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[Detail] Photographic Print of Tilton C. Reynolds, undated

Historical Issues-Analysis and Decision-Making: Analyzing the Interests and Points of View of Civil War Soldiers

In writing home during wartime, soldiers sometimes reflected on momentous decisions made by their officers, the country’s leaders, or the enemy.  Soldiers also reflected on the everyday decisions they had to make. While some of these decisions were quite mundane, they were important to the individual soldiers.

Read the following letter from Tilton to his mother, written early in his service:

I have been on a Study whether to send you Some money By letter or By Express and I have concluded I will Send you $10.00 By express. If there is any chance at all Uncle Orlando is going to Alexandria tomorrow and I guess I will go along and he talks of Sending Some to Aunt Emiline if he does we can send it together. I got $27.30cts But I owed Orlando 2.75 and I owe D Reynolds $2.00 & Several other little dribs and I want to get Some thing to make myself comfortable this winter but I can sent you ten Dollars as easy as not. I Should Send you more But I do not want to run out and have to Depend on my friends for funds. It will help you to Buy little things that you need. You need not let any one know that you have got it. But I Suppose you will know Best how to use it yourself. Now if I can not get a chance to send it By Express I will try it By mail though I will take It to the office my Self for It might Be that our Postmaster would not be verry particular about putting It in the office.

From "Letter from Tilton C. Reynolds to Juliana Reynolds, November 13, 1861."

  • What did Tilton mean when he said he was "on a Study"? Do you think this is a good term for the process of making a decision?
  • What was the decision Tilton was trying to make? Why do you think this decision required a "study"?
  • How did Tilton explain his decision to his mother? Why do you think he took the time to explain his thinking rather than simply telling his mother what he did?
  • Can you think of a similar everyday decision you have made that required you to think carefully and explain your decision to someone else?

In 1864, Tilton made a decision while home on leave that had consequences for his relationship with his mother. Read Tilton’s letters to his mother on February 18  and February 27, 1864.

  • What behavior did Tilton admit to in the letters?  How did Tilton justify his decision to act this way to his mother?
  • What inference can you draw about the tone of Mrs. Reynolds’ letters from reading Tilton’s responses? Why do you think Tilton’s mother decided to write to him in this manner? Do you think her view was changed by Tilton’s explanations? (For a hint, see Tilton’s letter of April 18, 1864.)
  • How does thinking about the impact of everyday decisions on relationships influence your thinking about the importance of such decisions?