Start your archival research on the Civil War with this guide.
This guide, based on an earlier exhibition, features diaries, letters, and firsthand accounts from four years of the Civil War that offer intimate glimpses into the lives of men and women affected by the strife. The words were written in parlors, hospitals, and schoolrooms; around campfires and on tossing ships; to and from mothers, brothers, and sweethearts, teachers, soldiers, and sailors. You can read more about the exhibition on this webpage. The archival collections page of this guide includes additional Schlesinger collections concerning the Civil War that were not included in the exhibition.
The items exhibited reflect the Schlesinger Library's holdings, most of which focus on the Northern, white, middle-class families whose stories are told by what they wrote and what they saved.
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The Beechers were one of the most influential families of their time. Its members had written and preached about the immorality of slavery for decades and had taken action in various ways, including the purchase and freeing of slaves. When the war began, they supported it. Like other abolitionist families, they sent family members into the war as soldiers, officers, chaplains and teachers: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s son, several nephews, two half-brothers, a brother-in-law and a sister-in-law served in some capacity. Some Beechers survived the war intact, several were injured and at least two suffered lasting psychological damage.