Introductions

Civil War Washington examines the U.S. national capital from multiple perspectives as a case study of social, political, cultural, and medical/scientific transitions provoked or accelerated by the Civil War. The project draws on the methods of many fields—literary studies, history, geography, computer-aided mapping—to create a digital resource that chronicles the war's impact on the city. Troops, fugitive slaves, bureaucrats, prostitutes, actors, authors, doctors, and laborers were among those drawn to the capital by a sense of duty, desperation, or adventure. Drawing on material ranging from census records to literary texts and from forgotten individuals to the famous (such as Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman) we examine how Washington changed from a sleepy Southern town to the symbolic center of the Union and nation.

This page features essays, conference papers, grant narratives, and other materials about Civil War Washington as a project. These items introduce users to the history of the project, technological and intellectual decisions we have made along the way, and our vision for Civil War Washington over time. Additional materials are forthcoming. Users may also wish to consult our About and FAQ pages.

Conference Papers

Civil War Washington: An Experiment in Freedom, Integration, and Constraint

Delivered at the Annual Conference of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations, June 2011

We proposed this paper not with the idea of doing a show-and-tell but rather with the hope that we could use our experience of doing the project to invite reflection on the terms in our subtitle—freedom, integration, and constraint—since they transcend our particular area of research and the hardware we are using to conduct it. Read more...

Other Introductory Materials

Emancipation Petitions: Historical Contexts

Since the creation of the District of Columbia, antislavery reformers had decried the presence of slavery as a contradiction of the nation's founding principles of freedom, equality, and justice. The nation's capital was a natural target for the early antislavery movement. Read more...

Medical and Surgical Cases: Sources and Methods

All of the medical and surgical cases included in Civil War Washington were extracted from The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion (1861-1865). The Office of the Surgeon General produced this multi-part, multi-volume effort between 1870 and 1888 using the reports submitted by the army's medical officers during, and immediately following, the war. Read more...

Journalism in Washington: The Value of Hospital Newspapers

Newspapers published in the District of Columbia during the Civil War provide essential information about the war and life in the city during a time of crisis. In Washington, Georgetown, and Alexandria, nearly 30 daily and weekly newspapers chronicled the war. These papers included English-language dailies and weeklies and several German-language weeklies. Read more...

Organization of the Hospitals in the Department of Washington

"At the outbreak of the civil war," the author of the chapter on general hospitals in The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion wrote, "this country knew nothing practically of large military hospitals; indeed, most of our volunteer medical officers knew nothing of military hospitals, small or large." Read more...

Civil War Washington Collaborative Research Grant Narrative

Submitted to the National Endowment for the Humanities, for the grant period July 2010–June 2013

The development of Washington, DC, during the Civil War is pivotal in American history. When the Compensated Emancipation Act went into effect on April 16, 1862, Washington became the first emancipated city—and the country's largest and most important magnet for freed and runaway slaves. Read more...