Welcome to the Companion Website for Civil War America.
This site and its sources trace the changes set in motion by the Civil War. Through the documents and images, you can identify and analyze the war’s lasting impact on the country’s life and culture, its individuals and communities. Stepping back from the history of the war itself—its battles, generals and military strategies—the sources explore the daily life and societal transformations of Civil War America. Each section of the site corresponds to a chapter from the book Civil War America: A Social and Cultural History, and will illuminate the book chapter’s argument. These sources include brief introductions written by the book’s editors and authors, and consist of oral histories, letters, diaries, newspapers, cartoons, songs, ephemera, posters, photographs, and autobiographical accounts, among numerous other sources. They contextualize the book’s chapters and open a window directly onto American life during the Civil War. Here you can see the beliefs, attitudes and practices held by Americans in the North and South, and understand how they worked, expressed themselves artistically, organized their family lives, reshaped their communities, treated illness, worshipped, passed leisure time, were educated, and responded to death and loss. The sources explore exactly why the war felt so deeply transformative to Americans then and now—why it seems to divide the country’s history into the eras of ‘before’ and ‘after.’ They go beyond the battlefield to uncover seismic shifts in the cultural and social landscape of religious beliefs, racial attitudes, gender relations, immigrant identities, science and technology, labor and commerce, educational philosophies, creative expression and communication, all from the perspectives of Civil War-era Americans themselves. Whether on the largest scale—how the country understood time and place, life and death, God and humanity, self and community—or on the smallest scale—how it advertised goods, distributed newspapers and scored baseball games—these documents reveal that Civil War America was not only a House Divided but also a site of transformation.