How to Use This Site

This is an early access exhibit for CWRGM. We cannot promise that these 80+ documents are representative of the full collection — only our continued efforts and analysis can prove that — but they do provide scholars, teachers, students, and the public with a better understanding of CWRGM and how Mississippians experienced the Civil War and Reconstruction.

What is CWRGM?

The Civil War & Reconstruction Governors of Mississippi (CWRGM) hopes to revolutionizes how scholars, teachers, students and the public study this era by spotlighting what we don't know and complicating what we think we know. Grounded in nearly 20,000 documents from the state's governors' papers, CWRGM begins in late 1859 on the brink of secession and ends just after Reconstruction in the early Jim Crow South as elite white Mississippians regained control of the state and abandoned the civil rights advances of the past two decades. Organized around nine administrations, the collections touch on nearly every major issue of the age and include voices from every possible constituency. The resulting project, launched in 2019 and scheduled for completion in 2030, is only possible because it's grounded in a partnership between the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the Mississippi Digital Library, and the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) History program, the USM Dale Center for the Study of War & Society, and the USM Center for the Study of the Gulf South. With the launch of its first full phase — totaling about 4,000 documents — in June 2021, CWRGM will be a keyword-searchable digital documentary edition, freely available online, that includes high-resolution images of original documents next to their transcriptions, ore metadata, keyword searchability, tagging to spotlight connections within the documents, and contextualizing annotations. It will feature authors and publications that utilize the collection, a blog and podcast, and lesson plans for educators.

True Accessibility: Hearing from Mississippi's Diverse Population

Nineteenth-century governors' papers are a bit like modern social media — the documents capture candid expressions of Mississippians' hopes, frustrations, and fears in those tumultuous times. These range from earth-shattering moments of history (emancipation, military campaigns, riots) to earth shattering moments for individuals (rising taxes, the theft of a horse, concerns about hunger and food). Much like social media today, nearly every constituency of nineteenth-century America is reflected in states' governors' papers regardless of class, gender, age, or, especially after the end of slavery, race and ethnicity. As a result, governors' papers let us take the pulse of a society at war struggling to forge a new definition of freedom in the uneasy peace that followed.

What can I find at the CWRGM Sample Documents Site?

CWRGM is a massive, long-term project, so keep in mind that this is just a small ­­­sample (roughly 80-documents) of what's to come. Still, we wanted to share a sampling of what these documents reveal and how they can enhance learning about this critical period in U.S. history. To do this, CWRGM Project Director Susannah J. Ural (Professor of History, University of Southern Mississippi) thought about four key areas of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras that are especially important to scholars and teachers, and she selected roughly 20 sample documents for each section that span the entire CWRGM collection (1859-1882). The four key areas or themes are:  

Emancipation/Citizenship – These documents have to do with the long process of emancipation and how the end of slavery changed the definition of citizenship and who could access the power those rights offered.

Civilians/Divided Loyalties – These documents relate to home front experiences and help us realize how divided that Mississippi home front was during the war between Confederates, Unionists, deserters, and dissenters. This collection also helps site users think about how civilians experienced and responded to the pressures of war at the time, which can then let us think about how they later remembered their wartime lives or how they, and subsequent generations, misremembered these.

Soldiers’ Experience/Evolving Motivations – These documents help us understand the wartime experiences of soldiers (volunteers, conscripts, state militiamen versus those in national (Confederate) service) and how their motivations to join often differed from why they continued to serve or left military service. They also help users remember the hundreds of white Mississippians (possibly many more) and the nearly 20,000 Black Mississippians who fought for the Union. Finally, this collection, especially the telegrams include, help site users study the pressures of war in real-time as military forces battled for control of the region.

Memory/Commemoration – Most documents from the height of memory/commemoration efforts in Mississippi and the larger United States are outside the purview of our collection, which ends in 1882. But it's useful to use CWRGM collections to think about how the Lost Cause helped erase the memory of white Unionism in Mississippi, of Black military service in the Union armies/navy, of tremendous socio-economic advances by African-Americans during the era of Reconstruction that were largely eradicated as that era came to a close.

In the Classroom
Each theme has lesson plans for elementary, middle, and high school learning with a few selected documents and ideas on how students might work with and learn from these. You can find these linked in our Educator Resources.


We hope you enjoy and learn from the materials at this introductory site. Stay tuned for our podcasts coming later this year or in early Spring 2021. If you'd like to help with any of the research projects mentioned in the exhibit, please do! Don't hesitate to contact us with any questions at:

For a listing of directors, editors, and contributors to the CWRGM Project, click here