Featured Primary Sources

The American Civil War

Nothing can enrich and enliven our understanding of the nation’s past, or dispel apathy about it, more powerfully than primary sources. The primary sources below open up a variety of viewpoints and have been chosen by master teachers specifically for use in the classroom. Affiliate School members can print a packet that includes an image of the document, photograph, or other resource, a transcript where applicable, text to place the document in historical context, and document-based questions. In addition, you may want to search the Gilder Lehrman Collection itself for other resources to enrich your lessons.

“The Old Bull Dog on the Right Track,” Currier and Ives, NY, 1864. (GLC08594)

A political cartoon of Grant and Lee, 1864

Creator: Currier & Ives Curriculum Subjects: Art, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Abraham Lincoln, General Orders No. 141, September 25, 1862 (GLC06099)

A proclamation on the suspension of habeas corpus, 1862

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Mary Oden to Emily J. Semmes, July 10, 1863. (GLC07225)

Civil War condolence letter for General Paul Semmes, 1863

Creator: Mary Oden Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
William H. Boyle to Isaac McCauley, July 5, 1863 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Civilian describes pillaging near Gettysburg, 1863

Creator: Dr. William H. Boyle Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
P. G. T. Beauregard, General Orders 44, May 19, 1862. (GLC00666)

Confederate reaction to “Beast” Butler’s orders, 1862

Creator: P. G. T. Beauregard Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Paul Jones Semmes to Emily J. Semmes, July 9, 1863 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Death of a soldier, 1863: Paul Semmes

Creator: Paul Jones Semmes Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Ulysses S. Grant to Stephen A. Hurlbut, May 31, 1863 (GLC07055)

Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on the Siege of Vicksburg, 1863

Creator: Ulysses S. Grant Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
William T. Sherman to James H. Wilson, January 21, 1865. (GLC02947)

General Sherman on the “March to the Sea,” 1865

Creator: William T. Sherman Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Abraham Lincoln, Delay of execution for Nathaniel Gordon, Feb. 4, 1862. (GLC)

Lincoln on the execution of a slave trader, 1862

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:

Patriotic Postal Covers: “Lincoln & Davis in 5 Rounds,” 1861

Creator: J. H. Tingley Curriculum Subjects: Art Grade Levels:
Hanford L. Gordon, “Only a Private Killed,” November 12, 1861. (GLC06559.038)

Poem on a Civil War death: “Only a Private Killed,” 1861

Creator: Hanford L. Gordon Curriculum Subjects: Literature Grade Levels:
The Inaugural address of President Abraham Lincoln delivered at the National Cap

President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, 1865

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Draft of Robert E. Lee's address to his troops, ca. May 14, 1864. (GLC04429)

Robert E. Lee’s message to his troops before the Battle of Spotsylvania, 1864

Creator: Robert E. Lee Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
“Thanksgiving-Day,” by Thomas Nast, Harper’s Weekly, December 5, 1863. (Gilder L

Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1863

Creator: Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Nast Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
David M. Stauffer, Two volumes of original artwork by an ensign on the USS Al

The Civil War and early submarine warfare, 1863

Creator: David M. Stauffer and Lewis H. West Curriculum Subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Grade Levels:
Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863 (Gilder Lehrman Collectio

The Gettysburg Address, 1863

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics, Religion and Philosophy Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
The Kelly family, ca. 1861. (GLC04197.40)

The price of war: A letter from Mary Kelly to Sarah Gordon

Creator: Mary Kelly Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Robert E. Lee to Ulysses S. Grant, April 9, 1865. (GLC07967)

The surrender of Robert E. Lee, 1865

Creator: Robert E. Lee Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Pvt. Elbert Corbin to his wife, July 6, 1863. (GLC)

Union soldier turns medic at Gettysburg, 1863

Creator: Elbert Corbin Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:

Primary Sources from Other Sub-Eras

Letter from John S. Mosby to Sam Chapman, June 4, 1907. (GLC03921.21p1)

A former Confederate officer on slavery and the Civil War, 1907

Creator: John S. Mosby Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Charge of the Massachusetts 54th, Currier & Ives, 1863. (GLC)

African American soldiers at the Battle of Fort Wagner, 1863

Creator: Currier & Ives Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Charles Sumner, [One man power versus Congress], c. October 2, 1866 (Gilder Lehr

Charles Sumner on Reconstruction and the South, 1866

Creator: Charles Sumner Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Mary Todd Lincoln to James Orne, February 4, 1870. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Mary Todd Lincoln on life after the White House, 1870

Creator: Mary Todd Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Economics Grade Levels:
Samuel Russell to his mother and sisters, June 10, 1862 (Gilder Lehrman Collecti

On the emigrant trail, 1862

Creator: Samuel Russell Curriculum Subjects: Geography Grade Levels:
Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861.

President Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, 1861

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Issac & Rosa, Slave children from New Orleans, 1863 (GLC05111.02.1051)

Slave Children of New Orleans, 1863

Creator: Charles Paxson Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Emancipation Proclamation [California printing, Cheesman copy], January 1, 1863

The Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
William C. Bryant to Hamilton A. Hill, February 11, 1876. (GLC02595)

William Cullen Bryant opposes the protective tariff, 1876

Creator: William Cullen Bryant Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
 Braxton Bragg to Henry J. Hunt, April 21, 1861. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

“Almost brothers” divided by the Civil War, 1861

Creator: Braxton Bragg and Henry Hunt Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
“Men of Color, to Arms! to Arms!” broadside, ca. 1863 (Private Collection)

“Men of Color, To Arms! To Arms,” 1863

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: