An Endless Search for Sources
For many years now the park staff has zealously collected sources that address the Civil War in the Richmond area. Usually that means letters, diaries, reminiscences, and newspaper accounts written by participants. Preservation is an important element in the park's mission, and our definition of that extends beyond just land. Every account written by an eyewitness improves our understanding of the sites, and helps us interpret the significant events that occurred around Richmond between 1861 and 1865. Much of this material comes from park visitors, often on an odyssey tracing their ancestors from battlefield to battlefield. Thus far the park has accumulated about 35,000 pages of photocopies, most of it pertaining to the battlefields around Richmond.
To make this tool useful to others outside the park, the historians have been fighting an almost endless battle to keep the multiplying stacks of material organized. Scholars studying specific topic--battles, units, personalities, politics, and morale, for instance--visit the park's library in ever increasing numbers. Recently the park staff has commenced entering some of this material into a ProCite database, which probably is as close to actual indexing as we ever will reach. That project is in its infancy, and will take many years to complete. But the preservation and use of soldier accounts remains a vital--and rewarding--part of our daily jobs.