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Teaching Guide

Teaching the Civil War

How civil was it?


Shmoop will help you rewind to a time when the states weren't so united.

In this guide you will find

  • activities examining historic articles, documents, and images from this un-civil conflict.
  • discussion questions analyzing race, society, and the economy during the War.
  • current events, like a renewed interest in secession and controversy over “Confederate History Month.” 

We don’t want a Civil War to break out in your class, so let us mediate discussion before a line is drawn through the room.

What's Inside Shmoop's History Teaching Guides

Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring history to life.

Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 3-5 Common Core-aligned activities (including quotation, image, and document analysis) to complete in class with your students, with detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes to be sure students are looking at the material through various lenses.
  • Resources to help make the topic feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the topic and how you can overcome the hurdles.

Instructions for You

In the early stages of the Civil War, towns and counties raised—and dressed—their own volunteer units. The design and selection of uniforms was an important part of this effort; drills in full, flashy uniform were considered seductive recruiting tools. The result was a curious collection of uniforms in both armies. The most striking were the Zouave units that adopted their uniform design from French North African troops.

1. Direct your students to this site and have them open the "Civil War Uniforms" tab where they can see a collection of Union and Confederate uniforms. To give your students a sense of their persisting attraction, show them these photographs of Civil War re-enactors.

2. Discuss with your students the role that uniforms played in the recruitment of volunteers and the cultivation of regiment morale. Then organize them into groups and charge them with designing a uniform for a contemporary local volunteer militia unit.

Instructions for Your Students

If you were a young man in 1861, what would have inspired you to join the army? The cause, the adventure, the pay? How about the uniform? Check out this uniform of the Ninth New York Hawkins' Zouaves and think about the role that uniforms played in the recruitment of young men for locally mustered volunteer regiments.  Would you have joined up if you could have had the chance to wear that?

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Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary & Analysis    Timeline    Battles    People    Facts    Photos    Best of the Web    Citations    
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