Writing in one's private journal or drafting a letter to family or close friends often incorporates more self-reflection than typical expository writing. Students can use this collection to practice the art of describing personal emotions and experiences.
Have students assume the role of a soldier in a particular battle. They can then search the collection for maps of that battle by searching on the name of the battle or its location. Students can then compose a journal entry or a letter as if they were a soldier at that battle.
Before writing, the students should spend time developing the character: What is the soldier's name? Where is the soldier from? Which army is he fighting for? How old is he? How long has he been enlisted? Does he have family, friends, or pets that he misses?
Once the character is set, the students can draft the letter or journal entry. They should include place names and features highlighted on the map. In addition, their writing should reflect the emotions they imagine a soldier would have prior to and during his fighting in this particular battle. What emotion is the soldier feeling now, reflecting on the events? If the soldier had his choice, what would he like to do at that moment? Is he making plans for the future and/or resigning himself to the possibility of death? What final words might he want to share with his family or friends?
Students can read the first-person accounts of Civil War experiences by searching on Civil War in these collections: