Last updated: January 6, 2021
The Battle of Harpers Ferry 1862: Joining Up!
- Grade Level:
- Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
- Social Studies
- Lesson Duration:
- 60 Minutes
- Common Core Standards:
- Thinking Skills:
- Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.
When war broke out in April 1861, thousands of young men rushed to join the colors. Why were they so anxious to go off to war? Then, after the horrors of war had been exposed, why were thousands more willing to enlist in 1862? Why did men of central New York decide to join a new unit, the 126th New York Volunteer Infantry in August of 1862? Each student will receive the identity of an actual soldier from that regiment, and eventually find out what happened to him as a result of the war.
In Joining Up! students will learn why young men were so anxious to go off to war in 1861, and why the next year, in 1862, after the horrors of Civil War were so apparent, others were willing to join the armies. Students will then be given the identity of soldiers who actually joined a New York infantry regiment in the summer of 1862.
The Battle of Harpers Ferry, 1862 unit is divided into four lesson plans, each taking about 30-35 minutes to complete, and targeted mainly at grades five through eight. A class needn’t complete each lesson, although the lessons do build on each other and are better done in sequence. However, each lesson comes with its own set of objectives and resources.
Print Reasons Why Young Men Joined the Armies in 1861, and then either cut the sheet as indicated, or create your own, possibly using 3 x 5 cards. Create one set per planned group of students.
Print one copy of the identities of members of Company A, 126th New York Volunteer Infantry.
Print one class set of U.S. Oath of Allegiance per student.
Print to read to give students new identity
Print and put onto cards for students to analyze. Each group will need a stack.
Students will read this at the end of the lesson.
Ask students if they know anyone in the military. Whether they do or do not, ask students whom they think individuals would sign up for the military. Explain that today they will be investigating the same question, but during the Civil War.
Regiment – Permanent unit of an army typically commanded by a colonel and divided into several companies and into two battalions.
Company – military unit of 80-250 soldiers usually commanded by a captain or major.
Battalion – a large body of troops ready for battle, especially an infantry unit forming part of a brigade typically commanded by a lieutenant colonel.
Enlist – to sign up
Colonel – In charge of a regiment
Major – In charge of a company
Captain – In charge of a company
Sergeant – A noncommissioned officer above corporal and below staff sergeant
Private – Lowest military rank
Option One - Because this unit and the lessons within, deal with Union soldiers, take some time to look at the other side and ask your students why young men in the South also rushed to join the armies in 1861. Do they think there were drastic differences in their reasons? Why or why not?
Option Two - Play some early Civil War music, then play some music that was written later in the war and compare the songs. Is there any difference? You can also do with Civil War photographs. Look at some photos of soldiers at the beginning of the war with photos taken in 1862 or later and compare them.
Option Three – Invite a Civil War re-enactor to come to your school and speak on the Life of the Common Soldier. If you have a person or more available, perhaps he/they can run your class through some Civil War drill. This would be particularly fun for the students, as they are now members of a Union infantry company, and would have to do a LOT of drilling before entering combat.
Option Four – If you have access to computers, take your students to a computer lab and ask them to do some research on any number of topics, such as: joining the armies in 1861; a typical day in the life of a Civil War soldier (they actually didn’t fight in battles that often), the 126th New York Volunteer Infantry, and so on.
History of the 126th New York Volunteer Infantry
The History of Billy Yank, by Bell I. Wiley
The History of Johnny Reb, by Bell I. Wiley