Students can reflect on the lives of soldiers during the Civil War by analyzing photographs taken by renowned photographer Mathew Brady in this new learning activity on DocsTeach.org. The holdings of the National Archives include over 6,000 photographs taken by Brady and his associates during the Civil War era; 16 are included in this activity.
In The Civil War as Photographed by Mathew Brady, students will choose 3–4 photographs for analysis and create charts listing the people, objects, and actions in the photos; determine what they can infer from the photos; and identify questions that the photos raise in their minds.
After comparing and contrasting their findings in small groups, they will list adjectives that they think describe the life of a soldier during the Civil War. The follow-up class discussion can explore the questions:
- What motivated these men to put up with such difficult circumstances?
- If there had been television or the internet, would the Civil War have lasted as long as it did?
- How did soldiers cope with the death of their friends and fellow soldiers?
We suggest teaching with this activity during a unit on the Civil War in grades grades 6-12. Approximate time needed is 90 minutes. The activity can be found under the Civil War and Reconstruction era or directly at http://docsteach.org/activities/15580/detail.