Primary Sources: Civil War Effects

The Civil War affected Kentuckians in many different ways. Here are some primary sources -- letters, diaries, and personal memoirs -- that offer us a picture of how several Kentuckians in various circumstances experienced those times.

Causes of the Civil War

Families Divided -- Many families were divided by the Civil War, as parents and children or brothers and sisters found themselves on opposite sides. The following letters and diary entries give a few examples:

Kentuckians Fighting in the War -- A soldier's life was hard, be he Confederate or Union. Letters and diary entries by these men express their own hardships and their concern for the family at home:

African Americans: Slavery and Freedom -- The Civil War was a turbulent time for slaves in Kentucky. They were not legally free, like slaves in the North, and even Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation did not affect them. Many slaves took the opportunity to run away to free states or to gain their freedom by enlisting in the Union army. The following letters and diary accounts by African Americans in Kentucky document these times:

An excellent collection of primary source documents is the University of North Carolina's Documenting the American South: North American Slave Narratives, Beginnings to 1920. The goal of the project is to "document the individual and collective story of the African-American struggle for freedom."

Women and Children at Home -- The battles, skirmishes, guerrilla raids, and food shortages that Kentucky experienced during the Civil War made the homefront almost as dangerous as the battle front. Here are letters and diary entries by or about the women and children who experienced these times:

The University of North Carolina's Documenting the American South: The Southern Homefront, 1861-1865 documents Southern life during the Civil War.

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