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The Civil War

Antebellum Period to Reconstruction

Valuable coverage from newspapers, government documents and broadsides
Learn what makes this product unique
  • More than 150 newspapers, including major titles from every region of the U.S.
  • Approximately 50,000 government documents and 4,000 rare broadsides and pieces of ephemera
  • Extensive local and national coverage of American culture, politics and society during this tumultuous period

For researching and teaching the most important event in 19th-century American history, Readex offers The Civil War: Antebellum Period to Reconstruction. This unique resource features more than 150 newspapers from all regions of the United States—plus approximately 50,000 government documents and 4,000 rare broadsides and pieces of ephemera. Together, this diverse collection of primary materials provides unprecedented local and national coverage of American culture, politics and society from 1840 through 1877—a tumultuous time that redefined a nation.

From newspapers to government publications to broadsides and ephemera
The newspapers in The Civil War include the Baltimore Sun, Charleston Mercury, Dallas Weekly Herald, Milwaukee Sentinel, National Intelligencer, New Orleans Picayune, New York Herald, New York Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Bulletin and more than 140 others. Featuring many titles of unique historical significance, this extensive selection of newspapers provides not only detailed news stories and illustrations, varied editorial views and illuminating advertisements, but also eyewitness military reporting by the nation’s best journalists.

Essential resources published by the U.S. government include “The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” “Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America” and many others.

Rich with illustrations, the broadsides and ephemera include song sheets, poems, envelopes and other hard-to-find printed materials that shed new light on the Civil War era. These infrequently used documents—often no more than a single page—illuminate the daily struggles of not only the soldiers, but also the families they left behind.

Wide-ranging primary sources in one online resource
The Civil War: Antebellum Period to Reconstruction contains primary source materials selected from the acclaimed Archive of Americana. Researchers will be able to search subsets of America’s Historical Newspapers, American Broadsides and Ephemera and the U.S. Congressional Serial Set. The text of newspapers, broadsides and government documents—digitized from the holdings of the American Antiquarian Society, Dartmouth College Library, the Library of Congress and other renowned institutions—may also be cross-searched in one easy step.

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“…singularly impressive…”
“...fascinating....the single most useful resource available on this subject.”
Library Journal (April 15, 2013)
Areas of Study
This product supports the following subjects
American Studies
US History
War & Conflict
Title List
Reviews & Accolades

"Outstanding Academic Title, 2009"
 — Choice  (January 2010)

"Reduced to its bare essentials, The Civil War: Antebellum Period to Reconstruction—with 150 newspapers from across the country, roughly 50,000 documents culled from the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, and 4,000 rare broadsides and ephemeral items—is a singularly impressive primary-source collection....there is a lot more here than the numbers alone convey.
"The broad geographic sweep of these newspaper titles puts the regional perspectives and regional biases necessary to comprehend the meaning of this period of American history at the researcher's disposal....
"The huge U.S. Congressional Serial Set is one of the underappreciated gems among all the publications of the federal government....
"Lavishly illustrated selections from American Broadsides & Ephemera give the researcher a means of exploring popular culture and personal sentiments of the time via songs, nursery rhymes, juvenile literature, letters, poems, concert programs, envelopes, and other unique materials of this time period.
"The main search page for this database is understated and cleanly organized for effective searching....
"Verdict: This massive and fascinating collection will readily meet the needs of student researchers as well as those of scholars working on highly sophisticated projects.  Given the range of years covered and the wealth and variety of primary-source materials it includes, The Civil War: Antebellum Period to Reconstruction is likely the single most useful resource available on this subject."
— Gail Golderman and Bruce Connolly, Union College, in Library Journal (April 15, 2013)

The Civil War is a comprehensive database of Americana covering the antebellum period through the Civil War and Reconstruction. It provides exhaustive information and allows users to fully research this important era of American history. It is divided into three main parts: Historical Newspapers, local and national, including, e.g., speeches, editorials, maps, and cartoons; Congressional Documents from the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1980, including maps, slavery statistics, Ku Klux Klan activities and official records; and Broadsides and Ephemera, from the American Antiquarian Society collection, including ‘song sheets, poems, and other rare materials.’ On the right is a special Civil War Exhibits section with a link to Crossroads, a community for students, teachers and scholars.

 “Various options for navigating the database include a search box on the main page and selected links to articles and documents. Extensive help sections are available for each section. Users may conduct a cross-collection search and identify Alternative Battle Names. Where applicable, users may search by truncation, Boolean logic and various fields; also included are stop words and an automatic plural feature. When searching American Civil War Newspapers, 1840-1877, users may open an expandable search form, search individual newspapers and use a variety of limiting techniques, including tabs labeled Dates and Eras, Article Types, Languages, Places of Publication and Newspaper Titles. In the Congressional Civil War Documents section, one may access almost 60,000 documents via basic and advanced, publication and bill number searches. Users may limit to Tables, Maps and Illustrations, and browse by tabs labeled Antebellum, War Years and Reconstruction. One may view results through a combination of Subjects, Geographic Names and Personal Names. Subjects range from Abolitionists to Wilmot Proviso. Within Civil War Broadsides and Ephemera, one may conduct basic and advanced searches, and also browse approximately 4,500 items by Genre, Subjects, Author, History of Printing, Place of Publication and Language.

 “The database allows users to print, download (pages or an entire issue as PDFs), e-mail results, flag articles, save searches, bookmark articles via open-URLs and export citations. Sample searches were easy, but at times the database loaded slowly, requiring some patience. However, the results are worth the wait. The many available options mean that novice searchers may require some practice. Information about updates and future plans is not available within the database. The Civil War offers excellent coverage of the social, political, and cultural aspects of this momentous time period. Summing up: highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers; general readers.”
— J. Foreman, Arkansas State University, in Choice (May 2009)

 “A valuable product that not only aids research; it stimulates topics for further consideration. This product should be in every library whose patrons have an interest in the Civil War.”
— Norman Desmarais, Acquisitions Librarian, Providence College, and author of Battlegrounds of Freedom: A Historical Guide to the Battlefields of the War of American Independence and Editor of The Brigade Dispatch: The Journal of the Brigade of the American Revolution, in Reference Reviews, Volume 23, Number 7, 2009

The Civil War: Antebellum Period to Reconstruction was extraordinarily useful for our research on the Underground Railroad in Ohio. In particular, it allowed us to track the Addison White story as it was reported throughout the country, and it gave students access to competing interpretations of events in Ohio in 1857. One student wrote a seminar paper focused on how the Addison White case was reported around the country, while another wrote a short play about the court proceedings, using direct quotes from the newspapers for dialogue!

 “Additionally, the database allowed us to put the Addison White case in national perspective, coinciding as it did with the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Dred Scott case. Indeed, we found that readers throughout the nation received detailed accounts in their newspapers of events in and around what we had assumed to be the sleepy little hamlet of Mechanicsburg, Ohio. In sum, the ability swiftly to locate these stories (i.e., without traveling to far-flung archives), thus broadening our understanding of the importance of the Addison White case, proved invaluable.”
— J. Michael Rhyne, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of History, College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, Urbana University

“Our students were fascinated by the reports of the Addison White runaway slave case and the federal law suit that followed. By using the newspapers in The Civil War: Antebellum Period to Reconstruction, our students were able to track national reporting of the case—from New York to Charleston. They took these articles and created a Readers Theatre presentation that enabled them to read the newspaper reports in a dramatic fashion that brought the story to life.”
— Julie McDaniel, Librarian, Swedenborg Memorial Library, Urbana University

Notable Titles
Chronological Segments
Series List
Case Study

“Extraordinarily useful....the ability swiftly to locate these  stories...proved invaluable.”
— J. Michael Rhyne, Associate Professor, College of Arts and Sciences, Urbana University


Students at Urbana University

History students at Urbana University, a small university in west central Ohio specializing in liberal arts education, were given the task of gathering information about the Underground Railroad in Ohio. The students focused on the story of Addison White and the event that took place in the tiny neighboring town of Mechanicsburg—an event that would lead to a federal court case to determine the constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Act.

According to Julie Ann McDaniel, a librarian at Urbana University’s Swedenborg Memorial Library, many local students knew vaguely of the story of White, a runaway slave from Kentucky, but did not know enough specifics to craft an account of what happened nearby in 1857.

Using The Civil War: Antebellum Period to Reconstruction, an online resource, the students were able to trace reports of and reaction to the story and court case from newspapers throughout the United States. What started as a local event—the townspeople of Mechanicsburg arriving with pitchforks and carpet beaters to chase the slave catchers away that were sent to bring White back to his master—soon became a nationwide story.

“Our students were able to see how details were distorted, overlooked and misreported,” said McDaniel. “They were able to see how differing opinions tinged the reporting about the case.”

As a result of the research the history students did using the database, theatre students and faculty were able to create a Readers Theatre piece titled “Law and Disorder” that was shared with more than 150 people from the campus and community. Students read text from newspapers to recreate the events, and involved the audience by asking them to vote which newspaper reports represented their views.

Urbana history professor J. Michael Rhyne, Ph.D, said the database allowed his students to put the Addison White case in national perspective, coinciding as it did with the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Dred Scott case. “We found that readers throughout the nation received detailed accounts in their newspapers of events in and around what we had assumed to be the sleepy little hamlet of Mechanicsburg, Ohio,” he said.

Ultimately, the information provided by The Civil War: Antebellum Period to Reconstruction enabled students to conduct primary source research without extensive travel or time delays waiting for microfilm reels to arrive through interlibrary loan. “It allowed our students to see a historical event reveal itself as they moved from one report to the next,” noted McDaniel. “And by using the Readers Theatre format to share the story of Addison White, they demonstrated their learning and understanding of the complex case in a unique way.”

Photo of Urbana University

About the Institution
Urbana University was founded in 1850. With an enrollment of nearly 1,500 students, it is small enough to foster close connections between faculty and students, but large enough to provide cutting-edge programs that will help students build the skills necessary to succeed in the career path of their choice.

About the Product
The Civil War: Antebellum Period to Reconstruction—a winner of Choice’s 2010 Outstanding Academic Title award—contains primary source materials selected from the acclaimed Archive of Americana. Researchers are able to search relevant subsets of America’s Historical Newspapers, American Broadsides and Ephemera and the U.S. Congressional Serial Set.


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