© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
 
Teaching Guide

Teaching the Civil War

How civil was it?

GO TO STUDENT LEARNING GUIDE

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

Objective: 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.

In this activity, students consider the role that uniforms played in recruiting young men to volunteer in the Civil War, conduct research on their current local National Guard uniforms, and redesign them in order to attract volunteers, just like communities during the Civil War did.

Length of Lesson: One class period (about one hour)

Materials Needed: 

  • Computers with Internet access
  • Pictures of Civil War uniforms from the following sites:
  • The following images of Americans re-enacting Civil War battles:
  • Access to your local National Guard website—your best bet is to Google "[your state] National Guard"
  • (Optional) Art supplies, such as paper, markers, old magazines, fabric swatches, and other collage-making materials, etc.

Step 1: Introduce the activity with a bit of historical background like, the introduction we used above. Hey look—here it is again!

In the early stages of the Civil War, towns and counties raised—and outfitted—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. (Kind of like the way brands like Abercrombie & Fitch recruit followers today, eh?) The result was a curious collection of uniforms in both the Union (North) and Confederate (South) armies. The most spectacular were the Zouave units with their yellow sashes and red hammer pants. Running a close second was a kilted New York unit.

Step 2: Have students check out images of Civil War uniforms using the links below.

Finally, direct students to view the following uniforms worn by modern Americans re-enacting Civil War battles:

Step 3: Discuss with your students the role that uniforms played in the recruitment of volunteers and the cultivation of regiment morale. Would any of these uniforms have gotten them pumped to volunteer to be a soldier? Do they think that cool outfits have any impact on whether or not people join the military today?

Step 4: Organize the class into groups and charge them with two tasks: first, they must find out what their current local National Guard uniforms looks like; second, they must design a new uniform for their local National Guard to give them a bit more flair and appeal.

Students can draw these freehand, find photos to create collages of the uniforms, write down (in detail) how they would redesign them, or even create uniforms from clothes or fabric. Be sure to let students know what resources are available to them and how long they have to work on these.

Step 5: Give students time to present their redesigned uniforms to the group and explain why their design will encourage people to join their regiment. After all the presentations, ask the class to vote on which uniform is the most compelling.

Instructions for Your Students

If you were a young person during the Civil War, what would have inspired you to join the army? The cause, the adventure, the pay? How about the uniform? 

Yeah, yeah. We know. Their uniforms were blue and gray. Kind of blah, right? But guess what: Not all Union or Confederate soldiers wore the same uniforms. In the early days, many of their uniforms were designed by their local communities. Check out this example of a flashy Union (North) Zouave uniform, and think about the role that uniforms played recruiting civilians to fight in the Civil War. 

Would you have joined up if you could have had the chance to wear that? Before you say no, consider the fact that lots of groups have uniforms, from police to football players, and lots of folks think uniforms are pretty snazzy

Okay, okay. So maybe you don't want to wear a turban with a gold tassel and red Hammer pants, but what do you think? Could you design a uniform that would encourage people to join your regiment? We're about to find out. 

Today you'll have the opportunity to research what your local National Guard uniforms look like and try to redesign them, just like community members did for their volunteers during the Civil War.

Step 1: Talk with your teacher a bit about the way many U.S. Civil War uniforms were designed.(There's a lot of info about this on the Regiments of the Civil War page.)

Step 2: Now check out some images of Civil War uniforms using the links below.

Finally, take a quick look at the following uniforms worn by modern Americans re-enacting Civil War battles:

Step 3: In class, discuss the role that uniforms played in the recruitment of volunteers and the cultivation of regiment morale. Would any of these uniforms have gotten you pumped to volunteer to be a soldier? Do you think that cool outfits have any impact on whether or not people join the military today?

Step 4: With your teacher's help, form small groups of 2-4. Once you're in your group, you have two tasks to accomplish:

  1. Find out what your current local National Guard uniforms looks like; and
  2. Design a new uniform for your local National Guard to give them a bit more flair and appeal.

You can draw these freehand, find photos to create collages of the uniforms, write down (in detail) how they would redesign them, or even create uniforms from clothes or fabric. See what resources you have at hand and how much time you have. 

Step 5: When everyone is done, groups will take turns presenting their redesigned uniforms to the group and explaining why their design will encourage people to join their regiment. After all the presentations, you can take a class vote to see which uniform is the most compelling. Most likely whichever one incorporates the best Hammer pants... or maybe not.

WANT MORE HELP TEACHING THE CIVIL WAR?

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

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