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150 Years Ago This Month: Select Letters and Diary entries from the holdings of
Special Collections, University of Virginia Library

This blog provided monthly document examples, April 1861 (2010) to December 1865 (2015), from the approximately 3,000 Civil War manuscript collections in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia.

For obvious reasons, most of our Civil War holdings pertain to the Confederate States of America, especially Virginia, but other well-represented Confederate states include Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee. These consist primarily of soldiers’ letters and diaries describing camp life and battles and campaigns, but we also hold many civilian letters from the home fronts of both North and South. We are pleased to have shared these with this blog’s readers.

(However, readers should note that it is our policy not to accept external requests as to the selection and posting of documents for this blog; all selections were at the sole discretion of the blog editor.)

The American Civil War lasted 1,459 days, or, by another calculation, approximately 48 months, from the April 12, 1861 firing on Fort Sumter, South Carolina, to the April 9, 1865, surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia in Appomattox, Virginia. During the war the United States consisted of thirty-six states: twenty-five Union states and eleven Confederate. Four million men (2,750,000 Union; 1,250,000 Confederates) fought in nearly 11,000 military actions on land (mostly in Virginia and Tennessee) and sea.

It required a year later and two proclamations of the assassinated Abraham Lincoln’s successor to formally declare the end of the Civil War. On April 2, 1866, 17th U. S. president Andrew Johnson proclaimed “the insurrection which heretofore existed in the States of Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Florida is at an end, and is henceforth to be so regarded.” Texas was included four months later in Johnson’s August 20, 1866 proclamation which also declared “that the said insurrection is at an end, and that peace, order, tranquility, and civil authority now exist in and throughout the whole of the United States of America.” (U. S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of The Union and Confederate Armies, Series I-IV, 128 vols. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), series III, volume 5, pp. 1009, 1011-12.)

Professor Ervin L. Jordan, Jr., Research Archivist, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia, and, affiliated faculty, John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History, University of Virginia College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.

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