Database Tutorials: American Civil War: Letters and Diaries

Use this guide for learning basic skills in using the library's electronic resources

American Civil War: Letters and Diaries provides detailed firsthand descriptions of historical characters, glimpses of daily life in the army, as well as, anecdotes about key events and personages during the Civil War.

Searching Letters and Diaries

The American Civil War: Letters and Diaries provides sophisticated searching across large numbers of primary documents, as well as table of contents access to a wide array of primary sources. It also provides a database of battles and events.

For novices who wish to get quick access to key documents, we recommend using the Tables of Contents and the Simple Search tools.

For scholars who wish to conduct in-depth searches we recommend using the Advanced SearchMemoirs SearchDiaries Search, and Letters Search tools.

There are three basic ways to use the database.

  • Browse Tables -- Use these to see what's contained in the database. This is the best way to check whether an author, a source, a date is included. It's also the best way to examine what personal or historical events are in the database. Simply click on the appropriate browse table button on the navigation bar.
  • Find Tools -- The "FIND" tools let you search for specific authors or specific works in the database. Find Authors returns a list of all authors that match your specific criteria. Find Sources returns a list of all sources (works and manuscripts) in the database. The difference between the "FIND" tools and the "SEARCH" tools (explained next) is in the results they give. The "FIND" tools do not return documents, but rather lists of sources and authors. Note the difference between a source (a collection of documents) and the documents themselves (items within a source).
  • Search Tools -- The "SEARCH" tools let you analyze words and documents that meet your search criteria. The "SEARCH" tools return documents or bibliographic citations or both. In this database a document is defined as a month of diary entries, or a letter, or editorial matter.


The Search tools are divided into five separate categories, all of which search the texts in the database and return documents:

  • Simple Search - for novice users or those wishing to do a quick search. It provides basic searching
  • Diaries Search - a moderate number of fields, restricted to diaries
  • Memoirs Search - a moderate number of fields, restricted to memoirs
  • Letter Search - specific field searching for letters only
  • Advanced Search - all fields, except specific letter fields

Reference Librarian

Tim Hooper's picture
Tim Hooper
Katie Murrell Library