Tag Archives: Union

Soldiers’ Letters in the Classroom

I have had my Civil War class write op-eds on 1860 presidential candidates, I have had them debate and vote on Virginia’s secession in the wake of Sumter and Lincoln’s call for 75,000 troops (secession carried), next week we are making (and eating) hardtack, in the near future we are going to review the Gettysburg Address from all perspectives on the political spectrum, and – just for fun, we are going to put Jefferson Davis on trial for treason. But of all of the things I have developed in an effort to get the kids engaged, my favorite by far is the soldiers’ letters assignment.

It’s simple really, I have the kids read a handful of typical soldier letters that I assemble for them, then I have them go to the virtual archives to research on their own. I give them some patriotic stationary (both Yankee and Rebel) and task them to write a letter home…paying particular care to strive for an authentic voice.

The results are remarkable, without fail. Now I owe much of this to the unbridled enthusiasm of my exceptional students. My kids tend to be ambitious and go above and beyond the call of duty, as it were. But this last group of letters really hit the target. They captured the soldiers’ sentiments and recreated an authentic look with cursive, stains, misspellings, bad grammar, tears and holes.

Teachers – give this a shot. I think you will find that the kids learn quite a bit about soldiers’ thoughts on loneliness and missing their families, camp life, terrible food, weather, fear of being killed, the enemy, ideology, and any number of other things a typical soldier would have recorded in a letter home. If you want, download this stationary to help recreate the look:

Union Stationary

Confederate Stationary

And you can find resources from which to draw HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

If you have your kids do this project, I would love to here about the results. Below are a few examples from my class:

With compliments,

Keith

Gettysburg Sacred Trust Weekend: Summary Recap

IMG_4219Greetings!

As you all most certainly know, especially if you follow me on Twitter and Instagram, I have spent the last few days in Gettysburg participating in the Gettysburg Sacred Trust talks and book signing event. I met a number of captivating people on and off the battlefield, took part in a great panel discussion featuring a lengthy and engaging question and answer section,  and I signed a shit ton of books. I could not have had a better time.

Though I have been to Gettysburg many times over the years this was the fist time I have  been during the anniversary of the battle. I was surprised that there were so few people on the field itself. Folks with whom I spoke said that interest had died down since the 150th anniversary. Go figure. The people I did meet on the field had quite a bit to say, what with the flag controversy and all. Let’s just say there were strong opinions all around and leave it at that.

I took about a zillion photos and videos – here are a few highlights:

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With compliments,

Keith

 

The Face of (Post) War

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 10.28.56 AMGreetings all,

I found this rather extraordinary image on the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park Facebook Page. This is Jacob Miller, a veteran of the 9th Indiana Infantry and member of the Grand Army of the Republic, who was wounded in the face while fighting  in the Brock Field at Chickamauga on September 19, 1863.

His stern countenance reflects his memories of battle: “I have an everyday reminder of it in my wound and constant pain in the head, never free of it while not asleep. The whole scene is imprinted on my brain as with a steel engraving.”

With compliments,

Keith

 

One of the Best Independence Days Ever

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 8.35.24 AMGood morning friends and a Happy Independence Day to you all! Today I would like to take a moment to commemorate the fall of the Rebel stronghold at Vicksburg – July 4, 1863. I am quite certain that the loyal citizens of the United States appreciated the significance of such a victory on such a day. Huzzah!

With compliments,

Keith

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The Americanist Independent: A Monthly Journal of United States History

John A. Logan’s General Order #11 Designating Memorial Day

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 9.20.07 AMGrand Army of the Republic commander John A. Logan issued GAR General Order #11 on May 5, 1868. Note that the twin themes of Union and emancipation hold equal significance:

The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose, among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foe? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their death a tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the Nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and found mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice of neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 9.19.23 AMwarmth of life remain in us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s gratitude, — the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

With compliments,
Keith