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Civil War

Archives Search Strategies

The Archives Computer Catalog ArCat provides the most comprehensive method for accessing information about Archival holdings. 

Consult ArCat to identify collections relevant to your research. If you are not familiar with this catalog, take a moment to review  instructions included on the ArCat home page.

Archives Search Strategies - People

Researchers interested in finding information about individuals who participated in the Civil War will want to consult both manuscript collections and government records.

Manuscript collections consist of letters, diaries and other papers that document the experiences of individual soldier and civilian participants in the war effort. To determine if the Archives holds letters or other personal papers of a participant you want to research, do an ArCat "guided search" and enter the name (last name first). If you are not familiar with this catalog, take a moment to review instructions included on the ArCat home page.

To find out if a person you are studying served in a Wisconsin Civil War unit or in what regiment that person served, consult the Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, the most comprehensive index to Civil War soldiers.

If you do not find manuscripts from your individual soldier, consider looking for manuscripts of another individual in the same regiment and/or company as your soldier (see Military Units). The experiences related in that person's manuscripts may be similar to the experiences of the subject of your research.

Within the records of the Adjutant General, service record information on all Wisconsin soldiers is found in two sets of records titled: Regimental Muster and Descriptive Rolls. The Archives will also provide copies of service records.

Records of Civil War Regiments, another series of Adjutant General's records, generally provides more detailed information on individual soldiers than is found in the muster and descriptive rolls. It is also the best archival source for tracing regiment movements and history. A brief description of these records can be obtained by entering the series designation Records of Civil War Regiments as an ArCat "guided search." For instructions on combining research terms in a "guided search," take a moment to review instructions available on the ArCat home page.

The Wisconsin Local History and Biography Articles, an online resource, may also provide information about individuals who fought in the Civil War.

Archives Search Strategies - Military Units

Researchers interested in finding information about Civil War military units will want to consult both manuscript collections and government records.

To identify manuscript collections on a particular regiment do an ArCat "guided search" entering the regiment's name and number in the following format: Wisconsin infantry regiment 23rd or Wisconsin cavalry regiment 2nd . If you are not familiar with this catalog, take a moment to review instructions included on the ArCat home page.

In contrast to manuscript collections, government records on the Civil War should generally be approached by jurisdiction or line of authority. Thus, if you are researching the appointment of officers to state regiments you should look at Civil War related records of the governor's office because the governor was responsible for most appointments. This, like many searches, is best accomplished by combining search terms. In this case, combining the terms Civil War and governor is an efficient way to select relevant collections. Similarly, if you are researching uniforms and equipment, combine the terms search Civil War and Quartermaster . For instructions on combining research terms take a moment to review instructions included on the ArCat home page. For instructions on combining research terms in a "guided search," take a moment to review instructions available on the ArCat home page.

Records on the general administration, actions, and activities of the regiments and individual soldiers fall within the jurisdiction of the Adjutant General and can be identified by linking the search terms Civil War and Adjutant General? in a "guided" ArCat search (the ? is a truncation symbol meaning the search will return both Adjutant General and Adjutant General's).

Archives Search Strategies - Battles and Events

Researchers interested in finding information about Civil War battles and events will want to consult both manuscript collections and government records. 

To study individual battles or actions, first enter as a "guided search" in ArCat the name of a battle or geographic location (for example Gettysburg) . If you are not familiar with this catalog, take a moment to review instructions included on the ArCat home page. For instructions on combining research terms in a "guided search," take a moment to review instructions available on the ArCat home page.

Searching by battle name or geographic location is not comprehensive. Such a search generally will identify many (not all) relevant manuscript collections, but few government records. In addition to searching ArCat by battle or place, you should identify regiments that participated in a specific military action or served in a given location. 

Use Unit Histories or other reference works, to determine which Wisconsin regiments participated in the events you are studying; and then search ArCat for manuscript collections and government records related to those regiments.

How to Access Archives Resources

Visit Reference Services to learn about various ways to access Archives collections and services.


 

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