The American Civil War: 150 years later

Written by Jon Ritterbush, Electronic Resources Librarian

Portrait of a solider. Retrieved from American Memory’s Selected Civil War Photographs collection.

On April 12, 1861, Southern artillery batteries opened fire on Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.  Following decades of sectional tensions and differences over slavery, culminating in the secession of several Southern states, this bombardment sparked a four-year civil war which claimed over 600,000 lives, led to the emancipation of 3.5 million slaves, and forever transformed a young nation.

The library holds hundreds of books, e-books, government documents, audiovisual materials and microforms related to Civil War history.  To locate some of these materials, try searching the Enhanced Catalog on “United States — History — Civil War, 1861-1865”, or see the list below for a small sample of library resources.

General Civil War resources

Civil War. In the Dictionary of American History. Retrieved from Gale Virtual Reference Library.

Keegan, J. (2009). The American Civil War: A Military History (1st ed.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf.  Book Collection – E470 .K255 2009

Library of Congress.  Selected Civil War Photographs.  Retrieved from

McPherson, J. M. (1988). Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Oxford University Press.  Book Collection – E173 .O94 v.6

In the Cause of Liberty: How the Civil War Redefined American Ideals. (2009). Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.  Electronic Book via NetLibrary

Resources on the Nebraska First Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War

Keen, T., & Potter, J. E. (2000). “I thought it my duty to go”: the Civil War letters of Thomas Edwin Keen, First Nebraska Volunteer Infantry. Nebraska History, 81(4), 134-169.   In print in library’s Periodicals Collection.

Scherneckau, A. (2007). Marching with the First Nebraska: A Civil War Diary. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.   Book Collection – E518.5 1st .S34 2007

Primary source newspaper accounts of the attack on Fort Sumter

Domestic intelligence. (1861, April 20)  Harper’s Weekly.   Retrieved from HarpWeek.

News of the week: Civil war inaugurated. Fort Sumter captured by the secessionists, proclamation of President Lincoln. (1861, Prairie Farmer (1843-1877), 7(16), 264. Retrieved from

See American Periodicals Series Online and HarpWeek from the library’s “Articles & E-Resources” list for additional primary source content from the 19th century.