Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Corpus of Civil War Letters: Private Voices

I do not often make two posts in one day, but I'm enjoying the last of my vacation and thought, why not?  Besides, this is something that I've wanted to share for a while now.

At the Gettysburg College Civil War Institute this past June, Dr. Stephen Berry, from the University of Georgia, spoke about a digital project (an alternative archive) that he is involved with called The Corpus of Civil War Letters: Private Voices. Rather than having me try to explain what it is all about, I'd encourage you to read their press release that announced its launch in 2017.

However, I do feel a certain responsibility to provide a warning. This site is addictive! First of all there are a number of fascinating subject studies like those under "Camp Talk." But, there are also word maps that allows one to see where certain words used by Civil War soldiers were most common. Then there are the collection of letters. These written treasures, most of which were composed by men who were not fully literate, provide an insight into the common soldier's war that are found in few other places. Granted, some are quite difficult to read due to the phonetic spelling, lack of punctuation and capitalization, but they are transcribed true to form, just as the soldiers wrote or dictated them. In my opinion, this is where they serve the Civil War enthusiast community the most. Sure it might take some time and effort to get through some of the letters, but sometimes with history, like exercise, "no pain, no gain."

Here's the video of Dr. Berry's presentation. Do yourself a couple of favors and check out the website and watch the talk. I think you'll enjoy and benefit from both.


  1. Tim, thanks for providing the information regarding The Corpus of Civil War Letters: Private Voices. I have enjoyed reading several letters and will read many more. I will have to share that information with fellow members of Civil War Talk.

    Your friend Hampton Newsome recently discussed "The Fight for the Old North State" on Civil War Talk and he included your review that you posted here on Random Thoughts. He put in a good word for you and Random Thoughts and I replied to his post and I also put in a good word for you. Mr. Newsome was kind enough to include in his post the discount code for ordering the book directly from University of Kansas Press. I took advantage of that and ordered a copy. I look forward to reading the book.

  2. Hi Paul, You're welcome. There is some great stuff on Private Voices. Enjoy exploring! Thanks for the plug on CW Talk. I appreciate you sharing the blog with others. I'm sure enjoy Hampton's book. Best, Tim