I thought I would take a look at the sources I have assembled over the years. Frankly, I’m a bit shocked at how much stuff I’ve accumulated. Just the photocopied stuff alone runs to 35 binders and 9 linear feet of shelf space.
first, I’d like to note the increasing number of materials that I can find online. In addition to hundreds of public domain published items like memoirs and regimental histories, I have stumbled on at least 40 collections of previously unpublished stuff that has found its way to the web, usually through genealogy sites or the like – and not counting manuscript repositories. I’m confident that this total will only grow in the future. This is easily the coolest part of the web, for me…
I have something like 858 other manuscript collections from repositories, gathered laboriously over the years.
Another great source are period newspapers. I have letters from 150 different titles, and I know that many more are out there to find.
Adding in veterans publications (National Tribune, Confederate Veteran, and the like) gives us another 327 post-war accounts.
To that I must add roughly another 140 items collected from genealogy newsletters and the like. The Allen County Indiana Public library was invaluable here. They have an amazingly complete collection of such periodicals, from the lowliest xeroxed or mimeographed newsletter to full runs of state and local historical periodicals.
Then there are the published materials, including regimental histories and personal memoirs. My last count noted about 330 of these.
Of course, there are overlaps, duplications, and the like – but working down that list, I estimate that ! have between 1,700 and 1,800 different primary source descriptions of the battle and the campaign. Some are good, some bad, some wildly improbable: but each a different voice coming to life. I value all of them.
And note – I haven’t even mentioned the OR. I guess I better add several hundred more names to the list.
I’m not trying to bragg here (well, maybe a little – oh, and sorry for the pun.) Instead I decided to take stock of all these accounts to try and see what percentage of the participants I can say I have heard from. The accepted figure for the men engaged is 130,000, but counting the unengaged troops, the detailed men, civilians, etc – I’d have to say that a closer count might be 160,000. I have 2,000 accounts, give or take. Suddenly that doesn’t seem like such a large number.
Of course, by historical standards, it is a massive body of material – and it should be, since it took a large chunk of my 49 years to accumulate. I’d hate to think I wasted that time. But still, there are an awful lot of participants who will never be heard from.
And we know there are more. Archibald Gracie corresponded with and solicited accounts from many veterans, for his book “The Truth About Chickamauga.” He only quoted from and used a fraction of what he had, and he planned a second volume focusing on the Confederate side of the story that never got written. George Dolton, as I mentioned in the last post, also collected obsessively. Dolton was from Illinois, lived in St. Louis after the war, and the family eventually ended up in California. Along the way, George’s collection seems to have vanished.
I wonder what these people could add to the story?
Maybe I will find out – because I am always looking for more accounts. If anyone finds a trunk full of old letters labeled “Gracie” or “Dolton” you’ll call me, won’t you?