Western New York and the Civil War

Cover Image:
Soldier seated with rifle
Portrait of Wilder Van Tine - Image Source

Collection Facts


Historical Context

This collection represents a cooperative initiative between the State University of New York  at Buffalo and several historical societies from the Western New York counties of Erie and Niagara to share local history collections with the public through digitization and presentation of an array of photographs, handwritten letters and ephemera from the American Civil War period. The focus of this collection is on local Civil War participants and on those resources (many of them primary) stored in local historical societies that have had minimal public exposure to date. Indeed, most of the items in the collection have not been  shared with the public unless a special trip is made to the specific holding society which, typically, is open only limited days and hours and, typically, only from May to October each year.

The state of New York was a major influence in national politics during this period since it was the most populous state in the Union and provided more troops to the Union Army (400, 000 to 460,000 men) than any other state as well as several important military commanders. Many of the Western New Yorkers who fought in the Union Army joined as young volunteers very early in the war and deserve recognition for their sacrifice as do those participants whose more indirect contributions helped to resolve some of the fundamental issues of this conflict. Effort has been made to present a balanced and inclusive view of the contributions of all Civil War participants including women and those of major ethnic groups represented in Western New York State such as Native Americans and African Americans. The intended audience for this collection is historians, researchers, students and the general public both for educational purposes and personal enrichment through historical and genealogical research.

 Although the collection, thus far, includes selected villages and towns from Erie and Niagara counties, the intention of this project is to continue adding the contributions of local area historical societies and cultural institutions to the collection as they become available and to include additional counties of Western New York State.