The centrifugal forces of the Civil War hurled people out of familiar orbits “to march in the ranks hard-prest” on the road unknown. Out of these experiences emerged a wealth of letters, diaries, and photographs, which document the momentous and mundane, the sorrows and triumphs of a turbulent era in American history.

Fighting occurred primarily in the South, disrupting supplies and communication, putting civilians in the line of fire, and turning women and children into refugees. Remote from the boom of cannon, families in the North anxiously scanned letters and newspapers for news of their men in combat; volunteers headed south to tend to the mounting casualties in military hospitals; and, as the war dragged on, the continual demand for new enlistments aggravated racial and class tensions.

Quote from “March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown” in Walt Whitman, Drum-Taps. New York: [Walt Whitman], 1865.

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“United States of America, Showing the Boundaries of the Union and Confederate Geographical Divisions and Departments, June 30, 1861” from George B. Davis, Leslie J. Perry, et al., Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies Washington: Government Printing Office, 1891-95.

Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History (A 1880 .U568)