As I continue the research of my Civil War ancestor I want to balance out my studies. I want the whole picture of the war and its stories. I want to view events from all angles. The whole sh-bang! Recently I came across a solid resource written by those from the Confederacy. The Southern Historical Society Papers. Similar to the “Official Records” or The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, The Southern Historical Society Papers are first-hand accounts of Confederate regiments in the war.
The Southern Historical Society Papers originated as a concept of General Dabney Maury. As an ex-Confederate officer, Maury wanted the southern side of Civil War history documented. So he, along with other notable Confederate officers like P.G.T. Beauregard and Braxton Bragg, came together to collect and preserve southern records.
As these, and other society members, representing all southern states gathered information, the amount of written material grew to the point of establishing a library, which was located in Richmond. There members continued to gather material such as southern military reports and casualty lists. Letters and diaries were collected, officer’s recollections and transcripts from the Confederate Congress. Some of the military reports accumulated were so detailed they were later copied right into the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion by the United States War Dept.
In the early days of compiling records the society published them as articles in newspapers and magazines. As the amount of information grew the society made the move to a book format and the first volume of the Southern Historical Society Papers was released in 1876. A total of 52 volumes were published over an 82 year period.
The Southern Historical Society no longer exists today but most of their records were turned over to the Museum of the Confederacy. To check their website regarding information on their archives go here.
Yet the great thing about today’s technology is that we can access a lot of that information online. Just go to Google Books to find many of the volumes of the Southern Historical Society Papers online free.
As an example of what’s available in Volume 35 of the Table of Contents you’ll find the 11th Virginia at the Fight of Five Forks, or Roll of Co. A, 7th Virginia Cavalry and the 11th Kentucky Cavalry.
Clicking on Roll of Co. A, 7th Virginia Cavalry, I get a more detailed title Roll of Co. A, 7th Regiment Virginia Cavalry Rosser’s Brigade. Listed alphabetically are the men of Co. A with details as to where they live in 1906, who was wounded in the war and which soldiers had passed on since the war. Good genealogy tidbits here!Personally I’m interested in the week of April 1-7, 1865. My g-g-grandfather, was a Union private with the 81st Pennsylvania and part of the Second Corps pursuing Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia west across the state. Here’s just a little I found regarding the Battle of Sailor’s Creek on April 6th, 1865 . . . (1)
“There was no time for deliberation. He immediately marched the battalion by the right flank obliquely to the rear, fixing bayonets as they went, so as to face this unexpected enemy, and, reforming his line, attacked at once with the bayonet, while they were yet entangled in the wood. The (Savannah) Guards were but eight-five that day, and nothing but the disorder of the enemy in the thicket saved them. . . .
Makes me want to read some more!
Then on April 7, 1865 at the Battle of Cumberland Church where my g-g-grandfather was wounded it reads . . .
“On Friday, April 7, 1865, Farmville, Va., was reached, and Scales’ brigade relieved Cook’s brigade as rear guard of the infantry. The enemy having crossed the river, pressed the lines very hard and consequently the rear guard was engaged in several attacks and suffered severely. The enemy was driven off, and this was the last fighting in which the regiment (38th North Carolina) was engaged before surrender . . . . (2)
These are the actual words of men who fought those battles. I can almost smell the smoke and hear the yells and boom of cannon fire as I read. There’s much to be learned in these pages of the southern accounts of the war.
If your Civil War ancestor fought for the Union take any battle he fought in and research the Confederate regiments he would have fought against. Checking those Confederate regiments or dates of battle in the Southern Historical Society Papers you’ll get an another view of the fighting your ancestor participated in.
If your Civil War ancestor fought for the Confederacy, The Southern Historical Society Papers is another rich resource to document his service in the war. I encourage you to give The Southern Historical Society Papers a try.
Remember the idea is to shake the dust off your Civil War ancestor, using all the information you find to add up to a person who happened to be a part of one of the most important events in this country’s history!
Good luck in your continued search!
(1) Brock R. A., Southern Historical Society Papers, Richmond, 1895, Series 1 Volume 23, Page 253, Google Books online digital collection.
(2) Brock R. A., Southern Historical Society Papers, Richmond, 1897, Series 1 Volume 25, Page 263, Google Books online digital collection.