As the summer season comes to a close here at Gettysburg National Military Park, Teacher Ranger Rob Finkill finishes our series on primary sources used at the Bartol Conference with a post about a primary source that many students can relate to as it is written about a civilian teenager’s experience in July , 1863…
On my last day of the summer season in 2013, my final program was scheduled to be one called “Care of the Wounded”, a program that focuses on the medical aspects of the battle and the war in general. I had been hoping to end my summer out on a battlefield program or in the National Cemetery where I could stand with visitors and amaze them with stories of courage and sacrifice and ride off into the sunset to start the school year – not give a program in a tent that is sometimes more technical than dramatic. I thought about asking to switch, but didn’t. Boy was I glad I didn’t switch. To make a long story short, I focused my program on the fact that many in the medical corps were fighting “the system” at times and “that’s the way we have always done it” as they tried to bring change. As I was walking back inside at end of my program, a visitor stopped me and told me how much she could relate to that story. She worked in the medical insurance field and her job was to promote new views on medical care – encouraging healthy lifestyles to promote better health and cut doctor visits and she was getting a lot of push back from people who told her that’s not the way it’s been done. “I can’t wait to get back to my team and share this story. These stories are so empowering to me!” , she said. As I walked away with a smile – and alright I’ll admit it a little choked up – feeling great that this program I was ready to bail on had a powerful impact on at least one visitor. You don’t always get that as a teacher and I thought of that moment often as the school year began and felt empowered myself.
We never know when stories or content we use as teachers will connect with our students. Rangers, like teachers, work for that moment like I had when a student (visitor) makes a personal connection and they get it! I have written about this before in other posts, sometimes it can be a challenge. How do you get all students to take away a personal connection from the Civil War? Sometimes depending on our students ages, they don’t see the connection to their lives. They may feel the Civil War involved adults and how do kids relate to many of the “adult” aspects of the war?
A story from Gettysburg could be a great way to relate the events and experiences of battle to children and maybe make a connection to their own experiences. Kids are drawn to stories of kids their own age and many who were children living in Gettysburg during the battle in 1863 wrote about what it was like.
What a Girl Saw at Gettysburg
Matilda Jane Pierce – also known as Tillie, was born in 1848 to one of the wealthier families in Gettysburg. She experiences the battle in all its aspects. Her and her family members end up taking care of wounded soldiers and seeing what war really meant. In 1885, Tillie wrote a book about her experiences during that battle called At Gettysburg, or What a Girl Heard and Saw of the Battle. The book is an excellent primary source. Click on the link to read it for free on Google Books.
Here is a Tillie Pierce account in a summarized document format , with key elements of her experience for classroom use.
Many primary sources are challenging for students to work with, but this one is written using language that students will be able to connect with and , hopefully, put themselves in the shoes of this young woman as she faces what happens when the war comes to her town.
Double Entry Journal
Have students focus on 3 different types of connections they could make with the text:
- Text to Self – connection to something the student is familiar with
- Text to Text – connection to something else the student has read
- Text and the World – connection to something else going on in the world
While reading the text, ask students to fill in a Double Entry Journal. An activity adaptable to all abilities and each type of connection , divide a sheet of paper in half, the column on the left is for content that sticks out to the student , and then the right hand column is for their connection. This makes a great reading strategy for students to make that personal connection.
The web site ReadWriteThink.org provides this question as an extension activity to a Double Entry Journal and you can easily adapt to using Tillie’s story…
Choose one connection and explain specifically how it helped you better understand what you were reading…
The story left to us by Tillie Pierce might be one that helps a student make a personal learning connection who may not otherwise be interested in the Civil War or the Battle of Gettysburg. Use it and see what happens!!
- At Gettysburg, or What a Girl Heard and Saw of the Battle by Tillie Pierce
Google Book copy for free of Tillie’s Book
In document format – summarized by key moments –
great for classroom use
by Tanya Anderson
A description of Tillie’s story with added details and visuals
The author’s web site also provides information on several other families
impacted by the battle.
Resources for making connections and using a Double Entry Journal
An 18 year old boy’s account to being Gettysburg in 1863 – summarized
for key moments
Comment here with ideas or share your own story of a student making a connection…