My Life as a Civil War Soldier

Dear Journal,
My name is Madison Smith. I live in Illinois with my mom, my dad, my brother, and my sister. We live on a quiet, secluded farm, and everyone pitches in to help with it. One thing you should know about my family is that we are strongly against slavery. We have been waiting for the day that my sister and I turned 18 - yesterday. Why, you might ask? Well Journal,
Because we want to join the army.
Now, we both know that women aren't allowed to join. But, being the clever actress that I am, I found a way around it. I'm going to disguise as a male. My family actually came up with it. We've always been against slavery, and we wanted to do something to fight for freedom. What better way is there than to join the Army? I'll be starting off as a private. But, hey, it's better than staying at home not doing anything to stand up for what we believe in. My sister, Sophia, will be a nurse. I hope she'll be the one to save me from dying. Well, that's all for now, Journal. Talk to you soon!

Dear Journal,
I've been at the camp for a few days now. It's hard work. I have to do drills all the time, nonstop. I went in to see my sister, Sophia today. We were the only ones, so I acted like myself (a girl). Here's how the conversation went:
Me:"Well, good morning to you, sister. Isn't it a hunkey dorey day?"
Sophia: "My, yes it is! How's the training going?"
Me:"I sure am sick of the sheet iron crackers...they are not sitting well in my breadbasket. But I'm learning how to use a pepperbox - them hornets go fast! And I'm played out after being through the mill and back."
Sophia:"Ah, it's so much easier to use an Arkansas toothpick. At least you'll be fit as a fiddle in no time!"
Me:"Easy for you to say, being a sawbone and all. You don’t have to run and do drills all the time."
Sophia:"Oh, stop your complaining, or you’ll never be top rail #1."
Me:"Alright, alright. I gotta go - more drills! Goodbye!"

Dear Journal,
I am writing a letter home. Here's what it says:
Dear Family,
"Oh, how much we miss you! It’s been hard here at camp. I have to do drills all day, every day. The camp I am at is in Vicksburg. I share a cabin with 4 other people - they’re okay. The food is disgusting! Them sheet iron crackers do not sit well. But, hey, I know it’s for the better. There’s tents everywhere, and the camp base is in the center of it all. Us soldiers have to do chores, like fetch water or fix weapons, and that’s not the least of it! Being a soldier is exhausting; in the morning, we normally get up early and skedaddle to do our chores. After that, we have some hard tack. During the day, we do drills and more chores. And a night, we sometimes have free time to hangout with our mates. Nothing too crazy. If a soldier breaks the rules, there are serious consequences. The most humiliating - the barrel shirt. I’m lucky I didn't have to do it yet. A big old barrel with holes in it it put over you, and you have to wear it like a shirt. I’m sure I won’t be breaking any rules. And Sophia? She’s doing fine. She has helped a lot of people so far, even though all we’re doing is training. But people get hurt and sick all the time here. I’m sure she’s very proud of herself, I'm proud of her. How are you guys? How’s the little brother of mine? I hope the farm is okay. I hope to hear back from you guys! Here's a picture of the camp,


Dear Journal,
I have met and interviewed a lad named Jeremiah Handley today. He told me his life story and the struggles he went through. The poor boy lost his parents when he was young. He lived in the South, but when he got old enough he decided to join the army, and went into the Union. So, I asked him why:
Me: "Jeremiah, when you chose to join the Union army after you had lived in the South your whole life, and even owned slaves, what caused you to make that choice?"

Jeremiah: "Well, Madison, I've always been secretly against slavery. I would harbor fugitive slaves on my plantation without my family knowing. I didn't know the consequences. Now, I'm old enough to make my own decisions and fight for what I believe in. And I believe in the freedom of slaves. I don't care what anyone else thinks, whether they believe in slavery or not. It's my decision. And I'm fighting for it. Even though I owned slaves, they weren't really mine. They were my parents'. I also never said I was cruel to them. I treated them equally and as though they were, what other people say, "equal whites". I'm glad about the decision I made, and I wouldn't change it if I had the chance."

Dear Journal,
A letter to my dearest friend:
“Dear Ann,
I miss you so much! It’s so hard living without my best friend! It’s hard to begin with. The food is terrible, and the living condition is sad. We don’t have much free time, but when we do, rarely, I like to play cards with my new pals, tell stories, and take long, peaceful walks. It’s not much to look at at camp, but sometimes the scenery around camp is nice. The food here is nothing like the food at home, and not in a good way. The only good food here is the cornbread - when it isn't moldy and infested with insects. I do miss grandma’s cornbread, though. At least I could eat that and be certain I won’t consume a bug. Here at camp, I sleep in a cabin with a few other soldiers, on bunks. Nothing like the soft, clean, cloud-like mattresses and pillows at home. I miss you and my family. Even though it’s hard being a soldier, I know it’s worth it. I’m fighting for what I believe in. But nonetheless, I still can’t wait to come home after my time is served and reunite with my family, and home cooked meals and my soft bed. Please write back.
Your friend,

Dear Journal,
My sister and I wrote a song about home. We miss our family and friends. Here's how it goes:
The North is My Home
I wish I back home where I belong
Happy and not forlorn
Take me home! Take me home! Take me home to Illinois
In Illinois where I was born
Late on a summer day eating corn
Oh my! Oh my! Oh my how delicious
And I wish I was in Illinois
Yippe! Yippe!
With my Mama and Papa
To live and die in Illinois
Up there, up there, up there way North in Illinois
Up there, up there, up there way North in Illinois

Pretty good, right?
Hope you like it! Bye for now, Journal.

Dear Journal,
Well, I knew it was coming, Journal. I got sick from this miserable camp life.I have malaria. I hope I live, though. I trust my sister Sophia, the best nurse anyone could ask for, to help me. Oh, Journal. The symptoms put me through agony. Here, there's so many of those darn mosquitoes.  I have a high fever, I shake, I got the chills, and other things. I hope Sophia will find a cure for me. I'm in a hospital bed right now. I'll tell you what happens later.

Dear Journal,
So I've been in the hospital for a while now. I definitely don't feel better, until my sister finally got the Quinine. That nasty stuff works pretty well. I've been feelings a little better, although, I think she gave me too much, because I got some side effects - nausea, headaches, and blurry vision. I hope this ends soon.

Dear Journal,
Here’s a letter to my parents,

Dear Mom, Dad, and Brother,
It's been an horrible, yet interesting time here in the army. I know I've done this for a good cause, but I'm ready to come home. We've won the war. It's finally over. I've been gone a long while, but I'm proud of myself for doing this, and I hope everyone else is, too. I feel like I achieved my goal. I wanted to defend and protect my country and fight for what I believed in, and I did so. I hope this war will be beneficial for our country. I hope our county will realize its wrongdoings and be a better place. I feel like I helped do that, like I'm helping the country become better for everyone, and I'm very happy for that. Luckily, I have not been injured, only sick, which was easily cured. Sophia has done well, too. She's helped many soldiers and has most definitely played her part with determination and dedication. I'm proud of her and myself. I hope that this war will help exactly what I was fighting for - freedom and equality. I’m happy that the war is over, though. No more deaths. No more feeling bad for killing people. No more deafening cannons or seeing bodies strewn all over the bloody battlefield. I’m not sure I can see one more dead body before totally breaking down. I can't wait to go home.

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