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[Detail] The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865

Historical Comprehension: Evidencing Historical Perspectives

Read Taft's entries from May 7 through July 4, 1864, paying particular attention to his description of the consequences of General Grant's 1864 offensive in Virginia in terms of soldiers injured and killed. Imagine that you are reporter for a Northern newspaper who has been visiting hospitals with Horatio Nelson Taft. Write a human-interest story using data culled from Taft's accounts of the care of the wounded and fatality rate resulting from poor field surgery. Try not to include modern perspectives or information that the reporter in 1864 could not have known.

  • How difficult was it to describe these events on their own terms (that is, without drawing on your own knowledge and perspectives)?
  • What insight about writing history does this exercise provide?