It’s a little-known fact that the Western History and Genealogy Department has American Civil War diaries in its collection. Some diaries document military operations that took place in the western United States, while others were written by soldiers in the eastern U.S., where most Civil War battles were fought.
Why would the Denver Public Library’s Western History and Genealogy Department have these diaries? Our archival collections include papers and records created outside of Colorado and the west. Many veterans moved west after the Civil War in pursuit of work and opportunity in mining, railroads, agriculture and business. Some of our diaries probably migrated west with these veterans. The library acquired some Civil War diaries as part of larger collections, while others were collected as single, historically important artifacts.
All our diaries are unique, many are fragile and most are inked with cursive handwriting that can be a challenge to read. It can take practice to get used to cursive from the 1860s - only some of our diaries have been transcribed for easy reading. However, the payoff of reading an original document can be gaining a keen insight about what a soldier’s life was like - the boredom, the allegiance they felt for their cause as well as the deprivation and the horror of war.
Want to learn more about the Civil War? Check out WHG's Civil War Genealogy and History Research Guide.