Raynor’s Historical Collectible Auctions site is worth a visit to look at the Civil War manuscripts for auction. You can learn a lot just by looking at the excepts of the letters about soldiers’ attitudes about the war, their enemies, politicians, their leaders, and slavery. It’s often quite different than what you read in the history books.
There are also some interesting little stories, like this one about a woman soldier:
I will now give you a small circumstance that happened in the 37 New Jersey…there is a person in the regiment that…crossed with them into Maryland & at the Battle of Antietam was wounded. While in the hospital it was discovered…that this person was a woman…she returned to the regiment…the colonel of the regiment was informed by the hospital steward…what he had discovered, but the colonel…did not make it known to anyone…she had been promoted to corporal. While they were on picket this corporal was taken sick. She…went to a private house…& had a daughter born…this is a big story…but it is a true one. It was as…surprising to the company…she belonged to as it is to me…the company had noticed that she always tented with one person…when it was her turn to come on duty…her tent mate would take her place…they…never noticed anything in her…appearance to make them mistrust but what she was a man.
So the colonel knew, but said nothing and promoted her. You have to wonder what the full story was.
UPDATE: Joe Bilby emails some comments on the story. Bilby is best known for his writings on period firearms, but is also an expert on New Jersey troops in the Civil War, and is a Jerseyman himself.
The story has problems. The 37th was a problematic regiment, but it was nowhere near Antietam. The regiment was raised as a 100 days regiment in 1864, and was noted for having a lot of underage recruits. If any regiment had some weirdness in it, the 37th would be a prime candidate, but it did not exist at the time of the letter.
Of course he could have got the number wrong. The only [New Jersey] regiment committed to combat at Antietam was the 13th, and I have never seen any story like this about that unit. Could be army folklore.