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There's a ton of primary source material out there on the web -- sometimes a simple Google search will unearth links to diaries written by colonists or newspaper articles from the Civil War. Most of this information is out of copyright, so it's available to be used. Here's a great article to give you some context.
Websites with Lists of Links
More than 18,000 pages of eyewitness accounts of North American exploration, from the sagas of Vikings in Canada in AD1000 to the diaries of mountain men in the Rockies 800 years later. Read the words of explorers, Indians, missionaries, traders and settlers as they lived through the founding moments of American history. View, search, print, or download more than 150 rare books, original manuscripts, and classic travel narratives from the library and archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society.
American Memory: Collections from 1700s
The American Memory project from the Library of Congress contains many primary source texts worth searching through. This particular link takes you to collections with materials primarily from the 1700s.
The Avalon Project of Yale University Law School: 18th Century Documents
The Avalon Project contains digital documents relevant to the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government throughout history. This particular link takes you to the American documents from the 1700s.
Connecticut Digital Archives: Colonial Connecticut Records
Records on Colonial Connecticut from the Connecticut Digital Archive.
Diaries from early American settlers available through various collections throughout the web.
Primary & secondary sources on many different eras in American History, provided by the University of Houston.
Early Americas Digital Archive (EADA)
A collection of electronic texts and links to texts originally written in or about the Americas from 1492 to approximately 1820. Open to the public for research and teaching purposes, EADA is published and supported by the University of Maryland Libraries' e-publishing Initiative at the University of Maryland College Park.
Making of America (@ Cornell University)
Making of America (MOA) represents a major collaborative endeavor to preserve and make accessible through digital technology a significant body of primary sources related to development of the U.S. This collection is a thematically-related digital library documenting American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction.
Making of America (@ University of Michigan)
Making of America (MoA) is a digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction. The collection is particularly strong in the subject areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, religion, and science and technology. The collection currently contains approximately 10,000 books and 50,000 journal articles with 19th century imprints.
A Treasury of Primary Documents (The American Colonist's Library)
An invaluable collection of historical works which contributed to the formation of American politics, culture, and ideals. This is a massive collection of the literature and documents which were most relevant to the colonists' lives in America. If it isn't here, it probably is not available online anywhere.
Puritanism & the Witch Hunt
Documenting the American South
A digital publishing initiative that provides Internet access to texts, images, and audio files related to southern history, literature, and culture. Currently DocSouth includes sixteen thematic collections of books, diaries, posters, artifacts, letters, oral history interviews, and songs. The University Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sponsors Documenting the American South, and the texts and materials come primarily from its southern holdings.
Library of Southern Literature
The "Library of Southern Literature" includes a wide range of literary works of the American South published before 1924. This collection begins with some of the earliest texts about America written by British discoverers that set the foundation for American letters and traces the development of southern literature through to the beginning of the twentieth century.
The Rockefeller Library @ Colonial Williamsburg
Manuscripts, research reports, Virginia Gazettes & York County Probate Inventories from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Slavery & Emancipation
American Slave Narratives
From 1936 to 1938, over 2,300 former slaves from across the American South were interviewed by writers and journalists under the aegis of the Works Progress Administration. These former slaves, most born in the last years of the slave regime or during the Civil War, provided first-hand accounts of their experiences on plantations, in cities, and on small farms. Their narratives remain a peerless resource for understanding the lives of America's four million slaves. This web site provides an opportunity to read a sample of these narratives, and to see some of the photographs taken at the time of the interviews.
The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record
The 1,280 images in this collection have been selected from a wide range of sources, most of them dating from the period of slavery.
Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936 to 1938 (Library of Congress)
More transcripts from the Works Progress Administration. In 1937, John A. Lomax, the curator of the American Folk Song Archive at the Library of Congress, became interested in the narratives of ex-slaves that were appearing, and directed field workers to concentrate on this material. This resulted in over 2,000 of these narratives in the Library of Congress collection. Accompanying the digitized narratives are more than 500 photographs.
Freedmen and Southern Society Project
The Freedmen and Southern Society Project contains primary documents narrated by liberated slaves and defeated slaveholders, soldiers and civilians, common folk and the elite, Northerners and Southerners. Drawing upon the rich resources of the National Archives of the United States, the curators of the project selected some 50,000 documents covering the period from the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 to the beginning of Radical Reconstruction in 1867. The primary documents are supplemented with interpretive essays by the editors to provide historical context.
The Geography of Slavery in Virginia
The Geography of Slavery in Virginia is a digital collection of advertisements for runaway and captured slaves and servants in 18th- and 19th-century Virginia newspapers. Building on the rich descriptions of individual slaves and servants in the ads, the project offers a personal, geographical and documentary context for the study of slavery in Virginia, from colonial times to the Civil War.
North American Slave Narratives
Books and articles that document the individual and collective story of African Americans struggling for freedom and human rights in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. This collection includes all the existing autobiographical narratives of fugitive and former slaves published as broadsides, pamphlets, or books in English up to 1920. Also included are many of the biographies of fugitive and former slaves and some significant fictionalized slave narratives published in English before 1920.
The Underground Railroad: A Record, by William Still
Published in 1872, this book documents the experiences of enslaved people seeking freedom along the Undeground Railroad, "as related by themselves and others, or witnessed by the author."
The Civil War
American Civil War Collection: UVA E-Texts
The Electronic Text Center is home to a variety of primary source material on the American Civil War, including letters, diaries and newspapers.
The U.S. Civil War Center @ Ole Miss
Comprehensive attempt to catalog all Civil War-related resources on the Web.
Civil War Primary Sources from the American Battlefields Trust
A good compilation of many primary texts from the Civil War era, including official records, inaugural addresses, acts, bills, presidential orders and political cartoons, among many other categories.
The American Civil War Homepage
A clearinghouse list of links to documents, images and photographs from the Civil War era.
Historical United States Census Browser
Historical records from the U.S. Census. Data for the antebellum and Civil War eras can be highly revealing.
The Valley of the Shadow Project
The Valley of the Shadow is a digital archive of primary sources that document the lives of people in Augusta County, Virginia, and Franklin County, Pennsylvania, during the era of the American Civil War. Here you may explore thousands of original documents that allow you to see what life was like during the Civil War for the men and women of Augusta and Franklin.
Pennsylvanians in the Civil War
Diaries and histories written by Pennsylvania soldiers.
American Women's History: Women in the Civil War
Links to correspondence and other primary texts from women in the Civil War era.
Civil War: Women and the Homefront (Duke University LibGuide)
A compilation of resources on women in the Civil War from Duke University.