The Source

By Michael K. Shaffer

Welcome to my page on the Civil War News website! Here, we will share links included in "The Source,” my monthly column in the newspaper. Many of the past articles, as well as pieces planned, have links to various online sources. Hopefully, consolidating this information here will facilitate your research endeavors.

A little about your writer.

I am a Civil War historian, author, newspaper columnist, instructor, and battlefield guide, who remains a member of the Society of Civil War Historians, Historians of the Civil War Western Theater, and Georgia Association of Historians. I serve as a Civil War consultant for the River Line Historic Area and the Friends of Camp McDonald. I earned BA and MA degrees, with honors, in Military History - Civil War Studies. Frequently speaking with various groups, and teaching Civil War courses at Kennesaw State University's College of Continuing and Professional Education keeps me busy.

Visitors can click on my logo, shown below, to visit my website. There, one can track my upcoming lectures and courses, request me to speak with your group, or follow me on other social media platforms. Follow me on Facebook or Twitter via the badges shown below. As always, please send suggestions for future "The Source” articles to


Michael K. Shaffer

The Civil War News Website Reference:

WorldCat: for help in finding the Rebellion Record in a local library.
Internet Archive:
Hathi Trust Digital Library:
Google Books:

Researching Civil War Ancestors

Readers of this publication have an interest in the American Civil War, and like many folks, perhaps the initial thirst to learn more about the conflict stemmed from family stories of an ancestor who wore the blue or the gray. In this article, we explore some of the research tools, which can help one learn more about a family member’s wartime service. The various methods examined work whether looking for a Federal or a Confederate ancestor and equally apply regardless of the branch of service and if the soldier carried rank or served on the frontlines. In keeping with the upcoming anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, this writer selected Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing, who during the July 1863 battle, served with Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery, II Corps, in the Army of the Potomac. Cushing lost his life on day three at Gettysburg while working one of his guns near the copse of trees—the focal point of the Pickett/Pettigrew/Trimble Charge.
Tracing the military service of one’s ancestor can result in an exciting venture. The more information one possesses upfront, the better one’s chances of yielding accurate results. While we could explore Cushing’s early-life in Wisconsin, via Census records and other data found at (a subscription site), we will focus exclusively on his wartime service. A subsidiary of Ancestry, Fold3, also a subscription site, generally serves as an excellent place to begin. Although Fold3 offers many Civil War databases, the "Service Records’ section marks a good jumping-off point. Running a search on Cushing produced many results. The sample shown represents but one—a letter Cushing wrote in 1862, requesting to remain with the 4th U.S. Artillery. Another subscription site,, contains millions of records on Federal and Confederate soldiers, as well as descriptions of regimental assignments and location history. A query on Cushing provided the information shown. The National Park Service offers, via their Soldiers and Sailors Database, at www., a free-service containing over six million records. All of the websites as mentioned earlier provide a search function, and with Fold3, the ability to download files, or bookmark them to your research folder on the site.
Regimental histories serve as a good source for learning more about the various actions of any particular unit, as do biographies or autobiographies. For example, Kent Masterson Brown authored a work on Cushing, Cushing of Gettysburg: The Story of a Union Artillery Commander, and many books exist on the artillery at Gettysburg, with several containing excellent maps of where the various batteries unlimbered on the battlefield. Of course, any of the myriad books written on the battle over the years will also prove helpful.
Studying campaigns, battles, or researching one’s ancestor benefits with the use of maps. Many sources exist, offering wartime maps, or modern maps created to reflect troop positions and movements. One excellent source, the Library of Congress (a free site), which provides a ‘Civil War Maps’ section. Users can find this collection at The map shown indicates troop positions on day three at Gettysburg. The Civil War Trust,, also provides many detailed maps. At both sites, researchers can download their findings. The Civil War Trust also offers several mobile apps for use on smartphones. These apps serve as electronic tour guides; open them when on the battlefield and learn more about the fighting, location of various units, and even locate markers identifying the troops who fought over 150 years ago. Currently, apps exist for Gettysburg, Antietam, Shiloh, and many others, with additional apps in the works. Users can download, for free, for iPhones or Android devices.
Period newspapers offer insight into wartime actions (although sometimes not reported with a high-degree of accuracy) and several institutions have digitized various newspapers and placed them online. A free source, the Library of Congress,, offers one example. Several subscription sites provide databases of papers from the war. GenealogyBank, at, and at, contain thousands of period newspapers. A search for Cushing at Gettysburg yielded, among others, the headline shown from a Boston newspaper.
Using Cushing - a more well-known officer, especially after he received the Medal of Honor in 2014 -yields several websites containing information on his military history. Individuals researching their ancestors will most likely not find the same type results, especially for soldiers in the ranks. A couple of the more notable sites containing pages on Cushing, include the United States Army at, and the National Park Service,
Often, some of the most informative information on Civil War soldiers exists at the various grave locator websites. Genealogists and others maintain these sites and include pictures of the final resting place, along with known information on the individual. The more popular sites: and Many other sources exist, which can help in tracing your Civil War ancestors, and will aid in finding books in a library near your location. The various links listed below will assist in researching your Civil War ancestors, whether they fought at Gettysburg, or engaged in a minor skirmish in some backwater region. Good luck and have fun!

General Sources (free unless otherwise noted) (subscription) (subscription) (subscription)
National Park Service Soldiers & Sailors Database: www.,
The Official Records:
Atlas to the Official Records:
Library of Congress Civil War Maps:
ProQuest (various Civil War databases) : (access through universities and libraries)
EBSCOhost (various Civil War databases): (access through universities and libraries)
Report on the Conduct of the War:
Civil War Battle Summaries from NPS:
Confederate map collection:*:*&f.oldScope=(descriptions%20or%20online)&f.materialsType=mapsandcharts&f.level=item&f.locationIds=29&f.recordGroupNoCollectionId=109&SearchType=advanced
National Archives Civil War Records:
Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War:
Confederate Military History: and at
Papers of the Military Historical Society of Massachusetts (select papers): and at
MOLLUS Papers:
Civil War Trust (maps, battle histories, biographies, and much more):
Finding books in a local library:

Soldier Letters & Diaries (all free)
Documenting the American South (diaries, letters, many other sources):
Civil War Voices, Soldier Studies:
Voices from the Past:
Letters and Diaries of the 26th Wisconsin Infantry:
Letters from the Past:
Letters from the American Civil War:
Civil War Letters of the Christie Family:
Letters from an Iowa Soldier in the Civil War:
Love Letters of the Civil War:
Virginia Tech Civil War Center:!/sites
Virginia Tech Library:
University of Washington Collection:
The Incomplete Correspondence of Lieut. Josiah Blair Patterson 14th Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry:
The Southern Homefront:
Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library:
Georgia Historical Society:;smode=advanced;f1-subject=Letters%20(correspondence)
Digital Library of Georgia:
Internet Archives:[]=mediatype%3A%22texts%22
Civil War Homepage:
Civil War Archive:
Gilder Lehrman Institute:
Auburn University:

Burial Sites (free for basic access)
Find a Grave:

Newspapers/Magazines (free unless otherwise noted)
Library of Congress:
GenealogyBank (subscription): (subscription):
National Tribune:
National Tribune Scrapbook:
National Tribune Repository:
Civil War Times and America’s Civil War magazines (subscription but searchable):
Confederate Veteran Magazine:
University of Pennsylvania, Confederate Veteran:
Library of Virginia, Index to Confederate Veteran:
The Countryman:
Virginia Tech, American Civil War Newspapers:
Accessible Archives (through a university or library):
Richmond Daily Dispatch:
Frank Leslie’s Illustrated:
Harper’s Weekly:
Harper’s Weekly:
Southern Historical Society Papers:
Civil War News (subscription):
The Artilleryman Magazine (subscription):
Military Images Magazine (subscription):
Civil War Navy The Magazine (subscription):
Civil War Monitor magazine (subscription):
Civil War History Journal (subscription):
The Journal of the Civil War Era (subscription):
Gettysburg Magazine:,675907.aspx

Photography (free)
Library of Congress:
Library of Congress Liljenquist Family Collection:
The Center for Civil War Photography:
Civil War Trust:
Civil War Trust 3D:
National Archives:
Civil War Photos:
American Civil War Photos:
U.S. Army War College:

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