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EN 104 - Literature and the American Civil War


This is a guide to selected sources of information related to the American Civil War course. It is meant as a starting point for your research. For further research assistance, please take advantage of the reference services available to you in Geisel Library.


Research Basics

The Geisel Library website includes a Research Help page, which contains numerous guides to using library resources and finding information. Included is a Research Strategy guide that walks you through the seven steps of doing successful college-level research, as well as a number of helpful video tutorials. Please take advantage of these resources.


Reference Sources for Background Information

Electronic Reference Materials

The following resources are restricted to the Saint Anselm College community.


Literature Resource Center

Credo Reference

Gale Literary Index (GLI)
Use the GLI to see if your author or work is discussed in Gale's Literary Criticism Series. Geisel Library has volumes 1-151 of Contemporary Literary Criticism, volumes 1-96 of Nineteenth Century Literary Criticism, and volumes 1-114 of Twentieth Century Literary Criticism.

Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL)

Oxford Reference Online (ORO)

Literary Terms, Theory, and Themes

Critical Survey of Literary Theory
     Ref PN45 .C74 1988

Dictionary of Literary Terms
     Ref PN41 .C83

Dictionary of Literary Themes and Motifs (2 volumes)
     Ref PN43 .D48

Glossary of Contemporary Literary Theory
     Ref PN44.5 .H37 1998

Genre & Literary Resources

A Companion to the Literature and Culture of the American South
     Ref PS 261 .C555

Critical Survey of Short Fiction (7 volumes)
     Ref PN3373 .C7

Critical Survey of Long Fiction (8 volumes)
     Ref PN3451 .C7

Critical Temper: A Survey of Modern Criticism on English and American Literature from the Beginnings to the Twentieth Century (4 volumes)
     Ref PR83.C764

Encyclopedia of Southern Literature
     Ref PS 261 .S515

Civil War History Resources

The Civil War Day by Day: An Almanac 1861-1865
     Ref E468.3 .L6

Dictionary of American History
     Ref E174 .D52 2003 (print version)

Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History
     Ref E468 .E53

Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century
     Ref E169.1 E626

Historical Dictionary of the Civil War
     Ref E468 .J777


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Search Tips

To search the library catalogs and databases listed below you will need to use Boolean operators (ANDs and ORs), truncation, and quotation marks to pull up books and articles on your topic. Here is a brief overview of how to use these search functions:

  • AND - use AND to link together search concepts (women AND biography AND civil war)
  • OR - use OR to link together synonyms and related terms (southern authors OR southern writers)
  • * - use * to retrieve variant endings of a search term (enter: south* to retrieve articles containing the words south and southern)
  • Quotation marks - When performing keyword searches use quotation marks to search for your keywords as an exact phrase (Type "slave narrative" to look for the exact phrase of: slave narrative. If you do not enclose your phrase with quotes the catalog will look for the term slave and narrative as separate words throughout the entire catalog record)

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Find Books

There are two main ways to search the library catalog, by subject heading or by keyword. Each method has its own benefits and drawbacks, it is important therefore to know the best time to use each method.

Subject Headings Searches

Subject headings are keywords that are assigned to books to capture the item's key subject matter and themes. Use subject headings to look for books on broad concepts such as criticism on U.S. southern literature or books on the causes of the Civil War.

Possible Subject Headings include:

  • United States Civil War Biographies
  • United States Civil War Campaigns
  • United States Civil War Causes
  • United States Civil War Influences
  • United States Civil War Social Aspects
  • American Literature Southern States Criticism
  • Southern States in Literature
  • United States Civil War Fiction
  • United States Civil War Personal Narratives

Keyword Searches

Keyword Searches work best if you are researching a narrow concept or if you have an author or title that you would like criticism on. Keyword searches will look for your search term(s) in the citation, subject headings, and chapter titles (if available). Many books on literary criticism have chapters on specific authors or works, this search method will pull up those materials.

Possible Keyword searches include:

  • Whitman AND (critic* OR analysis)
  • civil war AND united states AND (mourning OR bereavement OR death)
  • civil war AND united states AND (memorial OR monument OR grave OR cemetar*)
  • soldier* AND (confederate OR union) AND NOT soviet

If you searched the Geisel Library Catalog but could not locate a book on your topic try searching WorldCat, a database that allows you to search the collections of libraries throughout the United States. If you find a book that you want you can request it through interlibrary loan (ILL) by clicking on the ILL icon in the book's catalog record.

Geisel Library Catalog
Search the Geisel Library Catalog to locate items housed in our library.

If you have searched the Geisel Library Catalog but could not locate a book on your topic try searching WorldCat, a database that allows you to search the collections of libraries throughout the United States. If you find a book that you want you can request it through interlibrary loan (ILL) by clicking on the "Request Via Interlibrary Loan link" in the book's catalog record.

Use ebary to search through over 40,000 e-books spanning across all scholarly disciplines. Books can either be opened in QuickView for instant viewing or in the ebrary Reader (a downloadable plug-in), which provides enhanced functionality such as the ability to copy/paste, highlight, or take notes.


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Find Journal Articles

Before you start searching for articles in online journal databases there are a two things you need to be aware of:

When examining your search results you may come across the WebBridge icon. This icon means that the full text is not available in the database you are currently searching. To locate the full text, simply click on the icon to determine whether the journal is available in Geisel Library or in another electronic database. If the article isn't available, click on the Interlibrary Loan link to request a PDF copy of the article from another library. Articles requested via ILL will be delivered to your email inbox in approximately 3-7 business days. To learn about how to use WebBridge, please watch our video tutorial (3.5 mins; includes audio).

Journal Finder
If you find a citation to an article in the bibliography of a book or article you can use Journal Finder to see whether or not Geisel Library has access to the volume and issue that you need. Simply type in the name of the journal in Journal Finder and click search. If we have access to that title Journal Finder will tell you where you can locate it (either electronically or in print). If we do not have access to the journal you need you can place an interlibrary loan request for that item. To learn more on how to use Journal Finder watch our video tutorial.

Databases for Scholarly Resources

Use the following resources to locate scholarly articles on your topic. For guidance in identifying scholarly resources versus popular resources please consult our Popular vs. Scholarly webpage.

Academic Search Premier
Academic Search Premier indexes articles from a wide range of disciplines including the social sciences, humanities, and the hard sciences.

America:  History and Life
Use to gather research on the United States Civil War from a historical perspective.

MLA International Bibliography
This electronic index consists of bibliographic records pertaining to literature, language, linguistics, and folklore. (1963–present)

Geisel Library subscribes to four JSTOR collections: Arts & Sciences I, II, III, and Biological Sciences. These are large collections of the full text back issues to major journals in the humanities and social sciences, including Nineteenth-Century Literature, American Literature, and American Literary History. Coverage is generally from the beginning of publication to within 5 years of the current issue.    User Guide

Project MUSE
Project MUSE provides full text access to more than 200 journals in the arts and humanities, social sciences, and hard sciences. As an interdisciplinary database you will be able to pull up research on your topic from a variety of different disciplines. Titles of interest to this course include: American Literary History, Civil War History, and Comparative Literature Studies.

Primary Source Databases

Use the following resources to locate primary resources on your topic. For guidance in identifying primary resources versus secondary and tertiary resources please consult our Primary vs. Secondary webpage. For additional primary resource consult the web resources listed in the "Selected Internet Resources" section.

American Slave Narratives

Early American Newspapers:  1690-1876

New York Times - Historical

Times of London Digital Archive (1785 through 1985)


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Selected Internet Resources

Searching the Internet can yield a vast amount of information, but in terms of quality and reliability, your results may be uneven at best. The ease and speed with which individuals can publish information on the web, regardless of accuracy or quality makes it imperative that when doing research on the web you know how to evaluate the information you find. To learn more, see our Evaluating Websites page.

If you locate books or articles on the Internet that you would like to view please check with a reference librarian to see if the items can be located in Geisel Library's print or electronic collection or through Interlibrary Loan.


American Civil War Resources - Memorials, Cemeteries (University of North Texas)
Use the links provided on this site to research national and local Civil War memorials and cemeteries.

Civil War at the Smithsonian (Smithsonian Institution/National Portrait Gallery)
This website gains you access to the Smithsonian Institution's collection on the American Civil War. A section of particular value is the "Collections" section through which you can view images of major Civil War figures and events as well as view primary source documents including diaries and letters. There is also a helpful timeline which can be used for quick reference.

Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project (University of California - Santa Barbara)
Cylinder recordings were the first commercially available recorded music in the United States. This website allows users to download or stream the digitized contents of the University of California - Santa Barbara's Special Collections cylinder collection. To listen to music written during the time of the Civil War click "Browse Collection," scroll down to "Browse by Topical Subject" and select "US Civil War."

Documenting the American South (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Search through UNC Chapel Hill's digital collection of narratives, fiction, images, and oral histories of southern culture. The collection is not limited to Civil War materials making this a useful resource to understand what led up to and what followed the Civil War. Click on the Collection link at the top of the page to browse their collections; collections of particular interest to this course include: First Person Narratives of the American South, Library of Southern Literature, North American Slave Narratives, and The Southern Homefront, 1861-1865.

The Civil War Website (Public Broadcasting Company)
This web companion to the Ken Burns documentary The Civil War has access to clips from the film as well as access to interactive digitized images and documents that contributed to the making of the film. The "Images of the Civil War" and "The War" sections will be especially helpful in gaining insight into the social, political, and military realities of the American Civil War.

Historic American Sheet Music (Duke University)
Browse through Duke University's collection of digitized sheet music from 1850-1920. Click "Browse" and the select "1860-1869" to view sheet music from the Civil War.

The United States Civil War Center (Louisiana State University)
Hosted by Louisiana State University (LSU) and founded by LSU English professor David Madden, The United States Civil War Center website has a wealth of information to get you in touch with the events and literature of the Civil War. Browse The Civil War Index by subject to locate links to other Civil War collections and information on the Internet. Another useful resource is the Civil War Book Review which lets you browse through, and read reviews of, Civil War fiction and non-fiction books.

The Valley of the Shadow (University of Virginia)
This website allows you to research life and opinion on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line by searching and reading through "thousands of original letters and diaries, newspapers and speeches, census and church records, left by men and women" in one Northern community and one Southern community.

Walt Whitman Archive (University of Nebraska - Lincoln)
Browse the archive to read poems and correspondence of Walt Whitman or search for criticism by clicking on "Criticism" and selecting "Bibliography," a search of Lincoln yields many results.

Wisconsin Goes to War:  Our Civil War Experience (University of Wisconsin Digital Collections)
This site allows you to research the Civil War from a northern perspective by providing access to hundreds of primary sources such as letters, diaries, and poems written by Wisconsin residents.


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Citing Sources

See the library's Citing Sources guide for resources on how to properly cite research materials. Always confirm the style required by your instructor.


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