Teacher Notes 


Women in the American Civil War 1861-65

(A SDAIE Lesson)

You are a young woman in 1862 who has only recently left your girlhood home to join the war effort for your side in the Civil War or War Between the States. News of battles dominates the headlines and events of the war are shared among people at every opportunity. Young men you know have been killed or wounded. People you care about have been tragically effected by the war. You will be writing letters to one person in your family...a grandparent, parent, husband, brother or sister..to share your concerns. This is your ONLY contact with home because there were no telephones or computers back then. You are homesick. Hearing about your family, friends, and their lives helps you to feel better. It also helps you to share your joys and unhappiness about the war with them. You want to help your side of the war and will not leave your job until the war is over.

The letter below from your mother explains the project:

February 1, 1862

    My Dear,

I know you are surprised to get a letter from me. Cousin Fred is helping me write to you because we are all worried about you. This war has made life very difficult for everyone. It has pitted families against families, and brothers against brothers. I know that you are strong in your beliefs to help our side of the War, but I MUST hear from you. I cannot think about anything else but you and the dangerous situations you must be in right now. I can't sleep.

You left before I could say goodbye. I don't know what you volunteered to do in the War. What is your job and its duties? Don't leave out a word, as I want to know it all! Do you like it? As you have never been away from home before, I know you are seeing and learning many new things.

I am trying to learn whatever I can from the newspapers even though Cousin Fred is just beginning to teach me to read. I must know what is happening in this awful war. Thank goodness I have a dictionary to look up any new words I come across. It's amazing how many new words there can be! When you use new words in your letters, please share their meanings with me. There must be special words the soldiers speak. I also enjoy learning "slang words" or words made up, even though they aren't considered proper English. I try to learn ten new words a week. You can help me meet my goal as I am sure you are hearing lots of new words.

The lilacs you planted are blooming. The air smells sweet with flowers on the hillsides. Every time I walk near the flowers, I think of you. I know how much you love flowers, the land and animals. Tell me about the countryside where you are now. Are there hills, valleys, swamps, lakes, streams, plateaus, etc. What is the land like? Is it like dear sweet home? Will it be important if the war comes to where you are? Please draw me a map of the area so I can see in my mind a picture of where you are now. I know you'll love drawing this map as you were always doodling, even in the dirt.

Everyone here is fine, except for Aunt Sallie. She was walking home from Crooked Bend and a thunderstorm hit. She was about five miles away from home. She hid in Beaver Creek Cave until the worst of the storm was over. Then she continued walking home. The rain continued and she caught a mighty fierce cold. She coughs all the time and is very hot. We are nursing her with ma's famous chicken soup. We are concerned about her, but think she'll be fine in a few days.

Talking about ma's chicken soup reminds me how hungry I am right now. I have to close as it's supper time. We are having stew and homemade biscuits today. Yum! Yum! What did you eat today? Are they feeding you well? Is it as good as our home cooking? Do you need any food, supplies or clothes sent? Let me know and I'll try to get you what you need.

Write soon, I beg of you. I miss you terribly and think of you all the time. I hope this war ends fast so you can be back home with us.




You will learn about military battles and the lives of women during the American Civil War, 1861-1865 using both the Internet and other resources. You will work both by yourself and in a group throughout this unit. Your group will write 2 letters from a woman who may have lived during the Civil War and 2 letters from the woman's relative. In these four letters you will include factual information that could have applied to these people. Have fun as you:



You will be assigned to a group with 3 other students. Each group will focus on a different woman's role and family experiences during the Civil War.

Figure 2
Family Group at Cedar Mountain, Virginia.
By Timothy H. O'Sullivan
(Library of Congress)


The groups are:

GROUP 1: nurse GROUP 5: nurse
GROUP 2: spy GROUP 6: soldier
GROUP 3: soldier GROUP 7: soldier
GROUP 4: Boston woman with kids GROUP 8: Atlanta refugee (home burned)

To get started...
Decide on a name for your group's woman.


This activity is the same thing as a clustering or brainstorming. Make a circle for the spider's body in the center of your paper and write the name CIVIL WAR in it. Then make spider legs, or straight lines, from the spider's body. On each leg, write 1 fact you know about the Civil War. Your spider might have more legs than a real life spider, which has 8 legs. Click here for the Civil War "Spider" form.

  1. Using you text or other books as reference, create a cluster, or "spider," showing what you know about the Civil War.
  2. Share your cluster with your group. When done, put your paper in Civil War Group Folder.
  3. Make a new huge group cluster on construction paper showing everyone's information.
  4. Share your group cluster with the class, make needed corrections and use it in writing your letters.


Your group will be playing a game called Cyber Scavenger Hunt. You are given a list of things to find. The first group that finds all the things wins the game. Your group will be using the Internet to find things listed on the Scavenger Hunt List. Be sure and tell the teacher when you are done, as you might be the first group done. You will enjoy this game, even if you don't win, because you are already winners! This game will help you review how to use the Internet. It will also give you information you'll need for your letters.

Figure 3
General William T. Sherman
(Library of Congress)

  1. Your group will be assigned a battle site or area. Everything you find out in your hunt will be about this battle or area.
  2. Use the Internet to find YOUR group's Scavenger Hunt battle information. The battle will be assigned by your teacher.
  • Complete the Cyber Scavenger Hunt and write down needed information about your battle. After the game, put this paper in your group's Civil War Folder to use later.

    Flowing Terrific Terms activity will also be fun. The following sites have all the information for you to complete this activity. You will be completing a Flowchart. Flowcharts are a way of showing how something works. In a flowchart, there are arrows and sometimes numbers. To go from one box to another in a flowchart, you have to follow the numbers. Your flowchart will help you learn new words. You learn the first, and then move to the second and so on. You will also use your flowchart to be sure that you have used 10 new Civil War words in your letters. Remember, each group member chooses 10 DIFFERENT words. You may help each other with ideas to draw your illustrations or pictures. Your pictures should be simple and easy to draw. Stick figures are great! These pictures will help you remember what the words mean.

    1. Visit and read the following sites with Civil War information:

    2. Choose 10 words from the above sites.
    3. Check with your group members to be sure everyone has different words.
    4. Complete the Flowing Terrific Terms paper. Each person in your group fills out a sheet.
    5. Put completed papers in your group's Civil War folder.


    Your group will read about a 10 year old girl named Carrie Berry. She lived in Atlanta during the Civil War when her city was burned. She wrote a daily diary, like many of you. In her diary you will learn about her life and the war. There is a glossary that was made for you. If you find any words you do not understand, check the Carrie Berry Glossary

    Figure 4
    Boxcar refugees, Atlanta railroad depot, 1864
    By George N. Barnard

    Carrie Berry Diary
  • As you read about her life, take notes on types of foods, daily life, chores, and other things of interest about life then.
  • With your group, make two Venn Diagrams to show (http://www.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/score/actbank/tvenn.htm)
  • Share your diagrams with your group.
  • Place the Venn Diagrams in the group's Civil War Folder.


    Have you ever wondered what it would be like to meet a spy during the Civil War times? You will hear of that experience now. A Confederate Officer's wife kept a record of what she saw during the war. A book of her writings has been put together by Myrta Lockett Avary and you may read it now on the Internet by clicking on the blue writing below.

    A Virginia Girl's Diary: http://sunsite.unc.edu/docsouth/avary/avary.html or

    Figure 5
    Tents of a general hospital at City Point, Virginia, October 1864.
    (Library of Congress)


    You and your group will now "surf" the following websites for information you can use in your letters. Have fun!

    Basic Information:

    Timeline of the Civil War shows important events during each year of Civil War, and also contains Photographs of the war.

    Civil War Archive links to archives of photographs, manuscripts, battle summaries

    American Civil War Homepage, wealth of information, links to letters, personal accounts, documents, specific battle information, reenactors' groups, timelines, overviews and graphics.

    American Life Histories, over 2,900 documents in the form of narratives, dialogues, reports and case histories from the Federal Writers' Project, 1939-1940. Searches by keywords and state are possible for topics including family education, religion, income, occupations, medical needs and diet.

    The Valley of the Shadow, pictures, diaries, news accounts, letters before Civil War, charts and documents.


    Andrew C.L. Gatewood, letter to sister (VMI Archives), Battle of Manassas, Sept. 3, 1862.

    John H. Ervine, letter to his wife Ellen (VMI Archives), June 18, 1861.

    "My Precious Loulie," eight Civil War love letters.

    Confederate Women Letters (Ladies Auxiliary of the 10th SC Volunteer Infantry), letters written by Confederate women about life and childhood, links to Confederate Women, i.e. Mary Boykin Chestnut, Confederate First Lady, Rose O'Neil Greenhow.


    Virginia Girl, experiences of a Confederate Officer's wife during the Civil War, 1861-1865 http://sunsite.unc.edu/docsouth/avary/avary.html#avary150


    Civil War Women, archives including scanned pages and texts of 3 women, includes information on spies

    Women Soldiers of the Civil War, National Archives and Records Administration



    Clara Barton

    Rose O'Neal Greenhow, easy to read brief summary of her life with photo


    American Memory Project (Library of Congress), selected Civil War photographs

    Selected Pictures of the Civil War, National Archives and Records Administration.


    Civil War Confederate Stars and Bars, 5 National Confederate Flags and links to Official U.S. Flags


    Civil War Generals, facts on generals' lives, i.e. careers before and after the Civil War, birthdeath dates, and learn where the generals are buried

    Civil War Artillery Glossary, explains general equipment solders used in Civil War


    Everyone will write one letter. Write as if it were to someone you know. Explain your new experiences from the Civil War in detail. Remember, everything you see and do during the war is new to them. Make all of the facts accurate because our relatives and best friends (teacher and class) will learn history through your letters.


    Your team now has the chance to create some dynamite drawings to use in your final presentation. Your team must decide how you want to divide up the duties on completing this job. Everything made must be accurate and look real, i.e. flag needs correct colors and symbols on it. Use your Internet Research, and other tools, to help you. Create the following:


    Your next task is to create a storyboard of your Final Presentation. Storyboards are like cartoon strips with snapshot pictures of each part of your presentation. Storyboards help you plan your final group presentation. Your team will make 4 storyboards, one for each letter you have written. This will become the script for your play or final group presentation. Click here for sample storyboards. http://www.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/score/actbank/tboard.htm

    REMEMBER all four group members need a speaking and acting part. Group members will play the following roles:

    1. WOMAN
    3. COURIER (mail carrier)
    4. CO-WORKER

    (If your group has a different idea for the characters in your play, discuss it with your teacher first.)


    Your group will have some time in class to practice, but you will also need to practice at home. This is also called "rehearsal." Try to memorize and be familiar with your part (but not the letters). The letters will be "read" as they are written and received during the final group presentation.


    Your final group presentation can be videotaped at home and brought in the day it's due. You may also perform live in class and the teacher will videotape.


    1. Your letters will be written BEFORE presentation but you will PRETEND that you are writing letters to your relative during the skit. It makes it look believable if you move your hand in a writing motion as you read these letters.
    2. Keep these items near the computer when you are researching:
      • paper and pencil
      • dictionary
    3. ALWAYS put completed work in the Civil War Group Folder (kept by your teacher). This will make sure that your work is not lost or left at home when it's due. Each step will help you write your letters and plan your Final Group Presentation.
    4. There will be daily and weekly deadlines so it is important to do all the assignments daily.
    5. Recheck to see that you have written about EVERYTHING under the letters (KEEPING IN TOUCH WITH HOME) and flowchart (FLOWING TERRIFIC TERMS).
    6. Be sure and take notes on clothing and appearance of people back then. This will help you plan your final presentation in historical costume and be more believable.
    7. Check the EVALUATION section of this unit to know what is expected of you. This will also help you plan for those great grades.

    There will be both individual and group assignments throughout this unit. Evaluation will be based on teacher criteria for the individual assignments. The class will determine the rubric together for the Final Group Presentation grades.

    Evaluation (grade) of work during this project will be based on the following:

    25% Written Work and Drawings that:

    25% Final Group Presentation in which:

    25% Research and Daily Work where:

    25% Collaborative/Cooperative Learning and Social Skills where:


    Think back over what you have learned about the Civil War, women and civilian life. By yourself, you will make a new Civil War "Spider" for each of the following:

    1. ways women helped in the Civil War
    2. daily life during Civil War times for women and kids
    3. ways families kept in touch during the Civil War
    4. geography of the North
    5. geography of the South
    6. battles
    7. foods from Civil War times
    8. events from Civil War times
    9. Civil War vocabulary
    10. other (your choice)


    Figure 7
    Nurses and Officers at Fredericksburg, Virginia
    (Library of Congress)

    This last step it helps you and your teammates realize what you are good at and what you need to continue working on. In your group, think about how you did the research and your final group presentation. Remember, all comments should be made in a kind and positive manner. During the discussion, write notes of comments you agree with on your individual Reflection Sheet (a piece of notebook paper).

    Discuss the following questions:

    Last Revised: 03/30/06