Civil War Letter


My 11-year-old son wrote a Civil War letter as a writing assignment for his Civil War Binder. I read many Civil War letters to my kids to get a flavor for what would be going through the mind of a Civil War soldier. While studying Civil War letters, I came across a poignant letter. (You can read it here.)

My son chose a specific battle so that he would be able to make reference to finding Lee’s secret orders:

September 18, 1862

From J. Mitchell

To my loving wife,

I am writing this in a hospital tent, for I was shot in my right arm. So I will be writing this with my weak hand. We are at a river called Antietam Creek, and it was the bloodiest battle I have ever seen. I reported that twenty-five thousand at least died here, including my friend of whom we are all acquainted. It was gruesome watching him fall from that tree. He was a sniper, and he had shot at least a dozen enemy soldiers in the front lines. I also reported that you could walk across the battlefield on the bodies of the dead without touching the ground.

My night watch wasn’t good either. If anyone came by, I would say, “Stop,” three times. If he didn’t stop, I would shoot because it meant that he might be an enemy scout or spy. I couldn’t see very well, but if the soldiers were friendly, they would stop.

One time I was nearly hit when a cannonball whistled past my head and made a tree fall on a few of the soldiers in our ranks. It came as a complete surprise. One of those cannonballs could go right though you, killing you and the person behind you.

Guess what I found five days ago? Three cigars wrapped in paper. My friend and I delightedly picked them up and sat down under a tree, for my feet were hurting. Suddenly I found a message on the paper I was about to throw away. It was Lee’s orders for his next attack! I can’t tell you how exited I was when I showed it to General McClellan. Before, we didn’t know where Lee was; now, we knew exactly what his battle strategy was!

What a battle it was! I had to hide behind the bodies of the dead to survive, making barricades out of them! After the battle I saw a dead soldier hanging on a fence with fifty-seven bullets in his body. Some soldiers must have tried to hide behind him to survive but failed, for I found dead bodies behind him, too. It was a gruesome sight.

Hope you’re doing better back home. Best wishes to the kids,

J. Mitchell

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4 Responses to “Civil War Letter”

  1. What a great idea for an assignment! We recently listened to With Lee in Virginia, so the Civil War is fresh in our minds. I’ll have to ask my boys what they think they would write home if they were there.

  2. Thara says:


    I like to do all sorts of writing tasks and exercises in our literature lessons as well. My sixth grade children had a recent assignment on a museum. They were told to make some brief summary notes in order to use. They were informed that I would be awarding a few prizes for the winner. And I always did.

    The fifth graders had to design a short colourful leaflet on a theme park. I made a list of criteria and key things I expected them to include. However they surpassed my expectations. In other words the entire class came up with the most amazing piece of written work ever for me to read. I loved reading it out. I also got them to create mini thank you letters to a author. I framed a copy.

    My fourth grade pupils made me some free bookmarks. In fact they even wrote a short review on a storybook of their own choice. It helps their writing skills no end. Good luck.

    My first to third graders tend to work in pairs. We began by writing about the town, toys and old Disney movies in lesson time. We also fully concentrate on books and games plus the other kinds of family movies. Recap on text types.

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