The Battle of Gettysburg

Samantha Bitten

     “Writing is not the transcription of thoughts already consciously present in my mind. Writing is a magical and mysterious process that makes it possible to think differently. Because writing is an act that is far from completely accessible to our conscious minds, recommendations about how to write history may well be irrelevant.”

     As curriculum directors and teachers begin to review the revised New Jersey Learning Outcomes when they are adopted later this year or sometime next year, it is essential to remember that writing supports critical thinking and enduring memory. Teachers understand the importance of engaging students in the beginning of a lesson or activity with essential questions and inquiry into the content. We also know that each student responds differently to each document, image, motivating activity, and question. One perfectly planned lesson does not necessarily engage every student.

     There are many ways to write. Perhaps it is NOT what we write or how we write BUT that students write! The right answer is the write answer!

     The story of The Battle of Gettysburg is written by my ten year old granddaughter, in Grade 4, after her family visited Gettysburg. Her story on The Battle of Gettysburg is self-initiated and represents her reflection on the ride back from Gettysburg to her home. As a grandparent I was taken by the impact of what she learned from the monuments, posters, and words of the tour guide, although most of her time was on a self-guided tour. She left Gettysburg with questions with answers accessible through the web.

     The art of thinking became deeper as she read, wrote, found pictures, asked questions, developed perspectives, wrote, revised, and talked about her secret manuscript. When her Grade 4 teacher learned about her story, she invited her to read it to her class. As a teacher who taught about the significance of the Battle of Gettysburg as a turning point in the war, as a costly battle in the heat of the summer, as a victory for democratic freedom and emancipation, I realized that what was important to me may not have had lasting importance to the hundreds of students I taught over 45 years.

     Enjoy the essay and find ways to engage your students from Kindergarten to college to write-think-and-write!

The Battle of Gettysburg by Samantha Bitten

     In this book you will meet two soldiers that are best friends, Paul, from the north and Mark, from the south. You will also meet Henry who is a slave and a family who is all worried about their son Jake who has to fight in the war with Paul, his uncle. 

     The Battle of Gettysburg was the major turning point of the civil war. It was also one of the bloodiest battles. This battle lasted from July 1-3 1863. During those three days it was so hot outside. Also, the “hospitals” were really in a bad quality. Usually you would like to be wounded because you could relax in the hospital and you won’t have to fight. But these hospitals were either barns or even people’s houses! Sometimes the “hospital” would get so full that they would lay the people on the ground!


Jake, Sarah, Bob and Kate

     “Mom! Let’s go, I got to get to the battlefield by 10:00 and it is already 9:50!” Jake yelled to his mom. “O.K. sweetie, let me just hug you goodbye!” Sarah told Jake. They walked down to the battlefield and the only person Jake knew was his Uncle Paul. Paul introduced Jake to three of his friends. William, Ethan, and of course, Mark. I kind of already knew Mark. He used to come over every Christmas before the war started. Mark is Uncle Paul’s best friend. Also, the reason my dad wasn’t fighting was because in the last battle at Antietam, he got hurt very badly so he couldn’t fight anymore. The battle was about to start, everyone was practicing so I joined them.


     “I can’t believe Jake is on that battlefield fighting and could get shot any minute!” Sarah cried. “Don’t worry Sarah, Jake will be O.K. As you know, he is very strong.” Bob explained. “Is anything going to happen to Jake?” Kate worried. “No Kate, like I said, everything will be O.K.” Bob told her. Kate walked outside to sit by the lake across from their small, stone home. She sat and thought about many things. She thought about when there was no war and when things were normal. She thought about when her dad got hurt and everyone was panicking. She thought about Jake. “What would happen if he got hurt and couldn’t fight! It was his dream to fight like the older kids and adults! I remember he used to watch the smoke from the shots slowly go up into the sky. Then he would go and ask his mom when he would be able to fight. And, her answer every time was “soon Jake, soon.” If he got hurt all his dreams would be crushed! Kate thought about it for a little while but then she remembered her dad said Jake would be O.K. She kept those words in her mind and started walking inside. “Everything will be O.K., everything will be O.K., everything will be O.K.” Kate whispered to herself over and over again as she walked inside.

     When she got inside her mom asked her where she was. She just said she was picking some flowers for when Jake comes home. Sarah thought that was so sweet of her to do that. “Kate, where are the flowers?” Sarah questioned her. “Ummmm they are ummm, by the lake. I forgot to bring them inside.” Kate ran outside to pick just about five flowers so it looked like she was doing that the whole time. “Here they are mom!” Kate yelled from the front lawn. “Exactly five flowers, just for Jake.” She explained. “Perfect. now go put them in your room so Jake won’t see them.”

     As Kate ran upstairs the parents saw lots of smoke from the field across town. “I hope Jake is O.K.,” Bob mumbled. “Bob, I have something to tell you.” Sarah said while tearing up. “Yes Sarah, what is it?” Bob asked. “I didn’t know the right time to tell you, but-” Sarah talked fast. “What is it? It can’t be that bad.” Bob cut her off. “Jake, ummm, Jake got hurt.” Sarah mumbled. “No, no this can’t be happening! I need to go and don’t follow me; I want to be alone.” Bob explained. “O.K. but whatever you do, don’t tell Kate; she can’t know!” Sarah yelled. “Know what?” Kate questioned. “Ummmm” Sarah froze.


Includes: Henry

     “…. and that is how I got this scratch on my leg.” Henry told some kids. He was telling them about the many times he tried to escape slavery.

      “Henry, are you doing your work or telling stories again!” The Master explained. His real name is Charles but he forced us to call him, “The Master.” Anyway, back to the farm. “Sorry Master, I will do my work now.” Henry explained. “Thank you.” Said the Master.  

     Henry grabbed an ax and started to chop wood. Since he was older than most of the slaves, he had to do the hard work. When Henry was just about eight years old, he thought the jobs that the older kids did were so cool! But now that he is experiencing it, he hates it.

     The only thing Henry enjoyed was getting to tell stories to the kids and hang out with them. They told jokes while washing The Master’s suit and they played games while cooking The Master’s food. He had so much fun with the kids but what ruined it was the second The Master heard a peep from them he would run downstairs and give an entire speech about the meaning of slavery. So, unless Henry and the kids wanted to hear that speech said for the 90th time, they all had to stay quiet.

     Then, all of a sudden, an idea popped into Henry’s head. Henry needed a plan to escape. He couldn’t live another day there. If he had to wash The Mast- Charles suit again he would die! He needed a big plan, a HUGE plan to get EVERYONE out of there. Henry gathered all the slaves when they had a small break. He said they needed a plan to escape. He drew a map in the dirt of the entire field. Henry said they needed a certain path to follow so they could make it safely. Everyone gave plenty of ideas. They all agreed they should run at 12:00 a.m. on Wednesday. They agreed that day because the guard only worked half his time on Wednesdays. Emma, a 5-year-old slave who had a huge imagination, suggested they dress up so they all look like civilians.

   “That is a great idea Emma.” Henry explained. They all looked at the clothes drying on the thin, white string and found all of The Master’s clothes.    “Are you guys thinking what I’m thinking.?” Henry asked. “We use The Master’s clothes to dress up!” They all yelled at the same time.  They all grabbed a piece of clothing that was their size and started putting it on. “Ready guys?” Henry asked. “Ready!” They all yelled back.


Includes: Mark and Paul

3 weeks before the battle

     “Hey Paul, are you going to sail to where I live to fight with me?” Mark asked Paul. “Yes, definitely.” Paul explained.


     Boom! Soldiers shot each other left and right. But right there in the center was Mark looking for Paul. He was looking all over. Then right there he saw Paul. But the problem was, Paul wasn’t on his side. He was fighting for the other side! How could Paul betray him like that?

     O.K. so here is my (Paul’s) story. So, I was all packed with my things and I walked down to the dock. The next ship was coming any minute now. I waited a little when I hear a voice yell: Please get on the ship now! I went to the dock when I froze.

     “Do I really want to do this?” I thought. The captain got in his ship and started sailing away. “No!” I yelled. “Sorry, too late!” The captain screamed from a distance.  So, yeah that was my (Paul’s) story. “Paul why are you over there?” Mark yelled. “It’s a long story, let me tell you later.” Paul explained.  After the battle Paul and Mark met up. “So, tell me why didn’t you come with me?” Mark asked Paul. “O.K., let me tell you.” Paul said.

     After Paul told Mark, Mark was really angry. He didn’t actually say he was angry because he hid it. All Mark did was laugh at the story acting like it was funny. Mark went home and Paul went to sleep. They had a big battle the next day, the Battle of Gettysburg.

     When they got to the field they fought right away. Bullets flew everywhere. When the battle was over, about 7,058 people had died. It had been one of the bloodiest battles ever fought! There was blood all over the field. But then something happened. Mark’s uniform got caught to a fence. When Paul saw what happened, he saved him before he got shot. But Mark’s anger came out and he shot Paul! He was just so angry that Paul didn’t sail across the river to fight with him. He just shot his best friend! And, he walked away.  


     So, after about five weeks of recovery Jake was O.K. and was ready to fight again.

     Henry and the kids were able to escape after lots of hard work. Emma and a boy, Conner got captured but Henry went back for them.

     Mark found another friend and he fought the war. That battle changed slavery so now Henry was quite happy too.

     Kate found out about Jake and was very disappointed but she helped him recover.


      In this story you met Mark, Paul, Jake, Kate, Sarah, Bob, and Henry. All of them went through something terrible. All these characters represented someone at the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle in the Civil War. Many people died in this battle, just like the character Paul did. Slaves were working very hard, like Henry. It is estimated that there were 100,000 children, as young as 15, who were fighting in battles while their parents were worried sick, just like Kate, Jake, Sarah, and Bob. I hope you enjoyed my story and learned some new things about the Battle of Gettysburg. 

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