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Presentation U.S. History Primary Source Timeline

Civil War Soldiers' Stories

Portrait of a Federal soldier, between 1860 and 1864
Civil War

It is virtually impossible to measure the human costs of the Civil War, the hardships and suffering it caused. What we do know is that millions of people grieved for the loss of loved ones. In all, around 360,000 Union soldiers died as a direct result of the war. The Confederacy lost 260,000 dead. Many more soldiers were wounded; some wounds maimed their victims for life. The overall number of dead that resulted from the Civil War nearly equals the number of American soldiers killed in every other military action up to the present.

The documents listed tell stories of and about soldiers during the Civil War. Several address the reasons why young men and boys joined up enthusiastically. Others tell of the experience and suffering of being a prisoner of war. Still others speak about action during the war and provide glimpses into how the Civil War was fought and how the soldiers experienced the war.

As you search for more primary sources about soldiers during the Civil War, be certain to search Civil War and American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. Use such terms as soldierUnion soldierConfederate soldier, and the names of specific Civil War battles, such as AntietamChancellorsvilleCold Harbor and Gettysburg.