In the fourth of our Internet Resources series we examine the Internet Archive, a non-profit resource set up in 1996 and based in San Francisco. At the site you can access a vast amount of information, most notably through the search engine function which allows you to locate and read a vast array of texts online, particularly from the 19th and early 20th centuries. For those interested in any aspect of history the site is extremely useful, and it is invaluable for researching the American Civil War.

Regular visitors to Irish in the American Civil War will be familiar with the Books page, where you can access a bibliography of publications pertaining to the Irish experience of the Civil War. As a result of the Internet Archive facility it has been possible to hyperlink 20 of these titles directly to an online version of the text. Amongst these are some important works such as Conyngham’s The Irish Brigade and its Campaigns, Mulholland’s Story of the 116th Regiment and Corby’s Memoirs of Chaplain Life, to name but a few. Given the focus on out of print books, many of the texts available on Internet Archive offer personal accounts of the experiences of men who were directly involved in the fighting, providing insights not only into life between 1861-65 but also of the post-war period and their motivation in committing their memories to print.

In addition to the Irish-related information available on the site there is also a wealth of other important publications on the Civil War which are of great assistance to those interested in researching the conflict. There are literally hundreds of 19th century publications relating to the Civil War to explore, including many key state and national sources, examples of which include classics such as Fox’s Regimental Losses in the American Civil War, the Confederate Military History volumes and Lindsley’s Military Annals of Tennessee.

Using the resource is exceptionally easy; the user enters their chosen keywords into the Internet Archive search function, selects ‘texts’ from the dropdown menu and presses ‘go’ to view the results. Authors names and keywords will help you to narrow your search. There are a number of options available when viewing the texts, which are dependent on their original contributor and the method of upload to the internet. A read online facility means it is not necessary to download each document, but for those who wish to do so options include PDF, EPUB, Kindle, Daisy, Full Text and DjVu. At their source many of the manuscripts are also searchable, which is of great use if you are viewing a particularly large volume. Aside from texts the site also holds many other media types, including moving images and audio.

The Internet Archive is without doubt one of the best resources available to those interested in the Civil War on the web today. It allows access to a wide range of sources without the expense of purchasing original copies or travelling to a major repository of publications. This is of particular value to those of us located outside the United States. No matter what your level of interest, a visit to the site is strongly recommended, and remember if you want a look at some of the Irish titles available check out the Books page at Irish in the American Civil War.