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The Valley of the Shadow Project

As we ponder the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, I encourage readers to visit a favorite old website, “The Valley of the Shadow Project.” Here you can see how two communities experienced the Civil War. Begun in the early 1990s, this site may already be familiar to many Civil War Times readers—and yes, it lacks the flash of more recent creations, but its wealth of material, clear organization and vast coverage make it the invaluable resource that its creator, Professor Edward L. Ayers, then at the University of Virginia and now president of the University of Richmond, hoped it would be.

The site relates how the communities of Franklin County, Pa., and Augusta County, Va., experienced the war through diaries, newspapers, correspondence, speeches, memoirs, census records, military reports, church records and more. Divided into antebellum, wartime and postwar sections, the site also helps visitors see the conflict within the broader context of the Civil War era.

Type “Gettysburg,” limited to the range June–September 1863, into searches of the primary source collections, including “memory of the war” articles, to see how these communities experienced and remembered that dramatic battle. You might also type “Vicksburg,” too, to look at how, just as Mississippians and Louisianans were more concerned with Pemberton and Grant’s operations that summer, Pennsylvanians and Virginians were much more focused on Meade and Lee. Twenty years later, it’s inspiring to see how Ayers’ dream continues to educate and inform.


Originally published in the August 2013 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.