Innovations of the Civil War

 The Civil War spurred inventions and innovations that moved America into the industrial age, transformed naval warfare, and called for new modes of leadership.
Additional Disciplines 

When the First Battle of Manassas was fought, Washingtonians came in carriages to watch the action from a hilltop. The July 21, 1861, battle was a Confederate victory in which more than 5,300 from both sides were killed, wounded and captured.

In the first year of battle, innovation and technology changed warfare. Ironclads were developed and engaged in naval battle. Both sides utilized balloons, the railroad and telegraph. At the same time, as more men joined the armies, women tried to protect their homes and property, nursed the wounded, and kept diaries to record their daily encounters.

After a year of engagements, the armies had more men who were experienced in fighting and killing. The rifles were more accurate and artillery more precise. Casualties in 1862 at Shiloh in Tennessee had reached 23,741 and at Gaines’ Mill, Virginia, during the Seven Days’ battles more than 15,500.

During three days in August 1862, troops returned to Bull Run Creek. Using strategies of Napoleon with those of “Stonewall” Jackson, Robert E. Lee and George McClellan, the troops maneuvered over the terrain 26 miles from the Union capital. The result at the Battle of Second Manassas: more than 22,000 casualties and another defeat of the Federal army.

Lesson suggestions, worksheets, quizzes and reprinted articles in this guide provide teachers with the material to study this period of the Civil War. Teachers have models to use for research, tweets and essay assignments, text for discussion, and ideas for class presentations.

MARCH 2012

The Washington Post Civil War 150

Develop Vocabulary
English, Government, Reading, U.S. History
Another of our etymology studies is provided in this guide. “Word Study: A More Perfect Union” focuses on the roots of “confederacy” and “union.”
Other words to review with students before reading the reprinted articles in this guide are included in the suggested activities that follow.

Meet the Youngest Who Served
English, Photography, Social Studies, U.S. History
In "Faces of the Young During the Civil War" photographs reflect youth, emotions and the use of photography to keep families “close” to one another. Looking through images from the Library of Congress exhibit, formed from one man’s collection, students will see how young many of the participants were.

This KidsPost article can be used to discuss with students how historians use photographs and memorabilia to tell the story of people in peace and war.

• What impressions do students have of the photographs accompanying the article?
• What additional information do the captions provide to help viewers understand the time period and the young people pictured?
• What items might students collect today to reflect life in the early 21st century?
• Are any students collecting campaign buttons?

Teachers might post columns in which to categorize items that could be collected; for example, Technology, Daily Life, War-related. What other categories would students suggest?

Meet a Drummer Boy
Music, Social Studies, U.S. History
As part of The Washington Post's Civil War 150 coverage, KidsPost provides Civil War-related articles. In “A Boy determined to serve his country,” writer Carolyn Reeder tells of Johnny Clem, a nine-year-old drummer boy. Drummer boys played important roles in the Civil War, and some became soldiers. Questions for discussion could include:
• What roles did the drummer play?
• What did the drumrolls of the drummer boys provide?
• Which drumroll meant “attack”?
• Tell Johnny Clem’s story in your own words. Include what you think of his determination to serve in the Civil War.
• Do students know of other young men and women who found a career after they joined the military at a young age?
Teachers may wish to invite a guest speaker. A parent or member of your school community who joined one of the services when young could meet with your class to tell his or her story.

Meet a Civil War Hero
English, Social Studies, U.S. History
Profiles briefly tell the story of individuals. Read “Civil War hero Robert Smalls seized the opportunity to be free,” the profile of Robert Smalls, a slave who commandeered a ship and delivered it to the Union Navy outside Charleston. That might be enough to make him noteworthy, but there is much more to his story.
Discuss Smalls’ accomplishments, putting them in historical context. Points to consider would include:
• In what ways did Smalls show his character when he was a child and a young man?
• Why was Smalls on the Planter when the Civil War began?
• What uses did the Confederate troops make of the Planter?
• In what ways did seizure of the Planter impact the war?
• Select a time in Smalls’ life after the Civil War. Explain what this reveals about him.

Note Technology’s Advance
Science, Social Studies, Technology, U.S. History
In “Technology and mayhemJoel Achenbach relates the bridge that the Civil War provides between pre-industrial and industrial age, between old methods of warfare and innovations in technology.
Technology and the Civil War” is a photo gallery of images — submarines, balloons, telegraph, gunboats and weapons. This might be viewed to stimulate interest in the topic before reading the article.
Innovation, Invention and Ironclads” is provided for use by teachers with Achenbach’s article and “The Monitor’s secrets,” reprinted in this guide. It can be used as a pre-test of students’ knowledge before reading the articles. It may also be used to guide reading or as a post-reading quiz. The commentary section at the end might also provide stimulus for further research.
Another fascinating section of Achenbach’s article presents Abraham Lincoln as a patent holder and commander-in-chief who is innately interested in technology. Discuss how technology was part of Lincoln’s early years living in the West, his traveling lecture and desire to win the war.

Civil War Museums

Reconstruct a Great Naval Engagement
History, Social Studies, Technology, U.S. History
Some advances in technology involved the battle for supremacy on the waters. The USS Monitor and USS Merrimack (later CSS Virginia) were among many steam-powered, iron-clad vessels built to defend harbors and rivers, confront opposing warships and attack positions on land.
Almost 150 years after it sank, Monitor still captivates” is an article that spans time. Michael Ruane has researched the infamous confrontation of the two ironclads in 1862 and the fateful sinking of the USS Monitor ten months later. He has also told the modern story of lifting the remains of the ironclad and sailors, reconstructing and preserving them.
Journalism and English teachers might focus on how the article is structured. History teachers might use the article as both source of information and as an example of writing a research-based, primary-sourced essay.
Use the information given in this article to create a timeline for the USS Monitor, USS Merimack and CSS Virginia. This can be the starting point to research more about the Confederate ironclads that were among the many wooden Union warships. Other students may be interested in exploring the preservation of artifacts from the Civil War.
Use The Washington Post tweets for background as well. Begin reading the Union Twitter account and Confederate account on March 1, 1862.

Study the Second Battle of Manassas
Cartography, Geography, Social Studies, U.S. History
Post reporter Steve Vogel gives the big picture and the personal stories in “ 'My God, What a Slaughter.' ”  As each section of the article is read, note his use of details, data and description.
Compare and contrast the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run, July 1861) with the Second Battle of Manassas (August 1862):
• Changes in technology between the battles
• Public reaction and perception of the war
• Casualties and deaths
• Military leaders

Re-enact the Second Battle of Manassas
Geography, History, U.S. History
    Use a Virginia map to illustrate troop movement. Organize students into Union and Confederate troops under assigned officers. After reading Steve Vogel’s article, “ 'My God, What a Slaughter' ” give each group one to two days to prepare a script to indicate their movement, reasons for their positions, description of the terrain, mode of transportation and other complications. Students should create figures to represent their movement. These should be to scale to indicate the number of troops.
Teachers might have an outline of when each group should be ready to tell about their battle experience, interlacing them to give a better sense of the complexity of the battle.
Depending on when this activity is done, teachers may be able to use the Civil War tweets for this period. Teachers might also have students tweet what their troops are doing over the days of battle.

Read Maps
Careers, Cartography, Social Studies, U.S. History
Cartographers were valued members of military planning. Topographic maps provided information about terrain that was essential for troop placement, supply movement and strategic planning. Use maps by Jed Hotchkiss to illustrate the battlefield of Port Republic and compare with the troop movement map.
Washington Post cartographer Gene Thorp has provided a series of maps in the special supplements and online. Use these maps to expand students’ understanding of troop movement and the changing dynamics that alter the course of the war.

Record the Beginning of Modern Journalism
Journalism, U.S. History
Washington, D.C., transformed during the Civil War. The population increased, businesses and housing expanded, military and war correspondents came to conduct business. Post reporter Paul Farhi writes of the latter group.
Read “Washington's Press Corps: Blame it on the Civil War.” Farhi’s is a mixed portrait. He interviews and quotes Donald Ritchie, Senate historian and author, who believes that “[t]here’s a lot of good shoe-leather work involved” and that the journalism of the day got the facts and told people about them. The Associated Press is described as “untainted by fear of favor.” But Farhi does not stop here, he tells of many reporters who sensationalized, told a story that echoed the sentiments of its readers or who enhanced their personal wealth. Reporters for pro-South newspapers left town.
Discussion of the article might include:
• What are the reliable sources of Civil War events?
• After reading Fahri’s article, would students who are doing Civil War research use articles from that era’s newspapers? Explain the extent to which they would use them.
• Would a comparison and contrast of coverage by American and international reporters, Northern and Southern newspapers, help to get a clearer, more accurate report?
• Do people want accurate information or only that which supports their points of view?
Discuss with students the need for national and international coverage of events then and now. What does freedom of the press require of reporters, editors and publishers?

Study Stonewall and She-Devils
Geography, Social Studies, U.S. History
Find the Potomac River and these Virginia places on a map: Shenandoah Valley, Front Royal, Winchester, McDowell, Strasburg, Kernstown (south of Winchester), Cross Keys (south of Harrisonburg) and Port Republic (east of Harrisonburg). They are places where battles, collectively known as Jackson’s Valley Campaign, took place in 1862.
Before reading “The ‘she-devils’ of the Shenandoah Valley held their own,” teachers might define the terms found in "In the Know."
Before reading the article, discuss with students the roles played by women during the Civil War. Discussion questions are provided in “Stonewall Jackson and the She-Devils.”

Come to a Conclusion
English, Social Studies, U.S. History
In defense of McClellan: A contrarian view” is an essay written by Gene Thorp. It is an example of a research-based paper that expresses a personal conclusion. As students read the essay, note the eighth paragraph in which Thorp makes a direct statement of his “contrarian” view: “But there is another way to look at the spring and summer of 1862, and in this version, the strategic mistakes are Lincoln’s.” After this paragraph, Thorp has the challenge to prove this stand. Ask students to read to determine if he has persuaded them.
Your Own Conclusion” can be used to annotate the article. As students read the essay for the first or a second time, locate examples of the different elements of this type of essay.

Walk a Battlefield
Geography, Social Studies, U.S. History
During the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War, preservationists are calling attention to the sacred land, historians are reviewing records and events, and many events, including reenactments, are being held at battlefields. This is opportunity to visit a battlefield. "More Resources for This Guide"  suggests ones related to articles in the March 2012 Civil War supplement and events 150 years ago.

Visit a Museum
Journalism, Social Studies, U.S. History
The Washington, D.C., area has an abundance of museums that feature Civil War military and civilian artifacts to bring history books to life. Those listed in "Civil War Museums" relate to Post articles and timelines in the fourth Civil War 150 supplement. These museums provide places for field trips for the class, shared experiences for students and their families and opportunity for extensions of classroom lessons.
The District’s African American Civil War Memorial Museum includes an exhibit about Smalls.
Read “Historical attraction finds a following,” by Gregg MacDonald, Fairfax County Times, a December 8, 2011, Post Local Living article . The Stuart-Mosby Civil War Cavalry Museum in Centreville, Va., houses artifacts including items owned by John Singleton Mosby and Col. J.E.B. Stuart.
Take students on a virtual tour of the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, in Kennesaw, Ga., home to the locomotive The General as well as locomotives built by the Glover Machine Works of nearby Marietta. Introduce students to the locomotive before reading about the spring day when 21 men stole The General from Big Shanty and ran her to Ringgold, Ga., where she slowed to a stop some two miles north of the depot. Students will appreciate irony: After their capture in the forests of North Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama, The General hauled the Andrews’ Raiders back to Atlanta.

Enjoy the C&O Canal
Art, Geography, Photography, Social Studies, U.S. History
Teachers may find that some of their students have walked or bicycled along the C&O Canal. Ask them to tell about the experience, especially if they have taken one of the mule-powered boat trips through the locks.
Give students “Navigating between North and South,” a KidsPost article. Focus first on the photograph of the C&O Canal taken in 1861. Ask students to write a paragraph about the scene.
Read and discuss the article. Points for discussion could include:
• History of the C&O Canal and role of George Washington
• Use of the C&O Canal to carry fuel, food and goods
• Strategic location of the canal and reasons to attack it
• General Jackson’s attempt to put it out of operation
If the C&O Canal is near you, take students for some physical activity — and an art activity. Photograph, sketch or paint scenes along the canal. Capture nature, the contrast between manmade and natural environments, or record what people are doing.

Take a Road Trip
Geography, Social Studies, U.S. History
Read “Unforgettable: Seven score and 10 years ago, civil war split the nation; today, Route 15 is a ribbon of memory that connects blue state to grey,” an April 3, 2011, Post Travel article. Writer Zofia Smardz takes readers from Pennsylvania through Maryland to Virginia on a Civil War road trip. Teachers should have a map ready to follow the route and make stops.
In the shadows of the Civil War,” a photo gallery, takes students on routes traveled in the 1800s.

In The Know 
Captivity  Privation
Concerted  Secessionists
Confederacy  Seclude
Defiance She-devil
 Induce  Swoon
 Liberation  Union
 Occupation  Vile
 Parasol  Yankee

ANSWERS. Innovation, Invention and Ironclads
1. a, 2. c, 3. d, 4. b. 5. a

District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

D.C. History & Government: Students describe the effect the Civil War had on life in Washington, DC, and they explain the effects of Compensated Emancipation and the Emancipation Proclamation on the city.
1. Describe how the Union Army transformed the city into an armed camp.
2. Describe the conflicting loyalties of people living in the city.
4. Explain the participation of white and black residents in the Union and Confederate armies. (Slavery, War, and Emancipation, 12.DC.7, Grade 12)

English: Analyze the interactions between individuals, events and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events, or how individuals influence ideas or events) Reading Informational Text, Grade 7, RI.7.3)

English: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content (Writing, Grade 8, W.8.2)

Learning Standards for DCPS are found online at

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

Social Studies: Explain the political, cultural, economic and social changes in Maryland during the early 1800s
b. Describe the importance of changes in industry, transportation, education, rights and freedoms in Maryland, such as roads and canals, slavery, B&O railroad, the National Road, immigration, public schools, and religious freedom (History, Grade 4)

Social Studies: Use geographic tools to locate places and describe the human and physical characteristics of those places (Standard 3, Indicator 1, Grade 4)

Government: The student will evaluate how the principles of government assist or impede the functioning of government (1.1.2)

Science:  Design Constraints: Explain that complex systems require control mechanisms. c. Realize that design usually requires taking constraints into account. (Some constraints, such as gravity or the properties of the materials to be used, are unavoidable. Other constraints, including economic, political, social, ethical and aesthetic ones also limit choices. (Skills and Processes, Grade 8, Topic D)

Reading: Students will use a variety of strategies and opportunities to understand word meaning and to increase vocabulary (Standard 1.0, Topic D)

The Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum Content Standards can be found online at

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

Virginia, U.S. History: The student will demonstrate skills for historical and geographical analysis and responsible citizenship, including the ability to
a) identify, analyze, and interpret primary and secondary source documents, records, and data, including artifacts, diaries, letters, photographs, journals, newspapers, historical accounts, and art, to increase understanding of events and life in the United States;
c) formulate historical questions and defend findings, based on inquiry and interpretation;
i) identify the costs and benefits of specific choices made, including the consequences, both intended and unintended, of the decisions and how people and nations responded to positive and negative incentives. (Skills, VUS.1)

Virginia, U.S. History: The student will demonstrate knowledge of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era and their importance as major turning points in American history by
a) describing the cultural, economic, and constitutional issues that divided the nation;
c) identifying on a map the states that seceded from the Union and those that remained in the Union;
d) describing the roles of Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and Frederick Douglass in events leading to and during the war
e) using maps to explain critical developments in the war, including major battles;
f) describing the effects of war from the perspectives of Union and Confederate soldiers (including African American soldiers), women, and enslaved African        Americans.

English: The student will read and demonstrate comprehension of nonfiction (5.6)

Standards of Learning currently in effect for Virginia Public Schools can be found online at