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Collection Connections

Civil War Maps

U.S. HistoryCritical ThinkingArts & Humanities

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Go directly to the collection, Civil War Maps, in American Memory, or view a Summary of Resources related to the collection.

Civil War Maps provides an excellent opportunity for students to develop their language art skills. Using the maps, they can study advertising techniques and language. They can examine maps and newspaper articles to learn to write their own articles. Similarly, they may write first-person accounts from a soldier's perspective, based on accounts from American Memory collections and their own imagination. In addition, students can write biographies and depict historic events visually, through their own maps.

1) Advertising

Included in Civil War Maps are maps created by publishing companies and sold to a market of citizens who were interested in the battles because of their family and friends' service in the war. To lure buyers, the maps often included advertisements promoting the map as the best of its kind or as one used by war soldiers.

For example, one popular publisher, James T. Lloyd, included extensive advertising on his maps. Students can search on the publisher's name to read some of these advertisements. Have them note what language, tone and style the advertiser has used. What message is the advertisement getting across? Does the student find it persuasive?

Students can then write their own advertisements for maps by browsing the collection's Title Index. Students can mimic and improve upon the language, tone and style used in Lloyd's maps.

Caption Below
Lloyd's map of the southern states, 1863.

This map includes the following promotional text: "Any one finding an error on this Map will be entitled to a copy, gratis, by writing to the Publisher."

Also included is the transcript from Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, requesting a copy of a map and informing the publisher that Rear Admiral Chas. H. Davis is authorized to purchase a supply for his squadron.

2) Newspaper Article

The American Civil War marked the first time American newspapers ran maps frequently. Search the collection on newspaper to find examples of these maps.

Caption Below
War maps and diagrams, 1861.
Working from these examples and additional research of the battles and information depicted in the map, students can write newspaper articles describing the events on the map. Have students read newspaper articles from the Civil War era or modern day to glean what information should be included in their article - the Who, What, When and Why of the event. In addition, have students note how these facts are presented to the reader. Does the author convey support for one side over the other? Or does the reporting appear objective? Students can look at the language used, information included and photographs shown in the article to determine the author's objectivity.

3) First-Person Accounts

Writing in one's private journal or drafting a letter to family or close friends often incorporates more self-reflection than typical expository writing. Students can use this collection to practice the art of describing personal emotions and experiences.

Have students assume the role of a soldier in a particular battle. They can then search the collection for maps of that battle by searching on the name of the battle or its location. Students can then compose a journal entry or a letter as if they were a soldier at that battle.

Before writing, the students should spend time developing the character: What is the soldier's name? Where is the soldier from? Which army is he fighting for? How old is he? How long has he been enlisted? Does he have family, friends, or pets that he misses?

Once the character is set, the students can draft the letter or journal entry. They should include place names and features highlighted on the map. In addition, their writing should reflect the emotions they imagine a soldier would have prior to and during his fighting in this particular battle. What emotion is the soldier feeling now, reflecting on the events? If the soldier had his choice, what would he like to do at that moment? Is he making plans for the future and/or resigning himself to the possibility of death? What final words might he want to share with his family or friends?

Caption Below
Bird's eye view of Camp Chase near Columbus, Ohio , 186?.
Students can read the first-person accounts of Civil War experiences by searching on Civil War in these collections:

African-American Experience in Ohio
Narratives of the American South, 1860-1920
Pioneering the Upper Midwest: Books from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, ca. 1820-1910
Recovered Notebooks from the Thomas Biggs Harned Walt Whitman Collection

4) Biography

Students can research one of the many famous soldiers from the Civil War. Where was the person born? In a free or slave state? What Civil War battle did he first participate in? What battle is he most famous for fighting in? Why? Where did he live his life after the war? What did he do?

Caption Below
Mountain region of North Carolina and Tennessee, 1863.

Students can write a biography of this person and illustrate their report with maps from the collection. Search for maps of the person's home state, sites of battles, and where he died. Do these maps provide additional insight into the soldier's life? For example, before the war, did this person live in a place where he may have been exposed to the views of those who would later become the enemy at war? Did he travel far from home during the war? Or did he stay close to home and fight in areas familiar to him? How might this familiarity with battle sites have helped him at war?

5) Recording History Through Maps

The maps of this collection provide a record of the history of the Civil War primarily through visual data, not text. Students can study these maps and then create their own to develop their skills of conveying information about past events visually. It might help them to think of their audience as someone who does not speak English but must use the map to learn about the Civil War.

Caption Below
North and South in 1861 Prepared for the Chronicles of America, 1885.
Have students begin by determining how the cartographers depicted information without text. Then, students can browse the collection by the Subject Index to see what information was included in a map's legend. What title appears on the maps? Is there a descriptive paragraph that provides background information for what appears in the map? Does the user gain an accurate understanding of the actual events depicted on the map?

Students can then research an event in history for which they will create a map. They might choose a Civil War battle, a battle from another war, a recent news event, or even something in their personal lives.

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Last updated 09/26/2002