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Michigan State University

MC 202: The American Civil War (Petrie)

Spring 2024

What are primary sources?

Primary sources are materials which provide first-hand evidence of an event, a social movement, or daily life in a particular time and place. Common examples of primary sources are letters, diaries, photographs, and oral history interviews. Depending on your research context, primary sources might also include newspaper articles, data, laws, treaties, or other legal documents.

Browse Primary Sources related to the American Civil War

Newspapers, Pamphlets, Magazines


Prints, Songs, Letters & Diaries

American Memory Project Collections

American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. It is a digital record of American history and creativity. These materials, from the collections of the Library of Congress and other institutions, chronicle historical events, people, places, and ideas that continue to shape America, serving the public as a resource for education and lifelong learning. Below are collections that deal with Civil War era topics.

Primary Sources on the Internet

Quality primary sources exist on the internet.  Look for materials and collections digitized and shared by:

Find a Specific Primary Source

If you have a citation for a specific primary source, try a library Publication Search. Though you may ultimately be directed to historical database to retrieve the source, this is often the fastest way to confirm the Libraries have access to the publication it appeared in.