What is The Corpus of American Civil War Letters?
The Corpus of American Civil War Letters (CACWL) project was started in 2007 by Missouri State University English professor Dr. Michael Ellis in conjunction with research partner Dr. Michael Montgomery of the University of South Carolina. The CAWCL now includes thousands of letters from ordinary Civil War soldiers and their family and friends. Ellis and Montgomery have also created resources designed to enable a better understanding of the content of the letters, such as background information on individual soldiers, glossaries of common terms, and dialectical maps.
In 2015, the University of Georgia began the process of compiling the entire CACWL archives onto its website ehistory.org under the title the Common Tongues Project. Ellis and Montgomery's work represents one of the first widespread efforts to enable public access to the letters of Civil War soldiers so that their words might not be lost to history.
The MSU English Department became involved in the CACWL project in 2009 when it first started offering courses for students to learn the transcription process firsthand from Dr. Ellis. Our students have now transcribed over 6,000 Civil War letters.