Elijah Brown, Edwin Horton, and the other men listed below are just a few of the many Vermonters who fought in the Civil War. Each wrote many letters home to his family describing the conditions in which he lived and his experiences. The Vermont Historical Society is proud to host a vast collection of Civil War manuscripts and letters. We've provided transcripts for the men listed below, and the full collection can be accessed by visiting the Vermont Historical Society Library. You may also search the collection via our Online Catalog.
**Please note that some of the letters may be difficult to read. If so, try reading the letters aloud, stopping to discuss incorrect vocabulary and other confusing points in each letter.
- Give one letter to each student and have the class read them aloud in order, or have two students dramatize the Horton letters.
- Give students a worksheet with the following questions (the National Archives has an excellent worksheet for students on analyzing documents):
- What is this document?
- When was it written?
- What is its purpose?
- Who wrote this letter?
- List three things this document tells you.
- What does this document say about the Civil War?
- Have students make lists of important events or battles in the letters. Trace the events on a map and the Civil War Timeline. Ask the following questions:
- Were the soldiers involved at the end or the beginning o the War?
- What was happening in the War at the time the document was written?
- Have students write back to the soldier.
- Make a list of a soldier's basic needs (food, clothing, shelter, etc.). Ask the following questions:
- How were these needs met?
- What did they need from home?
- How did they pay or things they needed?
- Find letters on the Internet from Confederate soldiers. Compare their experiences.
- Turn the letters into a play. Make costumes and scenery based on actual Civil War photographs.
- For more information on the Civil War, read or have the students read excerpts from Howard Coffin's Full Duty: Vermonters in the Civil War
- Use these letters in addition to the VHS Civil War teaching kit (available to rent from the Vermont Historical Society) to enrich your students' learning experiences.