Civil War and Reconstruction
Lesson 2: Primarily Primary
Time Estimated: days
- Demonstrate knowledge of important Civil War events using both primary sources and lecture notes
- Successfully use primary sources to draw conclusions about historical events.
- Demonstrate knowledge of initial military strategies of the Civil War and evaluate their success.
- Laptops with wireless internet,
- LCD projector
- Class Notes 2 Handout
- Teacher Edition of Class Notes 2 Handout
- Civil War Photography worksheet
- Three websites
- Instructions for Civil War Photography Exhibit
- Rubric for Civil War Photography Exhibit
- Hook: Guide the class to a photograph from the Battle of Antietam on the Library of Congress website. Explain that photographs are another type of primary source that can be helpful in interpreting history. Ask the class some general questions about what they see in the photograph and what they can figure out from it. Ask the class why a student or historian would use a photograph or other types of primary sources to help learn about an historical event (the National Archives has excellent worksheets to analyze a variety of types of primary sources). This will set the context for the rest of the lesson in which the students will use letters and other photographs.
- Have students refer to their color coded Civil War maps. Distribute class notes handout 2 and begin lecture on the Union’s “Anaconda Plan.” Tell them to use their maps to see if they can figure out what the three parts to the plan might be. Give them the first two parts for them to put in their notes.
- Using the Valley of the Shadow website from your teacher laptop and LCD projector, show the class the progress of the Staunton Artillery from 1861 through Antietam, using the pause button after key battles. Ask the class why they think certain areas of Virginia and Maryland had so many battles. To help answer this question, click on the “modern cities” button.
- Emphasize that First Manassas/Bull Run was one of the battles in which the Staunton Artillery fought. Direct students to some primary source letters about this battle (listed below), and ask the students to draw some conclusions about that battle from these sources. Where was it? When was it? Who won? What happened during the battle? Tell them to also think about what the third part of the Anaconda Plan might have been as they read through these letters. Have them jot down their conclusions.
- Then have the students read some letters about Antietam/Sharpsburg and have them draw some conclusions from these letters.
- Give class 15-20 minutes to read these four letters. Ask the class to share some of their conclusions. Then go over the Class Notes with them. Ask them how their conclusions compare with the class notes and how letters like this are helpful to historians.
- Explain to students that they will be working on a Civil War unit project using photographs from the Library of Congress website . To introduce them to photography from this era, have them complete the Civil War Photography worksheet. They must turn in this assignment before the end of class. If they finish early, they should start selecting a photograph for their project
- To wrap-up, have students share the photographs they have chosen for their projects and why.
- If you think students are having difficulty with the letters, have them work in pairs or small groups. If you think they may need more guidance in drawing conclusions from the letters, you could develop a short worksheet that asks them very specific questions about what they should be getting out of the letters. You could also just use one letter for each battle if the students are struggling or if you are short on time.
- If you want to spend more time with these letters, you could develop a KWL activity. (what do they know about the battle, what do they want to know, what they learned)
- If your students are more advanced, there is no need to discuss at length the value of primary sources because at this point in the year, Advanced Placement students would already be very familiar with primary sources.
1. Walk around room to see what conclusions students are drawing from the primary source letters. Ask the class to share some of their conclusions.
2. Walk around room to see how students are filling in their Civil War class notes.
Collect and check the Civil War Photography worksheet.