Civil War 150: War Ends, Political Pursuit Continues

President Lincoln is assassinated and a nation mourns just as its jubilation had begun. The end of the Civil War is not the end of political, economic and social battles. Reconstruction continues the debates over relationships between federal and state authority, master and slave, industrial and agrarian societies. 
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Appomattox Court House, a village in southwestern Virginia, is synonymous with the ending of the four-year Civil War. In the parlor of the McLean home, two generals met with civility: one to surrender, the other to offer generous terms to his returning countrymen. Just as the North was celebrating, the president — who had urged in his second inaugural address "[w]ith malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in" — was assassinated. 


The last of The Washington Post's Civil War 150 special supplements focuses on the last battles of the war, the death of a president and the impact of Reconstruction. This guide provides student activities in which students cover a Civil War engagement ("A Civil War Press Pass," "Think Like a Reporter"), compare and contrast conflicting loyaties and use art to give express to one of their conclusions about war. Read on for more suggestions for using the Post articles and resources.


April 2015

Teaching With Documents
Resource Graphic 

Develop Vocabulary
English, Reading, Social Studies, U.S. History

Terms used by Michael E. Ruane in “A War Ends” and by Philip Kennicott in “No Closure After Appomattox” are found in In the Know. Review these terms before reading the articles. Teachers may also ask students to find the words in context and define them.


Read About the End of the Civil War
Reading, Social Studies

The KidsPost article, “When the guns of the Civil War fell silent,” puts the surrender of Southern commanding general Robert E. Lee to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant into perspective of the four-year conflict. Questions to stimulate discussion are provided in “Surrender at Appomattox Court House.”


Remember Abraham Lincoln
Reading, Social Studies
The KidsPost article, “Reunited nation loses its leader,” focuses on the April day that rejoicing turned to sorrow. Questions for discussion would include:
1. Where was President Lincoln attending a play? What is the name of the British comedy?
2. Why did John Wilkes Booth’s presence at the theatre not concern anyone?
3. Where and when did President Lincoln die?
4. The funeral train carrying the slain president’s body departed D.C. on April 21, 1865, for its 1654-mile journey. It made stops in 180 cities, including Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Buffalo, Columbus, Indianapolis and Chicago before its final destination of Springfield, Ill. Locate the cities on a map.
5. What happened to John Wilkes Booth? To those who assisted him?


Illustrate the War
Art, U.S. History, Visual Arts 

Washington Post Art and Architecture Critic Philip Kennicott examines Reconstruction and the influence of Civil War commemoration through a Winslow Homer painting and two photographs. Read "No closure after Appomattox." Teachers might discuss the three works before reading the article. Questions would include: What do students think is happening in each image? Who might the figures be in each? What details help to decipher the painting and photographs? What is the theme of Kennicott's article?


Teachers could ask students to interpret Civil War diary entries and narratives, history book accounts or newspaper accounts of domestic life and war. Give students "Capture the Civil War (in Your Imagination)" to stimulate ideas for the project. The sidebar of this student activity sheet provides many sources and examples of work done during the period.

Meet Civil War-Era Writers
Resource Graphic 

Report as News Is Available
Journalism, U.S. History

The newspaper has been called the “first rough draft of history.” As events unfold and the results of actions take their course, updated drafts are published. This can easily be illustrated by events at Ford’s Theatre and Peterson House the evening of April 14, 1865. Read and discuss this sequence:
• “Detail of the Occurrence” published in The New York Times, with the dateline “WASHINGTON, Friday, April 14 — 12:30 A.M.
• “Awful Event | President Lincoln Shot by an Assassin | The Deed Done at Ford’s Theatre Last Night” the stacked headline of the front page of The New York Times April 15, 1:30 A.M. edition.
• The New York Herald published seven editions over 18 hours, beginning with the April 15, 2:00 a.m. edition. In the Newseum’s special exhibit, “President Lincoln Is Dead,” all editions are displayed.  

Read The Washington Post’s article about the exhibit, “Newseum exhibition follows the day of Lincoln’s death, edition by edition.” Teachers who have access may use the ProQuest Civil War Era database for the New York Herald (1840-1865) to read the seven editions of April 1865.


Pitch an Assignment
English, Journalism, Media Arts, U.S. History

Teachers may give students an introduction to the publications that brought news of the war and illustrations to the public. These would include Harper’s Weekly magazine, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Appleton’s, The New York Herald, The New York TimesRichmond Enquirer, The Charleston Mercury and other Confederate newspapers.


The Army of the North did give correspondents, sketch artists and the few photographers who managed to carry the heavy equipment access to their camps and battlefields. The equivalent to today’s press pass was required. Give students “A Civil War Press Pass.”


Before students can secure a press pass, they must decide on which battle front and with which regiment they wish to be attached. The Civil War 150 timeline and maps from previous Washington Post special coverage may be used or the selections found in "Triumph and Tragedy" may help students decide on a topic. After they have done the research, they must pitch the story they want to cover and where they want to have access.


Be a Civil War Reporter
English, Journalism, Media Literacy, U.S. History

Give students “Think Like a Reporter | Write a News Story.” As students follow the steps in this exercise, they will prepare to write a news article about a Civil War event. Teachers may limit the topics or time period. Students could also use the "Triumph and Tragedy" maps and timeline to select a subject for their articles.


Consider Conflicting Loyalties
English, Social Studies

Although Washington, D.C., was the capital of the North, it was a city of conflicting loyalties. Southern members of Congress brought their domestic slaves with them and slave auctions were held at the same time that abolitionists were delivering lectures and a Republican was elected president. On April 16, 1862, President Lincoln issued the District of Columbia Emancipation Act. This is one of several issues debated during this period.


Give students the chart “Consider Conflicting Loyalties.” They are to name individuals with different points of view about an issue of the time. Indicate to what cause or point of view they adhered and provide a quotation and action to support this position.


After students have selected their issues and representatives, place them in groups to share their conclusions.

Read About the Civil War and After

Present Human Experience
Art, Career Education, Journalism, Media Literacy, Visual Arts

A number of artists worked as sketch artists and illustrators for newspapers and magazines, covering both Northern and Southern troops and domestic life. They learned to sketch rapidly, capture details, and move about with daring and determination to find the newsworthy events. Some like Edward Caledon Bruce (Robert E. Lee) and Louis-Mathieu-Didier Guillaume (Stonewall Jackson) are known for one painting. Others like Alfred Gustin and Jasper Green are remembered for their war coverage, but not beyond.

Give students “Artists and Writers Who Communicated.” There were other well known artists, but it would be difficult for students to find information about them. The URLs are beginning points for research.
Frederic Church (1826-1900) 
John Adams Elder (1833-1895)   
Sanford Gifford (1823-1880) 
Winslow Homer (1836-1910)      
Eastman Johnson (1824-1906) 
Henry Mosler (1841-1920)    
Thomas Nast (1840-1902) 
• William Ludwell Sheppard (1833-1912)
• David H. Strother (1816-1888)    
Alfred Waud (1828-1891)   


Note Civil War Writers
English, Reading, Social Studies

Teachers can ask students to read accounts written during the Civil War era. These writers are young and old, slave, abolitionist and Southern sympathizer. They provide perspectives, eyewitness accounts and uncertainties in prose and poetry. Give students “Artists and Writers Who Communicated” as a starting place to select an author.


Nathaniel Hawthorne took a break from his fictional writing to interview war-time leaders in D.C. and write “Chiefly About War Matters” in 1862 for The Atlantic. Discuss and compare his thoughts with those of transcendentalists and abolitionists who were his neighbors.


Slave narratives, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the works of Frederick Douglass could be compared and contrasted by student readers.  


Walk With Walt Whitman
Drama, English, Social Studies, U.S. History

Walt Whitman’s writings and life provide compelling information for a Reader’s Theatre script. Whether hunting for his brother on the battlefield, working in government offices or volunteering in hospitals; in early poems or later reflections, he is interacting with the human experience.


He made dozens of small notebooks from paper and ribbon to carry with him as he visited wounded Civil War soldiers. Many excellent resources, such as "Whitman's Drum Taps and Washington's Civil War Hospitals" are available to students to add depth to their scripts.

Resource Graphic 
In The Know 

 Besieged  Arbitrary
Depredations  Comity
Effusion  Contentious
Epitome  Contiguous
Gallant  de jure
Haggard  de facto
Jubilant  Innocuous
Jubilee  Mythologize
Lucrative  Problematic
Notorious  Reconciliation
Pall  Terra icognito
Resonate  Valedictory

ANSWERS. Surrender at Appomattox Court House.
1. Secession is a formal act of separation; leaving a union to become independent
2. Responses will vary. They will include Southern states wished to maintain slavery, to retain an agrarian economy, to have more political autonomy.
3. Answers will vary. April 9, 1865, when Gen. Robert E. Lee formally surrendered to Gen. U.S. Grant. How might be expanded to include the defeat at Petersburg and Sayler's Creek. Others may prefer to use the surrender of the USS Shenandoah.
4. Manassas was the first battle of the Civil War; a Confederate victory. Others were major battles of loss of men on both sides and Northern victories. 
5. According to the article: machines to produce weapons and goods, workers to operate those machines and money to buy what they could not make.
6. Appomattox Court House is in southwestern Virginia, east of Lynchburg.
7. The North's capitol was in D.C. and the South's capitol was in Richmond, Va. The Shenandoah Valley was rich with agriculture; waterways and rail lines assisted in the transport of goods and reinforcements.
8 "The war is over," Grant said. "The rebels are out countryment again." Why add to the sorrow and loss of your fellow citizens?
9. A mutual respect for the leadership shown and suffering borne by two men who had followed their consciences and loyalties.
10. Answers will vary. Be sure students tell why they have selected the individual. 

District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

District of Columbia History and Government. 2. Students describe the conflicting loyalties of people living in the city (12.DC.7. Slavery, War, and Emancipation)


District of Columbia History and Government. Students describe the era of Reconstruction in Washington, D.C. (12.DC.8. Reconstruction Period)


History/Social Studies. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.2)


Visual Arts. Describe how the subject and selection of media relate to the meaning or purpose of a work of art. (4.4.2. Meaning and Informed Judgments)


Academic Content Standards may be found at

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

Social Studies. Explain how the United States government protected or failed to protect the rights of individuals and groups.

b. Describe methods that were used to deny civil rights to women, African Americans and Native Americans. (1.0 Political Science, Topic C)


Visual Arts. Students will demonstrate an understanding of visual art as an essential aspect of history and human experience (2.0 Historical, Cultural and Social Context)


Reading. Read critically to evaluate informational text. (2.0 Comprehension of Informational Text. Indicator 6)


Academic content standards may be found at

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

Virginia and 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)   evaluating the multiple causes of the Civil War, including the role of the institution of slavery as a principal cause of the conflict;

b)   identifying the major events and the roles of key leaders of the Civil War Era, with emphasis on Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, and Frederick Douglass;

d)   examining the political and economic impact of the war and Reconstruction, including the adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States;

e)   examining the social impact of the war on African Americans, the common soldier, and the home front, with emphasis on Virginia; (VUS.7)


Visual Arts. The student will communicate ideas, experiences, and narratives through the creation of works of art, using traditional and contemporary media. (7.4. Visual Communication and Production)


English. The student will read and analyze a variety of nonfiction texts.

a) Recognize an author’s intended purpose for writing and identify the main idea.

d) Identify characteristics of expository, technical, and persuasive texts.

j) Organize and synthesize information from sources for use in written and oral presentations. (9.5 Reading)


English. The student will write in a variety of forms, with an emphasis on persuasion.

a)   Generate, gather, plan, and organize ideas for writing to address a specific audience and purpose.

b)   Produce arguments in writing that develop a thesis that demonstrates knowledgeable judgments, addresses counterclaims, and provides effective conclusions.

c)   Organize ideas in a sustained and logical manner.

d)   Clarify and defend position with precise and relevant evidence elaborating ideas clearly and accurately.

e)   Adapt content, vocabulary, voice, and tone to audience, purpose, and situation.

f)   Revise writing for clarity of content, accuracy and depth of information. (11.6 Writing)



Academic content standards may be found at

Common Core Standards 

History/Social Studies. Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.3)


English Language Arts/Writing. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.2)


English Language Arts/Writing. Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.2.E)


Common Core standards may be found at