Soldier’s Letters

Every time I listen to a lecture, attend a conference, find new material and new ways of thinking about the Civil War I have to rethink how I teach it.  I only have two weeks, maybe three at the most if I stretch it, to teach the Civil War from start to finish including what led up to it.  How to choose the most important parts to teach and then how to effectively teach them is a real struggle for me.  I find that students tend to remember things much better when emotion is attached to whatever they are learning.  I have been moved to tears a few times when reading soldiers’ letters home over the last few days and I think this is a valuable tool.

Soldier's_LetterI decided to do my Wordle experiment with the words of a very sweet love letter from a soldier to his wife.  I thought this might be a good introduction to both Wordle and the real experiences of war as seen from the primary sources of letters written by soldiers of both sides of the war.

This is something I intend to use.  I think the emotion from the voices of the soldiers tell the story of the war very well.  As I have read in more than one place, how great it is that during the Civil War there was no censorship of the soldiers’ letters so we can see the honest feelings of the men.  My sudents will connect with this.

Posted in Discussion, Primary Sources, Word Clouds
2 comments on “Soldier’s Letters
  1. janeapplebee says:

    That is a great idea to use this tool with the letters home. It makes a very sweet wordle too.

  2. Nick says:

    I have struggled with this for years because I have the same problem, a very limited time to teach such a huge part of American History. I have spent many class periods asking myself how to engage my kiddos with the letters from the home front. I am hoping to use wordle and make them come alive. I will post again after I do this and look foward to feedback of how you used it in class.

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Matthew Pinsker: pinskerm@dickinson.edu
Dickinson College
Carlisle, PA 17013

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Lance Warren: warren@gilderlehrman.org
Gilder Lehrman Institute
New York, NY 10036