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Civil War

Timothy O’Sullivan (1821-1882). Harvest of Death, Gettysburg. July, 1863. Albumen print photograph.

Students of American history and culture will find documentation of the Civil War, particularly as it was experienced in Upstate New York, in abundance. Evidence of how the Civil war affected the daily life of families in the region can be found in numerous collections of family papers, all acquired as Cornell’s regional history collection was built. Letters home from soldiers, diaries of those waiting at home, evidence of the impact of war on the economic and social lives of ordinary people, are all found in family papers and add immeasurably to an appreciation of the impact of the War on American life. Military history, in the form of muster rolls and regimental histories, including volunteers, offers researchers insight into the official history of the Civil War. Most spectacular among this documentary evidence is Cornell’s copy of the Gettysburg address, handwritten by Abraham Lincoln in 1864. Cornell’s copy is one of five in existence. Evidence of public opinion and popular culture can be found in our spectacular collection of Civil War covers. These 2000 plus covers portray the players and events of the Civil War from a Northern perspective. Cornell’s seven-millionth volume is Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War, widely considered the most important piece of photographic literature produced during the Civil War era.

Cornell’s strong collection of antebellum writers and activists assists researchers in understanding the context of the Civil War. Cornell’s holdings include the papers of Lydia Maria Child, and a growing collection of antislavery materials of which the May Anti-Slavery collection is the most significant.

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