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Exploring Primary Documents

In this activity, students will learn the importance of primary documents as they examine letters, diaries, and memoirs written by women during the Civil War.



1. Read the articles in Session 3: Women at War. Discuss the article “Sewing for the Confederacy.”

2. Distribute the printouts of two scanned documents and their transcripts and one copy of the Primary Documents worksheet to each student. Have the students answer questions 1–5 on the worksheet.

3. Distribute one printout of the corresponding biography to each student. Have the students answer questions 6–9 on the worksheet.

4. Discuss the difference between primary and secondary documents and the importance of studying primary documents.

5. Encourage the students to do additional research—using primary and secondary sources—on women in the Civil War and on the women who wrote the documents they analyzed. In a future class, have the students discuss their findings and explain how this additional information helped them understand the original primary documents they examined.