Featured Primary Sources

Military History

Nothing can enrich and enliven our understanding of the nation’s past, or dispel apathy about it, more powerfully than primary sources. The primary sources below open up a variety of viewpoints and have been chosen by master teachers specifically for use in the classroom. Affiliate School members can print a packet that includes an image of the document, photograph, or other resource, a transcript where applicable, and text to place the document in historical context. Additionally, you may want to search the Gilder Lehrman Collection itself for other resources to enrich your lessons.

Letter from John S. Mosby to Sam Chapman, June 4, 1907. (GLC03921.21p1)

A former Confederate officer on slavery and the Civil War, 1907

Creator: John S. Mosby Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Texas: Church of Alamo, San Antonio de Bexar

A plea to defend the Alamo, 1836

Creator: William Travis Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
“The Old Bull Dog on the Right Track,” Currier and Ives, NY, 1864. (GLC08594)

A political cartoon of Grant and Lee, 1864

Creator: Currier & Ives Curriculum Subjects: Art, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Abraham Lincoln, General Orders No. 141, September 25, 1862 (GLC06099)

A proclamation on the suspension of habeas corpus, 1862

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
San Diego, California, c1904. Detroit Publishing, Library of Congress

A report from Spanish California, 1776

Creator: Fernando de Rivera y Moncada Curriculum Subjects: Foreign Languages, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Sidney Diamond to Estelle Spero, ca. April 1942 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

A soldier’s reasons for enlisting, 1942

Creator: Sidney Diamond Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Charge of the Massachusetts 54th, Currier & Ives, 1863. (GLC)

African American soldiers at the Battle of Fort Wagner, 1863

Creator: Currier & Ives Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Alexander Hamilton to François, Marquis de Barbé-Marbois, October 12, 1780 (GLC)

Alexander Hamilton’s “gloomy” view of the American Revolution, 1780

Creator: Alexander Hamilton Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:

An African American soldier’s pay warrant, 1780

Creator: the State of Connecticut Curriculum Subjects: Economics Grade Levels:
William North’s Recollection, September 18, 1823 (GLC02541.02)

Benedict Arnold’s 1780 treason and the execution of John Andre recalled, 1823

Creator: William North Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
“Be a Cadet Nurse,” United States Public Health Service, 1944. (GLC09520.04)

Cadet Nurse Corps, 1943

Creator: US Public Health Service Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Isaac Merrill to John Currier, April 19, 1775 (GLC00303)

Calling out the militia after Lexington and Concord, 1775

Creator: Isaac Merrill Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Carte de la Louisiane et du cours du Mississippi [map of North America], by Guil

Carte de la Louisiane et du cours du Mississipi, 1718

Creator: Guillaume De l’Isle Curriculum Subjects: Geography, World History Grade Levels:
 Brett G. Coughlin to Kit, December 26, 1990 (Andrew Carroll/The Legacy Project)

Christmas in Kuwait, 1990

Creator: Brett G. Coughlin Curriculum Subjects: Geography, World History Grade Levels:
Mary Oden to Emily J. Semmes, July 10, 1863. (GLC07225)

Civil War condolence letter for General Paul Semmes, 1863

Creator: Mary Oden Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
“Official Civilian Defense Insignia, United States Citizens Defense Corps,” US O

Civilian defense on the home front, 1942

Creator: The Office of Civilian Defense Curriculum Subjects: Art, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
William H. Boyle to Isaac McCauley, July 5, 1863 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Civilian describes pillaging near Gettysburg, 1863

Creator: William H. Boyle Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
P. G. T. Beauregard, General Orders 44, May 19, 1862. (GLC00666)

Confederate reaction to “Beast” Butler’s orders, 1862

Creator: P. G. T. Beauregard Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Theodore Roosevelt to William H. Hunt, September 26, 1901 (Gilder Lehrman Collec

Confirming governors for territories of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, 1901

Creator: Theodore Roosevelt Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
James Monroe to Thomas Rutter, November 13, 1816, on the Quakers’ petition for a

Conscientious objectors: Madison pardons Quakers, 1816

Creator: James Madison and James Monroe Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
William E. Mitchell to Lester D. Gardner, July 26, 1924 (Gilder Lehrman Collecti

Creating the Air Force, 1924

Creator: William E. Mitchell Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Paul Jones Semmes to Emily J. Semmes, July 9, 1863 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Death of a soldier, 1863: Paul Semmes

Creator: Paul Jones Semmes Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Mark Rickert to Merle Kilgore, September 14, 2003. ( Andrew Carroll / The Legacy

Discovering a mass grave in Iraq, 2003

Creator: Mark Rickert Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Henry Knox to George Washington, December 17, 1775 (GLC02437.00222)

Dragging cannon from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston, 1775

Creator: Henry Knox Curriculum Subjects: Geography Grade Levels:
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at Chautauqua, NY, August 14, 1936. (Gilder Lehrm

Franklin Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy, 1936

Creator: Franklin D. Roosevelt Curriculum Subjects: World History Grade Levels:
William T. Sherman to James H. Wilson, January 21, 1865. (GLC02947)

General Sherman on the “March to the Sea,” 1865

Creator: William T. Sherman Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Daniel Shays and Job Shattuck, Unknown artist, 1787 (National Portrait Gallery)

George Washington discusses Shays’ Rebellion and the upcoming Constitutional Convention, 1787

Creator: George Washington Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
George Washington to the New Hampshire legislature, December 29, 1777. (GLC)

George Washington from Valley Forge on the urgent need for men and supplies, 1777

Creator: George Washington Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Henry Knox to Lucy Knox, July 8, 1776. (GLC02437.00363)

Henry Knox on the British invasion of New York, 1776

Creator: Henry Knox Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Henry Knox, Order of march to Trenton, December 26, 1776 (Gilder Lehrman Collect

Henry Knox’s Order of March to Trenton, 1776

Creator: Henry Knox Curriculum Subjects: Geography, Government and Civics, World History Grade Levels: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Declaration of War against the United States and Britain [in Japanese], December

Japan declares war, 1941

Creator: Hirohito, Emperor of Japan Curriculum Subjects: World History Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+

Jefferson on British aggression, 1815

Creator: Thomas Jefferson Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Thomas Jefferson to Marquis de Lafayette, June 16, 1792. (GLC08063p2)

Jefferson on the French and Haitian Revolutions, 1792

Creator: Thomas Jefferson Curriculum Subjects: Geography, Government and Civics, World History Grade Levels:
Samuel Mostyn to Thomas Pennant, June 7, 1778. (GLC09023)

Loyalists and the British evacuation of Philadelphia, 1778

Creator: Samuel Mostyn Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Lucy Knox to Henry Knox, May 1777. (GLC05895)

Lucy Knox on the home front during the Revolutionary War, 1777

Creator: Lucy Knox Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Paul Revere, “The Bloody Massacre in King-Street, March 5, 1770.” Boston, 1770.

Paul Revere’s engraving of the Boston Massacre, 1770

Creator: Paul Revere Curriculum Subjects: Art, World History Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Irving Kaplan, Preliminary statement of the Association of Manhattan District Sc

Physicists predict a nuclear arms race, 1945

Creator: Association of Manhattan District Scientists Curriculum Subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, World History Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Hanford L. Gordon, “Only a Private Killed,” November 12, 1861. (GLC06559.038)

Poem on a Civil War death: “Only a Private Killed,” 1861

Creator: Hanford L. Gordon Curriculum Subjects: Literature Grade Levels:
Henry W. Smith, “Texas Expects Every Man to Do His Duty,” February [28], 1836 (G

Politics and the Texas Revolution, 1836

Creator: Henry W. Smith Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861.

President Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, 1861

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+

President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, 1865

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
“Americans All” poster, War Manpower Commission, Washington DC, 1942. (GLC09530)

Preventing labor discrimination during World War II, 1942

Creator: War Manpower Commission Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
King George III, Gilder Lehrman Collection

Proclamation of 1763, 1763

Creator: George III, King of Great Britain Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Draft of Robert E. Lee's address to his troops, ca. May 14, 1864. (GLC04429)

Robert E. Lee’s message to his troops before the Battle of Spotsylvania, 1864

Creator: Robert E. Lee Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:

Robert F. Kennedy on Vietnam, 1967

Creator: Robert F. Kennedy Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics, World History Grade Levels:

Sir Francis Drake’s attack on St. Augustine, 1586

Creator: Baptista Boazio Curriculum Subjects: Economics, World History Grade Levels:
Map of Yorktown, Virginia, October 1781 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Surrender of the British General Cornwallis to the Americans, October 19, 1781

Creator: Lord Cornwallis Curriculum Subjects: World History Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Texas Declaration of Independence, March 2, 1836. (GLC02559)

Texas Declaration of Independence, 1836

Creator: Delegates of the People of Texas Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
“A Correct View of the Battle of the Horse-Shoe, March 27th, 1814” (GLC06772)

The Battle of Horseshoe Bend and the end of the Creek War, 1814

Creator: Isaac Stephens Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
"Bloody Butchery by the British Troops,” broadside by Ezekiel Russell, 1775. (Th

The Battles of Lexington and Concord, 1775

Creator: Ezekiel Russell Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Benjamin Duvivier, George Washington before Boston, medal, ca. 1790 (GLC03221)

The British evacuation of Boston, 1776

Creator: Benjamin Duvivier Curriculum Subjects: Art, Government and Civics Grade Levels: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
The Brotherton Indians’ agreement to oppose white settlement, January 6, 1780.

The Brotherton Indians of New Jersey, 1780

Creator: Bartholomew Calvin et al. Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
David M. Stauffer, Two volumes of original artwork by an ensign on the USS Al

The Civil War and early submarine warfare, 1863

Creator: David M. Stauffer and Lewis H. West Curriculum Subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Grade Levels:

The Cold War in the classroom, 1952

Creator: Federal Civil Defense Administration Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics, World History Grade Levels:
Emancipation Proclamation [California printing, Cheesman copy], January 1, 1863

The Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Edward Kennedy to Mr. Thursby, April 25, 1973 (GLC09526)

The end of the Vietnam War: conscience, resistance, and reconciliation, 1973

Creator: Edward M. Kennedy Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863 (GLC06811)

The Gettysburg Address, 1863

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics, Religion and Philosophy Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Detail from U.S. Capitol

The Monroe Doctrine, 1823

Creator: James Monroe Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Geography, Government and Civics, World History Grade Levels:
A Memorial of the State of the Province of Massachusetts Bay (detail)

The Province of Massachusetts Bay requests aid from Queen Anne, 1708

Creator: Thomas Oliver Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Mary Walker to James Hardie, September 23, 1864 (GLC06882)

The service of Medal of Honor recipient Dr. Mary Walker, 1864

Creator: Mary E. Walker Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Expeditionis Hispanorum in Angliam, 1588, by Robert Adams (London, 1590). (LOC)

The Spanish Armada, 1588

Creator: Robert Adams Curriculum Subjects: World History Grade Levels:
True copy of articles, whereupon . . . the New Netherlands were surren

The surrender of New Netherland, 1664

Creator: Richard Nicholls Curriculum Subjects: Geography Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Robert E. Lee to Ulysses S. Grant, April 9, 1865. (GLC07967)

The surrender of Robert E. Lee, 1865

Creator: Robert E. Lee Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Theodore Roosevelt to Oscar King Davis, June 23, 1915. (Gilder Lehrman Collectio

Theodore Roosevelt on the sinking of the Lusitania, 1915

Creator: Theodore Roosevelt Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Pvt. Elbert Corbin to his wife, July 6, 1863. (GLC)

Union soldier turns medic at Gettysburg, 1863

Creator: Elbert Corbin Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Victory Order of the Day,” May 8, 1945. (GLC05622.04)

Victory Order of the Day, 1945

Creator: Dwight D. Eisenhower Curriculum Subjects: World History Grade Levels:
William T. Sherman, ca. 1864 (GLC05111.02.1435)

William T. Sherman on the western railroads, 1878

Creator: William T. Sherman Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+

World War I poems: “In Flanders Fields” & “The Answer,” 1918

Creator: John D. McCrae, J. A. Armstrong, and Ella Jane Osborn Curriculum Subjects: Literature, World History Grade Levels:
“Remember Dec. 7th!” Office of War Information, 1942. (GLC09520.08)

World War II: Commemorating Pearl Harbor, 1941

Creator: Office of War Information Curriculum Subjects: Art Grade Levels:
 Braxton Bragg to Henry J. Hunt, April 21, 1861. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

“Almost brothers” divided by the Civil War, 1861

Creator: Braxton Bragg and Henry Hunt Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
US Food Administration. Food Will Win the War, ca. 1917. (GLC09522)

“Food Will Win the War,” 1917

Creator: United States Food Administration Curriculum Subjects: Economics, World History Grade Levels:
“Men of Color, to Arms! to Arms!” broadside, ca. 1863 (Private Collection)

“Men of Color, To Arms! To Arms,” 1863

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: