Florida in the Civil War
Teacher’s Guide for Diaries and Letters

Background Information

Gramling Diary and Pittman Letters

John D. Pittman’s first year of college was unusually dramatic. Traveling from his home in Marianna, Florida, to begin classes at the University of Virginia, Pittman arrived in Charlottesville in October 1860. A month later, Abraham Lincoln was elected president and on December 20, South Carolina seceded.

Wilber Wightman Gramling’s diary is one of the few surviving diaries written by a Florida soldier during the Civil War. Among the entries are seven references to Abraham Lincoln.

The Gramling diary excerpt and Pittman letters illustrate the attitudes of two Floridians toward Abraham Lincoln at various points during the war. Wilbur Wightman Gramling was captured on May 6, 1864, while fighting during the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia, and the diary describes his experiences as an inmate at a Northern prisoner-of-war camp. John D. Pittman was a freshman at the University of Virginia when the Civil War broke out, and his letters convey the feelings of Pittman and his friends about the meaning of the conflict.

In a classroom setting, these letters are excellent for introducing some nuance into students’ understanding of the Southern mindset during the Civil War. Pittman and his friends, for example, seem devoted to the idea that Abraham Lincoln’s election would cause a war. Enthusiasm for this likelihood varies among the correspondents, however. Likewise, Gramling’s attitude toward Lincoln in his diary is fairly neutral, even when it appears Lincoln has won re-election in 1864.

Robert Watson Diary

The Robert Watson diary is unique in documenting the activities of a Floridian who served in the Confederate States Navy. Watson left Union-occupied Key West in September 1861 and enrolled in a Florida "Coast Guard" company at Cedar Key. In April 1862 this company was mustered into Confederate service as Company K, 7th Florida Infantry Regiment. Watson's company remained along Florida's west coast, primarily at Tampa and Point Pinellas, until late June, when it joined the Confederate Army in Tennessee.

Letter from General Richard Keith Call, 1860

Written on the eve of the Civil War, this letter from former Florida governor General Richard Keith Call expresses his pro-Union, pro-Southern sentiments.

Some Useful Questions to Ask:

  • Describe the attitudes of authors toward President Abraham Lincoln.
  • What might account for the differences in tone between the various authors?

Use to Illustrate:

  • The role of Florida in the Civil War.
  • How reading primary source documents from different perspectives can help form a more complete picture of the Civil War.

Document Analysis Worksheets
Created by the National Archives

Document analysis is the first step in working with primary sources. Teach your students to think through primary source documents for contextual understanding and to extract information to make informed judgments. The document analysis worksheets created by the National Archives and Records Administration are in the public domain.

Sunshine State Standards

  • SS.4.A.1.1: Analyze primary and secondary resources to identify significant individuals and events throughout Florida history.
  • SS.4.A.5.1: Describe Florida's involvement (secession, blockades of ports, the battles of Ft. Pickens, Olustee, Ft. Brooke, Natural Bridge, food supply) in the Civil War.
  • SS.8.A.5.1: Explain the causes, course, and consequence of the Civil War (sectionalism, slavery, states' rights, balance of power in the Senate).
  • SS.8.A.5.3: Explain major domestic and international economic, military, political, and socio-cultural events of Abraham Lincoln's presidency. Examples may include, but are not limited to, sectionalism, states' rights, slavery, Civil War, attempts at foreign alliances, Emancipation Proclamation, Gettysburg Address, suspension of habeas corpus, First and Second Inaugural Addresses.
  • SS.8.A.5.5: Compare Union and Confederate strengths and weaknesses. Examples may include, but are not limited to, technology, resources, alliances, geography, military leaders-Lincoln, Davis, Grant, Lee, Jackson, Sherman.
  • SS.8.A.5.7: Examine key events and peoples in Florida history as each impacts this era of American history. Examples may include, but are not limited to, slavery, influential planters, Florida's secession and Confederate membership, women, children, pioneer environment, Union occupation, Battle of Olustee and role of 54th Massachusetts regiment, Battle at Natural Bridge.
  • SS.912.A.1.1: Describe the importance of historiography, which includes how historical knowledge is obtained and transmitted, when interpreting events in history.
  • SS.912.A.1.2: Utilize a variety of primary and secondary sources to identify author, historical significance, audience, and authenticity to understand a historical period.

Florida Standards

  • LAFS.4.RI.1.1: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • LAFS.4.RI.1.2: Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.
  • LAFS.4.RI.1.3: Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
  • LAFS.4.RI.3.9: Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
  • LAFS.4.RI.1.1: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • LAFS.K12.R.1.1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  • LAFS.68.RH.1.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • LAFS.68.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • LAFS.910.RH.1.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
  • LAFS.910.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
  • LAFS.1112.RH.1.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  • LAFS.1112.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
  • LAFS.1112.RH.2.6: Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.
  • LAFS.1112.RH.3.8: Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
  • LAFS.1112.RH.3.9: Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.