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The civil war: "Dear folks at home". (American History).

In 1861 the United States went to war--not with another country but with itself. The U.S. had split in half. Eleven Southern states had formed their own government, the Confederate States of America, and seceded (withdrew) from the rest of the U.S.

Sharp disagreements divided the North and South. The South wanted to preserve slavery and allow slaves in new U.S. territories. The North wanted to end slavery.

In April 1861, Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. President Lincoln ordered U.S. troops to retake the fort. The Civil War was on. For the next four years Americans from the Union--the Northern states--and the Confederacy fought a bitter battle over the future of the country.

Leo Faller was one of the many young men who picked up a rifle and joined the battle. Leo was an 18-year-old high school dropout when he left his home in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, to join the Union Army.

In the two years that he fought for the North, Leo sent many letters to his mother, father, and 12 brothers and sisters back home in Pennsylvania.

In these letters Leo told his family much about the daily life of a soldier: meals, marches, guard duty, and the battles fought against the Rebels (Confederate soldiers).

Through Leo's letters, we can see what life was like for a typical soldier in the Civil War and also the terrible cost of that war for all Americans.

In August John Faller, Leo's older brother, also joined the Union Army. He was assigned to the Seventh Regiment, with Leo, and was sent to Camp Green near Baltimore, Maryland.

For the next six months, Leo, John, and the Seventh Regiment fought a number of battles against the Confederate Army. In July 1862 the Regiment took part in the Battle of Mechanicsville, Virginia, which lasted for seven days and included a head-on attack against the Confederate forces.

By September 1862, Leo had become a hardened soldier and had been wounded twice by enemy fire.

On September 16, 1862, the Seventh Regiment joined other Union forces near Antietam, Maryland, in an effort to stop 60,000 Confederate troops that were advancing north. The next day, while charging enemy lines, Leo Faller and four other men were killed by Confederate bomb shell. Leo's brother, John, saw him fall and later buried him on the spot where he had died.

Antietam was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Almost 5,090 Northerners and Southerners were killed, and 19,000 were wounded. Many more would die before the war ended in April 1865 with victory for the North.

RELATED ARTICLE: West Chester, Pennsylvania

June 10, 1861

Dear Mother,

[We] arrived at West Chester about Seven O'clock in the Evening ....We marched out to Camp and Cleaned out the old straw that was in our Bunks. ... I just sleep as good as in my own Bed at home only it is a little hard on the Hips....Dinner is ready. I must go and eat my Rations [daily food allowance]. Well I put away 1 pint of Bean Soup, 1 Sea Biscut, and 1 large Chunk of Bully Bread--as much as I could eat.... On Saturday afternoon we were all Inspected and very man passed.... The next time I write I will [be] a real solider.

Baltimore, Maryland

August 23, 1861

Dear Mother,

John arrived here yesterday morning. He looks first-rate in Solider Clothes.... Our Brigade had a grand review [parade] on Wednesday morning. President Lincoln and his Cabinet, General McClellan and Staff, and some Ladies from Washington were present.... We waited until the President was opposite us and then commenced to Cheer. I tell you it made some noise.... Our Regiment was out on picket last Monday and as usual it Rained all the time. I was very muddy when I came in.

Harrison's Landing, Virginia

July 12, 1862

Dear Folks at Home,

The Rebels charged [attacked] ... three times and each time were driven [back] with great slaughter.... The firing kept up until nine o'clock at night when the firing ceased on both sides. We lay on our Arms [weapons] all night listening to the moans of the wounded Rebels who were left on the field. . . . Our Regiment was ordered to Charge and rout the Enemy from a woods where they were concealed.... I spied a Rebel Officer [and] took aim and just as I pulled the trigger I was struck on the Ankle. But it did not hurt me and I kept on firing.... That is the last of the fighting for that time and I hope the last altogether. But if the Rebels are not satisfied I am willing to pitch in again.

Montgomery County, Maryland

September 3, 1861

Dear Sister,

This Morning about two o'clock about Two hundred men of the Regiment had to march about five miles up the River to an Island which was reported as being full of Rebels.... A member of our Company by the name of Fry shot one.... The Enemy have three Batteries of Rifled Cannon across the river and opened fire on us this morning.... The Shell and Shot fell thick and heavy.... I picked up a piece of a Bomb Shell.... I Want you to keep [it] as a memento of my first fight.

Leesbourough, Maryland

September 8, 1862

Dear Parents,

There is a Report here ing that the Rebels are in If that is the case I wish they would send us thereto fight them for I don't want to see them stay in Pennsylvania... No one that is able to stand a Campaign should wait to be drafted, once, and so as to place themselves in a position to be immediate service to the Country.

Your Turn

Think About It

1. What were the causes of the Civil War? How did the war begin?

2. What was Leo Faller's attitude about military service? Did his views change after his first battle?

American History: Civil War Letters, pp. 9-11


Students should understand:

* the causes of the Civil War;

* the daily life of a young Union soldier;

* how Leo Faller's anticipation of action yielded to the grim reality of war.


Grades 5-8: * American history * Abraham Lincoln * nature of civil war


Explore students' knowledge of the American Civil War, 1861-1865. Many soldiers on both sides were teens. Ask students to imagine a soldier's life.


FINDING CAUSES: What issues split the nation and led to war? (Slavery was a top issue. Southerners felt they had a right to leave the Union and to continue slavery. Northerners wanted to preserve the Union and stop the spread of slavery.)

MAIN IDEA: How do we know about Leo Faller's experiences in the Union Army? (Leo wrote letters to his family in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The letters were saved by the Cumberland County Historical Society.)

MAKING INFERENCES: What do Leo's letters tell us that a standard history of the Civil War would not? (They tell us about everyday life in camp--meals, sleeping quarters, guard duty. Readers can share Leo's emotions during battle and his excitement at seeing President Lincoln.),

EXPLORING PERCEPTIONS: What changes do you observe in Leo's letters during the 13 months from his enlistment to his death? (He matured from a young recruit into a hardened soldier with a commitment to the Union cause. He faced the reality of battles, wounds, and the deaths of friends and foes.)


Look for similar "I was there" narratives in your local library or historical society. Write an essay based on one of these narratives.
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Article Details
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Author:Adams, Jim
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 21, 2002
Previous Article:You decide!
Next Article:The state of the union. (Skills).

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