The Life of a Civil War Soldier Journal

Journal #1 Bio:

My name is William Smith, and I'm a private in the Union army.  Life at camp is hard, especially being in the lowest rank. I am from California and I lived on a farm with my parents and four brothers. At home it was very fun and calming, living with my four brothers on the farm. We got along for the most part, but had arguments every so often. Our parents treated us well and I miss them very much. My family always hated slavery and how people treated other innocent people like animals. Because of this, all four of my brothers are in the war with me. At least we are all on the same side and not fighting against each other, like some other families. I can only hope that this war will end quickly so I don't lose any of them.

Farewell to my journal until I write again,


Journal #2 Slang Script:

Nurse: What brings you here today?

Private: I've been hit by a hornet.

Nurse: Where?

Private: The graybacks hit me right in the breadbasket.

Nurse: I'll go get the sawbones to remove the bullet, but otherwise you look as fit as a fiddle. People as healthy as you are as scarce as hen's teeth these days.

Private: Don't be fooled, I am played out and I have definitely been through the mill.

Nurse: Well it's good to know you are toeing the mark. Get snug as a bug while you're waiting, the sawbones should be here soon.

Private: Do you have some sheet iron crackers to have while I'm waiting?

Nurse: Yes, I'll go get some.

Private: Bully!

Journal #3 Letter about Camp:

Dear Mother and Father,

How are you? Hope all's well back at home. Camp hasn't been at all how I expected it. We had to set up camp right outside of Manassas. We worked hard for a few days, pitching tents and digging trenches. I expected to be fighting most of the war, but instead we are working long hours. Since we set up, the generals have been making us do drills and chores around camp. They have us do the same routines over and over again, all through the day. Once, during the drill one of the other privates in our company said some rude things to one of the generals, and was punished. They have some weird punishments here at camp... The one he had to experience was probably one of the most dreaded. He was gagged and tied up so he couldn't move, bent over with his arms and knees touching, and was forced to stay cramped up like that for hours. Hopefully I can make sure to keep my mouth shut so I don't have to deal with that humiliation and discomfort like he did.

With love,


Journal #4 Jeremiah Handley:

When creating my story I read pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, and 12.

1. When you chose to enlist, what caused you to make that choice?

I enlisted because I wouldn't be much help back home to my mother and the farm, and I knew she was in better hands with our long-time friends. Also, I wanted to help my brother fight with the Confederates, since my father always said blacks had always been just slaves, so why fight for them?

2. Jeremiah, looking back what is something in your life that you are proud or happy about?

I am proud to serve for the South in war, I believe that we have a chance to win this war, and obviously my brother believed that too or he wouldn't have enlisted.

3. Jeremiah, what is one thing about your life you wish had been different?

I wish that my father didn't die so soon so he could've given me advice and helped me learn how to keep the farm going and help my mother out. If he would've agreed that going in and fighting in the war was a good idea, I might have more confidence about making it through to the end.

4. Jeremiah, seeing all of those men lying dead on the battlefield, did that change your thoughts about enlisting/did it change you?

Seeing all those men surely horrified me and I didn't want to have to see that again, but in war there are always deaths, and I knew that when enlisting. I think if anything, seeing all of those men made me stronger and I just hope I find my brother soon so I can know he wasn't one of those men.

Journal #5 Letter to Friend:

Dear Chris,

Camp life is not how I expected. I didn't expect to be working so much and to have such terrible food. There is absolutely nothing good here to eat and the rations have grown smaller and smaller. One food here that is pretty disgusting is something called Hardtack. It has no flavor, is hard as a rock and there are always bugs crawling in it, especially weevils. Nonetheless, food is food so we all still eat it. Here's the recipe if you ever fancy making this delicious food, because I know it sounds appetizing:

Necessary Supplies for Hardtack:

  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ to ¾ cup water
  • Salt (5-6 pinches)
  • Mixing bowl
  • Rolling pin
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Fork

Instructions for Making Hardtack 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 2. Add all dry ingredients into the mixing bowl, and then add wet ingredients. Mix all ingredients together. Use extra flour if necessary to make sure the dough is no longer sticky. However, be careful not to make the dough too dry. If you add too much flour, add slightly more water. 3. Knead the dough until it is easy to work with. 4. Spread the dough onto the ungreased cookie sheet. 5. Use the rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangular shape. Hardtack was around a half inch thick, so don’t worry about making the dough thin. 6. Bake the dough for 30 minutes. 7. Take the dough out of the oven and cut it into large squares (around 3 inches by 3 inches). Use a fork to poke 16 to 20 holes into each square. 8. Flip the squares and return to the oven for 30 more minutes. 9. Allow the hardtack to completely cool inside the oven. Be careful when biting into a cracker, as they do get very hard when completely cool.

Journal #6 Song:

Verse 1:

Victory on the battle field

Captured the land of the South

Men cheering; Hurrah, Hurrah!

One win closer to the end


Can't wait to get back home

Home to my loved ones

Home to my peaceful life

Home to LA

Verse 2:

I saw bullets flying through the air

Soldiers falling everywhere

People shouting; Move, Move!

Striving to defeat the South


Can't wait to get back home

Home to my loved ones

Home to my peaceful life

Home to LA

Verse 3:

Life at camp is not like at home

Home was peaceful and comfy

Here it's busy and hard

Hopefully this war ends soon


Can't wait to get back home

Home to my loved ones

Home to my peaceful life

Home to LA

Verse 4:

The hard battle has reached its end

Great win against the Rebels

Marching back to our camp

Gotta prepare for the next fight


Can't wait to get back home

Home to my loved ones

Home to my peaceful life

Home to LA

Home Sweet Home!

Journal #7 Medical:

Some injuries and illnesses I have witnessed here at camp are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Bullet wounds
  • Typhoid fever
  • Lung inflammation
  • Dysentery
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Scarlet Fever

One common technique they used to cure bad wounds, like minie bullet wounds, were surgical amputations. The surgeon's supplies weren't very sterile, and were often the cause of infections after an amputation.

Journal #8 Home:

I can't believe that terrible bloody war is finally over and that I actually survived it. So many others died, including some of my friends from my company, and I guess I only made it through to the end from pure luck. On the way home, I tried to ignore my thoughts of the dead soldiers on the battlefields, and only think happy thoughts, "The war is over, no more slavery. We won and now I'm going home to my family. I can finally have a stomach full of good tasty food, new clean clothes, take a hot shower, sleep in my own comfortable bed, so many things I used to take for granted. I wonder if my brothers made it... No don't think about that. Think about my clean, peaceful house where my parents are waiting for me."

When I finally got back home to LA my parents were waiting, they had probably been waiting for hours, and when they saw me, they both began to sob, taking me into a big hug. I couldn't hug them back as best as I wanted to though because I only had one good arm; the other had had to be amputated at the elbow. My father whispered in my ear in between sobs, "We missed you so much William, I'm so glad you're finally home." "I missed you both so much too," I responded, and tears welled up in my eyes. My mother didn't say anything, but her grip on me told me the same thing my father had said. My next-door neighbors were there too, and after my embrace with my family, they came over to me, with tears glistening in their eyes, and smiles on their faces. My little neighbors, who had been three when I left, had grown up so much in the past few years. They both came up to me and hugged my waist. Everyone seemed so happy and relieved in that moment, it was like I just landed on a different planet after leaving the old planet of blood and death. There were no more gun shots, men shouting, trumpets blaring, or men groaning in pain, just my family and friends that I hadn't seen in so long, smiling and crying tears of joy.

Photo Prompt 1: I found this fox in the woods by camp, thought you'd like it
Photo Prompt 2: When I woke up this morning, the first thing I saw was grass.
Photo Prompt, Battle: Cannons like this one are used in battles all the time.
Photo Prompt, Fun: Soldiers liked to play games like these when they were bored.
Photo Prompt, Home: My family & friends sitting outside my home waiting for me.

Works Cited for Pictures

"Civil War Era Amputation Kit." State Library of Ohio. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2014. <>.

"Civil War Games." Kidport. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2014. <>.

"Civil War Soldier." Soldier Studies. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2014.

"1841 Ames Cannon." The Oxford Press. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2014. <>.

"Family Photo." Vintage Photos. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2014. <>.

"Fox in the Woods." Forbes. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2014. <>.

"Grass." HDW9. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2014. <>.

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