How to Get Started

The Civil War & Reconstruction Governors of Mississippi project (CWRGM) offers users a variety of methods to explore the digitized, transcribed, and annotated collection. You can learn more about those here and decide which approach works best for you.

You can explore the CWRGM website through simple keyword searches in the search bar that appears on all pages. You'll want to use quotation marks around a phrase such as "Madison County" or "Shiloh, battle of" to avoid pulling up every document that includes the term "county" or items relating to Shiloh, Alabama when you were trying to explore the 1862 battle. The search feature reviews all transcriptions and subject tags, as well as document metadata so that even if the battle of Shiloh is not specifically mentioned in the document, the metadata will ensure that users find an item if appropriate. This also works for larger organizations, such as Ladies Military Aid Societies that you can search as "Ladies Military Aid Society"

If you want to explore a military unit, such as the 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, try typing the following phrase in the search bar: 11th Regiment Infantry. Much like a Google search, this will generate a list of documents relating to that subject. The first couple pages of all have to do with the unit of interest, and the search results expand out from there.

This feature allows you to narrow your search with keywords (try using "is not exactly" rather than "exactly" if you are not positive of the terminology), and additional functions such as date, location (town or by county), occupation, and more. This can be a great option if you're hoping to focus on a specific town or county's experience in the war, documents for a specific year or group of individuals such as, perhaps, the experiences of military families in the first full year of the war.

If you're not quite sure how to get started or maybe you don’t know much about this time period, the "Explore the Collection" section of the site is a great place to start. This section lets you explore the CWRGM Collection by events, military units, occupations, organizations and businesses, people, places, vital statistics (birth, deaths, marriages, etc.), or social identifying terms such as African Americans, draftees, immigrants, and more.

For example, if you want to study the experiences of African-Americans in Civil War- and Reconstruction-era Mississippi,  you can go to "Explore the Collection," click on "Social Identifiers," and click on "African Americans." This will pull up any document that has been digitized, transcribed, and annotated relating to African-Americans in general. You can also narrow your search by considering other subject tags such as "free people of color" and "enslaved people" that are also found under "Social Identifiers."

You can also narrow your search by region. Maybe you're part of a school group in Natchez, Mississippi and you want to explore how your community experienced the Civil War and Reconstruction. Under "Explore the Collection," you can click on "Places," go to the "Ns" and click "Natchez" to pull up all digitized, transcribed, and annotated documents relating to Natchez, Mississippi. If you want to broaden that out a bit (which we would suggest), you can go to the "As" to click on "Adams County" and if you think about how close Natchez is to Jefferson County, you may want to explore those county-related documents, too.

If you're interested in military history, for example, you may want to search for specific regiments under "Military Units," but you should also explore terms like "military substitutes," "military deserters," and "draftees" under "Social Identifiers" and then hop over to "Vital Statistics" (in the dropdown feature under "Explore the Collection") to check out documents that reference "Wounds and Injuries" and "Disease and Illness."

There are also wide variety of topics to explore under "Organizations and Businesses" such as "banks," "armories," "jury," and "railroad." Under "Occupations," you can explore the experiences of "blacksmiths," "printers," "tax collectors," and others. Researchers looking for specific individuals or family surnames will want to explore the category labeled "People."

Before using the "Explore the Collection" section, we encourage you to first read about how we created our subject tagging procedures.

Experienced researchers may want to explore the CWRGM collection as though they were in an archival reading room, looking through each document in a folder in the order in which they arrived in the governor's office (or as close to it as an archivist can estimate). If you fall into this category, you'll want to click on "Documents" (it appears at the top of every page) and then "Collection Description" from the dropdown menu, which describes the order in which CWRGM publishes digitized, transcribed, and annotated documents to its website. From here you can click on different Series numbers, boxes, and folders to narrow your exploration of the digital collection.

Researchers can also start this process from an individual document. Say, for example, you find a record of interest and want to see others around it. Directly below the digitized document, click on the "Document Metadata" tab and scroll down until you see the Box and Folder in which it is found. By clicking on that link (such as "Box 931, Folder 11") you will pull up all of the documents in the order in which they were digitized from that specific box and folder.