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These are freely available online primary source collections related to the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. This list is NOT comprehensive.
American History: From Revolution to Reconstruction and Beyond
Limited selection of documents—along with other useful materials—from before 1500 to the present.
Celebrating African American History and Culture (Smithsonian Institution)
This collection contains material from almost every branch of the Smithsonian Libraries, including the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It includes public domain books on slavery, abolition, and the Underground Railroad.
Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
1836-1922. Provides access to information about historic newspapers and select digitized newspaper pages, and is produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). Search features include limiting to state, newspaper, dates, and keywords.
Starting in 1830 and continuing until well after the Civil War, free, freed and self-emancipated Blacks came together in state and national political conventions to strategize about how to achieve educational, labor, and legal justice. Includes digital exhibits and access to records, minutes, and reports of the Colored Conventions.
Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) - American Civil War
The DPLA pulls together digitized primary source materials from repositories across the United States. While the DPLA's holdings are very broad, this grouping of materials relates specifically to the Civil War.
Documenting the American South
This collection from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill includes first-person narratives, letters, diaries, and other documents related to Southern U.S. history.
Huntington Free Library Native American Collection
This collection, also found at the Cornell University Library, consists of more than 40,000 volumes on the archaeology, ethnology, and history of the native peoples of the Americas from the colonial period to the present.
Kentucky Digital Library
This site features a number of collections related to Kentucky history, mostly from libraries around the state.
Library of Congress Digital Collections
The Library of Congress collections include the Abraham Lincoln papers, African American pamphlets, Civil War maps and photographs, and other relevant collections.
Louisville and its Defenses (1864)
The University of Louisville Libraries' digital “Kentucky Maps” collection includes a map created by the Union Army to show the “forts” — revetments — built around the periphery of urbanized Louisville as well as other Union Army facilities.
New York Public Library Digital Collection
The NYPL just placed over 670,000 digitized items from its massive collection on-line. I have not used this site in my own research, but in my limited searching of it I have found an extensive array of southern history resources.
Samuel J. May Antislavery Collection
The Samuel May Anti-Slavery Collection at the Cornell University Library gathers together over six thousand important pamphlets relating to the antislavery struggle at the local, regional, and national levels. Sermons, position papers, off-prints, local antislavery society newsletters are included.
Valley of the Shadow
The Valley of the Shadow is a digital archive of primary sources that document the lives of people in Augusta County, Virginia, and Franklin County, Pennsylvania, during the era of the American Civil War. This site contains thousands of letters and diaries, census and government records, newspapers and speeches, all documenting daily life in these two counties at the time of the Civil War.
Visualizing Emancipation is a map of slavery’s end during the American Civil War. It finds patterns in the collapse of southern slavery, mapping the interactions between federal policies, armies in the field, and the actions of enslaved men and women on countless farms and city blocks.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
This is a fully searchable version of the printed military records of both the Union and Confederate armies. This is an essential source for anyone studying almost any aspect of the Civil War.