Even with a subject so brightly illuminated with scholarship and folklore as America's War Between the States, there are still shadows in which new discoveries lurk. In May, researchers at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., found a long-lost, handwritten letter by President Abraham Lincoln in their stacks. Just a few years ago, a trunk of previously unseen letters penned by Gen. Robert E. Lee was recovered from a bank vault where his daughter had stored them. If the personal documents of these 19th-century titans can slip between the cracks, what else have we overlooked?
The stories on the following pages examine that question, looking at new revelations and lesser-known subjects of the Civil War. For example, the H. L. Hunley, a Confederate submarine raised off the coast of South Carolina almost seven years ago, continues to divulge new facts about its sailors. Or Elizabeth Keckly, the slave who bought her freedom and became Mary Todd Lincoln's closest confidant, yet has disappeared from the pages of textbooks. Sure, these are the tales of history. But America always has been a nation of explorers. What better way to prove that than by unearthing our own past.
By Kenneth Terrell