Portrait of a Soldier: Pre-Visit

At the end of the lesson, each student:

Will identify three different participants in the Civil War. Will draw a picture illustrating the type of home life this Civil War soldier may have come from before he entered the war.

Will write an editorial to a local paper explaining why each of these three participants wanted to fight in the war.

Will find justification for the reasons the soldiers were fighting in the war in the words of the Declaration of Independence.

Pencil and white paper for sketching pictures

Copies of the Declaration of Independence

In the early years of the Civil War, volunteers from both the North and South joined the armies to fight for the rights and beliefs of their territories. Many northern soldiers were fighting to hold the Union together. Many southern soldiers were fighting for states rights. While slavery was a significant sectional difference, the issue of emancipation for the slaves became more prominent in the later years of the war.

Where did these soldiers come from?

What were there lives like before the war?

What motivated them to keep fighting even as the war dragged on, evident in the nine-and-a-half months of fighting at Petersburg?

Involvement of the Learners:
Ask the students: "Who was fighting in the Civil War?
Some students may answer northern and southern soldiers, or Union and Confederate soldiers right away, but who was another important participant in the war?
(Hint: Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation gave new cause to this group of people.)
Answer: The African American soldiers were known as the United States Colored Troops
The participation of the United States Colored Troops was prominent in the siege of Petersburg. While this term is not used today, in 1864 a United States Colored Troop (USCT) was a brave and honorable position for an African American.

Transition to Explanation:
Show the students a picture of a farm, a plantation, or a factory. Ask the students who would have lived in this area: A Confederate soldier, a white Union soldier, or an African American Soldier? Why?

Students will draw pictures of where Union, Confederate, and United States Colored Troops may have lived before they joined the army. Encourage students to draw pictures that clearly reflect the lifestyle of these three groups of people, as they imagine them to be.

Have volunteers share their picture with the class and discuss the lifestyle of a particular soldier before the war. A discussion of the pictures will help students understand the sectional differences still developing in the country in the 1850s and early 1860s.

Following the discussion, students will a brief editorial to a local newspaper in 1861, pretending that they are a southern farmer, a slave working on a plantation, or a factory worker from the north. In this editorial, the student will explain why he/she is willing to fight for his way of life if a civil war should begin.

At this point in the lesson, students should have definitive reasons why the soldiers wanted to fight in the Civil War. Have students follow along as the instructor reads the opening paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.

What do these words mean to a Confederate Soldier? A Union Soldier? A United States Colored Troop fighting in the Union Army?

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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Petersburg National Battlefield Administration Office
1539 Hickory Hill Road

Petersburg, VA 23803


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