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        Minnesota | Activity 5.2: The Civil War, Firsthand

        Students analyze primary-source images and explain the likely experiences of Minnesota soldiers and civilians during and after the Civil War.

        Lesson Summary

        Students analyze primary-source images and explain the likely experiences of Minnesota soldiers and civilians during and after the Civil War.

        The lesson is part of "Great States | Minnesota | Unit 5: Minnesota in the Civil War", where students will consider how Minnesotans contributed to the Union side during the Civil War as well as how the results of the Civil War contributed to expanding rights for African Americans.

        Time Allotment

        10 minutes

        Learning Objectives

        Standards Create a timeline of the key events of the American Civil War; describe the war-time experiences of Minnesota soldiers and civilians. 



        1. Show students the photos titled “African American Civil War Soldier,” and “Frank J. Mead, Corporal, First Minnesota Infantry, Company B.” Ask students to compare the uniforms worn by the soldiers. 

          Explain to students that black soldiers were not treated as well as white soldiers during the Civil War, even if the soldiers fought on the same side. Remind students that black soldiers in the Union Army consisted of previously enslaved men and free men of the North. Free black men rushed to volunteer after the Battle of Fort Sumter, but it wasn’t until mid-1862 that the government allowed black men to enlist. Even then, black regiments were commonly assigned to noncombat assignments such as guards, laborers, nurses, or cooks. Have students answer the following question after studying the two photos:

          1. In one photo the soldier seems clean, and his uniform is in good shape, while the other seems to be sitting more casually, and his uniform looks worn. Why do you think this is the case?
        2. Ask students to picture riding as an injured soldier in a modern-day ambulance. Then, show the photo titled, “Ambulance Wagon, Bull Run battlefield.” 

          Explain to students that an ambulance wagon could not hold as much heavy equipment and supplies as a modern-day ambulance. A ride in an ambulance wagon was also not as comfortable. Also, portable electric medical equipment was not available for transport in an ambulance wagon. Sanitation (cleanliness) measures were not as good as they are today, either in the ambulance or at the hospitals and medical camps. Have students answer the following questions after studying the photo:

          1. Was it just as likely for a soldier suffering from a gunshot wound to survive an ambulance ride in a wagon compared to a modern-day ambulance van? Explain why or why not. 
          2. If they did make it to the hospital, why did many injured die in hospitals at that time? Explain that poor sanitation and limited understanding of how diseases spread made hospitals a breeding ground for disease.
        3. Show students the image titled, “Samuel D. Badger.”  

          Explain to students that the image of Samuel D. Badger is a pastel, created after the Civil War in 1870 of a member of the Color Guard for the 6th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry. A military Color Guard refers to a group of soldiers assigned to the protection of regimental colors, flags, or poles used as rallying points and to determine the location of the commander. Ask students the following based on the image: 

          1. How old do you think Badger was at the time of his service? 
          2. Why might this pastel have been done five years after the end of the Civil War?

        Answer Key

          1. One uniform is clean and looks pressed. The soldier is sitting up. There are no stripes on the uniform, nor any adornments. The other looks dirty and disheveled. The uniform has stripes, and the soldier appears to have something around his neck (bandana) and a cord holding something on his hip. The hat may have a buckle or something on it that the first picture doesn’t have. Perhaps one soldier is depicted soon after getting his uniform, and the other had his for a long time. Another possibility is that the soldier on the left had this photograph taken as a keepsake for his wife or family; the soldier on the right may have been photographed for a different purpose. Welcome student hypotheses on this question.
          1. Answers will vary. Due to the lack of supplies, a soldier suffering a gunshot wound was less likely to survive in the wagon than in a modern-day ambulance van. 
          2. If they survived and made it to the hospital, they were more likely to die because of sanitation issues.
          1. Answers will vary in terms of age, but students should say that he looks young. 
          2. The pastel may have been commissioned by his family out of pride for his service. Students may have other ideas.


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