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ProQuest Civil War Era: Sample Searches

A guide to ProQuest Civil War Era - a comprehensive collection of primary source materials that were previously unavailable digitally.

Links to ProQuest Civil War Era

Please note that the links below will only work if you are authenticated to ProQuest Civil War Era via your library's subscription.

Sample Searches

A. You are interested in how the news of the first engagement of the American Civil War at Fort Sumter, South Carolina on April 12, 1861, was reported in various regions of the country.

On the Advanced Search page, enter the following:

1. “Fort Sumter” into the first search query box

2. After this date 12 April 1861 in the Date Range limiter

3. Check mark only Historical Newspapers in the Source Type limiter

4.Choose Date (oldest first) in the Sort results by limiter

5.Click Search

Discovery Steps

6. In the search query box at the top of the search results page, enter and “Map of Charleston Harbor” to see Fort Sumter in relationship to other encampments, geographic features, etc. on map printed in the newspaper in the days following the battle.

7. Click the title of the article to see the full-text view.

8.Click the “Page view – clickable” link to view the entire page and click on various articles on that page.

9.Click the  “Page view – PDF” link at the top of the full-text view page to view the map and adjoining article in context.

10. Click “Open in PDF viewer” to access extra features such a Zoom.



B.  Many attribute the institution of slavery to be the primary cause for the American Civil War, but scholars have long argued that it was not slavery but the institutions such as industry, trade, economics, etc. that were affected and influenced by slavery and prevailing political, economic, and humanitarian views which were the root causes of the war. To explore the local and regional popular thought on this topic, explore the Pamphlets collections.

In this exercise, you will explore three (3) different pamphlets, one each from the North, South, and Western territories:

1. Scroll to find State sovereignty and the doctrine of coercion, a document written expressly regarding states' rights to secession and addressed to "The Men of the South." Note the lack of author's name and the encouragement to read and share with a neighbor.

2. Go back to the 1860 list, scroll and click to view Immense meeting in favor of the Union, a document relaying the events and speeches given during a rally to bring together citizens of Philadelphia to support the Union.

3. Return to the year list and select 1861.

4. Click on Message of the governor of Illinois to the Twenty-Second General Assembly to review statements made by the governor just days after the first engagement at Fort Sumter. It should be noted that Illinois, previously a slave state, abolished slavery by constitutional amendment in 1848.

  • Click the Browse link at the top of the page
  • Click “The Civil War Pamphlets Collection” link to open a list of the pamphlets by Subject, Title, or Date
  • Click the Date tab
  • Click the + button to expand the list of pamphlets from the year 1860.

Discovery Steps

5. Return to the year list and select 1852 to explore the earliest document in this pamphlets collection, A few thoughts on intervention / by a citizen of Pennsylvania. This document addresses the underlying (perceived or real) political issues, such as foreign policies, sympathies, and loyalties, that fostered unrest amongst state governments regarding economic, social, and political concerns.

6. Return to the year list and select 1858 to explore the second oldest document in the collection, Letters to the President on the foreign and domestic policy of the Union and its effects This is another foundational piece of writing addressing various aspects of the United States foreign and domestic policies, including but not limited to issues of states rights, trade policies, banks and money issuance, and slavery.


C. Technological innovation seemingly happens minute to minute in our modern era, but the American Civil War was a hotbed of innovation on many fronts, especially those beyond what many consider to be the historical scope of war.  Weaponry and machinery developed by leaps and bounds during this period, but so too did the nation experience a dramatic expansion of the railroad system, the emergence of photography as a means of documentation, and the solidification telegraph network.

In this exercise you will explore news reports and pamphlets regarding technology and technological advancements.

Let's start with communication:

1.      On the Advanced Search page, enter “Telegraph Corps” into the first search box and set Sort results by to Date (oldest first). Click Search.

2.      From the results page, select “Affairs About Home: Common Council…” from The Boston Herald 10 May 1861 by clicking the title.

3.      Scroll to the middle of the page to view the single paragraph “The Army Telegraph Service”.  This short paragraph announces one of the single most influential decisions made by the Union Army: the creation of the U.S. Army Telegraph Corps. It was an exclusive team of only four soldiers (named in the article) and served to relay information to and from the front lines faster than have ever previously been possible. Even news services began relaying information for publication more quickly using telegraph.    

TIP: Move the mouse to the bottom right corner to visualize zoom and page fit options.

·        The Colt45 has nothing on these guns…

1.      Using the Browse link at the top of the page, click on the “Browse by Title” tab.

2.      Click on the M in the alphabetical list just beneath the tabs.

3.      Scroll to and click on “The Merrill rifle: manufactured by the Merrill Patent Fire Arm Manufacturing Company, Baltimore, Md.” to learn more.

4.      Return to the “Browse by Title” tab and click on S.

5.      Scroll to and click on “The Spencer Repeating rifle, carbines, and sporting rifle: manufactured at the company’s armory, Chickering’s Building, Tremont Street, Boston, Mass” to learn more and compare to the Merrill rifle.

6.      Return to the Browse page and click on Search to access the Basic Search page.

7.      In the search query box enter “new weapon*” to retrieve results from newspapers of the day with articles discussing the latest developments in weaponry being issued and used in battles throughout the country.

Discovery Steps

8.      Click on the record “Front Page 21 – No Title” to learn about “a new submarine torpedo”

9.      Return the results page and click to view “A New Weapon of War: COMBINATION OF A SABRE AND SIX SHOOTS…” to learn more about the “completion of a very formidable yet elegant weapon of war” that was eventually adopted by the US Army.

10.   Return to the results page and click to view “Home Defence [sic]” to learn more about “a new revolving fire-arm”. Scroll down the length of the page to also read suggestions from the Editor on how average citizens can prepare to defend their homes and neighborhoods.