A primary source is a document or record containing firsthand information or original data on an event, object, person, or work of art. Primary sources are usually created by individuals who experienced the event and recorded or wrote about it. Because of this, primary sources usually reflect the viewpoint of the participant or observer.
Examples of primary sources include:
- Oral Histories
- Newspapers written at the time of the event
- Official recordings of a business, including financial ledgers and labor files
- Court Cases
Determining whether or not something is a primary source depends on the topic you are researching. Primary sources are almost always produced in the time period you are researching.
For example, newspaper articles can be both primary and secondary sources. A newspaper article that recounts the events of the Battle of Gettysburg would be a primary source if it was printed in July of 1863, which is when the battle occurred. A newspaper today could do a story on the Battle of Gettysburg, but because it is so far removed from the event, it wouldn't be considered a primary source.
First Hand Accounts & Memoirs
Firsthand accounts and memoirs of the Civil War are valuable primary sources. To find them at the VC/UHV Library, you have to use library terminology. In the library catalog, you will find these resources using the term personal narratives.
There are different ways to search the library catalog for personal narratives of the Civil War. We have print and electronic books available for use. The different ways along with suggested search terms are listed below.
- Civil War Personal Narratives
- Civil War 1861 Personal Narratives
Subject Browse / Subject Alphabetical
- United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal narratives
Civil War - eHistory Ohio State UniversityeHistory has timelines, articles, visual resources, letters/diaries and more on the Civil War.
Rose O'Neal Greenhow PapersThe collection is mostly correspondence with Rose Greenhow related to her activities on behalf of the Confederate States of America.
Sarah E. Thompson PapersSarah E. Thompson (1838-1909) worked alongside her husband (a recruiter for the Union Army) assembling and organizing Union sympathizers in a predominately rebel area around Greeneville, Tennessee.
Emilie Davis DiariesEmilie Davis was an African-American woman living in Philadelphia during the U.S. Civil War. Her diary recounts black Philadelphians’ celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation, nervous excitement during the battle of Gettysburg, and their collective mourning of President Lincoln.
Documenting the American SouthDocumenting the American South (DocSouth), a digital publishing initiative sponsored by the University Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, provides access to digitized primary materials that offer Southern perspectives on American history and culture. Some collections of interest include:
•First Person Narratives of the American South
•North American Slave Narratives
•The Southern Homefront, 1861-1865
The Victoria Regional History Center has manuscript collections relating to the Civil War.
Archives and Special CollectionsMakes available to students, faculty and the public archival records of enduring value that document the histories of the institutions on the Victoria College/ University of Houston-Victoria campus as well as those records that preserve the social, political, economic, and cultural history of Texas, particularly the region of Texas that includes Victoria and surrounding counties.
Captain Leander Poor PapersUnion Army quarter master (1st division, 4th Army Corpts) stated at Port Lavaca/Indianola from January 1865-1866.
Charles August Leuschner PapersServed in the Civil War under Company B, Sixth Texas Infantry
William Larrabee Callender PapersAttorney and judge in Victoria, TX. Papers include Civil War letters.
Prints & Photographs
Civil War Glass Negatives and Related PrintsAvailable online through the Library of Congress, the Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints collection "provides access to about 7,000 different views and portraits made during the American Civil War (1861-1865) and its immediate aftermath." Database searchable by keyword.
Pictures of the Civil WarPhotographs from the National Archives and Records Administration. All photographs are listed under one of four main headings: activities, places, portraits, and Lincoln's assassination. Items in the first two parts are arranged under subheadings by date, with undated items at the end of each subheading.
Civil War: Photographs, Manuscripts, and ImprintsCivil War: Photographs, Manuscripts, and Imprints provides a sample of the photographs, images, albums, and more, relating to the Civil War held by Southern Methodist University's DeGolyer Library. These items illustrate both the Confederate and Union sides of the war.
The Atlanta Campaign of 1864Photographs from the National Archives of the Atlanta Campaign of 1864.
Center for Civil War PhotographyThe Center for Civil War Photography is a virtual museum. It contains information about Civil War photography and its practitioners, as well as reproductions of many war photos.
Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of CongressThe complete Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 20,000 documents. The collection is organized into three "General Correspondence" series which include incoming and outgoing correspondence and enclosures, drafts of speeches, and notes and printed material. Most of the 20,000 items are from the 1850s through Lincoln's presidential years, 1860-65.
The Collected Works of Abraham LincolnThe Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, a multi-volume set of Lincoln's correspondence, speeches, and other writings.
Andrew Johnson Papers - Library of CongressThe papers of vice president, senator, and representative Andrew Johnson (1808-1875), who became the seventeenth president of the Unites States in 1865 after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, consist of 40,000 items (63,710 images), most of which were digitized from 55 reels of previously produced microfilm. Spanning the years 1783-1947, with the bulk dating 1865-1869, the collection contains correspondence, memoranda, diaries, messages and speeches, courts-martial and amnesty records, financial records, lists, newspaper clippings, printed matter, scrapbooks, photographs, and other papers relating chiefly to Johnson’s presidency.
Andrew Johnson Presidential ActionsThis collection links to all of the addresses, proclamations, executive messages and special messages issued by President Andrew Johnson.
Ulysses S. Grant PapersThe papers of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) contain approximately 50,000 items from 1819-1974. They include general and family correspondence, speeches, writings, reports, messages, military records, financial and legal records, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, memorabilia and other papers.
Ulysses S. Grant Presidential ActionsThis collection links to all of the addresses, proclamations, executive messages and special messages issued by President Ulysses S. Grant.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential ActionsThis collection links to all of the addresses, proclamations, executive messages and special messages issued by President Abraham Lincoln.
Civil War MapsAmong the reconnaissance, sketch, and theater-of-war maps are the detailed battle maps made by Major Jedediah Hotchkiss for Generals Lee and Jackson, General Sherman's Southern military campaigns, and maps taken from diaries, scrapbooks, and manuscripts all available for the first time in one place.
Maps - American Battlefield TrustProvides maps of important battles and events, including interactive maps.