In recognition of the 150th anniversary of America’s defining crisis, the U.S. National Park Service has created the website “The American Civil War: Forging a More Perfect Union.” Here visitors can find a wealth of information, some of it already familiar to Civil War Times readers, such as the Civil War Soldier and Sailor Database and “Camp Life: Civil War Collections from Gettysburg National Military Park.” Other sections offer insightful introductions to the broad themes of the age, followed by historical case studies tied to specific national parks and museums across the country.
Viewers can wander through the site in various ways, but they should definitely visit the “Stories of the Civil War” section. This includes broad discussions of the war’s social, economic, political and military aspects followed by links at the bottom of each section to more detailed analysis within these subject areas. Under “Social Aspects of the Civil War,” for example, readers can learn more about the experiences of German-American soldiers and their most famous commander, Franz Sigel, while other pages discuss civilian experiences during the Vicksburg Campaign and take viewers to the battlefield’s website for even more in-depth information. Similarly, in the “Economic Aspects” section, readers can learn about the role that river and canal transportation played in the war era and follow links to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park website.
Teachers won’t want to miss the “Civil War Education” page, which includes lesson plans for major battles and other historic areas. Readers with a particular interest in the African-American experience in the war will find material throughout the site, but they should also visit the section specifically focused on “African Americans and the Civil War.” And anyone wondering what sesquicentennial events are happening near them will enjoy the events calendar, organized by month and state. There are some broken links and unfinished pages, but this is a wonderful site overall with tremendous potential for further development. It’s a must-visit for any Civil War Times reader.
Originally published in the December 2010 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.