Virginia, and for the barred and disallowed claims for the twelve states from which claims originated, are part of the Julius K. Hunter & Friends African American Research Collection in the History and Genealogy Department. 


Between 3 March 1871 and 3 March 1873, Southerners filed 22,298 claims before the Southern Claims Commission (SCC) based on the fact they:

  • were loyal to the Union during the Civil War  
  • had quartermaster stores or supplies taken by or furnished to the Union Army during the rebellion (Later, materials supplied to or taken by the U.S. Navy were also included.)