By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Just in time for the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, historians and the merely curious anywhere in the world can browse letters, diaries and other documents from those who saw the war up close.
The University of Mississippi’s Special Collections Digital Initiative, under the auspices of the J.D. Williams Library, is making available its Civil War Archive. The searchable archive consists of 762 items from the library’s Archives and Special Collections. Visitors will view the documents just as they appear in their original physical forms.
“While the majority of items concern the Confederacy, the papers of Thomas Reber consist of U.S. Army documents,” said Jason Kovari, special collections digital initiatives librarian and assistant professor. “They are primarily ration returns and requisitions from the 88th O.V.I. at Camp Chase, Ohio and the 196th at Fort Federal Hill, Md.”
Another standout collection is the Gage Family Papers. Jeremiah Gage was a member of the University Greys, a unit composed of University of Mississippi students, which met its defeat at Gettysburg. Micah Ginn’s short film, “July,” was based on Gage’s letters, including one he dictated as he lay dying.
“Then there’s the Kinloch Falconer Collection, which features wartime correspondence, field dispatches, orders and circulars between various Confederate generals of the Army of Tennessee,” Kovari said. The Falconer pieces primarily concern the Battle of Resaca, fought May 13-15, 1864.
Some archive pieces describe life from the perspectives of soldier, officer and even prisoner of war. Included are descriptions of such battles as Shiloh, Chickamauga, the burning of Atlanta, Manassas, Fredericksburg and Gettysburg, among others.
Other letters and diaries reflect on the fears and deprivations of war as experienced on the home front. One set of correspondence was of Roxana Chapin, a Massachusetts native from an abolitionist family, who was married to a Clay County plantation owner.
The ability to access the archive via the Web gives patrons an opportunity to research and learn firsthand from the university’s rich documental database of the Civil War, said Jennifer Ford, director of Archives and Special Collections.
“The archive will continue to expand as staff time allows,” Ford said.
To view the Civil War Archive, visit http://clio.lib.olemiss.edu/ archives/. For more information, call 662-915-7639.
University of Mississippi News Service writer Edwin Smith contributed to this article. Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.