Photographs, documents, and artifacts recounting the rich Civil War heritage of Tennessee families.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (2011-2015), the Tennessee State Library and Archives sent teams of archivists and conservators across the state of Tennessee to document and preserve Civil War-era materials. The team digitized thousands of original items that have rarely been viewed by the public. Digital copies of these documents and artifacts, representing the rich Civil War heritage of Tennessee families, have now become part of an exhibit commemorating the 150th anniversary of the war in Tennessee.
The Looking Back collection encompasses an extraordinary and diverse range of original items that were in use during the Civil War. Wartime letters, diaries, and photographs are well represented as are uniforms, quilts, rifles, pistols, and artillery shells. Tennesseans have brought in objects as unusual as carved minié balls, surgical kits, musical instruments, a horse blanket, and a half-boot made for a wounded soldier. The documents are equally interesting, and range from beautiful letters from soldiers home to their wives, diaries, and hand-drawn maps to eye-catching finds, such as a military pass signed by President Lincoln and a letter signed by Jefferson Davis.
Many of these materials brought in by patrons during a Looking Back event have never been documented or studied by historians, largely because they have been kept in private hands. These newly discovered primary sources will help fill in gaps in the historical record and will be available to future researchers and students of the Civil War in Tennessee.
Use this list to find items brought in during each digitization event. If you do not see a listing for a particular county, try looking in a neighboring county. Patrons frequently brought in materials from nearby counties to our events.
Some donors bring in large collections to be digitized for the Looking Back project. In some cases, the Library and Archives opts to microfilm these materials rather than digitize them on-site because of time constraints. For a list of the collections that the Library and Archives has microfilmed during the Looking Back project, please click here. In order to view the microfilm, a visit to the Library and Archives is required.
In addition to the information about each object that was recorded during a digitization event, some items may also have supporting materials that can be viewed upon request. While donor information is kept confidential, all other data compiled on the digitized materials is available for the public.