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Special Collections - War and Military History: For Instructors

Teaching with These Resources

This page offers suggestions of collections to use in your classroom, especially as a supplement to course content.

The reading room suggestions lend themselves especially well to viewing in person or else are not available online. To schedule a class visit to Hoole, contact Kate Matheny ( or 205-348-0506).

The online suggestions can, of course, be accessed in the reading room as well, but they are well suited to viewing in our digital archives explorer, Acumen.

Civil War


James H. McCleary Diary, Letter and Photograph (MSS.1610)

  • McCleary was a Union soldier, and this collection is especially impactful because (1) it contains a tintype (an old photography format) of the man and (2) he died during the Battle of Gettysburg, the diary breaking off at that point. A letter accompanying the collection discusses the placing of a headstone on McCleary's grave the following year.

George Doherty Johnston papers (MSS.4018)

  • Johnston was a Colonel and temporary Brigadier General in the Confederate army, so it is easy to find secondary sources about his life and career, including within the collection itself. Letters from the early war reflect his love and care for his wife, Euphradia. After her death in childbirth in early 1963, he didn't send many letters, but he received updates from his mother and mother-in-law, who were caring for his six children while he was away at war.

In the Reading Room

Holliman and Stewart families letters (MSS.3749)

  • James Holliman and William Stewart, both Confederate soldiers, were future brothers-in-law. Both men were involved in major battles in the Western Theater, like Chickamauga and the Chattanooga Campaign. During the war, Stewart wrote to his wife, Biddy, and Holliman wrote to Rebecca Stewart, his sweetheart, although a few letters are written from Biddy and Holliman to Stewart. The letters are in plastic sleeves, stored in a binder, so they permit a lot of handling.

Ambrose Doss papers (MSS.0446)

  • Doss, a Confederate soldier, died during the Atlanta Campaign in 1864, but before his death, he wrote numerous letters to his wife, Sarah. They letters reflect the privations of war and his worry for the large family he left behind. They are well organized by date and quite readable, reflecting the good diction but poor spelling of the lower classes. Doss's death is related to his wife in detail, in a letter from a comrade.

World War I


Huston Family papers (MSS.0724)

  • Huston was an Alabama soldier and UA alum killed during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The collection contains materials from his college days, allowing the reader to get to know the young man, as well as during his training and service overseas. Of special interest is the correspondence relating to his death, from the telegram his parents received to letters from his superior, unit comrades, and other friends in the service who heard about his death while "over there." 

Alston Fitts letters and photograph (MSS.0520)

  • Fitts was an Army doctor. He wrote numerous letters to his wife and children, a teenage girl and college-age boy, and the tone and content varies a great deal between recipients. The letters are easy to read and cover his time in training as well as serving in France.

In the Reading Room

Valentine J. Oldshue papers (MSS.1072)

  • Oldshue worked for an American ambulance company in France. His collection is especially good for visually illustrating the way war changed European life and culture. As Oldshue was a volunteer, he found his own way to Europe and back, and his travels are marked by a series of postcards, some reflecting the typical tourist vistas and others offering patriotic images and showing the effects of the war. The collection also contains numerous military and civilian passes, some related to his work as a reporter, and his dog tags.

Online or in the Reading Room

Victor Hugo Friedman papers (MSS.0545)

  • Friedman, of a prominent Tuscaloosa family, was a decorated Red Cross worker in Italy. For reading room visits, his collection provides a lot of visual interest, including early 20th century photos of the alps and artifacts like military pins and ribbons. Even the documents tend to be visual in nature, as many are letter or telegrams on Red Cross letterhead, communicating the needs of their outpost. Some items are in Italian, or in both Italian and English. There is also some personal correspondence that communicates his experiences to his family. But the content of the letters is also engaging, and the vast majority has transcriptions available online.

World War II


Andrew William Johnson Jr. Papers (MSS.2356)

  • Andrew William Johnson Jr., a Louisville man, was in the Army, stationed stateside. His collection contains correspondence, photographs, personal books, dog tags, and other items. There is a handmade memento booklet with poems and newspaper articles inserted, and both the diary and daybook have newspaper clippings inside. Scrapbook items like these provide an interesting window on a person's experience. There is also an official guide for soldiers about how to manage their money while transitioning to peace time.

Wallace Reid letters [available online only]

  • Wallace Reid was an 18-year-old Alabamian who followed his older brothers into the military in 1943. His papers include letters, scrapbook pages, greeting cards, World War II souvenirs from Europe, photographs, and a handwritten memoirs. Reid tried to remain positive in his letters to prevent his parents from worrying about him. His memoirs, however, provide the more horrific details of his experience. Notably, Reid was involved in D-Day operations, arriving the day after the landings.

In the Reading Room

Eva T. Tinnesz papers (MSS.4139)

  • Eva Tinnesz was in the Coast Guard Women's Reserve (SPARS). Her collection contains papers and memorabilia, especially correspondence to and from her sister Katy (who was also in the Women's Reserves). The variety and visual nature of the collection make it fun for students to peruse, and students will be able to explore an important role stateside women could play beyond factory work.

John Faulkner (in J.C. Faulkner Family Papers, MSS.2134)

  • J. C. Faulkner, a Tuscaloosa resident, served in the Navy. His collection contains dozens of pieces of correspondence with his family and friends from December 1944 to December 1945. Most are handwritten letters, but postcards and greeting cards are also common. There is also ephemera related to his service, notably several pamphlets about religion produced for soldiers by the YMCA. The number of letters -- substantial but not overwhelming -- trace his experiences from training to serving in the Pacific, reflecting military and social culture of the day.