Brother Against Brother: January History Resources

 Brother against Brother 1860-1865

Paintings by Stephen McCall © CSS Neuse State Historic Site

States rights, slavery, abolitionists, agrarianism, capitalism, central government, and more contribute to another dark chapter. States choose to leave the nation, and the nation refuses to allow their secession.  States are pitted against states, family against family, and in some cases brother against brother.  In the end the grand Union would be retained, albeit at a terrible cost, more dead than all other U.S. wars combined.  The union emerges as a power in the hemisphere, primed to complete the conquest of the continent and stretch influence into the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Pacific.

I could easily spend an entire year just studying the American Civil War. There are the political aspects, the war and battles, the family and home front, and the lasting implications. However, since I only have one month and need to stay on schedule, we are planning on focusing on the political aspects of the war and life during the war. My son is highly interested in the battles so he will probably do some independent study on those. While this is a highly controversial subject in current news and times, I feel that it is an important part of our history and we would do well to cover it as accurately and unbiased as possible. In addition to telling you about some of the resources that we will be using as a family, I’m including some information at the end of this post to help you understand the various names and points of view involved in this one war.

We are hoping to fit in several field trips this month and have already scheduled one to see a Civil War ironclad at one of our state historic sites. In addition to seeing the ironclad itself, we will be doing activities with medicine, hygiene, toys and the uniforms of the era.  Living on the East coast of the United States we have many battlefields and museums with information about this war.  We even have a local battlefield in our own town. It has a beautiful hiking trail that allows us to combine hiking and history.

There are many good books for this era. We have all of our books for this era in a basket and I’m going to let the children pick the ones we read. I’ve pictured a few of their options below.  Some of them deal with the war and others with elements that were going on during the time like the Underground Railroad. Elizabeth is going to complete the American Heritage Girls Freedom Seekers badge as her project this month. This badge is a study in the Underground Railroad. I’m not sure yet what Matthew will choose but I know his interest lies more in the military history.

civil war book           underground railroad   clara barton.jpg

For art, we are finishing up some lessons from our American History Chalk Pastel Lessons that we did not get a chance to finish up last month (we spent December’s art time on holiday projects).  I’ve also found these podcasts from our state history museum that may be good to listen to as an easy way to incorporate more history into our days.

As we begin in January, my plan is to make sure we discuss certain key points, but to try and let the children’s interest dictate what aspects of this era that we discuss and study most in-depth. Knowing that we can not cover everything in a month, my goal is to get them excited about learning more and then let them continue to explore with books and resources after we have moved on into the next time period.

Do you have any favorite resources or field trips related to the American Civil War? Share with us in the comments.


Further Information About Choosing Resources:

The Civil War, by its very nature, is the most divisive and destructive war our nation has ever fought. We killed, wounded, and displaced more than 3% of the American population.  By modern standards, the loss is equivalent to the entire population of New York City and Chicago. No period of American History is more thoroughly studied, written about, researched, or reenacted.  No period is as polarizing either. Educators will need to find their specific approach to the challenges of this polarization while preparing to teach.  Sources are often strongly influenced by the political or historical views of the author. Historians are even divided as to what to call the war.

Oftentimes, you can broadly categorize the political objective of source material by the use of different names for the conflict.

Civil War – Tends to be more mainstream, often centrist or with a slight pro-union tilt

War Between the States – Commonly used by international scholars, often the most ‘objective’ observers

War to Preserve the Union – often heavily pro-union, abolitionist

War of Northern Aggression – often heavily pro-confederacy, but not necessarily pro-slavery

War against Slavery – often blatantly abolitionist, important in that the use of this term often coincides with little attention to other political factors

War of Southern Secession – Often focuses solely on political factors, leans very pro-confederate and may ignore or minimize the slavery issue.

These terms do not represent a hard and fast guide, but can serve as a starting point to clue you in that the presenter, writer, researcher, or producer may have an agenda.


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3 thoughts on “Brother Against Brother: January History Resources

  1. Just stumbled across this post of yours – Love the breakdown of the names. I remember touring Charleston, SC and the tour guides speaking of the War of Northern Aggression. Seriously. Not in jest. Guess they are still mad.


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