Kenneth L. Alford, Church History and Doctrine
Evaluation of how well the academic objectives of the proposal were met
The purpose of this project was to find, transcribe, assemble, categorize, organize, edit, and publish (both a printed version and an electronic database version) the official records relating to Utah Territory’s involvement in the Civil War.
It has previously been widely, but incorrectly, assumed that the American Civil War had little influence on Utah Territory and that there were relatively few official documents. Initial estimates were that all of Utah’s official Civil War documents, once found, would fit within a small published volume. But the more we searched; the more we found. This project grew in scope and complexity until the manuscript submitted for publication had grown to almost 900 records and over 1,000 pages in length. Many of these records are being published for the first time.
In an effort to increase the usefulness of this volume to future researchers and historians, the student research team and I also prepared over 100 pages of appendix resource reference information directly related to the official records—including a glossary of nineteenth century terms and abbreviations, biographical sketches, a geographic directory, Civil War calendars, a description of Utah’s changing Civil War territorial boundaries, Utah’s numerous wartime military district assignments, and regimental histories for units that served in Utah during the Civil War.
Evaluation of the mentoring environment
Students were hired with the expectation and understanding that this would be an actively mentored work environment. Nearly all student research assistants hired were new to historical research and documentary editing methodology, and it was my opportunity and challenge to teach them.
During the first year and a half of this project, we met weekly as a project team to: (a) ensure all research assistants understood the “big picture” of where the project was heading, (b) explain how their individual work contributed to the finished project, (c) teach new technical skills as we moved from one phase of the project to another, (d) answer questions that arose each week as they confronted unforeseen challenges, and (e) let them teach each other by sharing best practices and good ideas. I also met individually, outside of our weekly meeting time, with research assistants as desired or required.
I was pleased with how quickly the student team members learned the requisite skills and started discovering extremely clever ways to improve both the quality and quantity of the work they were doing. In the end, we scoured over 230 published volumes of Civil War records and thousands of period newspaper pages, microfilmed federal and state records, archived records, and a wide variety of other sources.
List of student participants and academic deliverables they helped produce
The following BYU undergraduates completed “the heavy lifting” and detail‐oriented work in this project as student research assistants:
- Brooklyn Parks (student team leader, participated in all stages of this project)
- David Ostler (electronic database creation, electronic search methodology)
- Brooke Bons (document research assistant, transcription)
- Ingrid Gubler (document research assistant, transcription)
- Kayla McDonald (document research assistant, transcription)
- Sarah Palmer (document research assistant, transcription)
- Clark Allen (document research assistant)
- Justin Childs (document research assistant)
- Jared Evans (mapping the journey of the Lot Smith Utah Cavalry Company)
- Patrick Phinney (historical background research, government documents)
- Brendon Wolfe (historical background research, document research assistant)
- Camille Duncan (fact‐checking, copy editing)
- Talia Abbott (proofreading, copy editing)
- Meg Meiners (proofreading, copy editing)
These talented students represent a wide variety of academic majors—from Illustration and Design and Computer Science to Near Eastern Studies. Although this was a historical research project, only two students (Patrick Phinney and Brendon Wolfe) were actually History majors. The rest of the student research team learned historical and documentary editing research skills through mentoring and on‐the‐job experience.
The primary deliverable of this project is a documentary and historical volume (and accompanying Wordcruncher electronic database) entitled Utah’s Official Civil War Records. The manuscript of this volume has been submitted to a major non‐BYU university academic press, has received positive peer review, and is awaiting contract approval in January 2016 by the university’s press faculty advisory board.
Student research assistants were invaluable in providing research support to four academic conference presentations (at the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historians Association in August 2015, the Utah State Historical Conference in September 2014, the Mormon History Association in June 2014, and the Civil War and Reconstruction, Popular Culture & American Culture Association Conference in April 2014) and one publication, in addition to the Utah’s Official Civil War Records volume (a chapter in Far Away in the West: Reflections on the Mormon Pioneer Trail published by BYU’s Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book, 2015), that benefited from the research completed as part of this MEG project.
Description of the results of the project
When Utah’s Official Civil War Records is published, it will become possible, for the first time, for anyone to quickly and easily access the official records pertaining to Utah and the Civil War. Similar volumes and databases have been available for other states and military units for many years, and I am pleased that Utah will soon have its own such collection.
Description of how the budget was spent
With the exception of a small percentage of funds that were used for supplies, such as participant thumb drives, a back‐up hard drive, photocopying, optical character recognition software, and a limited number of image copyright permissions, all funding was applied to wages for student research assistants.
Without the generous MEG funding received this important documentary research project could not have been completed. Thank you!