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Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
Memorials and Meaning
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for Teachers is divided into three sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the Lesson.
Steps -- Conducting the Lesson.
Tips-- Managing Resources and Student Activities.


Student Prerequisites:
Students should have an understanding of the historical events and dilemmas that led to the Civil War; know how to locate sites and search for information online; know how to download text and graphics from the Web; and have fundamental research skills.

Time Allotment:
This lesson may be conducted during two or three class periods -- or over the course of several weeks -- depending upon the amount of fieldwork and research time a teacher chooses to allot.

Bookmark the following sites:
I Hear America Singing: Artists, Movements, Ideas

Selected Civil War Photographs Homepage

Matthew B. Brady

Saint-Gaudens' Shaw memorial

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

Researching and Recording Civil War Veterans' Burial Sites in Michigan Cemeteries

American Civil War Homepage


  • Introduction/Discussion:
    Divide students into small collaborative groups and ask them to discuss the following questions: Why was the Civil War fought? Why do we remember and honor the veterans of that War? And, what was life like for soldiers and civilians during that period? Have students conduct online research at several sites related to the Civil War. (They might want to start at The American Civil War Homepage ( Have each group report their ideas and findings to the whole class.

  • Examining the Photographic Record:
    Have students go to the AMERICAN VISIONS site to find out why Robert Hughes believes that, after 1860, American culture is dominated by the images of Matthew Brady (

    Note to Teachers: One of the best primary resources on the Civil War is the collection of photographs taken by the crew of Matthew Brady, a famous photographer of the day. A pioneer of photojournalism, Brady left a successful career photographing famous men and women in Washington, DC to document the people and places of the Civil War.

    Students can learn about the life and work of Matthew Brady online at:
    I Hear America Singing: Artists, Movements, Ideas (
    Selected Civil War Photographs Homepage (
    Matthew B. Brady (

    Ask students to visit the above URLs and apply what they know about the Civil War as they examine the photographs taken by Brady and his corps of photographers. Have students write their impressions and feelings.

  • Research/Fieldwork Preparation:
    Impressions garnered from looking at the Brady photographs and thinking about the meaning of memorials will give the students' upcoming fieldwork emotional resonance as they investigate the impact the Civil War had on their local community. Afterwards, students will create their own memorials honoring or remembering local citizens who lived through or fought in the Civil War. What national memorials commemorate the Civil War? In groups, have students discuss the following:

    What is a memorial?

    What are the "uses" of memorials?

    How does Saint-Gaudens' Shaw memorial ( uniquely eulogize Civil War veterans?

    How did the Civil Rights Movement "transform and refresh" the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC?

    How is the Lincoln Memorial ( -- or another monument -- used for dramatic purpose in television or film, e.g., MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON?

    Students can learn more about the Lincoln Memorial ( by visiting the AMERICAN VISIONS WebTour for links to sites about this and other memorials.

    (These questions are included in Student Handout #1.)

  • Fieldwork:
    Students will learn to do fieldwork in their community and find out if Civil War soldiers are buried there by: visiting a cemetery, historical societies, and/or archives; conducting research on the Web and at the local library; reading old journals and records; and interviewing older relatives and friends.

    Optional: If time and locale permit, you may want to plan a trip to a local cemetery for students to gather information about Civil War soldiers, their companies, and their families. Contact the cemetery sexton ahead of time and see if there is a map of the cemetery to help students find the graves of any Civil War soldiers and their families. Have students explore different ways they can gather information at the cemetery. Have them form groups of four or five and let them determine who will be responsible for each part of the project. Hints on what to do at Civil War veterans' burial sites can be found at Researching and Recording Civil War Veterans' Burial Sites in Michigan Cemeteries (

    At the cemetery have students look for a Civil War monument commemorating soldiers and see if veterans' names are listed. Students can then try to determine if any of these veterans are buried in the cemetery. You can have students look for U.S. flags. They will see that they mark where soldiers have been buried (from more wars than just the Civil War). Read the metal markers that hold the flags; those that say Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R) or Army of the Confederacy will be graves of Civil War soldiers. Have students write down soldiers' names, take photographs of the graves, draw pictures, or do rubbings of the tombstones. Have them take notes on what is written on the stones, draw a map of the cemetery, and record where they went and what they found.

    Some questions for discussion or research:
    What is special about the graves of people who fought in the Civil War?
    What kinds of military designations are there on the tombstones?
    Are there any drawings or decorative carvings on the tombstones?
    How big or small are the tombstones? What condition are they in?
    Where are the soldiers' tombstones relative to their family members' tombstones?
    How are soldiers' tombstones and other family members' tombstones similar or different from each other?
    How many military companies from the students' community participated in the War? (These are included on Student Handout #2.)

  • Additional Fieldwork:
    Have students look for Civil War monuments or memorials -- in a city park, at a school, or near a courthouse. The memorials may have the names of Civil War veterans inscribed with dates. Have them also look at other buildings in the community along the way and see if they have names that are the same as those of the soldiers.

    Contact your local library, historical society, or archives ahead of time. Arrange a time to take students to one of these places to talk with staff. Have students take the names, dates, and any other information they gathered from the first field trip and see if they can find more information. Have them explore the reference section and see if it includes a genealogical or local history section of the community. Also, have students check with their families and friends to see if any of their relatives lived in the community at the time of the Civil War. If so, have them find out if any relatives fought in the Civil War. Maybe some families have family trees that they are willing to share with the class.

    Math extension: Many books and Web sites include tables and charts with information such as the number of years soldiers served, the number of troops furnished by each state, and the number of troops who served in different categories. Develop student activities involving counting, charting, percentages, and averages based on statistics from this book. (You may wish to work in conjunction with a math teacher on this segment.)

    English extension: Have a discussion about people's lives during the Civil War. Have students write a letter wherein they imagine they were a character living at that time. Possible characters may include a young boy or girl writing to their father who went off to war, a parent of a soldier, or a soldier who went off to war writing to a loved one.

  • Creating Your Own Civil War Memorial:
    Drawing upon their experience with photographs, texts, and people of the Civil War period -- and their reading and thinking about the meaning of monuments -- have students conceive, design, and create their own Civil War memorials.

    Students may work individually and/or collectively to explore various themes, translate their ideas visually and verbally, and use a variety of art, text, and multimedia resources to create their memorials. During the design and development processes, students may use math calculations, conduct research and apply scientific principles, and use a variety of cross-curricular skills and concepts. Teachers may also choose to make memorial quilts, again using interdisciplinary applications, e.g., calculating the perimeter and area of their quilt, sections of the quilt and/or their own square, or learn about the history of quilt making.

    Possible science and history extensions: Discuss what it must have been like to be a doctor traveling with troops during the Civil War. What were the conditions and atmosphere like in the Civil War camps? What was sanitation like? What must it have felt like to be a doctor in the camps when soldiers were sick and dying from both injury and disease? How would it compare to being a physician on a battlefield today or in an emergency room caring for the sick, injured, and dying? Immunizations were first discovered in the late 19th century and most antibiotics were developed between 1928 and 1940. Discuss how antibiotics and immunizations would have changed the Civil War.


    Working in Groups
    If you have access to one computer in your classroom, you can organize your class in several ways. Divide your classroom into two groups. Instruct one of the groups to do paper research while the second group is working on the computer. Bring in books, encyclopedias, etc. from the library for the group doing paper research. Lead the group working at the computer through an Internet search or allow the students to take turns. When the groups have finished working, have them switch places.

    Look for Web Resources Together as a Class
    If you have a big monitor or projection facilities, you can do an Internet search together as a class. Make sure that every student in your class can see the screen. Go to the sites you want to use in your research and review the information there. Bookmark the pages that you and your students think are helpful. Go to a search engine page, allow your students to suggest the search criteria, and do an Internet search. Again, bookmark and/or print the pages that you think are helpful, for reference later.

    Using a Computer Lab
    A computer center or lab space, with a computer-to-student ratio of one to three, is ideal for doing Web-based projects. Generally, when doing Web-based research, it is helpful to put students in groups of three. This way, students can help each other if problems or questions arise. It is often beneficial to bookmark sites for students ahead of time and make suggestions, so that you can be sure that students have a starting point.

    Submit a Comment: We invite your comments and suggestions based on how you used the lesson in your classroom.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students