U.S. Civil War Research

Use this guide to find primary and secondary sources for the study of the U.S. Civil War, 1861-1865.

Are Books Primary or Secondary Sources?

Books can contain primary and/or secondary sources of information.

Secondary sources are usually written by individuals who did not experience firsthand the events about which they are writing. Secondary sources comment, summarize, interpret or analyze information found in primary sources. 

Example: Book about the underground railroad written by a scholar

Primary sources are records that provide first-hand testimony or evidence of an event, action, topic, or time period. Primary sources are usually created by individuals that directly experience an event or topic, and record their experience through photographs, videos, memoirs, correspondence, oral histories, or autobiographies.

Example: A slave diary

Quite often, the best place to start looking for primary sources is in the footnotes, endnotes, or bibliography of a good secondary source!

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