When the opportunity fell into my lap to write for a series called the Young Readers’ History of the Civil War (EP Dutton/Puffin Books), I felt overwhelmed by the challenge. How would I ever capture the enormous scope of those four tragic years of combat that ended in the loss of more than 600,000 Union and Confederate soldiers?
Once I traveled to Washington DC and began delving into collections of letters and first-hand accounts at the Library of Congress and National Archives, I began to find my footing. Suddenly I realized that no one could capture the emotions underlying the Civil War experience better than the soldiers themselves, so I decided to pack the pages of my books with excerpts from their diaries and letters home.
Here is one heartbreaking letter I’ve never forgotten, written by a Confederate soldier after being mortally wounded in 1864.