Henry Smith's Letter Home

Original content by: Dr. Paul Goodwin

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About This Document

This document is an excerpt from a longer letter, in which Union soldier Henry Smith gives a brutally frank description of wounds suffered by soldiers during the Civil War.  He also mentions an unconfirmed report that Stonewall Jackson had been taken prisoner (though later, it was confirmed that it was actually the Union soldiers that had been taken prisoner by Jackson after he had captured Harper's Ferry).  More...

Historical Context

The year 1862, during the American Civil War, was a difficult one for the Union army.  Less than a month before Smith's letter was written, the Union forces were defeated at the second battle of Bull Run.  It is likely that Smith's regiment was one of those shielding Washington against Confederate forces.  More...

Questions for Further Thought

  1. What was the purpose of "patriotic" letterhead? Are you surprised that a soldier would use something like this?
  2. Why do you think Smith thought that Stonewall Jackson had been captured, when it was Union soldiers who had actually been captured? Do you think mistakes like this happened often?
  3. Why do you think communication from home is so important to soldiers?