Why Memorial Day? Sullivan Ballou’s Letter to Sarah
May 15th, 2013
Why Memorial Day? This moving letter by Civil War Major Sullivan Ballou (1829–61) to his wife Sarah just a week before he died in the First Battle of Bull Run provides one answer. Read the letter, and consider the following questions: How does Ballou understand and explain the choice he faces? Why does he choose as he does? Imagining yourself as the recipient of this letter, how would you receive and judge his choice?
Extra: The letter was made famous by Ken Burns’ popular documentary The Civil War. Listen to Ken Burns give background on Ballou and read the letter on YouTube after the jump.
Distinguished scholar-teachers Amy and Leon Kass demonstrate how short stories, speeches, and songs can be used to enhance civic education and how a pedagogical approach that stresses learning through inquiry can make primary sources come alive for students of all ages.