Skip to content


Folders and files

Last commit message
Last commit date

Latest commit



7 Commits

Repository files navigation


This repo is home to an open-source collection of some of the handouts that I use for "The American Civil War Era," a history course that I teach regularly at Rice University. I'm posting them here in case other instructors would like to use or add to them.

How to Get the Handouts

If all you want are the PDFs, click on the "Download ZIP" button at the bottom of this repo's sidebar. You can then unzip the file (usually as simple as double-clicking on it) and look in the pdf folder for the handouts. The current handouts include:

  • 1858-irrepressible-conflicts-speeches.pdf

    Speeches by William Henry Seward, Abraham Lincoln, and James Henry Hammond about the sectional crisis.

  • 1861-cameron-to-butler-contraband.pdf

    Secretary of War Simon Cameron's instructions to Benjamin Butler about what to do when enslaved people running away from their enslavers showed up at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, in the early months of the war.

  • 1861-first-confiscation-act.pdf

    Congress's First Confiscation Act, or that part of it concerning enslaved people.

  • 1861-glisson-to-stringham-contraband.pdf

    A navy counterpart to the exchanges between Cameron and Butler about the Union's emancipation policy.

  • 1862-laura-towne-diary.pdf

    Memoir of a Northern women who went to the Union-occupied Sea Islands of South Carolina early in the War. Good for helping students think about the expectations of Northerners concerning the post-slavery order, as well as the expectations of freedpeople themselves.

  • 1862-lincoln-on-colonization.pdf

    Lincoln's famous meeting with a group of black ministers advising them to consider colonization as a viable plan, as reported in notes taken at the meeting by his secretary.

  • 1862-second-confiscation-act.pdf

    The Second Confiscation Act, which represented a more radical approach to wartime emancipation than the first such act.

  • 1863-emancipation-proclamation.pdf

    Lincoln's famous Emancipation Proclamation, which went into effect on January 1, 1863.

  • 1865-edisto-island-freedmen.pdf

    A letter from freedpeople in the Sea Islands detailing their expectations regarding emancipation, as well as the challenges they faced.

  • 1865-jourdon-anderson-letter.pdf

    An open letter from a formerly enslaved man to his former owner in Tennessee, demanding wages and reparations as a condition for any return to Nashville.

  • 1865-lee-surrender-general-orders.pdf

    Robert E. Lee's General Orders No. 9, issued to his army after the surrender at Appommatox Court House, attributed the Confederacy's defeat to the overwhelming numbers and resources of the enemy, which became a fixture in Lost Cause explanations of the War.

  • 1865-sherman-savannah-colloquy.pdf

    Report of a famous meeting between free black leaders in Savannah, Georgia, and William Tecumseh Sherman concerning their views on the war and their hopes for the postwar order.

  • 1865-sherman-general-orders-15.pdf

    In these famous orders, General William Tecumseh Sherman divided abandoned Confederate lands along the Georgia, Carolina, and Florida coasts and allowed formerly enslaved people to claim and settle on forty-acre plots, in direct response to requests made at the Savannanh Colloquy.

  • 1865-thomas-knox-campfire-cotton-field.pdf

    A Northern journalist turned Southern cotton planter after the war, Thomas Knox wrote a memoir that is good for helping students to compare and contrast Northern ideas of "free labor" with freedpeople's understandings of emancipation.

  • 1867-hawkins-wilson-letter

    A letter from a formerly enslaved man in Galveston, Texas, who is trying to locate relatives in Virginia.

  • 1878-douglass-on-civil-war-memory.pdf

  • 1904-gordon-on-civil-war-memory.pdf

  • 1912-early-on-civil-war-memory.pdf

    Three contrasting takes, from Frederick Douglass, John Brown Gordon, and Jubal Early, on how the Civil War should be remembered. These roughly correspond to what David Blight calls the "emancipationist," "reconciliationist," and "Lost Cause" memory of the War.

If you want to know more about how the handouts are made, or want to modify them for yourself, read on.

How the Handouts are Made

In recent years, I have been converting most of my handouts into the plain-text Markdown format. I then use Pandoc to convert them into nicely formatted PDF files that I can print and post for students. This semester, I also began to use a template, included in this repo, to produce handouts modeled on the design principles taught by Edward Tufte. The template uses the tufte-latex class to produce handouts that have a wide right margin for notes. By default, I also add line numbers to all the handouts, so that I and my students can refer to specific lines. Images can also be floated in the margins.

How to Modify the Handouts

If you have suggestions about changes to make to the handouts, you can file an issue using GitHub or email me directly.

If you want to modify the handouts, you'll need the following installed on your machine:

You can then modify the Markdown of the handouts in the src directory. If you have Make installed, then building all of the handouts is as easy as issuing make all from the command line in the root of the repo.


Open-source collection of handouts for Civil War history






No releases published


No packages published