Literature of the U.S. Civil War

2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War.  Special Collections has a variety of archival and rare book collections related to the war, including original letters and photographs, print histories, pamphlets, and other documents and print sources created during the Civil War (1861-1865).

The Rare Literature Collections contain many examples of poetry and fiction written about the Civil War while it was being fought, including the work of Louisa May Alcott and Walt Whitman, who both served as nurses in Union hospitals.  The Civil War inspired many poets, including John Greenleaf Whittier (In War Time and Other Poems, 1864) and Henry Howard Brownell (Lyrics of a Day, 1864, shown here):

The Rare American Literary Authors Collection also houses contemporary histories, plays, and children’s literature about the Civil War.  The children’s author William T. Adams (who wrote under the pseudonym “Oliver Optic”) produced an entire series called “Army and Navy Stories” in which adventurous young boys join the Union army in the fight against the Confederacy.  The following illustration depicts the adventures in one of these novels, The Soldier Boy, or Tom Somers in the Army.

These books and others can be found by searching the library catalog for individual authors or titles, or by doing a subject search for “United States–History–Civil War, 1861-1865.”

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