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:

  • Letters
  • Diaries
  • Memoirs
  • Speeches
  • Photographs
  • Oral Histories
  • Pamphlets
  • Newspapers written at the time of the event
  • Manuscripts
  • Official recordings of a business, including financial ledgers and labor files
  • Maps
  • Court Cases
  • Artifacts

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.

General Keyword

  • Civil War Personal Narratives
  • Civil War 1861 Personal Narratives

Subject Browse / Subject Alphabetical

  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal narratives

Manuscript Collections

The Victoria Regional History Center has manuscript collections relating to the Civil War.

Prints & Photographs

Presidential Papers