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U.S. Civil War in Government Documents: Congress and its Committees

Tips, techniques & links to help you find answers for your research papers & projects

Congress and its Committees

To find Civil War information from Congress, it is first helpful to first understand the types of publications that body produces.  Also, because Congress debated more than just the Civil War during the early 1860s, one must also have a strategy for finding specific information about the war.

  • The Congressional Globe is a printed record of every word spoken in House and Senate chambers, and includes supplementary material members submitted for the record.  The Congressional Globe is freely available online through the Library of Congress website, but MU affiliates and guests might choose the Proquest Congressional database instead, which allows proximity searching and sorting of results by relevance.  SEARCH STRATEGY:
    • Using the printed version:
      MU Libraries have paper copies of the Congressional Globe.  Indexes are included in the volumes, generally at the beginning of the session, and there are separate indexes for each chamber. 
    • Using full text online:
      it is best to search forwords and phrases which were common at that time.  Congressmen did not use the term "Civil War" each time they spoke of it.  However in most debates, there will be high frequency of words such as rebellion, north, south, war, insurrection, and slavery.  Other names for the war, such as "war of rebellion" and "war between the states" were common in the early days as well.

  • House and Senate Documents and Reports contain such a variety of information it is almost impossible to make a generalization about the content.  We encourage researchers to find pertinent material through the Readex U.S. Congressional Serial Set database because it offers proximity keyword searching in the full text, and subject indexing as well.  Further, the database allows pdf downloads for customizable groups of pages.  Printed copies of the Serial Set are housed in MU Libraries' offsite storage and are available to both affiliates and guests.  One can quickly peruse Serial Set volume titles using UNT's Serial Set Inventory, beginning with the 37th Congress and clicking forward.  Then to request MU Libraries' own volumes for check out, use the "Request" button to make selections from the MERLIN record

  • Congressional Committees publications and records

    All Civil War era congressional committees are listed below.  One approach to finding information is to simply browse the committees functioning during the war, then seek a specific committees' publications and papers.  Printing budgets were tight during the Civil War so be forewarned, there is not much published material available in this category.  The majority will be at the National Archives.    MU affiliates and guests might follow this strategy:
  1. Go to the Proquest Congressional database
  2. Select "Hearings"
  3. Enter a keyword from the committee name or a topic
  4. Set the date range to include only 1861-1865
  5. If results are not adequate, seek the committee's papers through the National Archives.

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Senate Standing Committees
From December 2, 1861 to March 4, 1865 (unless stated otherwise)

  • Agriculture - Est. December 7, 1863 (Sherman R-OH)
  • Claims (Clark R-NH)
  • Commerce (Chandler R-MI)
  • District of Columbia (Grimes R-IA)
  • Engrossed Bills – Est. December 1, 1862 (Lane R-IN)
  • Finance (Fessenden R-ME, Sherman R-OH)
  • Foreign Relations (Sumner R-MA)
  • Indian Affairs (Doolittle R-WI)
  • Judiciary (Trumbull R-IL)
  • Manufactures – Est. December 5, 1864 (Sprague R-RI)
  • Military Affairs and the Militia (Wilson R-MA)
  • Naval Affairs (Hale R-NH, Grimes R-IA)
  • Pacific Railroad – Est. December 7, 1863 (Howard R-MI)
  • Patents and Patent Office (Simmons R-RI, Cowan R-PA)
  • Pensions (Foster R-CT)
  • Post Offices and Post Roads (Collamer R-VT)
  • Private Land Claims (Harris R-NY)
  • Public Buildings and Grounds (Foot R-VT)
  • Public Lands (Harlan R-IA)
  • Revolutionary Claims (King R-NY, Wilkinson R-MN)
  • Territories (Wade R-OH)
  • To Audit and Control the Contingent Expenses of the Senate (Dixon R-CT)

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Senate Select Committees of the 37th Congress

  • Preservation of Order in the Galleries – Existed from March 8, 1861 to March 28, 1861 (Anthony R-RI)
  • Bill to Promote the Efficiency of the Army - Existed from July 6, 1861 to August 6, 1861 (Wilson R MA)
  • Altering the Construction of the Senate Chamber – Existed from July 8, 1861 to August 6, 1861 (Hale R-NH)
  • Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean – Existed from July 16, 1861 to August 6, 1861 (1 st Session), December 9, 1861 to July 17, 1862 (Second Session); (McDougall D-CA)
  • Surrender and Destruction of Navy Yards and United States Property – Existed from July 29, 1861 to August 6, 1861 (1 st Session), December 9, 1861 to April 18, 1862 (2 nd Session) (Hale R-NH)
  • Connecting Military and Naval Stations with Submarine Cable – Existed from December 23, 1861 to July 17, 1861 (Simmons R-RI)
  • Charges Against Senator Benjamin Stark of Oregon – Existed from March 18, 1862 to April 22, 1862 (Clark R-NH)
  • Bill for the Establishment of a National Foundry – Existed from March 21, 1862 to July 17, 1862 (Grimes R-IA)
  • Bill to Confiscate the Property and Free the Slaves of Rebels - Existed from May 7, 1862 to May 14, 1862 (Clark R-NH)
  • Impeachment of Judge West H. Humphreys, of the District Court for the Several Districts of Tennessee – Existed from May 8, 1862 to May 9, 1862 (Foster R-CT)
  • Ventilation of the Senate Chamber – Existed from June 5, 1862 to July 17, 1862 (Hale R-NH)
  • Chartering Transport Vessels for the Banks Expedition – Existed from December 22, 1862 to February 9, 1863 (Grimes R-IA)
  • Bill Concerning the Construction of a Railroad and Telegraph Line from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean – Existed from December 23, 1862 to February 10, 1863 (McDougall D-CA)
  • Bill Concerning Military Claims Originating from the Rebellion in Virginia West of the Blue Ridge, Prior to Sept. 30, 1862 – Existed from February 5, 1863 to February 13, 1863 (Davis U-KY)

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Senate Select Committees of the 38th Congress

  • Slavery and the Treatment of Freedmen – Existed from January 13, 1864 to February 29, 1864 (1 st Session), December 8, 1864 to March 3, 1864 (2 nd Session); (Sumner R-MA)
  • Select Committee on Naval Supplies – Existed from January 25, 1864 to June 29, 1864 (Hale R-NH)
  • Overland Mail Supplies – Existed from March 3, 1865 to July 26 1866 (Stewart R-NV)

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House Standing Committees
From December 2, 1861 to March 4, 1865 (unless stated otherwise)

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House Select Committees of the 37th Congress

  • Rules - Existed from July 4, 1861 to March 3, 1863 (Grow R-PA)
  • Pacific Railroad – Existed from July 8, 1861 to March 3, 1863 (Curtis R-IA)
  • Government Contracts – Existed from July 8, 1861 to March 3, 1863 (Van Wyck R-NY)
  • Loyalty of Government Employees – Existed from July 8, 1861 to March 3, 1863 (Potter R-WI)
  • Establishment of a National Armory West of the Allegheny Mountains – Existed from July 10, 1861 to February 28, 1862 (Moorhead R-PA)
  • Reduction of Government Expenditures – Existed from July 13, 1861 to March 3, 1863 (F. Conkling R-NY)
  • Bankruptcy Law – Existed from July 15, 1861 to March3, 1863 (R. Conkling R-NY)
  • Defenses of the Great Lakes and Rivers – Existed from December 5, 1861 to March 3, 1863 (Arnold R-IL)
  • Gradual Emancipation of Slaves in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri – Existed from April 7, 1862 to March 3, 1863 (White R-IN)
  • Confiscation of Rebel Property – Existed from April 24, 1862 to June 17, 1862 (Olin R-NY, Sedgwick R-NY)
  • Ship Canal Around the Falls of Niagara – Existed from June 24, 1862 to March 3, 1863 (Van Horn R-NY)
  • Charges of Corruption Contained in the New York Tribune – Existed from June 30, 1862 to January 12, 1863 (Clark R-NY)
  • Investigate Charges Against the Honorable James M. Ashley – Existed from December 4, 1862 to February 28, 1863 (Bingham R-OH)
  • Government Employees in Banking Institutions Having Government Contracts or Dealing in Stocks – Existed from December 22, 1862 to March 3, 1863 (Train R-MA)
  • Military and Post Roads and Railroads from New York to Washington – Existed from January 12, 1863 to March 3, 1863 (Fenton R-NY)
  • D.P. Holloway’s Management of the Patent Office – Existed from January 30, 1863 to March 2, 1863 (Sheffield U-RI)
  • Alleged Abstraction of the Report of the Minority of the Select Committee on Government Contracts from the Clerk’s Office – Existed from March 3, 1863 to March 3, 1863 (Washburne R-IL)

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House Select Committees of the 38th Congress

  • Rules – Existed from December 7, 1863 to March 3, 1865 (Colfax R-IN)
  • Pacific Railroad – Existed from December 14, 1863 to March 3, 1865 (Stevens R-PA)
  • Emancipation – Existed from December 14, 1863 to March 3, 1865 (Eliot R-MA)
  • The Rebellious States – Existed from December 15, 1863 to March 3, 1865 (Davis UU-MD)
  • Immigration (Special Committee) – Existed from December 15, 1863 to March 3, 1865 (Washburne R-IL)
  • National Bankruptcy Law – Existed from December 21, 1863 to March 3, 1865 (Spalding R-OH)
  • Railroad from New York to Washington – Existed from January 6, 1864 to June 9, 1864 (Brandegee R-CT)
  • Absence of Dr. Charles Mayer Wetherill, the Chemist of the Department of Agriculture – January 19, 1864 to March 21, 1864 (Orth R-IN)
  • National Armory West of the Alleghenies – Existed from February 1, 1864 to March 3, 1865 (Kellogg R-MI)
  • Allowing Department Heads Seats on the Floor of the House – Existed from February 8, 1864 to March 3, 1865 (Pendleton R-OH)
  • Purchase of Congressional Annals and Debates – Existed from March 14, 1864 to March 18, 1864 (Smith UU-KY)
  • Charge Against the Honorable F. P. Blair, Jr., of Missouri, Regarding Alleged Liquor Speculation – Existed from March 23, 1864 to April 23, 1864 (Higby R-CA)
  • Defenses of the Northeastern Frontier – Existed from April 25, 1864 to March 3, 1865 (Rice R-ME)
  • Alleged Frauds in the Treasury Department – Existed from April 30, 1864 to June 30, 1864 (Garfield R-OH)
  • Pensions – Existed from December 15, 1864 to March 3, 1865 (Griswold D-NY)
  • Indian Affairs – Existed from January 17, 1865 to March 3, 1865 (Windom R-MN)
  • Charges Against the Honorable Lucien Anderson – Existed from January 18, 1865 to March 3, 1865 (Smith UU-KY)
  • Assault by A. P. Field on the Honorable William D. Kelley – Existed from January 23, 1865 to February 7, 1865 (Beaman R-MI)
  • Charges Against the Commissioner of Patents – Existed from February 8, 1865 to March 2, 1865 (Higby R-CA)

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Joint Standing Committees
From December 2, 1861 to March 4, 1865 (unless stated otherwise)

  • Joint Committee on Enrolled Bills ( Bingham R-MI, Howe R-WI)
  • Joint Committee on Printing ( Anthony R-RI)
  • Joint Committee on the Library ( Pearce D-MD, Collamer R-VT)
  • Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War ( Wade R-OH)

 

Govt Documents Coordinator

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Marie Concannon
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