The Tamarack Tree: A Novel of the Siege of Vicksburg

by Patricia Clapp

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Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 557

1. Explore one of the Union and one of the Confederate generals mentioned in the novel. Describe how their personalities are used in the novel. Using other books, find other comments about public sentiment (Union or Confederate) toward these generals.

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2. The characters in the novel use phrases that are not part of popular English in today's society. For example, "Don't fret" or "I reckon Mamma put it in the basket." Look in a dictionary to find the meaning of these words. Locate another word in the novel or in a dictionary that is not commonly used today and write about the origin and history of the word's usage.

3. The author briefly describes the Underground Railroad in the novel. Research and more fully explain the Underground Railroad: How did it work? Who helped the slaves using the Underground Railroad? Who were some famous people who were involved with the Underground Railroad?

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4. Rosemary is keeping a diary of her life in Vicksburg. Why do you think diary writing was important to men and women in the past? Keep a diary of your life for one month. Include parts of your diary in a written report and explain what events were important to you and why.

5. Because the siege of Vicksburg lasted so long, the citizens had to "make do" with many items—even skinned rats were sold in the market. If you were not able to buy new clothes for one year, how would you make do? Try to locate recipes that Americans have used during wartime or during the Great Depression to stretch their food budget. Write about how you would survive if you could not buy the clothes or food you wanted or needed.

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Latest answer posted October 4, 2012, 10:45 pm (UTC)

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6. Many of the young men joining the Confederate Army were excited and believed the war would last less than a year. In reality, the life of a soldier was harsh and dangerous—as portrayed by the character of Ben. Locate other books that provide a firsthand account of life as a soldier during the Civil War. Write about the soldier's experiences.

7. The Merrimack and the Monitor warships are mentioned in the novel. Why were these ships so important in the history of naval warfare? Write an in-depth account of their famous battle.

8. Mary Byrd and Rosemary tended to the wounded in a local hospital. Write a report on hospitals and the medical care soldiers received during the Civil War. Can you locate any books describing medical practices used on the battlefield or in the hospital? Or write about the role of nurses tending to the wounded during the war.

9. Near Vicksburg is the Vicksburg National Military Park. Research the park through books, the Internet, or pamphlets. Write about the park—how it got started, how many people visit the park, who is buried there, and the memorials to different troops.

10. Rosemary is an orphan. If you have lost a friend or family member, can you write about the impact death has had on you? Do you think diary writing helped Rosemary get over the loss of her mother or the other traumatic events in her life?

11. Choose one of the books or articles listed in the bibliography at the end of the novel. Write a review of the item and describe why you think the author consulted the item while writing The Tamarack Tree.

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