Blog Archives

Library of Congress Posts Civil War Portrait Collection to Flickr

The Library of Congress announced last week that it has made a huge collection of Civil War portraits available on its Flickr site. The portraits — almost 700 of them — are available at

This collection is all from one place — the Liljenquist family — and includes the frames of the pictures as well as the ambrotype and tintype photographs themselves. Many of the pictures are soldiers (including some portraits of African-American soldiers) but there are some civilian pictures here as well. There are also many group pictures, both of civilians and soldiers.

Some of the pictures are fairly dark and hard to see — or maybe it’s my monitor. If you want more detailed images than are available at Flickr, you can go back to and download archival-quality TIFFs, though they are a slow download. I downloaded one of 84MB and one of 116MB.

A remarkable collection, but also depressing in a way… the soldiers all look so young

Maine Gets Civil War Stories Collection

The Maine Archives announced last week the launch of Maine’s Civil War Stories. This site will contain narratives and stories about the Civil War with a slant to Maine citizens and locations. This site is by no means finished — it’s expected that by the time the project is finished it’ll contain over 400 stories — but there are over 150 stories available. Start your browsing at

This isn’t complicated. It’s a list of stories. It features date, person, subject, and town. Subjects include “Review of Personal Liberty Laws,” “Butler Declares Martial Law in Baltimore,” “Samuel Grant Forbids His Son From Leaving for War,” and “Medical Exams with Dr. Rust.” The dates are hyperlinked (with an * to denote included pictures or documents from the Maine Archives, and † denoting stories that have materials from other sources.) Click a date and you’ll get a story. (“Silas Sprague did not want to be anyone’s fool. A farmer in Troy, Sprague enlisted in May of 1861 in neighboring Unity in a Company that became part of the 8th Maine Infantry Regiment….”)

The Sprague story contains about 300 words concerning his suspicions about officer pay, but also an image of the letter he wrote to Governor Washburn and a transcript of the same letter. Other stories contain portraits and written reports.

Each story concludes with one or more questions suitable for including the story in a Civil War teaching unit. (“When would Sprague expect to be paid for his work as a farmer?”) Some of the stories are a bit short, but the ones with the primary documents included are excellent. And the Web site is only half-finished. Well worth a browse, especially if you’re looking for teaching material.

NOAA Creates Collection of Civil War Nautical Charts

The NOAA announced last week the release of “Charting a More Perfect Union,” a collection of over 400 documents including Civil War-era maps and nautical charts, and annual summaries of the US Coast Survey. It’s available at

You can browse this collection a variety of ways, including keyword, state or region, and year. I did a search for charts in Alabama and got 7 results. The results don’t provide a lot of detail (title, year, links to download in SID or JPG format.) There’s a preview link that brings up the chart in a Flash viewer that’s very nice.

I called up a map of Mobile from 1863 and was able to quickly zoom down so far that I could read the gun count on the noted coastal battery and see where the obstructions and shallow water canal were placed.

In addition to the images, you can also review the Notes on the Coast of the United States. This is a series of eight documents written in 1861, fascinating handwritten items analyzing various state coastlines. (North Carolina, for example, takes up one entire document; 69 pages of analysis and charts.)

There’s also the coastal survey documents for 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, and 1865, available as individual PDF documents.

Nice collection here.

Ancestry Adds West Point Applications, Free Access Until Sunday announced yesterday that it had added more than 115,000 US Military Academy Cadet Application Papers (1805-1866) from West Point to its Web site. These applications will be added to its pay service, these papers and the rest of the US Military collection will be free through Sunday. You can access the collections at

The collections here that are free until Sunday include World War I and II draft registration cards, U.S. Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, and U.S. Civil War Soldiers Records and Profiles, but we’re looking at the West Point applications, which are available at

You can search by first and last name as well as date and keyword. Results include registries of applicants, applicant letters, letters of recommendation, and notifications of acceptance as well as letters of acceptance. After some searching around I looked around the papers for Lewis J Ford. I got a few details about the record but had to go to the image to get an idea of what the record really was. (Registration is required to view records, but it’s free.)

The image showed me what appears to be a recommendation letter; I couldn’t find a transcript and it was kind of hard to read. Other records I looked at included a name index, a registry, and a couple other letters that are almost impossible to read. (Maybe I’m missing the transcripts.)

When it comes to the military records collection I find the draft registration cards a much more usable resource, but I can’t imagine you’d find the application papers/information in the West Point collection available in many other places … and it is available for free until Sunday. Check it out.

Mathew Brady Civil War Photos Get Organized on Flickr

The National Archives has had Mathew Brady photos on Flickr for quite some time, though only about half the photos have been uploaded. But I was thrilled to read yesterday that NARA has a) organized the photos into over 40 topical sets and b) geotagged most of the images. Yow! I don’t know the count of images in this collection but I would guess thousands…

The Brady photos are available here on Flickr; this page also shows the sets. Unfortunately Brady’s name is put first in the set, so it’s hard to read the sets for descriptions here. Still, on this page you can see sets for Zouaves, Union generals, railroads, prisoners of war, and camp scenes, and several place names (among other things.)

(There is also a clearly-marked set of images of causalities. This set does have images, sometimes graphic, of wounded and dead people. Please be aware.)

I took a look at the Civil War Entrenchments and Defenses set, which has at this writing 111 photographs. A set of thumbnails was on the front page, with some details available on mouseover. All the images I looked at more closely had geotags and some additional information, though most of them did not have comments.

These new sets make it a lot easier to browse these remarkable photographs. One tip: when looking at individual photos be sure to look at available sizes. All the images I looked at had maximum sizes that were very large — 3000 x 2405, for example — and at that size the level of detail is fascinating and at the same time absolutely chilling.

New Jersey Offers Civil War Vouchers Database

Woo! Hat tip to the recent post at the CNY blog about a new database from the New Jersey State Archives indexing Civil War vouchers, 1861-1865. You can access the free database at

This collection includes soldiers’ discharge certificates for final pay (over 9000 items), affidavits for pay due to deceased soldiers (over 1400 items) and returns listing the names of soldiers’ families and dependent mothers who received subsistence pay. There are almost 114,000 index entries, but search as closely as you can, because you can’t get more than 500 results at a time.

How to search? You can search by first and last name, regiment, county (you can also note “Out of State”), and years. You can use stemming with % followed by the string you want to find. (The site notes that personal name spelling is “inconsistent,” which is the polite word for it.) I did a search for Stackhouse and got 21 results. Results include name, rank/regiment/company, description (“Payment to Francis Stackhouse / Pay due at discharge. Discharged 8/1/65 at Washington by specail order No. 60.. Total Payment: $7.13″), location (sometimes this is noted as “Unrecorded”), date, and citation.

Once you find something interesting, you can select that record and up to four others to be automatically added to an order form. Ordering copies of the vouchers from New Jersey will run you $5 a record, with a maximum 5 records per order. I couldn’t see a note on the order form that noted how long it would take to turn around a records request.

New Digital Archive for Atlanta Newspapers

You know, I don’t think I’ll ever read an announcement about a new digital newspaper archive and think, “Meh, there are enough digital newspaper archives already.” I JUST CAN’T SEE IT HAPPENING. So it’s great to read about the Atlanta Historic Newspapers Archive, available at Though limited to one city, this site still manages to have more than 67,000 newspaper pages from 14 newspapers published in Atlanta between 1847 and 1922.

The front page has both two browse options (view by title/year or year/title) and a search box with a few extra pulldown options. I searched for the word Savannah in the year 1871, paused for a few minutes to find and install a DjVu plugin (you can’t view the papers without it) and looked at what I found. I got over 870 results. Search results provide the name of the paper and the date, as well as the number of matches.

Choose a result and DjVu will kick in, showing you the page. From here you can zoom (though if you zoom too much everything’s unreadable) copy certain aspects of the page, move the page around, etc. For the most part I found everything readable though occasionally a paper was stained around its edges and occasionally impossible to read.

This is a good-sized archive, considering its scope, and I like the search options. Add it to your history research file.


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