Posts Tagged ‘APPARTS’

Our  blog series continues with our final  post in the series addressing using Civil War battles, specifically the battle of Gettysburg, to teach other topics related to the American Civil War. The posts in this series will provide class activities that can be completed in a class period or two. Most teachers we talk to here at Gettysburg on field trips or in workshops we host, don’t have the time built in their curriculum to go into great depth on any topic, let alone individual battles of the Civil War.

Our focus in this post will include activities to:

  • guide students through the analyzing of a primary source
  • help students understand what the experience of being in battle had on a soldier


Battlefield Connections

As stated in the first post in this series, the teaching of battles are important to an overall understanding of the war and how it is won and lost. Often times, in a Civil War curriculum, there isn’t time for the extensive study of military strategy. However, a battle such as Gettysburg allows for multiple connections to relateable  experiences for students and teachers to use in a time sensitive fashion. This post will connect the battle of Gettysburg to the impact the battle had on an individual soldier.

  Edwin Forbes’ painting of fighting at Culp’s Hill

Primary Source Backstory

John Futch was a Confederate soldier who served in the 3rd regiment of the North Carolina Infantry. Futch was from New Hanover County, North Carolina when he enlisted on February 1, 1862. Both John and his brother Charlie will serve in Company K of the regiment. The 3rd North Carolina will see action with the Army of Northern Virginia through the battles in 1862 and into 1863. Charlie and John Futch’s letters to family members have been digitized by the State Archives of North Carolina and can be found online at the North Carolina digital collections page.  In June of 1863, John Futch will march north with the Confederate army into Pennsylvania. The 3rd  North Carolina will be a part of General Richard Ewell’s Third Corps and George Steuart’s brigade. The men from North Carolina will be involved in the fighting on July 2 and 3 in the unsuccessful attacks on Culp’s Hill. In the fighting, Charlie will receive a mortal wound and die on July 3. Futch’s letters home after the battle can help students see the cost of war. He writes home describing his sadness at Charlie’s death. The expressions he uses to describe his pain are very telling. Describing himself as “half crazy” after the battle of Gettysburg. He “never wanted to come home so bad in his life“. In the end, this man ,who had served through some of the hardest fighting of the war, will try to go home by deserting the Confederate army along with several other men. The deserters will be caught and executed in front of the other men of the regiment. Students may struggle to understand the troop movements and vocabulary involved in understanding a battle, but this can be a powerful reading  to help students grasp the cost of war without having to understand  military terms and names.

AAPARTS strategy

When having students examine a primary source, it is important to give them a focus as they examine the source. A method discussed previously on this blog is the APPARTS strategy for analyzing a primary source. Students are given a primary source and are asked to determine:

Author: Who created the source? What do you know about the author? What is the author’s point of view?

Place and Time: Where and when was the source produced?  How might this affect the meaning of the source?

Prior Knowledge: Beyond information about the author and the context of its creation, what do you know that would help you further understand the primary source? For example, do you recognize any symbols and recall what they represent?

Audience: For whom was the source created and how might this affect the reliability of the source?

Reason: Why was the source produced at the time it was produced?

The Main Idea: What point is the document trying to convey? How would you summarize it?

Significance: Why is this source important? What inferences can you draw from this document? Ask yourself, “So What?” in relation to the question asked.

Click here to download a power point slide with APPARTS info

Our activity will use the APPARTS strategy to examine a letter from John Futch written after the battle.


 Futch’s Letter from NC    Digital Archive


John Futch’s letter home

Our activity to analyze a primary source will focus on John Futch’s letter written on July 19, 1863 on the march back to Virginia following the battle of Gettysburg.


Lesson Plan


Display the  quote (that is often attributed to Joseph Stalin)  “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” for students to view and discuss its meaning. State to the students that you will be attempting to discuss the validity of that quote by examining the impact of the one death of those 10,000 men killed at the battle of Gettysburg

Review the context of the battle of Gettysburg. Be sure to include the casualty numbers.

Give students a copy of the letter John Futch wrote on July 19, 1863.

Futch’s letter has many misspellings and no punctuation, on the downloadable document there is also a transcribed letter with accurate spellings for easier reading.

Give students a copy of the APPARTS graphic organizer.

Have students work alone or in groups to fill in the APPARTS graphic organizer.

Students can also access the actual copy of the letter by clicking here

Document Downloads

John Futch letter with transcription on Word Document

APPARTS Graphic Organizer on Word Document



Review the graphic organizer with students together and then return to the quote in the introduction – how is the death of Charlie Futch a tragedy not a statistic?



Give students a copy of the letter from Edward Armstrong, also in the 3rd North Carolina from September , 1863. He will describe the execution of Futch and the other deserters. Note: in the letter, Armstrong says he saw the execution John Fulch, but he is referring to Futch.

Discuss with students the reasons from the executions and how they feel after know John’s experiences were.

Document Download

Armstrong letter describing the execution of Futch

It’s a powerful activity that puts a face to the tragic side of the war.


Extension Activity

Have students examine more of the Futch family letters. The letters discuss a variety of aspects of the war.

Use the APPARTS strategy to analyze another letter.

Click here to go to the index of the Futch letters from the North Carolina State Archives.

Click here to go to the Civil War Sesquicentennial Blog of the North Carolina State Archives post that links to some of the highlights


Our goal in this series has been to create time sensitive activities for teachers and students to use to understand parts of the battle. The letter from John Futch, his subsequent desertion and execution demonstrate a different aspect of the war that students  can understand with a basic level understanding of the details of the battle.

Comment here with ideas about other connections to battlefields that can be used for student activities.






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