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Mississippi's Forgotten Soldiers: Women in the Ranks during the Civil War

Teaching Levels

Grades 7 through 9

Curricular Connections

2018 Mississippi College-and Career-Readiness Standards for the Social Studies

Civics

  • Standards
    • E.4.1 Describe Mississippi’s economic and military role during the Civil War.
  • Objectives
    • Determine roles of women on the home front and battlefront during and after the Civil War.

History

  • Standard
    • H.4.5 Describe the impact of significant historical figures and events in Mississippi.
  • Objective
    • Examine historical events that are significant to Mississippi culture.
  • Standard
    • 7C.14Identify and evaluate the key events and people involved in the American Civil War.(Strands: Civics, Civil Rights, Geography, History, Economics)
  • Objective
    • Evaluate the contributions of women, African Americans and other minority groups to the war effort
  • Standard
    • 8.9 Identify and evaluate the key events and people involved in the American Civil War.
  • Objective
    • Evaluate the contributions of women, African Americans and other minority groups to the war effort

Proposed Time Frame

2 to 3 fifty minute class periods (flexible based on which tasks are completed in class together or assigned as independent work to be completed outside of the classroom)

Materials / Equipment

    Mississippi History Now article
    Group Discussion Questions
    Computer with internet access
    White board / chalk board
    Analysis of Dangers T Chart
    Paper
    Pen/pencil

Lesson Introduction

Pre-teaching:

  1. Ask students who comes to mind when imagining a Civil War solider. Collect answers on the board. (Keep track of any names of famous generals/types of people/describe them)
  2. Ask students to brainstorm what personality traits would make a good soldier.
  3. Finally, ask them to describe what they imagine a Civil War era solider would look like.

True/False Pretest

(can be completed verbally using thumbs up/down or other silent visual cue)
  1. All soldiers dressed in either standard blue or grey uniforms and there was great uniformity among the appearance of various groups. ( T/F )
  2. Victorian women did not enjoy many legal rights or social opportunities. ( T/F )
  3. Army surgeons performed an in-depth medical examination on all recruits enlisting the military during the Civil War. ( T/F )
  4. All recruits to the armies of the Union and the Confederacy had to prove that they were at least 18 years old prior to being allowed to join. ( T/F )
  5. Far from the capitals of Washington and Richmond, and without many natural resources, the state of Mississippi saw very little actual battle and conflict during the war. ( T/F )
  6. Women were granted privileges to serve in combat roles in the United States military in 2015, but some would argue that they have been serving in those capacities in hidden ways for hundreds of years. ( T/F )

Lesson

  1. Assign the article “Mississippi’s Forgotten Soldiers: Women in the Ranks during the Civil War” for students to read prior to class as homework, or read aloud as a class as time permits and for younger grades

  2. Access Civil War timeline for context (Depending on when in your history course and how you use this article, students may need more or less context for events the Civil War and their ability to understand the importance of Vicksburg and other campaigns mentioned)

    https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/civil-war-in-america/timeline.html

  3. If the battlefield wasn’t expected to be a women's place, what was? Read together (or assign for homework) “Women in Nineteenth-Century America” by Dr. Graham Warder, Keene State College

    https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/woman-suffrage/women-in-nineteenth-century-america-2/"

Brainstorm as a class:

    What effect did the “Market Revolution” have on women’s lives?
    What was the doctrine of “separate spheres”?
    Where did 19th century women typically have influence?
    What would be different in the lives of poorer rural women and women of the new “middle class”?

Class Discussion
Group Discussion Questions

After reading MS History Now article “Mississippi’s Forgotten Soldiers: Women in the Ranks during the Civil War,” form students into teams to answer the following questions in complete sentences. Use their responses to guide a class discussion about the article and its place in their study of the Civil War.

  1. Why did men join the military when the Civil War broke out?
  2. What hardships did soldiers face while serving in the military?
  3. Why would female soldiers from a working class or farming background have an easier time blending in to an all male military?
  4. Why was victory in the state of Mississippi considered important to their success for both Union and Confederate Armies?
  5. Describe the personal story and motivations of Ameda Hart.
  6. Describe the personal story and motivations of “William Bradley”.
  7. In your own words, describe the legacy of female fighters in the Civil War.

Activity 1

  1. Have students brainstorm a list things that were dangerous to a Civil War solider.
  2. T chart - What would be a threat to both male and female soldiers, and how would their worries depart?

Activity 2

Primary Source - Homer, Winslow, “Our Women and the War, from Harper's Weekly, September 6, 1862,” Digital Public Library of America, http://dp.la/item/693c02bc190917b1304fa7ac1921a03e.

Step 1:

“Our Women and the War,” an engraving by Winslow Homer, was published in Harper’s Weekly in1862. In small groups, have students analyze this visual primary resource using National Archives Primary source analysis tool Artwork Analysis Worksheet (also see link below lesson plan).

Additionally - have students address the following questions in groups:

  • What roles are women shown performing?
  • How are the women dressed for those roles?
  • What physical environments / locations are women shown in?
  • How do those roles reflect the values associated with a women’s place in Victorian society?
  • What is the historic context?
  • Where was this image original published? Who was its audience?
  • How does this image tells its story?
  • Does this engraving have a point of view? (Describe your position and give evidence to support your assertion)

Step 2:

Create a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting the roles of women in this image with the roles played by Almeda Hart (James Strong), “Charles Junghaus,” Jennie Hodgers (Albert Cashier), “William Bradely,” and the other unnamed women who fought as men mentioned in “Mississippi’s Forgotten Soldiers.”

Step 3:

Using the data collected from their primary source analysis tool, their discussion questions, and their Venn diagram, students should write an essay discussing the various roles and contributions of women during the conflicts of the Civil War.

Closure

Have students reflect on the daily lives of soldiers past and present. Reflect on how their sacrifices, contributions, and hard work changed the world in which we live.

Exit ticket activity: have students brainstorm what their own reaction would have been if they were the surgeon who accidentally discovered the true identity of a critically wounded female patient in their care. “What would you feel? What would you do? What would the consequences of your choices be, for your patient, for their unit, and for yourself?”

Lesson Extensions

Research Modern women in the military (some examples)

https://www.businessinsider.com/most-impressive-women-in-the-military-2013-7#sgt-leigh-ann-hester-killed-several-enemy-combatants-while-under-attack-in-iraq-saving-american-lives-3)

Have students interview and record oral histories with modern local women in the armed services

Have students access the National Archives 3 Part Article on Women Soldiers of the Civil War

The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860, Author(s): Barbara WelterSource: American Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 2, Part 1 (Summer, 1966), pp. 151-174

Students can access and read other Mississippi History Now articles about the Civil War in MS and 19th Century MS Women (a few examples)

Useful External Links

https://www.archives.gov/files/education/lessons/worksheets/artwork-analysis-worksheet.pdf
https://www.loc.gov/teachers/usingprimarysources/
https://dp.la/primary-source-sets/women-in-the-civil-war/teaching-guide#tabs
https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1993/spring/women-in-the-civil-war-1.html
https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/civil-war/war/timeline/#/

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