Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “us civil war”

Office of Medical History (Army)

Office of Medical History (Army) – http://history.amedd.army.mil

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What were some preventative measures taken by the US Army in the American Revolution?
  • When were US soldiers first vaccinated for smallpox?
  • What was considered typical care during the Civil War?
  • What were World War I base camp hospitals like?


This site is divided into a number of sections, but the most helpful will be:

Books and Documents – materials from Revolutionary times to the the Iraq War. Some representative titles are:

  • The Evolution of Preventive Medicine in the United States Army, 1607-1939
  • Medical Men in the American Revolution, 1775-1783 by Louis C. Duncun
  • Thesis: A Study of the Medical Support to the Union and Confederate Armies During the Battle of Chickamauga: Lessons and Implications for Today’s U.S. Army Medical Department Leaders by David A. Rubenstein
  • The U.S. Army Medical Department in the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906
  • Women in the Army Medical Department in World War II
  • Battle Casualties in Korea: Studies of the Surgical Research Team, Volume II, Tools for Resuscitation
  • In Their Own Words: The 498th Air Ambulance Company in Iraq, 2003

Historical Art Work – Captioned images and photographs from WWI through the Iraq War. The Office of Medical History discourages the use of this imagery for commercial or partisan publications, but does not disclose their authority for prohibiting these uses.

Medal of Honor recipients – Short citations of medical personnel awarded the Medal of Honor.

AMEDD Unit Patches and Lineage – Patches and organization histories from Army Medical units.

As you might gather from the title of this resource, it will be most helpful in determining what level of field medicine is available to your military characters in a given period of time.

Ships of the Confederate States

Ships of the Confederate States – http://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/confederate_ships.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where can I find drawings of the interior of the Confederate submarine Hunley?
  • What did an ironclad ram ship look like?
  • Where can I find ships that served on both sides of the Civil War


From the 2014 version of the website:

The Ships of the Confederate States section of the Online Library provides ready access to pictures of ships and named craft which served the Confederacy during 1861-1865.

These include ships of the Confederate States Navy, the navies of the various individual states of the Confederacy, privateers commissioned by the Confederacy or any of the Confederate States, and other vessels that served the purposes of the Confederate States.

The ships are listed in alphabetical order. Each ship page contains a brief history of the ship’s service and ultimate disposition along with captioned and sourced photographs or paintings.

UPDATE 1/19/2015 – Website was reorganized in late 2014, same information seems to be available, except for the introduction above. 

Research in Military Records: Civil War

Research in Military Records: Civil War  – http://www.archives.gov/research/military/civil-war/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How can I locate Civil War soldiers buried in Mexico?
  • How can I locate records of Union Courts-Martial?
  • How can I locate records for Confederate medical officers and other personnel?


A page linking to articles and canned catalog searches of Civil War related records at the National Archives. Mostly finding aids. Examining the records will require an in-person visit to a National Archives office. Some of the resources include:

  • Civil War Records, broad overview of the records, where to find them, and more.
  • Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers from Pennsylvania (August Sungrist through Isaac Sweeney)
  • Confederate Medical Personnel, an article in Prologue magazine

United States Marines at Harper’s Ferry and in the Civil War.

Nalty, Bernard C. 1966. The United States Marines at Harper’s Ferry and in the Civil War. Washington: Historical Branch, G-3 Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps.

(Print – http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/653645)

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How might differing military jurisdictions be portrayed in a story?
  • What orders were Marines given in the immediate aftermath of southern secession?
  • How might one make a nighttime approach by sea unworkable in a pre-GPS era?


A 36 page document describing the suppression of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry by then US Army Colonel Robert E. Lee, plus a discussion of US Marines activity during the Civil War. The Harper’s Ferry section has some interesting notes on problematic communications, transportation, and relations with State militias. The book also assumes figures behind slave rebellions to be savages, a lack of the usual efforts at objectivity normally found in official military accounts.

The book concludes with five pages of endnotes that might be of further use to researchers.

Civil War Staff Rides

Civil War Staff Rides – http://www.history.army.mil/srides.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What took place in the “bloody cornfield” near Antietam?
  • What were typical rations for Union and Confederate soldiers?
  • Where can I find a quick biography of General Nathaniel P. Banks?


From the definitions section of the introductory brochure,

A staff ride consists of systematic preliminary study of a selected campaign, an extensive visit to the actual sites associated with that campaign and an opportunity to integrate the lessons derived from each. It envisions maximum student involvement before arrival at the site to guarantee thought analysis, and discussion. A staff ride thus links a historical event, systematic preliminary study, and actual terrain to produce battle analysis in three dimensions. It consists of three distinct phases: preliminary study, field study, and integration.

The available staff ride guides are:

  • Ball’s Bluff
  • First Bull Run
  • Second Bull Run
  • Antietam
  • Fredericksburg
  • Chancellorsville
  • Gettysburg
  • Wilderness
  • Spotsylvania

Each guide is divided into chapters including: overview, suggested further readings, chronology, order of battle, casualties, organization, tactics, small arms, artillery, logistics, selected biographical sketches and suggested stops.

Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients

Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients
(http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/civwaral.html (A-L))
(http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/civwarmz.html (M-Z))

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Under what circumstances might someone show coolness under fire?
  • What are some stories of rescue from the Civil War?
  • What are some circumstances where men lost limbs in the Civil War


An annotated listing of servicemen who received the Medal of Honor for their conduct in the Civil War. Each annotation is about a paragraph and can cover several different incidents. This resource might be handy for finding famous ancestors, plotting out heroic actions or researching 19th century character names.

Civil War Maps (Center of Military History)

Civil War Maps – http://www.history.army.mil/html/bookshelves/resmat/civil_war/cw_published_material_maps.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where can I find a year by year description of territory lost by the Confederacy?
  • Where can I see the disposition of Union forces during the Peninsula Campaign of May-July 1862?
  • Where can I see the progress of General Sherman’s march to Atlanta?


Links to maps produced by the Center of Military History about the American Civil War. The available maps are:

  • The Civil War 1861-1865
  • The Civil War Areas of Operation
  • The Eastern Theater Major Battles 1861-1865
  • First Battle of Bull Run 16-21 July 1861
  • Jackson’s Valley Campaign Eastern Theater, March to June 1862
  • Battle of Shiloh, 06 April 1862
  • Peninsula Campaign, May to June 1862
  • Battle of Antietam, 17 September 1862
  • Battle of Fredericksburg, 13 December 1862
  • The Battle of Stones River, 31 December 1862
  • The Vicksburg Campaign, March to July 1863
  • Battle of Chancellorsville, 1-6 May 1863
  • Battle of Gettysburg, 1-3 July 1863
  • Battles Near Chattanooga, September to November 1863
  • Drive to Atlanta 04 May to 02 September 1864
  • Wilderness to Petersburg, May 1864 to April 1865

Civil War Bookshelf (Center of Military History)

Civil War Bookshelf (Center of Military History) – http://www.history.army.mil/html/bookshelves/resmat/civil_war/index.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How many times did President Lincoln change either his overall commander or his commander of the Army of the Potomac?
  • What were the positions of Union and Confederate troops at the Battle of Bull Run?
  • What did military ambulances look like during the Civil War?


The Civil War Bookshelf is one of the most developed online bookshelves from the Army’s Center of Military History. This may be related to the recent 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War or due to the proximity of many Civil War battlefields to the Center.

In addition to the usual tabs for “published material” and “archival material” found on other “online bookshelves”, this site features a timeline, a set of images and links to additional resources.

There are really two timelines in the “Timeline” section. The first is a detailed PDF file with many specific dates with activities. The second is a set of campaign summaries that deal with specific battles or geographies in a chronological matter. Writers will find these very helpful pegs to hang their civil era stories on.

The images come from a tab labeled “Artwork and Photos”, although they appear to be mostly paintings. Some of the paintings happened during the war and some after. They may be useful in getting the sense of a scene, though they ought to be used with caution.

The “Published Materials” section features a number of articles about each year of the Civil War as well as maps and an article about Union African-American soldiers. The “Archival Materials” section features letters from Civil War soldiers.

An Annotated Bibliography of the United States Marines in the Civil War.

An Annotated Bibliography of the United States Marines in the Civil War. D. Michael O’Quinlivan. 1963. 11 pp. 1968 rev. ed. Rowland P. Gill. 15 pp. Reprint 1983.
(Print – http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/654139454)

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where can I find material about Confederate Marines?
  • When was the USS Underwriter attacked?
  • What were the uniforms and equipment of Confederate Marines?
  • How did Union Marines capture New Orleans?


From the introduction to this 18 page document:

The list which follows consists basically of published materials, both primary and secondary, dealing specifically with the Marines of both sides in the Civil War. For contextual reference, however, a number of general works have been included as well. The annotation “notes” indicates that the publication is documented as to research sources; “bibliog.” indicates that a bibliography of research materials is appended.

This bibliography provides citations to a number of resources on the Confederate Marines, including accounts of battles where both Confederate and Union Marines took part.

Annotations run from one to three sentences. Most items should be obtainable from your local library via interlibrary loan.

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