Lasts. Our society has an obsession with lasts. We want to get the ‘last word’ and the ‘last laugh’ and be the ‘last one standing’. We want to do or say things one last time ; take one last look; hear a song one last time. We even have traditions of honoring last requests, giving a last meal, and recording last words. It seems as though we believe that witnessing something that will never happen again is in some way significant or important.

Why? What meaning do we hope to get from the last of something?

As we close our unit on the Civil War it is worth thinking about what is remembered from that time. What is left from the days of Lincoln and Lee?

Famous Last Words

The words that were spoken and written during the Civil War can give us vivid pictures of life in the 1860’s. What can be inferred from a person’s dying words? Sometimes they can tell us a lot about a person, and other times they tell us almost nothing at all. Below is a small collection of phrases uttered in last moments by men who were an important part of this struggle.

Robert E. Lee – “Strike the tent.”

  • A phrase usually used to mean it was time to break camp, take down the tent, and move on.

Ulysses S. Grant – “Water”

General John Sedgwick – “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.”

  • This phrase was actually Gen. Sedgwick’s next-to-last words, but is widely remembered because the general made this remark just before being hit in the head by a sharpshooter’s bullet.

Gen. Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson – “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of those trees.”

Gen. J. E. B. Stuart – “I am going fast now; I am resigned; God’s will be done.”

  • Not long before this Gen. Stuart had asked a friend, “Honey-bun, how do I look in the face?” and these words are sometimes given as his last.

Jefferson Davis – “Pray, excuse me”

Abraham Lincoln  – “It doesn’t really matter.”

  • Lincoln said this when his wife told him not to hold her hand in the theater because people might see.
  • The last thing Lincoln expressed was laughter when a line in the play he was watching  included a joke about the president. Lincoln was laughing when he was shot.

Last Letter

Famous quotes are great and sometimes interesting, but what about the regular people. Lee,  Grant, Jackson, and even Lincoln would never have been famous or noteworthy without the people they led. They couldn’t make history on their own.

Capt. Jimmy Sayles wrote often to his sweetheart (the girl he was secretly engaged to), Miss Florence Lee, and he asked her to write more often. In his last letter he describes fighting around a place called White Oak Swamp, VA. After that she received nothing else until she got this.

(Click the ‘Text’ tab to read the letter in typed form and use the Next button to see the following pages)

Last of a Dying Breed

At some point all the men and women who lived through even a little of the Civil War died. They were the last living link with a period in history that has become almost ancient to us. Even in their last years they seemed to belong to another age.

This excerpt is from a book about Civil War veterans. It focuses mostly on two men, but includes information about many of the veterans who outlasted the war.


Read the quotes, the letter, and the excerpt. Then choose one of the following options.

Option 1 – Write a primary source analysis of the linked letter. Include high quality observations and inferences as well as questions and places to look for more information. Get an analysis sheet from me if you need one.

Option 2 – Write an article report on the excerpt about Civil War veterans. Be sure to include a main idea, half-page summary, and a half-page response as well as questions. In your response consider this question: Do you care if some of these last surviving soldiers were fakes? Why or why not?

You can write out this assignment by hand or type and email it to me at 

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The Civil War According to John Green


I’m feeling a little guilty about only spending a week covering the Civil War. To somewhat rectify this I’ve posted links to John Green’s overviews of the conflict. Like any historian Green has an angle though and he has to pick what he emphasizes and what he doesn’t.

For each of the videos below write a couple of sentences summarizing the point John Green is trying to make with his take on history. This assignment is due on Friday, Feb 9






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Dear John; Dear Abigail

Image result for john adams


They are, perhaps, the best American love story I know of. John and Abigail Adams were a matched set. Both had incredible minds and were in favor of declaring independence from Great Britain before nearly anyone else in the colonies thought it was a good idea. He was the politician and she was the one who kept him grounded, took care of their family and farm while he was away, and even pushed him to think about issues relating to women and slaves. The Adamses spent many long years apart as John worked for independence and then was an ambassador to Europe. As hard as that was for them, we get the benefit of it today in the form of their letters, which have been preserved. In those letters they discuss their children, the new country, independence, old friends, their love life, farm life and thousands of other things. [Abigail even wrote one letter while in the process of giving birth]


I have several things for you to examine regarding the Adamses.


Part I

First,  two actual letters that have been transcribed. They are easy to read in typed form, but if you want you can click on the images along the right side and see the original pages. Each letter is several pages and each page is separated by a solid line. The spellings and capitalization are a bit off for some words; try not to let that throw you.


Letter from Abigail to John [March 31 – April 5]  

A little background info on this letter:

  • Abigail is writing from the family farm in Braintree, Massachusetts just outside Boston.
  • The British army has recently left Boston after many months occupying the city
  • Salt Peter is an ingredient in making gun powder, which the American forces (Continental Army) lacked severely.
  • She switches topics with nearly ever paragraph; try to keep up.


Letter from John to Abigail [April 14]

A little background info on this letter:

  • John is writing from Philadelphia, where he is part of the Continental Congress.
  • He has been trying for quite a while to get all the colonies to vote for independence from Great Britain, but many of them are afraid or unwilling to do so.
  • Independency is another word for independence.


Some Questions Regarding the Letters – Answer these before going on to part two below

  • Abigail mentions their second house in Boston. What does she say of it? What is John’s response?
  • How does John respond to Abigail’s request that he ‘remember the ladies’?
  • Who do you suppose the ‘solicitor general’ is?
  • What do John and Abigail think of the colony of Virginia?
  • What do these letters tell us about the character of the Adamses? What kind of people were they? Can you get an idea of their personality through the letters?


Part II

Next, two sound recordings from a musical called 1776. The main character is John Adams and Abigail appears on stage only when John is writing letters to her. She stands at one side of the stage and he at the other, and they talk/sing to each other through their letters. Sorry I couldn’t find a good video of it, but you’ll be able to picture it if you’ve read the above letters and give it a little imagination. You’ll also hear a few other actors interrupting John once in a while with their lines. Make sure you listen to these in order.

[Important: This musical is a work of fiction. It is based on real events and some of the lines are actual quotes, but by no means is it all completely true]

Also beware there are some minor expletives. If you don’t want to hear them skip this section.

Clip #1

  • This begins with John ‘praying’ to God after being very frustrated with Congress, which he thinks isn’t getting anything done.

Clip #2

  • This begins with John writing to Abigail after all the southern colonies walked out of Congress because of a disagreement over slavery. John Adams was in favor of ending slavery while in the deep south the economy and way of life of many depended on it.


Questions about the Musical – Answer these on the same paper/email that you used for the questions above

  • What similarities and differences exist between John and Abigail as they are portrayed in the musical as opposed to their own letters?
  • What do you think the writer of the musical was trying to say about the character of Abigail and John Adams?


You can write the answers to these questions out by hand or type them and email them to me at 

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Carrie A. Nation

I mentioned Carrie Nation in class to the 7th and 8th grade class. Below is a link to a podcast that gives a good overview of her life and work. This is totally optional, but why wouldn’t you want to know more about a lady who attacked drinking establishments with a hatchet in the name of God?



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When I was your age…

Nearly everyone in my generation remembers when our schools first got computers. They were a type called Apple II GS. There were a few small computer labs in my school and you could play a few rudimentary math games (Number Crunchers) and such by inserting and loading the game from giant 5.5in floppy disks. They were slow, with pixilated graphics, bad/no sound…and we loved them.

By far the most beloved game, which enthralled us all with its graphics, storyline, and gameplay, was Oregon Trail. Obviously the game was created by some visionary genius who in an underhanded and sneaky way knew how to get children to care about the western migration of the 1800’s. We spent hours, no – days pretending we, as westward bound pioneers, were trying (and often failing) to make it to the west coast in 1848.

If you were a historian studying the early 1990’s in the United States one of the primary sources you would have to look at would be Oregon Trail. It was a cultural touchstone for an entire generation of kids; the first generation of kids to have computers readily available in school. Try, if you can, to put yourself in my (5-7 grade) shoes and imagine sitting at a clunky looking white box, screen glowing a pixilated green, two friends leaning over your shoulder whisper-shouting advice about how many oxen to buy, when to stop and rest, and – all importantly – whether or not to ford the river. It was obsessing.

Your assignment is to get to the west coast. Play Oregon Trail!..and love it.

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The Last Wompanoag Princess

The audio linked below gives an interesting view of a person whose ideas about the Pilgrims was very different than most.


Episode 118:
On the Shores of Assawompset



Image result for statue of massasoit

This is the statue of Massasoit mentioned in the podcast.

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Trello Sign-Up

8th grade sign-up link


7th grade sign-up link

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