Monday, October 22, 2012

Mini Lesson: Nathanael Green Letter (Activity 2)

For upper middle school and high school

Students will be able to:

- Analyze a primary source document using the SOAP STone method

- Draw conclusions about Nathanael Greene’s viewpoint of the Revolutionary War based upon language he uses and the opinions he expresses

Historical Background: See Nathanael Greene Mini Lesson #1

Suggested Use:Complete Nathanael Green Mini-Lesson #1 in a previous lesson or as an introductory activity. Then show students the full letter (see the two images below) and ask them to revise and further their hypotheses and conclusions about the meaning of the letter, the person who wrote this document, and the view he held of the Revolutionary War.

Questions to Guide Analysis:
For every question, encourage students to use the evidence from the text to justify their answers. The questions follow the SOAP STone method of source analysis.

1. Subject:

a. What is the author talking about in this letter?

b. What does he want the recipient to do?

c. Who is the author trying to help?

d. What are the major problems the author is addressing?

2. Occasion (see Mini-lesson #3 for specific geography information)

a. When was this letter written? Do we know a specific date?

b. When was this letter received? How do you know?

c. What is happening in America at the time of this letter?

d. What locations are mentioned in this document?

e. Where is the author located?

f. What conclusions can you draw about the author based on his location and the date?

3. Audience

a. Based on the topics that discusses in the letter, what can you conclude about the recipient of the letter?

b. What is the recipient’s vocational responsibility?

c. Why is the author writing to him?

d. What is the relationship between the author and recipient?

Display the following picture: (image of the envelope)

e. What is the name of the recipient?

f. Where is the author located? To what town is the envelope referring?

4. Purpose

a. How would you categorize this letter: official, personal, or a mixture of both?

b. Examine the envelope: where is the author sending this letter?

c. Look for clues on the envelope. What did the recipient considered was the main purpose of the letter? (Clue: Look at the address and the designation above the recipient’s day. Also flip the image of the envelope and zoom onto the author’s name. Below his name is a brief phrase which explains the purpose of the letter. That writing would have been added by Furman before he filed the letter.)

d. Read the first sentence of this document. What prompted this letter?

e. Based on the responses the author gives, what inferences can you make about Furman’s original letters?

5. Speaker

a. What does the signature at the end say? What is the name of the author of this letter?

b. What type of person was the author?

c. What position did he hold?

d. Look at the envelope: does anything on the envelope confirm the conclusions you have drawn about the author? What was his official title? (flip the envelope upside down to see his name and title)

6. Tone

a. What emotions are conveyed in this letter? (Be careful. There are several.)

b. Read the last paragraph and the ending: does the statement “I am exceedingly obliged to you for your personal good wishes” complicate or contradict the overall tone of the letter?

c. What is Greene’s attitude towards “the people” in the States? Are they and the states reliable, according to Green?

d. What is Greene’s overall opinion of the cause of the War? What in his letter suggests different opinions within the American colonies?


Common Core Standards:

RH 6-8.1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

RH 6-8.2. 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.

RH 6-8.6. Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).

National History Standards:

Era 3, Standard 1: The causes of the American Revolution, the ideas and interests involved in forging the revolutionary movement, and the reasons for the American victory

Historical Thinking Standard 2: Reconstruct the literal meaning of a historical passage.

Historical Thinking Standard 3: Distinguish between unsupported expressions of opinion and informed hypotheses grounded in historical evidence.

Primary Source:

Greene, Nathanael. Letter to Quartermaster Moore Furman. 4 January 1780. LWS 3257. Lloyd William Smith Collection. Morristown National Historical Park.

Additional Sources:

Morristown National Historic Park. Featured Manuscript: Nathanial Greene. September 2011,

Revolutionary War New Jersey: A Photographic Field Guide to New Jersey’s Role in the Revolutionary War. Information about the Encampment at Bound Brook.

Letters of Moore Furman: Deputy Quarter-Master General of New Jersey in the Revolution. Edited by the Historical Research Committee of the New Jersey Society of the Colonial Dames of America. New York: Frederick H. Hitchcock, 1912. Available online:

LWS 3257, recto and verso
document transcription
click images to enlarge
(right click "open link," then double click for largest view)

ML12: Nathanael Greene (Activity 2)
Mini Lesson by Julie Carlson

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