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eHistory Launches Private Voices

Private Voices is the offspring of the Corpus of American Civil War Letters (CACWL) project. Michael Ellis of Missouri State University and Michael Montgomery of the University of South Carolina began the project in the summer of 2007 with the aim of seeking and transcribing letters written during the Civil War to gather evidence of regional American English in the 19th century. As of May 2017, the project has amassed close to ten thousand letters and diaries written by common soldiers and their families from all parts of the country during the conflict.

We launch Private Voices with transcriptions of nearly 4,000 letters from four Southern states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. In the near future we plan to add letters from several Northern states, as well as additional Southern ons. The name Private Voices has a two-fold meaning. The majority of the letters in the project were written by privates in either the Union or Confederate Armies. In another sense, these letters are private. They were never intended for the larger audience they now have, but were private and personal missives written for family members or others known by the letter writers. These letters bring the often unknown or rarely heard voices of rank and file soldiers and their loved ones to life. In them one reads and hears their uncensored thoughts and feelings.

Besides the letter transcriptions, we have created two sections dealing specifically with language: “Camp Talk” and “Word Maps.” To see search terms in context, use the simple search feature. You can also browse the CACWL by archival collection and by letter writer. Mapping tools are not available at this time, but we will be adding them soon.

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