Mapping Tennessee's Civil War history...

The Civil War Sesquicentennial has inspired a number of projects and initiatives by archivists and digital historians looking for new ways to chronicle our nation's most bloody conflict. Today, I'd like to highlight two online projects using digital maps to document Civil War history in my home state of Tennessee.

Last summer, I shared news about the Tennessee State Library and Archives' new online interactive research tool called the Tennessee Civil War GIS Project.

TSLA's Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology makes it possible to integrate data about the Civil War in a user-friendly geographical interface, bringing hundreds of engagements and battles to your screen with aerial photography and modern map layers. The Tennessee Civil War GIS Project also links to narrative information from the Official Records and the Tennessee Civil War Sourcebook. It includes 1860 county Census data and unit histories for every Tennessee regiment from Tennesseans in the Civil War. It also features many original maps, documents, diaries, and photographs from TSLA's historic collections.

There are several useful applications for the Tennessee Civil War GIS Project, including:

  • A powerful tool for battlefield preservationists.
  • The robust interface and sophisticated graphics application makes it ideal for research. Students, teachers, re-enactors, and anyone interested in Civil War history can use the map for a variety of research projects.
  • For anyone planning a Civil War themed vacation itinerary, the site displays Tennessee's rich array of Civil War sites, parks and memorials.


In a related story, the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections blog recently published a story about efforts to put the War of the Rebellion Atlas online, and their collaboration with Zada Law, Director of the Fullerton Laboratory for Spatial Technology at Middle Tennessee State University. According to the article:

Defenses of Nashville, Tenn. from the War of the Rebellion Atlas.
Image credit: Baylor University Library Digital Collections
Law will be utilizing high-resolution copies of several Atlas maps of the Nashville area to see if defensive earthworks built around the city by Federal forces might still be discoverable today, almost 150 years after the war ended.


Law, a PhD candidate at MTSU, plans to overlay the Atlas images with “modern high resolution orthographic aerial images.” Using records from the Tennessee Division of Archaeology and enhanced elevation (LiDAR) datasets, she hopes to locate “previously unrecorded extant earthwork sections or identify where archaeological traces of entrenchments may still remain.”

Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm a bit of a map geek, and I have an appreciation for cartography that goes way back, so I was thrilled to learn about these exciting new projects involving my home state of Tennessee.

Visit the Tennessee Civil War GIS Project to explore TSLA's online map project, and read Baylor University's Digital Collections blog to learn more about Tennessee's connection to the War of Rebellion Atlas.


Gordon Belt is an information professional, special collections librarian, archives advocate, public historian, research consultant, and founding editor of The Posterity Project. He is the current president of the Society of Tennessee Archivists, and serves as Treasurer of TSLAFriends, the friends organization of the Tennessee State Library and Archives. As an extension of The Posterity Project, Gordon also offers short-term, project-based historical research and social media consulting services to archives, museums, historical societies, cultural heritage organizations, small businesses, authors, and individuals. Contact Gordon to find out how he can help you "Document the links to your past."

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