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Life and Limb: The Toll of the American Civil War home

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LESSON PLANS

Middle School | High School


Grade Level: 10-12

Time Needed: three 40-minute class periods

Description: Students explore and use the Life and Limb: The Toll of the Civil War exhibition to develop an understanding of short- and long-term impact of non-fatal, Civil War casualties. Students examine visual materials and read transcripts of several primary sources, to learn about what shaped the treatment of and attitudes towards the wounded and disabled soldiers during and after the U.S. Civil War. In small groups, students synthesize and create political cartoons in order to illustrate one of the issues faced by wounded or disabled soldiers during and after the war.

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Learning Outcomes: Students will be able to:

  • interpret primary sources of varying media types, including textual and visual.
  • describe short- and long-term impact of non-fatal wartime casualties on individuals and on the nation as a whole.
  • identify the response of the U.S. government and the Union army to the problems of wounded soldiers in the U.S. Civil War.
  • recognize changes and advances in medical practice and technology over time.

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Background Information: The Life and Limb: The Toll of the Civil War exhibition explores, from several perspectives, the problems associated with non-fatal injuries during the U.S. Civil War. This lesson plan is prepared with an assumption that the students have general knowledge of the Civil War, as well as a familiarity with the political cartoon as a communication tool.

Teachers are recommended to preview the Life and Limb website and to review the handouts listed under Materials prior to using the lesson plan as a whole or in part. The exhibition’s introduction provides a brief summary of the scope of casualties and disabled soldiers during the war: “More than three million soldiers fought in the war from 1861-1865. More than half a million died, and almost as many were injured during the conflict but survived. Hundreds of thousands were permanently disabled by battle field injuries or surgery, which saved lived by sacrificing limbs.”

Two primary sources—selected excerpts from Gone for a Soldier: The Civil War Memoirs of Private Alfred Bellard and Senate Bill 173—provide details about a U.S. Civil War soldier’s account and creation of the veteran reserves where disabled soldiers re-enlisted to serve in the military during the war.

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Vocabulary:

The following words may be introduced or incorporated during class discussions.

  • amputation, armory, anesthesia, casualty, fatality, gangrene, infectious diseases, invalid, prosthesis (prosthetic), rifled (rifling)

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Materials:

Handouts:

  • Scavenger Hunt (PDF) (MSWord)
  • Teacher’s Scavenger Hunt (PDF)
  • Images of Civil War Soldiers (PDF) (MSWord)
  • Teacher’s Images of Civil War Soldiers (PDF)
  • Transcript (PDF) of the excerpts from Gone for a Soldier: The Civil War Memoirs of Private Alfred Bellard.
  • Transcript (PDF) of or online access to Senate Bill 173, 38th Cong. (1864).
  • Transcript (PDF) of “The Artillaryman’s Vision” by Walt Whitman
  • Transcript (PDF) of “A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown,” by Walt Whitman
  • Transcript (PDF) of “The Invalid Corps,” a poem published on the front page of The Crutch, 1 October 1864
  • Instructions for Political Cartoon (PDF) (MSWord)
  • Division of Labor form (PDF) (MSWord)
  • Rubric for Political Cartoon (PDF) (MSWord)

Other materials and set-ups:

  • a display set-up for the class (e.g., overhead projector and screen, smart- or promethium-board, etc.)
  • laptops or access to a computer lab
  • paper large enough for posters, in a variety of colors
  • markers, in a variety of colors
  • yardstick and rulers

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Class 1 Procedures:

[Preparation: provide laptops or conduct the class in a computer lab so that students can access the exhibition website, or prepare copies of six exhibition web pages—home and five sections—for students’ use.]

  1. Briefly discuss with students what might be the implications of war injuries that results in a life-long disability for soldiers—for them, their families, society, and the nation. Tell students that history can help answer that question.
  2. Display Images of Civil War Soldiers and have students make observations then compare the two images. See possible discussion notes on Teacher’s Images of Civil War Soldiers. (Optional: If appropriate, explain to students an original historical document such as these images are called "primary sources.")
  3. Explain that the class will use the online exhibition, called Life and Limb: the Toll of the Civil War, to examine experiences and treatments of wounded soldiers in the U.S. Civil War.
  4. Hand out copies of Scavenger Hunt and exhibition printouts, if needed. Have students follow the instructions on the handout to view the Life and Limb online or via printouts in order to answer the Scavenger Hunt questions.
  5. Have students share their answers, and help students summarize their understanding of the exhibition content—i.e., question 10. See suggested discussion notes on Teacher’s Scavenger Hunt.
  6. Tell students that they will be using additional primary sources from the Civil War era. Distribute and assign students to read the following two documents before next class:
  7. Class 1 Evaluation: Collect the completed handouts for evaluating students’ understanding.

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Class 2 Procedures:

  1. Have students take out the transcript handouts of Alfred Bellard’s memoir and Senate Bill 173. Ask students to share what these documents reveal about the experience and treatment of wounded soldiers during the U.S. Civil War.
    • how was Bellard’s injury treated?
    • what was the impact of his disability in his life and military service?
    • what did the Senate Bill 173 outline and establish?
    • what was the impact of the Bill on Bellard and other disabled soldiers?
  2. Summarize that these two primary sources provide historical account of an wounded soldier’s experiences and treatment during the Civil War.
  3. Tell students that they will work in teams to create a political cartoon that reflects experiences by and attitudes toward disabled soldiers in the Civil War era.
  4. Divide the class into groups of 3 to 5 students, and provide copies of Instructions for Political Cartoon, Division of Labor form, and Rubric for Political Cartoon to each group.
  5. Review the Instruction and Division of Labor handouts as a class. Tell students that they have access (e.g., printouts, computers) to the following resources to help each group choose a key message of the cartoon. Emphasize that the cartoon must use information and/or ideas from the listed sources below:
  6. Allow groups to work. Tell them that they are to finish the project so that groups are ready to present their political cartoons and key messages in the next class.
  7. Class 2 Evaluation: In addition to class discussion, teachers can help and assess how the groups are outlining and progressing on the political cartoon project.

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Class 3 Procedures:

  1. Have students assemble in their groups and determine the order of group presentations.
  2. After all groups have presented, summarize group presentations. Ask students what they think are the impact of war injuries that results in a life-long disability for soldiers—for them, their families, society, and the nation. Have students share their thoughts using an example from what they have learned about wounded and disabled soldiers in the Civil War.
  3. Class 3 Evaluation: Collect completed cartoons, and Division of Labor Forms for evaluation. Complete a rubric on each group’s presentation as it is delivered. Also use the summary discussion for evaluating any extension activities for students.

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Evaluations

In addition to observing and assessing students during class discussions and presentations, teachers can evaluate students’ progress and understanding by reviewing completed Scavenger Hunt, Division of Labor form and political cartoons.

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Extension Activities:

  1. Have students look for other online exhibitions on Civil War topics and compare one exhibition with Life and Limb: The Toll of the Civil War.
  2. Have students create an additional exhibition section for Life and Limb, which addresses historical content that the students would like to know more about.
  3. Assign an essay based on the two documents assigned as homework. One document was generated by a wounded soldier, the other by the government. Explain how the two points of view may be seen in the documents.

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National Education Standards

History

  • The course and character of the U.S. Civil War and its effects on the American people
  • Historical Thinking (Skills):
    • Identify the temporal structure of a historical narrative or story
    • Identify the author or source of the historical document or narrative and assess its credibility
    • Appreciate historical perspectives
    • Consider multiple perspectives
    • Identify issues and problems in the past

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