Find a copy of General Meade’s official description of the fighting on Little Round Top during the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg.
How does a modern-day student accomplish this in the most efficient way possible? Searching combined key words like “Meade” “Round Top” and “Gettysburg” in Google yields almost countless website entries, starting with Wikipedia. Using “Meade” and “official description” helps, but still doesn’t provide a clear and quick result.
Instead, this question forces the digitally savvy student to think about how evidence was organized in a pre-digital age. A quick study of Civil War military research will yield the information that following the conflict, the War Department organized a massive compilation of official military correspondence and after-action reports filed by both sides. This collection, known as the OR, was formally published in 128 volumes over twenty years between 1881 and 1901, under the title: The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.
There are numerous full-text searchable copies of the OR scattered across the Internet and in various digital subscription services. One of the best ways to access the OR material is through the Making of America / Cornell site. Another good way to access the full-text OR online is through Ohio State University. Choosing the volume covering the Gettysburg campaign (Series 1, Volume 27, chapter 39) and the entering Part 1 “Reports” section will enable a student to search the text. Enter a term like “Round Top” and the results will quickly lead to Meade’s official report on the Battle of Gettysburg filed on October 1, 1863. On p. 116, you can read the general’s terse description of the “desperate but unsuccessful efforts” of the “enemy” to secure what Meade only referred to as “Round Top Ridge.” This was his version of the events now made famous by recollections from figures such as Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, novels such as The Killer Angels and movies such as “Gettysburg.”
NOTE: There is a separate OR series for the Union and Confederate navies. You can access a full-text copy of all thirty volumes (1894-1922) once again from the Making of America / Cornell University library.