What were they thinking? Those crazy college students who came to Chapel Hill at its founding and up til the Civil War. They were thinking about drinking and pranks for starters. But there is more.

The Documenting the American South Project, which has been hosted at ibiblio since its beginning, announced the release of their “True and Candid Compositions: The Lives and Writings of Antebellum Students at the University of North Carolina.”

[The project] presents 121 edited documents written primarily by students attending the University of North Carolina between 1795, the year in which the institution opened its doors, and 1868, when the devastation of the Civil War closed them again. The documents provide important first-person accounts of how antebellum University of North Carolina students lived and worked and are drawn from three special collections of the University Library: the Southern Historical Collection, the University Archives, and the North Carolina Collection. Each document is accompanied by a digitized image of the original source. The manuscript materials have been transcribed, edited, and annotated by Professor Erika Lindemann, who also has written several essays that provide editorial, historical, and contextual information for understanding the documents. Among the topics treated in these essays are the establishment of the University, student discipline and faculty authority, the purposes of a university education in the antebellum period, the daily lives of students, the role of slaves and servants, the students’ academic writing, their work in the debating societies, and their responses to the Civil War.

The project also got a wonderful writeup in today’s News and Observer by Jane Stancill.