Educator's Guide: Language Arts: Letters Home

Background:

To soldiers, letters from home provided encouragement and welcomed information. During the Civil War these letters would arrive one to three months after they were written. It did not matter to the soldiers. They enjoyed reading about life at home, neighborhood gossip, and how the farm was doing. These letters helped the soldiers endure the hardships of battle and camp life. In turn, family and friends were flooded with letters from the soldiers. In great detail soldiers described camp life, quality of food or lack of food, wrote with great joy of capturing enemy supplies and soldiers. Many wrote about their strong religious beliefs and their powerful sense of patriotism. The most horrifying letters described the screams and cries of dying comrades. Although soldiers sometimes exaggerated their heroic baffle deeds, these letters remain an excellent primary source for historical research. In addition to gaining historical insights from these letters, researchers learn more about the person who wrote the letters. The humor, misspellings, grammatical errors and penmanship speak of the common soldiers who wrote

Methods:

Read the background information and sample letters to the students. Have each student assume the role of a soldier during the Siege of Vicksburg. (Union or Confederate, black or white, soldier, cannoneer, Chaplain, medical etc...) and write a letter to their home. Variations: Assign a student a state to be from, have them write a letter describing their first impressions of Mississippi. Mail the letters a month later. This will help students understand the sense of waiting the soldiers experienced.

Classroom Activities:

  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Grades:

  • 4- 12

Objectives:

Students will assume the role of a Civil War soldier and write a letter to his Family describing camp life and events during the Siege of Vicksburg.

Materials: Background sheet, sample letters, state listing, paper, pens, envelopes and stamps.

Example Letters:

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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