Our guest blogger today is DeAnne Blanton, reference archivist at the National Archives in Washington, DC (Archives I)
The Archives I Reference Section is pleased to announce our in-house digitization project in honor of the Civil War sesquicentennial. During the course of the next five years or so, the 2,750 volumes comprising the Collected Record Books of Various Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Offices of the Confederate States of America, 1860-1865 (NAID 596501), will be digitized and uploaded in batches to the Online Catalog. Each volume will have its own unique National Archives Identifier Number.
These record books, part of Record Group [RG] 109, War Department Collection of Confederate Records, are a significant collection of records encompassing nearly all aspects of the Confederate Government and military. These records, which were created by various elements of the Confederate States during the Civil War, came into the custody of the U.S. War Department during and at the end of the war by capture or surrender. A significant portion was captured along with Jefferson Davis and his cabinet. In the post-war years, the U.S. War Department added to their collection of Confederate records through purchase or donation by private individuals throughout the South.
Between 1874 and 1898, the records were in the physical custody of the Archive Office as well as the Record and Pension Office of the Adjutant General’s Office. During this period, the Confederate records were cataloged and organized. They were heavily used as part of the publication of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, and were consulted and transcribed as part of the creation of both the Union and Confederate compiled military service records.
As part of the cataloging and organizing of the Confederate records, all of the bound volumes were classified according to provenance into groups called “chapters.” Volumes were then numbered serially within these chapters. The chapters are as follows:
I: Adjutant and Inspector General’s Office
II: Military Commands
III: Engineer Department
IV: Ordnance Department
V: Quartermaster Department
VI: Medical Department
VII: Legislative Records
VIII: Miscellaneous Records
IX: Office of the Secretary of War
X: Treasury Department
XI: Post Office Department
The War Department transferred their Confederate records to the National Archives in 1938. NARA rebound the Collected Record Books, but still maintains the “chapter volume” arrangement. Within RG 109, the Collected Record Books are the most heavily used series, and are requested by historians, genealogists, and Civil War preservationists on a regular basis. They are also perhaps the most interesting, not only because of the wide range of information they contain, but in their wide physical variety – an assortment of shapes, weights, paper color and paper type prevail throughout the collection.
Digitization of the Collected Record Books is a collaborative venture, with multiple offices at both Archives I (Washington, DC, AI) and Archives II (College Park, AII) working together to accomplish this ambitious effort. The “chapter-volume” team consists of staff from the following offices: Archival Operations – Washington, DC (RD-DC); Conservation Branch (RXC); Digitization Services Branch (IDS); and Online Public Access Branch (IOO). DeAnne Blanton, RD-DC (AI), is Project Lead.