Morale after Fredericksburg

Historical content: 
Civil War and Reconstruction
Historical skills: 
Corroboration, Sourcing



Use the letter below to answer the questions that follow.


Letter from Joseph F. Green, a soldier in the Union Army, to his friend Julia Reynolds on January 2, 1863.

Source text: 

"Well we are trying to get a long the best we can and I tell you that is poor a nough. The troops all Seem to be discouraged Since the last battle at Fredericksburgh. I tell you that they hadent better ever take this army back to Alexandria or they will all [desert] and go home. I dont see what our government is doing."

Question 1: Explain why a historian might not think that Joseph F. Green’s letter reflects the morale of the entire Union Army. 

Question 2: Three documents are described below. Explain whether each document could be used to support Joseph F. Green’s claims about the morale of the Union Army. 

      a.  An 1863 public speech by President Lincoln that describes the Union soldiers as brave.

      b.  An 1863 document from the US government that shows that many Union soldiers had recently deserted.  

      c.  An 1861 letter from a Confederate soldier to his mother that describes how two of his friends had deserted.

About the Assessment

This assessment asks students to source and corroborate a letter from a Union soldier describing low morale among Union soldiers after the Battle of Fredericksburg.  Question 1 asks students to evaluate whether the source provides sufficient evidence to demonstrate the morale of the entire Union Army. To answer this question, students must source the document to determine whether the author represents all Union troops.  Question 2 asks students to evaluate whether additional documents would corroborate the letter.

This student notes that the letter represents a single soldier’s perspective and explains why his experience might not be representative: