Civil War Battles: The Reporter's Perspective
A WebQuest
Joyce Valenza and Len Arlen
Images from Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Selected Civil War Photographs 1861-1865 and
Words and Deeds in American History: Selected Documents Celebrating the Manuscript Division's First 100 Years

The Civil War created a tremendous demand for news. The telegraph made it possible for the public to read about what happened yesterday. For the first time in our history reporters actually traveled to the front, establishing a new breed of journalist--the war correspondent.
Welcome new reporters! You are assigned to rather dangerous duty. Your beat is the battlefields of the Civil War.

Your assignment is to cover a battle of the Civil War from the perspective of a journalist. Though good journalists make efforts to be impartial in their reporting of the news, the fact that you live in either the North or the South will certainly color the story you tell. It will determine the people you are able to interview. Remember that propaganda has played a part in all wars in our history and journalists have often fueled the "propaganda effort."
"The first casualty when war comes is truth." -- Senator Hiram Johnson, 1917
You will be using Microsoft Publisher to create a special edition newsletter reporting on the battle.
The first step is to select a Civil War battle you'd like to cover as a reporter. You may use the list on the page or visit Civil War Battlesor CWSAC Battle Summaries.
You may choose among the following battles:
  • First Manassas
  • Second Manassas
  • Antietam
  • Fredricksburg
  • Chancellorsville
  • Gettysburg
  • Vicksburg
  • Shiloh
  • Assault on Petersburg
  • Cedar Creek
  • Cold Harbor
  • Wilderness
  • Spotsylvania Courthouse
Get your choice approved by your teacher.

You are to create a five-page special edition newsletter using Publisher.
Use the or visit GaleNet's Biography Resource Center and Student Resource Center Gold, History Online, ABC-CLIO American History, US at War, Wilson's Biography Reference Bank, Americans at War, and ProQuest Historical Newspapers. You may find e-books at netLibrary. Remember, though the Web is a rich source of information on the Civil War, we have a fine collection of books covering the battles of the Civil War.. Please check the catalog for many more resources.
Make sure your stories include the following:
  • A description of the major events of the battle.
  • Include one or two photographs from Selected Civil War Photographs 1861-1865, a fantastic archive of photographs from the Library of Congress American Memory Collection. Remember to credit the photographer in your newsletter.
  • Include at least one map of the battle to explain the action to your readers. In one of your articles explain the impact of geography on your battle. The American Memory Collection also hosts a wonderful Civil War Maps Collection!
  • The impact to your side of the war. Discuss gains and losses in terms of soldiers, equipment, etc. You may choose to discuss treatment of the injured and the dead.
  • Try to get an interview with at least one of the higher-ranking officers. Actual quotes would be very impressive! Get the officer's perspective on the battle.
  • Imagine you found letters, or artifacts on the site after the battle was over. Describe one item you find.
  • Try to get an interview with a soldier and a person who lives in the area of battle. You may choose to get the perspective of a woman, a slave, a child, a farmer, a business person, etc.
  • Attach your Works Consulted page to the newsletter.
Though your stories should be historically accurate, feel free to exaggerate heroism and display bias.

You will be graded on the following:
Criteria || Poor (1) || Adequate (2) || Good (3) || Exemplary (4) ||

Content of
Newsletter is historically accurate and covers the major events and importance of the battle

Students' writing was clever and engaging. S/he used the format of the newsletter creatively to convey the feeling of the battle and give the reader a sense of the time.

Understanding of
Students maintained the perspective of a northerner or a southerner consistently through their writing.

Documentation(Do not submit without documentation. You will not receive a grade)
Students used a variety of high quality resources and incorporated appropriate documents and visuals into their work. Students documented all sources appropriately in their Works Consulted page.

Following directions

You have been engaged in exploring history through the perspective of a "player" on one side of the great historic debate that was our nation's Civil War.
History is essentially the story of people and all people have perspectives. Perspective is the place where you stand relative to what you are viewing. By analyzing multiple interests and values, we develop a richer understanding how people really lived and of the great issues of our past.
How we view our history may well determine how we perceive the present.
"The only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this." John Stuart Mill

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