About Our Civil War Collections
The Wisconsin Historical Society began gathering documents about the Civil War as soon it started in 1861, and never stopped.
After more than 150 years of collecting, the Library and Archives own nearly 10,000 books and pamphlets related to the Civil War, 1,300 manuscript collections filling hundreds of boxes, and more than 2,000 historical photographs, broadsides, and maps. These include official government publications, privately printed memoirs, contemporary newspaper articles, regimental histories, battle maps, political propaganda, letters, diaries, archives of government agencies, modern scholarly studies, popular non-fiction about the war, and much more. More than 25,000 pages of original documents have been digitized.
Note: There are very few Civil War artifacts available at the Wisconsin Historical Museum. Through an agreement, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum collects these.
How the Civil War Collections Are Organized
For the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the Society digitized roughly 25,000 pages of original documents.
Browse or Search all digitized Civil War primary sources
Digitized items include 10,000 letters sent home from the front, dozens of handwritten soldiers' diaries, 1,000 newspaper articles, hundreds of memoirs and regimental histories, and more than 1,000 photographs. The roster of all soldiers who served from Wisconsin is included, as are the official casualties list and veterans censuses compiled after the war. Each of the 25,000 pages has been individually tagged with subjects and personal names, so it's easy to discover eyewitness accounts of any topic, event, person, or place.
See the Civil War Roster
The Library has an extensive collection of published materials on the Civil War which include general histories, regimental histories, personal narratives, soldier stories, diaries, biographies of Wisconsin Civil War leaders, battle summaries, maps, music, journal articles, newspaper articles, government documents and more. See the University of Wisconsin-Madison Library Catalog to search for topics, names, battles, regiments, and more.
Unpublished manuscripts and Wisconsin government archives are available in the Society’s Archives. See Arcat, the Society's Archives Catalog to search for names, topics, battles, etc.
Original images and maps are only available in the Archives and do not circulate. About 2,000, however, have been digitized and are available online.
Checking Out Materials
Most of the published materials in this collection can be found in the Society's Library. Check availability in the UW Library Catalog. Although unpublished materials in the Archives do not circulate, they can be viewed in Madison or sent to any of our 13 Area Research Centers around the state.
Reproductions of most images in this collection are available for purchase. For more information about licensing commercial uses or purchasing reproductions, click "Buy a Copy" beneath most documents or contact us. Photocopies of documents in the physical collections are available for a fee.
How to Cite
Bibliographic data will appear below each online document. Copy and paste the bibliographic data into your preferred citation manager.
For the purposes of a bibliography entry or footnote, follow this model:
- American Civil War Collections Citation
- Wisconsin Historical Society. Author/Creator, Title, Place of Publication, Source Publisher, Electronic Publisher, Electronic Publication Date. Viewed online at http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/ on [insert today's date here]
Rights and Permissions
Any online document may be printed or downloaded at no cost for nonprofit educational use by teachers and students, or for private use by individual researchers. Nothing may be reproduced in any format for commercial purposes without prior permission from the Wisconsin Historical Society.
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Contact our Library and Archives staff by email.