Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Making History Relevant Using Primary Sources
Debra Sash
American History
Civil War

Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

Students will be using primary sources for this assignment in the form of letters written by soldiers from both sides of the conflict

  • Through this lesson students will be able to make a more personal connection to history, they will come to understand the deep wounds that resulted from the conflict, and they will be able to discern the lasting effects of the conflict.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

  • 3aZ,ss3,1.6,1.10 Missouri history as it relates to major developments of United States history
  • 32aY, ss3, 1.9, 1.10 Understanding cultural change
  • 5D, ss5,1.6 Relationships within places
  • 7A,ss7,1.7,1.5,Identify, select, use, analyze and create appropriate resources for social science inquiry

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Students will use copies of authentic letters written by soldiers during the Civil War obtained from the website ozarkscivilwar.org, the Miller County Museum, or other reliable sources

Full description of activity or assignment.

Teacher will give students background information about the Civil War in Missouri as part of the larger Civil War unit.

Teacher will explain the assignment as follows: Students will either visit the Miller County Museum, or the Community and Conflict website, and obtain a copy of a letter written by a Civil War soldier from the area, or any reliable source. Students will be given a period of 3 days to obtain a copy of a letter. After obtaining the copy of the letter, the student will summarize the letter. On the fourth day students will be placed in groups of four, 2 students with letters from Confederate soldiers, and 2 students with letters from Union soldiers. Students will discuss the differences and similarities of the letters. Students will write a one page paper stating which side they would have fought for and give their reasons why.

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:
  • Students will be graded for the completion of each part of the assignment as well as participation in the group discussion.