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HIS 204 - Civil War: John Thiel: Primary Sources

The American Civil War

Primary and Secondary Sources Video

Imagine Easy Solutions. Understanding Primary & Secondary Sources. YouTube. YouTube, 2 June

     2014. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

A Sample of Primary Sources from the Shelves of the Kirtland Library


Quiz Yourself - Primary or Secondary?

Quiz yourself!  Decide whether the following five sources are primary or secondary. 

Answer: Secondary Source

A biography is not a primary source, but an autobiography is.

"Stringing rural TVA transmission line."
Rural Electrification Administration (REA) - Tennessee Valley Administration (TVA)

Black and white image of a 1930s-40s era truck parked alongside a road near a power pole which has two workers at the top of it and two men near the bottom of it. Bricks, wood, pipes, and gravel are in small piles.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Library
Public Domain Photographs
National Archives Identifier: 195878

Answer: Primary Source

Viewing historical photographs can give a sense of the time period beyond the original intent of the photo.  Look at those vehicles in the background!

The White House. Remarks by The First Lady at a Reach Higher "Prep" Rally.

     YouTube. YouTube, 9 Sept. 2014. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

Answer: Primary Source

Speeches, whether in video, audio, or transcript form, are primary sources. 

Answer: Primary Source

Diaries, letters, and journals are primary sources.

Answer: Secondary Source

Many primary sources are referrenced in this secondary source.  As a secondary source, it is able to describe Michigan's involvement in the Civil War from different persepectives.

4-5 correct -- Source Master - You've got it all under control!

2-3 correct -- Source Apprentice - You're starting to get the idea!

0-1 correct -- Source Novice - You must be new to this.  For additional assitance, please contact a librarian or your instructor.


Primary Sources on the Web

Primary sources can be found in some of the collections available on Kirtland Library's Databases for History & Geography page.  You may also find primary sources in subject and course guides.  The links below will give you an idea of the types of primary sources available on the web.


The ebrary e-book collection includes some primary sources.

Choose the advanced search option next to the search bar.  In the advanced search window change the "search in" to subject by choosing subject from the drop down menu.  In that search bar enter Correspondence OR Diaries OR Personal narratives .

In the second row narrow your search by adding a term related to your topic.

  • To limit your results to those pertaining to Michigan, change the second row from a text and key fields to a subject search by choosing subject from the drop down menu and then put Michigan into the second search box.
  • To limit your results to those pertaining to the American Civil War, change the second row from a text and key fields search to a subject search by choosing subject from the drop down menu.  Then enter Civil War, 1861-1865 into the second search box.

You can further narrow your results by searching for additional terms.  Click on the + at the end of a search bar to add an additional search window.

Oral History Interview Tips

Although the following links pertain to creating oral histories, the basic tips regarding the interview may prove helpful.