Monday, September 19, 2011

Comparing Sources

Since I'm going to be writing a history of a city and the War, I thought maybe I should read a couple of similar texts on other cities. So, I chose Anthony Waskie's Philadelphia and the Civil War, along with Robert S. Davis's Civil War Atlanta, both published by the History Press. As a disclaimer, I have read several volumes on Richmond and the War and Leach's Reveille in Washington. However, the sources, primary and secondary, are legion when it comes to those two cities. And rightfully so: they were the two contending capitals.

What I'm interested in are the scores of materials that have already been written on those two cities, regarding the war. Now I understand that Atlanta is more important that Charlotte in the grander scope of things. But Charlotte was no light-weight. With its naval yard, gunpowder manufacturing facility, and numerous other munitions and private war-time industry, it is the most important city in North Carolina (sorry Wilmington), and one of the most important in the South.

With the books on Atlanta and Philadelphia in hand, I went through the bibliographies, looking at the secondary sources related to these cities and the war. For Atlanta, I counted 23 books, articles, and doctoral dissertations on the city (this does not include general histories). There are tour guides, looks at industry, civilians, dissidents, etc.

For Philadelphia, I went through the bibliography, looking for the same type of material: pieces related directly to the city and the War. The Philadelphia book is larger, and has a large bibliography. The numbers of books and articles are about the same as those for Atlanta. Of course, the Philadelphia sources go places that the Atlanta sources do not, namely, the maritime trade.

Given the importance of Charlotte, especially after mid-1863, there is surprisingly little secondary information: three or four histories of Charlotte, and the small booklet On the Home Front: Charlotte During the Civil War, which at about twenty pages, well, not much to say there. In going through online sources like JSTOR, there seems to be more on south Florida and the War, than the Charlotte area.

Needless to say, much of the work I am doing on this project will be from primary sources: newspapers, letters, diaries, and a few post-war reminiscences.  Once again, I seem to be going where no one has gone before.

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