Civil war letters provide an unparalleled connection to the past and need to be preserved in the best way possible. Letters written by patriots during civil wars are priceless resources for future generations. These letters may contain individual stories related to their families and a historical narrative of the local, national and global communities. Digital preservation of these letters will create unique educational opportunities for students, historians, researchers, and all those who are in search of historical war data.
Recently, there appeared two major reports on the digitization of civil war letters. According to the first report, a large collection of letters written by a New Hampshire soldier during the Civil War is being made available online to the general public. This significant task is being accomplished with the combined effort of the state library and six students of the Keene State College.
Around 144 letters written by Willard Templeton of Hillsborough were donated to the library in the 1940s. But they didn’t have adequate resources and tools to digitize the stuff. At the same time, some students who were in need of primary documents, approached the library and agreed to scan and transcribe them.
Another report says that the University of Delaware Library has digitized the civil war letters of Edward A. Fulton, a union soldier. The collection include around 39 letters, written by him to his mother during the war. Transcriptions of these letters were produced by a staff of the University of Delaware Library and now have been made easily accessible over the library web.
Civil war letters in electronic format are safe from fire, water, oxidization, and the natural decomposition that comes with aging. Other than the digitization of letters, projects may include digitization of diaries, photographs, military certificates, muster rolls, broadsides, loyalty oaths, and many other important documents.
Digitization of paper documents is beneficial in the following ways.
- Lessens delays in retrieval of information
- Eliminates geographic barriers
- More cost-effective than paper-based file storage system
- Need for physical handling of records can be considerably reduced
- Reduces chances of loss
- Reduces physical storage space requirements
The American Civil War represents a significant point in U.S history that still presents many questions and opportunities for historical education and discovery. Availability of electronic copies of documents related to the Civil War would reduce the need to use the fragile originals which are difficult to access as well.