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The Civil War as Photographed by Mathew Brady, a New Teaching Activity

by on April 1, 2014


Students can reflect on the lives of soldiers during the Civil War by analyzing photographs taken by renowned photographer Mathew Brady in this new learning activity on DocsTeach.org. The holdings of the National Archives include over 6,000 photographs taken by Brady and his associates during the Civil War era; 16 are included in this activity.

In The Civil War as Photographed by Mathew Brady, students will choose 3–4 photographs for analysis and create charts listing the people, objects, and actions in the photos; determine what they can infer from the photos; and identify questions that the photos raise in their minds.

Colors of 23rd Infantry, N.Y, ca. 1860 - ca. 1865

Colors of 23rd Infantry, N.Y, ca. 1860 – ca. 1865

Wounded soldiers under trees, Marye's Heights, Fredericksburg. After the battle of Spotsylvania, 1864., ca. 1860 - ca. 1865

Wounded soldiers under trees, Marye’s Heights, Fredericksburg. After the battle of Spotsylvania, 1864., ca. 1860 – ca. 1865

After comparing and contrasting their findings in small groups, they will list adjectives that they think describe the life of a soldier during the Civil War. The follow-up class discussion can explore the questions:

  • What motivated these men to put up with such difficult circumstances?
  • If there had been television or the internet, would the Civil War have lasted as long as it did?
  • How did soldiers cope with the death of their friends and fellow soldiers?

We suggest teaching with this activity during a unit on the Civil War in grades grades 6-12. Approximate time needed is 90 minutes. The activity can be found under the Civil War and Reconstruction era or directly at http://docsteach.org/activities/15580/detail.

Pontoon across Rappahannock River, Va. (alson cavalry column.), ca. 1860 - ca. 1865

Pontoon across Rappahannock River, Va. (alson cavalry column.), ca. 1860 – ca. 1865


Comments

Sepp Scanlin April 28, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Stephanie,
Thanks – great article. This can also be supported by the Discovering Civil War exhibit page that was done for the traveling exhibit. There are many Mathew Brady photos (and other documents) included. We are also in the process of adding his photos to HistoryPin to help see where hsitory happened. Thanks again.

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