Saturday, May 29, 2021

Blogging Through the Alphabet: H is for Harpers Ferry

 A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; Blogging Through the Alphabet: H is for Harpers Ferry; civil war cannon at Gettysburg

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Who would have thought a small place would be so instrumental in the start of the American Civil War? Harpers Ferry, located in Virginia during this time, would be the focal point of John Brown's raid on October 16, 1859. His goal was to seize the U.S. Armory and Arsenal there, give arms to the slaves that joined his party, and begin an uprising.

Background of Harpers Ferry 

Robert Harper purchased a ferry boat operation from a Dutchman, Peter Stephens, and by 1751 the area became known as "Shenandoah Falls at Mr. Harper's Ferry." This area would play a role in early American history as both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington stayed in the community that sprang up around Harpers Ferry.

The area became a thriving commercial center, and first President George Washington convinced Congress to establish a national armory at Harpers Ferry. In 1801, the Harpers Ferry armory started its production of military muskets. Along with the production of rifles and pistols, Harpers Ferry was important as canal and rail lines built up around the area.

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; Harpers Ferry Railroad tunnel

John Brown's Plans 

John Brown and his "Secret Six" discussed plans in 1858 to invade the Southern Appalachian. These men were angry with the treatment of the slaves and wanted to see a change. This change - this invasion at Harpers Ferry - would consist of a small number of men as Brown did not recruit many to his 'army.'

Eighteen men joined John Brown on October 16, 1859, after dark to capture the armory complex at Harpers Ferry. He sent word to bring slaves to his uprising, but none came to aid Brown. So, he sat down to wait with his hostages, which included a great-grandnephew of George Washington.

Residents of Harpers Ferry, along with Virginia and Maryland militia, began the process of taking back the armory on the morning of October 17. Two of Brown's men and six others were killed, along with three townspeople, in the afternoon. At night, a U.S. Marine company arrived, commanded by none other than Robert E. Lee (then a colonel) and J.E.B. Stuart (his lieutenant). After thirty-six hours, Brown's attack was over as Lee sent in the Marines. 

The raiders were quickly hanged after their conviction. Brown was convicted of treason, murder, and fomenting insurrection and sentenced to hang on December 2, 1859. With his execution, Brown would have a lasting legacy on America – probably more so than any of his actions prior to December of 1859.

The events at Harpers Ferry led to rumors, problems, and the creation of a martyr. Rumors started that Brown had intended to move southward if the raid Harpers Ferry had succeeded. Even though the South was happy to hear no slaves had joined Brown, the North took his death and created him a martyr to the noble cause of abolition. The North even added a new song to their repertoire – John Brown's Body.

"John Brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave

John Brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave

John Brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave

But his soul goes marching on."

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; Blogging Through the Alphabet: H is for Harpers Ferry; photo of Shenandoah River

During the American Civil War 

When war broke out, Harpers Ferry became a target of the South. The Confederates captured the U.S. Armory on April 18, 1861. They saved most of the rifle machinery that the U.S. Army regulars had set on fire to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Confederacy. So, Harpers Ferry played a role in helping the Confederacy supply guns to their troops. Over the course of the Civil War, Harpers Ferry changed hands eight times, with the Union occupying it the most. On June 20, 1863, West Virginia became the 35th state.

At the end of the American Civil War, the community was shattered, with half the town in ruins. Eventually, a school would be built there. The town would become a tourist spot and then part of state and federal historic parks.

Do you want to learn more about the American Civil War?

Read about John Brown's Harpers Ferry Raid at American Battlefield Trust.

Read about Harpers Ferry at the National Historical Park Site.

Read about Appomattox at A Mom's Quest to Teach.

Do you want to join? Check out the following two places for the link up. 

Friday, May 28, 2021

Book Club: Book Review of Dusk's Darkest Shores

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I received a COMPLIMENTARY copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

What happens when life throws curve balls at you that change your plans so dramatically you are at a loss for where to take the next step? In Dusk's Darkest Shores by Carolyn Miller, Adam Edgerton returns home after his service overseas, fighting against the armies of Napoleon. It is believed by his boyhood community that he is returning as a war hero, but in reality, Adam returns battling a disease. This was not Adam's plan. He was to return and marry his betrothed, Emily Hardy, but instead, he falls into a deep melancholy. How will he find his way out? 

book cover of Dusk's Darkest Shores

Plot Summary 

In addition to Adam Edgerton, the other main character in Dusk's Darkest Shores is the unmarried daughter of the community Doctor – Mary Bloomfield. She is what many may call an 'old maid' or 'spinster' as she has no marriage prospects, is past her youth, and works alongside her father, helping provide practical healthcare and spiritual comfort to his patients. Through her work with her father, she begins visiting Adam to help relieve his mother, Mrs. Edgerton, as well as provide comfort, encouragement, and practical advice for improving his life with changes due to his illness. 

Over the course of Dusk's Darkest Shores, we see a friendship growing between Adam and Mary. This friendship is greeted with various levels of surprise, caution, and suspect by the community. Is there anything inappropriate going on between Adam and Mary? Are they involved in an improper relationship? Why is Mary spending so much time at the Edgerton's? Can there be happiness found with the two ending up together? And what about Adam's betrothed, Emily, who happens to be friends with Mary and her half-sister?

A Mom's Quest to Teach: Book Club: Book Review of Dusk's Darkest Shores; book cover of Dusk's Darkest Shores

My Thoughts 

I found this Regency romance, set in 1811, to be very enjoyable. I felt there was a happy balance between time spent detailing the character of Adam and that of Mary. Carolyn Miller helped both characters come to life through beautiful descriptions, insightful conversations, and comforting discussions of God's involvement in their lives.

As someone who found true love (and married) later – like Mary – I felt I could really relate to her character. I believe the author wanted to show God's hand in the relationship between Adam and Mary. She had to wait for her perfect man and so did I.

I do not blame Adam for those moments or days where he was rude or depressed. I can only imagine how difficult he is finding his life after his illness.  Will Adam be able to move forward with plans to be a farmer through the advice and aid of Dr. Bloomfield and his daughter?

There is great hope in the pages of Dusk's Darkest Shores. Affection and love grow and God's word helps those characters created by Carolyn Miller. Just like Adam and Mary promised to be honest with each other, I promise to be honest with you. I enjoyed this first book in the Regency Wallflower series immensely. I recommend it to those who enjoy Christian, historical romance.

giveaway of Carolyn Miller's Dusk's Darkest Shores; Enter to win May 18 to June 15

Enter to win a fun prize pack inspired by the book and its English setting that includes: 

  • A copy of Dusk’s Darkest Shores
  • A canvas bag to carry your latest reads
  • A fun pair of Jane Austen socks
  • A Novel Teas’ English Breakfast tea
  • "Drink tea, read books, and be happy” teaspoon
  • “Let your faith be bigger than your fear” mug
  • Black currant preserves from England
  • Wax Lyrical candle from England

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Homeschooling High School: Five Questions to Ask

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Clicking through some of the links in this post may provide A Mom's Quest to Teach with a small commission at no cost to you.

For many, the thought of homeschooling during the high school years fills them with dread. How will they make sure their high schooler takes all the necessary courses if they want to go to college? How can someone teach courses that they never understand or enjoyed during their own high school years? Yet homeschooling the high school years does not need to be difficult. In February, I participated in a blog series on Homeschool on the Range, where many homeschoolers shared how to homeschool the upper grades. If you are thinking about taking the plunge and homeschooling your high schooler next year, what are the questions you should ask before you get started? 

Five Questions to Ask 

  1. What are your state or local requirements for high school or homeschooling in general? 
  2. What does your high schooler want to do after they graduate? 
  3. Do you prefer to choose an all-inclusive curriculum or put together courses from various companies or locations for your homeschool? 
  4. What does your high schooler need to know in terms of life skills? 
  5. Is your high schooler going to participate in high school sports, clubs, or activities? 

Local Requirements 

It is always a good idea to look at Home School Legal Defense Association as a starting point. You can take a look at their various pages that can help answer questions regarding state homeschool laws, how to record grades, and more. Another place to look is at your state education site. You can often find information there that can help guide you as to the homeschooling laws in your state. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; Homeschooling High School: Five Questions to Ask; school background

After High School 

There are many options available to high schoolers after they graduate. They could go to college or university, start work, start their own business, enter a technical training program, enter an apprenticeship, or start a family. It always good to have a basic plan before starting high school, but it may change multiple times as your high schooler works through his or her curriculum. 


There are so many options when it comes to homeschooling and curriculum. You can choose ones that provide the whole package of language arts, science, mathematics, history, and more or pick and choose from one company or another. Here are just a few places you can check out to see if they would work for your homeschooled high schooler. 

Please note clicking through links may provide a small commission to me at no cost to you. 

Life Skills 

What things do you want your high schooler to know how to do before they graduate high school that will help them as an adult? I would recommend writing a list of all the things you do as a parent and homeowner/renter and seeing how many things your high schooler can do. These activities or tasks might be covered by taking a cooking class or economics course or being a part of their curriculum in another way. It is amazing what can be included in our homeschooling lessons, as all of life includes teaching and learning. 

High School Activities 

Does your high schooler have any interest in playing sports, participating in clubs, groups, or other typical high school activities? Every school district has different rules and regulations concerning whether or not homeschooled students can participate in their clubs and sports. So, you will need to check locally to see what is allowed and not allowed.

If you join a homeschool co-op, your homeschooler may have the opportunity to participate in various groups and activities with other homeschoolers. You might also be able to find activities and groups through your church.

Can you homeschool high school?

"The idea of homeschooling through high school can be scary, but homeschooling your high-schooler may be easier than you think." Visit Sparks Academy to download your very own copy of a 71-page eBook that includes the following topics to help you homeschool the upper grades: 
  • Homeschooling high school 
  • Life skills
  • College-bound 
  • Unique circumstances 
  • Reading and the arts 

Friday, May 21, 2021

Blogging Through the Alphabet: G is for Going to the Movies

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This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

There are many ways in which individuals can learn more about the American Civil War. In a post a few weeks ago, I shared several books on the topic, but perhaps you are more inclined to watch a movie or documentary? There are even movies based upon popular books that you can view to help learn more about the Civil War.

Movies Based Upon Books 

Gettysburg, based upon the novel The Killer Angels, and Gods and Generals, which is a prequel to the 1993 Gettysburg, are both very popular among history teachers and history lovers. Both movies are rather lengthy, as they are trying to capture important moments in history. 

Personally, I have found that while Gods and Generals is very interesting to students who really enjoy history, Gettysburg, with its battle scenes and action, is more appealing to many. I remember sitting in a fellow teacher's classroom while he showed his class Gods and Generals and being very interested in the movie. Meanwhile, most of his students were doing things other than watching the movie. 

A book (and movie) that is at the center of debate off and on is Gone with the Wind. Published in June of 1936, it sold 50,000 copies in one day. Within six months of its publication, it sold one million copies during the Great Depression. An amazing testament to the desire of Americans to read about the Civil War – at least a fictionalized account. While the book has been extremely popular, many individuals only think of the movie with Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh when they hear the name Gone with the Wind. Some have argued that Gone with the Wind is Margaret Mitchell's romance of the South written through her lens of an upper-middle-class, white woman. And while she did write the book primarily for a Southern audience, the book (and movie) did gain a global audience.

If you want to compare the movie and book of Gone with the Wind, a good place to start is with The Civil War in Popular Culture by Jim Cullen. In one chapter, Cullen examines several viewpoints surrounding both and helps readers understand Gone with the Wind in terms of the 1990s (that is when The Civil War in Popular Culture was published). 

While I have viewed the other three film adaptations and read the corresponding books, I have not read through the entire work of The Red Badge of Courage, nor have I watched the movie. According to American Battlefield Trust, it is a faithful adaptation of the book, but I know that some have found issues with the novel itself for the themes it discusses. Have you read or watched the movie? 

The Red Badge of Courage book cover; Young Mr. Lincoln Blu-Ray; Blogging Through the Alphabet: G is for Going to the Movies

Based Upon History 

There are many movies based upon different individuals, units, and battles of the Civil War where liberty is taken with the story and plotlines. For example, in the movie Glory, we learn of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, but only some of the leaders of the units are portraying real men. The characters portrayed by Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman were not real men who were on the rolls of the 54th but rather compilations of men who served. 

While the movie Glory is a good introduction to the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and the life of African American regiments during the American Civil War, it is often compared to a World War II movie. We have several key personalities serving in the same unit who must work together for the bigger cause. These fictional characters are stereotypes of many in other war movies, but I don't think that makes Glory any less important. It just means we need to dig deeper into our history books to learn more about the 54th. 

One movie that I haven't seen yet that I would like to is Andersonville. While it is loosely based upon a Civil War diary, it is a fictionalized account of life in the notorious prison. And even though there are critics of the film, I think that any movie that helps spark an interest in learning more about real events has done its job. 

There are a number of movies based upon the life of Abraham Lincoln including: 
  • Lincoln (2012) 
  • Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)
  • The Conspirator (2010)
  • Gore Vidal's Lincoln (1988)
Just as there are many books on the 16th President's life, there are many movies. With each of these, we need to watch them and understand the time period they were produced in and how that might have impacted the telling of Lincoln's history. 

Final Thoughts 

These are just a few of the movies that one can use when studying the American Civil War. There are also documentaries, such as Ken Burns' The Civil War, television specials, virtual tours of the battlefields, and many fictional movies set in the Civil War time period. If you want to bring history to life, you only need to do a few minutes of research to find a movie to include. I would then recommend spending much more time in finding out how accurate that movie is, historically. 

Do you want to join? Check out the following two places for the link up. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

A Brief Journey through the Quotes of Shakespeare's Hamlet

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo: A Brief Journey through the Quotes of Shakespeare's Hamlet

During high school, we read at least one play by William Shakespeare every year (in my own freshman year, we read two: Romeo & Juliet and Merchant of Venice). In our teen's sophomore year, we read Julius Caesar with him using Shakespeare's Tragedies from Hewitt Homeschooling Resources to facilitate our lessons. Last year, we did not read any Shakespeare, sadly, but this year, he read Macbeth using the British Literature course from I also hope to include Hamlet if we have time before he graduates. 

Hamlet has been a favorite of mine for a number of years. Even though I am unsure if we will get to read it, I do hope to be able to share at least one theatrical version of the play with our son. As I was looking through my books (so I can share my copy of Macbeth with him), I stumbled upon my well-worn copy of Hamlet and found some favorite quotes to share. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach: A Brief Journey through the Quotes of Shakespeare's Hamlet; background tree; horse clip art

"To thine own self be true." 
Act I, Scene III 

"That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain." 
Act I, Scene IV 

"More matter, with less art." 
Act II, Scene II 

"Suit the action to the word, the word to the action." 
Act III, Scene II 

"A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm." 
Act IV, Scene III 

suitcase clip art; "Neither a lender nor a borrower be" Hamlet

Interested in more Shakespeare quotes? Check out these other posts from A Mom's Quest to Teach. 

Friday, May 14, 2021

Blogging Through the Alphabet: F is for Fort Sumter

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; Blogging Through the Alphabet: F is for Fort Sumter; cannon photo in background

"Fort Sumter had become a commanding symbol of national sovereignty in the very cradle of secession, a symbol that the Confederate government could not tolerate if it wished to own sovereignty to be recognized by the world" (Battle Cry of Freedom, 263).

While Lincoln was preparing his Inaugural address, seven states were seceding and seizing federal property. Only two properties were left in the South – Fort Pickens in the Florida Keys and Fort Sumter in the Charleston Harbor in South Carolina. How would President Lincoln respond to the South?

General Information About Fort Sumter 

Fort Sumter is four miles from downtown Charleston with brick walls forty feet high that were eight to twelve feet thick. When Lincoln took office, there was only a handful of men at the Fort - the workers who were finishing repairs. The rest of the Federal army was at Fort Moultrie, commanded by Major Robert Anderson from Kentucky. Even though Anderson had been a former slave owner, he was loyal to the US and would be a key figure in the events that would take place at Fort Sumter.

Under the cover of darkness, Major Anderson moved his men to Fort Sumter on December 26. As supplies were dwindling, General-in-Chief Scott sent supplies to Fort Sumter on a civilian ship but the ship was forced back in the Charleston harbor. After this, things remained at a standstill. The South was willing to let the men stay at Fort Sumter but as long as the US government did not reinforce it.

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; Blogging Through the Alphabet: F is for Fort Sumter; cannon photo

Choices and Decisions 

On March 5, Lincoln learned that Fort Sumter was running low on supplies. There were two choices left to Lincoln. He could either use the available military strength to send supplies and reinforcements to Fort Sumter – and risk the start of a war, or he could keep the peace for longer by withdrawing the troops at Fort Sumter. While peace would be promoted with the South, not supporting Major Anderson could result in a split in his own Republican party. Lincoln did not have to make the decision immediately, as there were about six weeks before Anderson and his men would face starvation.

While the members of the Lincoln administration struggled with their opinion of whether or not they should withdraw Anderson or reinforce him, the public also shared their opinions in the press. While men like General Scott argued for the evacuation of the forts (Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens), the northern press pushed for reinforcement at all costs as well as the necessity to have a policy in place.

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; Fort Moultrie office space from World War II
Fort Moultrie was still an active fort through World War II. There were several rooms on display as to what it looked like during that time period.

Getting Ready to Send Supplies 

It was decided to send just supplies to Fort Sumter under a peaceful expedition. It was believed that if the South fired upon boats carrying food for starving men, they would look like the aggressors. On April 6, Lincoln sent a message to the Governor of South Carolina that there would be a peaceful attempt to provide provisions for Fort Sumter. If nothing was done to stop the delivery, only food would be sent to Fort Sumter. If there was an attack, then the Fort would receive men, arms, and ammunition.

This decision put the President of the Confederacy – Jefferson Davis – in an interesting situation. If he didn't order an attack on the resupply ships, then he would be seen as weak by members of his government. He needed to do something to be seen as a strong leader. Even though the Southern states had seceded, they were not all in agreement about how to approach the new government. So...war or peace?


At 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1860, the Confederates opened fire upon Fort Sumter. For thirty-six hours, the Fort under Major Anderson and the Confederates fired upon each other. One shot would knock the American colors – the flag of the United States – down, but it would be hastily put back up a makeshift flag pole. As the Confederates fired hotshot upon Fort Sumter, the building began to burn, and things got desperate. On April 13, at 2:30 p.m., Major Anderson and his men prepared to leave Fort Sumter.

Visiting Fort Sumter 

When not closed, you can visit Fort Sumter via a Ferry you catch in the Charleston Harbor. There is a museum on-site and a gift shop. You can also visit Fort Moultrie when it is open to see where Major Anderson and the men were stationed prior to moving to the island.

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; Ferry

If you want to join Blogging Through the Alphabet, please visit: 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Day in the Life of a Homeschooled 12th Grader

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This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

I can hardly believe that our oldest will be graduating soon. When he started his schooling journey, it was in public school, but he eventually decided to join his younger brother and sister on our homeschooling quest. 

Prepping for the Homeschool Year 

As this was our oldest's last year of high school (after I had bookmarked a variety of possible courses on, I invited our son to sit down with us to go over all his options. (And there are a lot of options on!) Little by little, we narrowed them down to pick ones that would fill out his final year of homeschooling. 12th Grade curriculum school box graphic

We created our own schedule for the year based on the courses at, but you don't have to do it all alone. If you are not looking to create your own course schedule, you can use the School Boxes on For 12th grade, the box includes: 

  • Precalculus 
  • High School British Literature 
  • For writing: 
    • Writing: College Admission Essay 
    • Writing: Advertising Copy 
    • Writing: Compare and Contrast 
    • Words and What to Do with Them 
    • Specific pieces from Writing and Classics-Based Writing
  • High School Spelling
  • High School Physics 
  • Two History Options: 
    • Traditional: American Government (Part One) and Economics (Part Two)
    • Classical: Understanding Modern History 
  • Art 
    • Studio Art for Teens
    • Digital Art and Product Design for Small Business
    • Inkscape Online Adventure

Prepping for the Homeschool Week 

My methods for preparing our senior's homeschool week are very similar to those of last year. I use an editable PDF to plan out the days and weeks using the lesson plans from I often just copy and paste the information if it fits into the boxes. For some courses, I have printed out the lesson plans so that our son has a full list of assignments. I then just type the unit's title or week number to follow in the weekly plan.

week 7 accounting lesson plan from

For those courses where I print out the materials, I try to print several weeks in advance and have those in a three-ring binder. He can access this binder whenever he wants so he can look ahead or look at work he has completed. If I do not print the materials (usually because there are a lot of links within the document), I email them to him each Sunday night or Monday morning. He can then work through that week's assignments online. 

What Courses Is Our 12th Grader Taking? 

This year, our high schooler had a lighter course load as he has completed most of the requirements he would need to fulfill if he was following a public school course load in our state. But this doesn't mean that he didn't actually take a lot of courses. Many of his courses were short – 9 weeks or 18 weeks long, so he actually learned a lot from a variety of disciplines this year. 

8 Bookmarks in Collection; bookmark collection for 12th grade
I can bookmark all of our son's courses on, so they are easy to find.

A Typical Day 

As both my husband and I are working from home now, we have schedules that vary and need to be on conference calls or online meetings. With our days being busier, we have asked our oldest to help with his younger siblings in the morning by getting them breakfast. And on some days, I have asked him to help one of them with various homeschool assignments. By asking our 12th grader to help more around the house, we hope to teach him how to run a household.

For the majority of his homeschool work, I give our son a lot of freedom. I let him pick and choose what order he wishes to complete assignments in and on which days (with the exception being tests or quizzes). Like many children who receive a lot of freedom, there are times when we need to push him along to make sure he is completing his assignments. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach:  Day in the Life of a Homeschooled 12th Grader; teen working on vocabulary

In general, he completes his work for each subject in one day. So Mondays, he may focus on Spelling and do the entire week's worth of work while he would forge ahead with his Apologetics course on Tuesdays. Personally, I do not have any problem with the order in which he does his work as long as he is completing it. 

I think it is important to note that homeschooling does not magically happen. Just today, we had a 'meeting' with our son to discuss a poor test grade and try to motivate him to finish the year strong. Like so many young individuals, our son is smart, but that does not always translate to schooling – whether in public school or homeschooling. As parents, it is our job to help provide the tools, encouragement, and sometimes the prodding to make sure that work is completed efficiently and to the best of our children's abilities.

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; Day in the Life of a Homeschooled 12th Grader; clock clipart; pencil clipart; A+ clipart

And if you are curious what his 11th-grade year looked like, please visit Day in the Life of a Homeschooled 11th Grader

Friday, May 7, 2021

Blogging Through the Alphabet: E is for Elmira Prison

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo: Blogging Through the Alphabet: E is for Elmira Prison; background of cannon

Even though it was open for only a short while, Elmira Prison in New York became infamous for its horrible conditions. It was actually given the nickname "Hellmira" and was called "Hell on Earth" by many of its residents. There is a lot of attention given to Andersonville, but Northern prisons like Elmira also "killed more than their share of Southern soldiers" (Civil War Prisons edited by William B. Hesselfine, 80). 

Of the more than 150 soldier prisons during the American Civil War, they fall into five broad classes: 

  • Fortifications 
  • Old buildings made into compounds
  • Tents under guard 
  • Stockades containing prisoner-made shelters (like Andersonville
  • Enclosed barracks (like Elmira) 
The prison at Elmira, New York, began as a prison camp on May 15, 1864. The Adjutant General E. D. Townsend said there were unoccupied barracks that could house prisoners. This was all the start that it needed. There was room for about 5,000 men, but it was believed that about 10,000 prisoners might be sent to Elmira. 


Elmira Prison would sit on about 30 acres in a not-so-great location. There was a one-acre lagoon of stagnant water. This lagoon would be named Foster's Pond and would be used as both a latrine and garbage dump. This 'pond' impacted the lower level of the prison building, which would flood. This area would later be used as the hospital area. Can you imagine how unsanitary the conditions were on the lower level?

The barracks were quickly erected, which led to unsealed roofs that leaked and floors that also let in water. Add into the hastily built structures the fact that Elmira was very, very cold for four months of the year and the buildings were not adequate to house the Confederate prisoners. 

Tragedy Strikes and an Odd Pastime 

The fourth group of prisoners to arrive met with great tragedy on July 15. The prison train collided with a freight train. Forty-eight prisoners and seventeen guards were killed, and hundreds of prisoners – and at least eighteen guards – were injured. The bodies of the dead were buried near the prison, but there were never any attempts to identify the prisoners or the guards.

In July 1864, shortly after Elmira opened, platforms were erected outside the prison. What was the purpose of these platforms? People paid a fee to those who built them in order to see into the compound and view the prisoners. They gawked at the Confederates imprisoned in Elmira.

A Mom's Quest to Teach: Blogging Through the Alphabet: E is for Elmira Prison; background photo of soldier statue from Gettysburg


Similar to other prisons during the American Civil War, overcrowding was a major problem. By mid-August 1864, there were 9,600 men housed at Elmira. There was not enough food to feed them, so starvation became a problem in addition to the horrific housing conditions. The smell of Foster's Pond became unbearable during the summer months, adding to the poor health of the prisoners. 

To help decrease the number of prisoners, the two governments worked on prisoner exchanges. Elmira was only to send those prisoners who could make the journey south. This did not happen. Of the 1,200 prisoners who were part of the exchange, many were in extreme or poor condition. There were 45 who were dying and 60 declared unfit for travel when they reached one of their many stopping points. 

Problems of Elmira 

The problems of Elmira prison were similar to most of the prisons during the American Civil War in both the North and the South.
  • Lack of clothing
  • Lack of blankets for the Winter 
  • Lack of food or poor quality 
  • Men caught and ate rats to avoid starvation 
  • Illnesses such as scurvy, diarrhea, smallpox
  • Lack of medicines 
  • No beds in the hospital wards 
  • Medical treatment was poor or nonexistent 
  • Harsh punishments such as sweat boxes, hanging by thumbs, or gagging
A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; Sweat box clip art and gagging clipart from; forms of punishment

The End in Sight 

After the surrender at Appomattox, the paroling of the prisoners began. Elmira was vacant by July 5, 1865. Sadly, Elmira led all other Northern prisons in the number of deaths for six of twelve months it was in operation. By March of 1864, there was an average of 16 Confederate deaths each day. Of the 12,124 Confederate soldiers imprisoned at Elmira, 2,963 died due to sickness, exposure, or other causes. What a sad part of American history.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Turning to God During Times of Change

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; floral clipart; Turning to God During Times of Change

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Our household has been going through a lot of changes over the past two years. Originally, what was going to be a brief stay by my mom has turned into a permanent one. We discovered that her health no longer allowed her to live in my childhood home. We are now trying to empty the house and sell it. Add in the crazy events of 2020, my husband losing his job, a refrigerator that took forever to be replaced, and more, and I often find myself questioning why. A lot.

I have been turning to God – trying to walk with Him and hand my problems over to Him. But it is not easy. I like control. I do not like change, and that is what the past two years have been – each and every moment. Nothing but change after change. How can I be a wife, homeschool mom, daughter, and more amidst all this change? I feel my life falling apart. 

In some ways, 2020 was a blessing for our family. It kept my mom home. I did not have to worry about her driving. We did not have to make the decision who would stay home with my mom too often as there was no place to really go as a family. With my husband being home, we were able to help and support each other as a family. But I still question why and what I am going to do each day. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; net background; Turning to God During Times of Change

While relaxing before bedtime one evening, I picked up the Spring 2021 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine and flipped through it to look at the ads. I was looking for a few ideas to spark my inspiration for our next homeschool year. And as I work for The Old Schoolhouse®, I also like to see support the companies that advertise with them. What caught my attention was one article in particular and not an ad. 

I stopped to read "Ten Ways to Homeschool Through Trials" by Kerry Tittle. I found myself struggling to push through all the tasks I must complete, so reading an article that laid out ten points to remember during trials was something I felt would be most helpful. What I didn't realize was that I would be humbled and reminded that there are trials of varying degrees. Kerry Tittle faced a huge change in her life – much more dramatic than that of our own family, but she has given me inspiration. The article reminded me to "count it all joy" and praise God even in the trials. She is right – there is a bigger picture – and, as my husband has reminded me, perhaps He placed my mom in our house for a reason only He understands. 

I hope – I pray – every day that I am strong enough with God's help to live in the midst of trials. I want to demonstrate grace, patience, and love to our children. Sometimes God knows just how to reach us. That evening it was through an excellent article in the Spring 2021 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine.