Primary Sources

Dear Diary

Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies

The Battles of Saratoga not only had significant effects on national and world history, but also deeply affected those directly and indirectly involved. “Dear Diary” uses primary source documents—journals—to examine this crucial event through the eyes of participants. 


 Students will be able to:

  1. analyze journal entries and discern factual data
  2. analyze these journal entries to evaluate some of the effects the Battles of Saratoga had on participants


Ask students how many have kept or do keep a journal or diary.  Point out how doing so can be a good way of recording and remembering what goes on in a person's life, how one feels about the events, and what one learns from these events.  Let students know that the practice of keeping a journal or diary is something people have done for many, many years, and that such documents from decades and centuries past can be fantastic sources of information on everyday life and on important events of past years. 

Distribute worksheets, letting students know they are about to read entries from 200+ year old journal and diary entries of real people who participated in or were witness to the Battles of Saratoga.  Also let students know about the lack of proper spelling and grammar often used in these old journals, and go over a few examples with them.

Let students know the activity will have them reading these journal entries to answer several questions.  Students could do so individually, or in small groups, depending on the teacher's preferences.


RECONNAISSANCE --scouting mission to find information
SENTRIES --guards watching over a camp or fortification
PIQUETS (pickets) --small listening posts with a few soldiers, positioned ahead or outside of a camp or fortification
RANK AND FILE --compact lines and rows of soldiers on the battlefield
LIGHT INFANTRY --specially trained soldiers acting as scouts, not usually involved in heavy fighting, working more spread out than the rank and file formation of soldiers
PENCE --pennies
SAVAGES --old term for Native Americans, reflects misunderstandings of its time



Download Primary Sources Student Worksheet

Download Teacher Answer Key

Last updated: June 8, 2023