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NJ and the Civil War: Daily Life of a Soldier

Everyday Life of a Soldier

Through the study of secondary sources such as textbooks and movies, students see the average soldier as suddenly appearing in time for the battle unaware of the realities of a soldier's life off the battlefield. On the other hand, the primary source documentation that exists is rich with the realities of the soldier presenting an often missing human dimension to our heroes. The goal of this unit is to use selected primary source documents - mainly letters from NJ soldiers, journals and photographs--to analyze and draw conclusions about the distinctions between reality and fiction of the Civil War soldier

Soldiers at camp

Essential Questions

  • Did the government provide NJ soldiers adequately?
  • Is battle glorious for the combatants?

Conceptual Emphases

  • Life on the home front
  • Life in camps
  • Concerns of soldiers
  • Routine of soldiers
  • Economy
  • Relationships

General Understandings

  • Soldiers suffer in camp life
  • Needs of soldiers were not always met
  • Myth differs from reality
  • Soldiers are very lonely
  • War is not glamorous for soldiers
  • Soldiers are respected and loved
  • Food, money, and clothing are daily concerns
  • Soldiers are stoic about topic of death

Potential Activities

  • Daily Life of a Soldier Draw conclusions about how soldiers are taken care of based on what they request and what is provided.
  • Glory on the Battlefield Evaluate the realities of the battlefield by analyzing primary source documents and comparing them to Hollywood visions of war.
  • Soldier's Monetary Value Assess the monetary value of what soldiers earned and compare to the services that they provided.
  • Soldiers Care Package Students create a fictitious care package to send to New Jersey Civil War soldiers based on the information learned throughout the unit.

Consult the bibliography to identify sources used throughout this module.

Unless otherwise specified, all documentary and photograph sources used in this section of Electronic New Jersey were provided courtesy of the Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives, the NJ State Archives, and/or the NJ Historical Society.