Susan Provost Beller

American Voices from the Civil War and American Voices from the Revolutionary War


The most common complaint that I get from teachers is that they don't have time to use primary sources in their classrooms. Researching takes time, they say, time that they just don't have. That is why, when I was asked if I would be interested in writing two books for this series for Benchmark, I said yes so quickly I startled the editor who called me.

Here was my chance to give teachers and students a look at one of the most important times in American History in a new way--a way that would let them hear the story through the words of those who were there.

Since I have written several books about the Civil War, I had several passages in mind that I knew just had to be included in the book. That didn't keep me from searching for new ones, however, and finding Dr. Charles Leale's account of caring for Abraham Lincoln after he was shot, remains one of my favorite research moments ever.

There is no more magic moment for a researcher than finding an item--a letter, a speech, a diary--that so captures the historic time that the reader feels that they have entered some sort of time machine and are standing in the past. Some of those moments are here in this book!




Most of my books have been about the Civil War so finding this many great Revolutionary War passages was a great adventure for me. Researching in the Manuscripts Division at the Library of Congress, I had librarians offering their favorite finds for my consideration. But my favorite find of the day was one I made myself.

In the course of researching in a manuscript collection which proved useless, I actually held in my hands a letter from Thomas Jefferson, speaking of planting some seeds sent to him by a man in Italy in his gardens. This was a time machine for me and for a moment I could imagine standing in the gardens at Monticello!

It was not even something I could use! But the moment was priceless anyway. The reason I am a researcher is because no one has invented a time machine. The next best thing is the words left behind by those who lived at the time