Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Official Records on DVD

When thinking about possible topics for posts, I often turn to the The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, also known by most people as the Official Records or OR.  I also use the Official Records when doing research for many of my posts. Of course, I can't afford all 128 volumes of the OR, nor would I have the space even if I had the cash. I also don't have the time to visit libraries to explore copies of the OR.  So, I was grateful to find two free online collections of the OR.  Both Ohio State University and Cornell University run websites dedicated to the OR. Unfortunately, these sites are a bit clunky, and sometimes slow.  The OSU version has the unavoidable errors that result from converting the actual book to text.  I therefore decided to see if I could purchase a somewhat better quality and user-friendly collection on a computer disc. 

After searching on Amazon and eBay, I found exactly what I was looking for. The Historical Archive publishes a two DVD set of all 128 volumes entitled War of the Rebellion: Master Edition.  (I bought my copy on eBay for a little shy of thirty dollars.)  The DVDs run on a Windows or Apple operating system and require Adobe Acrobat and a web browser.  Each page of every volume appears exactly like in the hard copy, including charts and maps.  Loading one of the DVDs on my laptop, I can select a volume from the HTML index and easily browse through the PDF images as if I were holding the book and turning the actual pages.  The search function is also easy to use, and based on my experience so far, turns up comprehensive and accurate results.  I would recommend these DVDs to anyone who would like to own a complete set of the OR in digital format.  Such products are proof once again of how modern technology has made primary source research that much easier for Civil War historians and enthusiasts alike.

6 comments:

Andy Hall said...

Thanks for posting this. I use a different digitized set of the OR, but it's absolutely irreplaceable for anyone serious about doing Civil War research.

Ron said...

You're welcome. Glad to see you've found a good digitized set. Access to the OR is critical for ACW research, and the availability on CD or DVD makes a whole world available to many who would find it hard to access a hard copy version otherwise (like myself, with 1 year-old twins!).

Anonymous said...

Ron, I just purchased the DVD set from Amazon. Like you, I have used the eHistory and Cornell sites, but found them somewhat difficult to use. eHistory seems quite a lot faster, but lots of misspelling and missing words, etc. And, like you say, to own a set of the OR is prohibitively expensive and I have no room for it anyway (have used the sets at U of Pittsburgh and W&J -I live in Washington County, PA- and over the years picked up up few individual volumes at used bookstores just for fun). Have the old Guild cd edition but found it difficult to use. This one may be different, haven't used it yet other than a brief session to "try it out" .. it didn't come with any instructions, so I'm trying to sort it out myself,so far so good. I think it will work! I really like the real-page format .. Looked for other reviews today out of curiosity and found yours .. good luck with your research (I'm just beginning a project on the New Mexico campaign - expanding an article I wrote in grad school called "Confederate Arizona" .. it's online if you'd care to peek .. thanks for your blog .. best wishes, Tom Gilbert

Ron Baumgarten said...

Tom--Thanks for your comment, and glad you think that this edition will work for you. I have been using it for almost a year now, and I am largely satisfied. The only complaint I have is that the DVD sometimes crashes when I try to search the larger volumes. Perhaps it is more of a problem with my now-ancient laptop than anything! Overall, however, nothing beats this DVD. I will be sure to check out your Arizona work. Interesting topic for a Western PA guy! (I hail from Pittburgh, myself, by the way.)

tom g said...

I am originally from the West Texas/New Mexico area, have long held an interest in New Mexico history as well as that of the ACW .. the New Mexico campaign brings it all together for me .. what really amazed me is that during my school days in El Paso in the 50's and 60's, I heard plenty from the history teachers about Gettysburg and a few other eastern campaigns and battlefields, but I never once heard of the New Mexico campaign "in my own back yard" until many years later when I began my studies here in PA. What a shame! I hope it's being taught now, some 50 years later, but I have little confidence that it is.

Ron Baumgarten said...

Okay. Now I see the connection! I find it regrettable that the schools in El Paso didn't examine the local/regional Civil War history. Perhaps it is different now. I'd love to read more about more obscure Civil War history in the Trans-Mississippi and out West. I recently got a Blue & Gray magazine special on the Civil War in Indian country, which should be interesting.