Assignment 5

Assignment 5


Upon doing further research, my original idea for this project has changed quite a bit. As opposed to viewing two individual families, I will be reviewing a series of letters from various sources in order to draw conclusions on how individuals reacted to social, political and military acts. I had to slow my role with this because the amount of research I would have had at my disposal for two families would not have sufficed for the entire final. However, in viewing a broader topic I am able to touch on a larger amount of details. For instance, in viewing both the Andrew F Davis papers as well as the  David Bagley letter from August 8, 1861, I was able to see the generating of opinions on not only comrades, but officers in individual units. Davis, though optimistic and fresh to the fight at the time, comments on his officers’ actual participation around camp, and how it lacked. Bagley takes it a step further and says he would not be surprised if they were traitors due to their lack of involvement. Among these formulation opinions that grow stronger over time, lays disease and famine; thirst. As highlighted in Three Civil War Letters, as well as Civil War Letters as Historical Sources, we are able to see that the soldiers are constantly surrounded by the horrors of war. Dead bodies often surround them, and the ones who are alive are suffering from measles and whooping coughs; the ones who are not ill are writing their wills in letters to friends and family, asking them to take care of all they have in this life (as seen in Matthew Elder’s letter). The letters written between family and friends were far more important than I believe any amount of research could provide. These letters were what allowed soldiers to stay sane and grounded. This can be seen by their inquisitive nature in their writing as well as their desire to receive news articles and pictures of the regular world. These letters also provide an avenue to vent, and each soldier, although a different personality, undergoes a similar transformation, in that their morale is slowly drained with each journal entry.


Thesis Statement: Civil War letters gave life to the soldiers in a sense that victory could not; through staying in touch with family and loved ones, they were able to maintain a sense of moral through social, political and military knowledge.


1) Mead Family Papers (Primary)

-This collection of letters written between various members of the Mead family provides insight into the effect that the war had on not only the individual, but also the other members of their family. These documents also shed light into how the rest of society was affected, such as schooling and work.

2) Andrew F Davis Papers (Primary)


-These papers discuss the overall sanitation of the sodliers; their dress, their shelter, and their resources.

3) David Bagley Letter: August 8, 1861 (Primary)

-In this letter, Bagley writes about his relationship with Union officers as well as his relationship and opinion on his fellow comrades.

4) Matthew Elder Letter: August 22, 1861 (Primary)

This is the letter of a man, who seems to already consider himself dead, asking a friend to care for his family upon his failure to return home.

5) Three Civil War Letters (Journal article, secondary)

Beasley, Kate, et al. “Three Civil War Letters.” The Arkansas Historical Quarterly, vol. 3, no. 2, 1944, pp. 182–187. JSTOR, JSTOR,

-This journal article provides the entirety of letters that describe the horrors of daily life, from illness to lack of nutrition to walking over dead bodies. This will be useful in analyzing the mental state of the soldiers at war.

6) Civil War Letters as Historical Sources (Secondary)

Rodgers, Thomas E. “Civil War Letters as Historical Sources.” Indiana Magazine of History, vol. 93, no. 2, 1997, pp. 105–110. JSTOR, JSTOR,

This selection discusses the importance in letters between soldiers and their loved ones for historical and moralistic reasons. It also provides further insight into selected letters.

7) How the Civil War Taught Americans the Art of Letter Writing (Secondary)

-This Smithsonian article provides the reader with further insight into letter writing during the civil war.

8) Battle Cry of Freedom (Secondary)

Our required texts offers a handful of useful information which I can use to further understand the texts in letters, such as political, social and military events of the time.


8 Replies to “Assignment 5”

  1. I am really intrigued by your research topic I haven’t thought of how the letters soldiers received could influence them in some of these ways. I look forward to reading your work later on. Zach Wood

  2. I’ve always been interested in the thoughts and feelings of soldiers during wars. I seem to ask myself how invested were they really and did they even want to continue to fight as the war went on? Learning the thoughts of our military, especially in this time period, would be fascinating to learn about.

  3. your thesis is an interesting approach to this project. It explores a aspect of the war that is not usually covered. There is no better way to get into the mind of someone who fought in the Civil War then to read the words they thought were important enough to write down.

  4. This topic on letters and personal writings of soldiers I think could be very interesting, giving you a first hand perspective through the words of the soldiers and people around/effected by the Civil War. This could possibly show their opinions on the war an how they have changed from start to finish, along with personal conflictions and their person lives. Being there can be so much information available like you said, this could take your final project into some cool atmospheres and places.

  5. I am very intrigued by your thesis statement and like the idea of diving into soliders outside life beyond the war. I am very excited to read your findings on Davis and Meads papers. I am looking forward to readings your finding on how their loved ones were effected with there loved ones lifes on the line.

  6. This could be a really cool project. Most of the time when we think about wars, we focus on how the soldiers felt about the entire situation. Usually, the opinions of civilians fall by the wayside. It’ll be interesting to see how some citizens viewed the war at the time.

  7. I think you have a great idea to use letters for your final project and branching out from just the two will in my opinion allow you to get a much more informative picture of truly what was going on because limiting your information to a small number of sources can be one sided. Personally, I would be really interested to know the frequency that soldiers could get letters when fighting this war.

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