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In 1993 David Madden, novelist and professor of English at Louisiana State University, founded the U.S. Civil War Center (USCWC) to offer visitors an interdisciplinary approach to America’s defining conflict. The center’s Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction highlights its roots, but the history-dominated reviews at “Civil War Book Review” and the superb online exhibits underscore those interdisciplinary contributions.

“Civil War Book Review” (CWBR) is one of the most popularly visited subsites at the center. A free quarterly online publication that first appeared in 1999, CWBR keeps its readers apprised of the latest historical works in the field. It also includes regular interviews with leading authors and updates on recent works of fiction, children’s literature, science and technology, reference and photographic collections.

The “Online Exhibits and Resources” section includes two additional and beautifully presented subsites. “Beyond Face Value: Depictions of Slavery in Confederate Currency” offers fascinating insights into how white Southerners interpreted slavery, while “Blue and Gray for Boys and Girls” highlights the cultural lessons of the Civil War that have appeared in children’s books published since 1862. That online exhibit represents only 10 percent of the more than 700 books in the one-of-a-kind Michael Lehman Williamson Collection of Civil War Books for Young People housed in the special collections division of the LSU libraries.

The “Book Collections” page reminds visitors of the vast holdings in the LSU Special Collections, including the renowned Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections. These include more than 120,000 works and are particularly strong in the area of antebellum, Civil War and Reconstruction Louisiana and the Gulf South. Unfortunately, the link to this subsite is broken, but a simple Google search will retrieve it. Such weaknesses are fortunately rare in this easily navigable site.

While visitors cannot view all of the LSU Special Collections holdings described at the U.S. Civil War Center, there’s plenty of material available for readers to enjoy, for teachers to incorporate into their lesson plans and to enable scholars and enthusiasts to keep pace with the latest Civil War historiography, which makes this site a “must visit” for Civil War Times readers.


Originally published in the February 2011 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here