It’s Monday and Here’s What I’m Reading: June 3, 2013: A list of books to teach the Civil War

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts

Nonfiction Monday is hosted by Jennifer at Jean Little Library

We are deep into the Civil War – our last Social Studies unit of the year.  There are so many resources online to make our investigation of those war years interesting, engaging, and  meaningful.  But here are some resources I could never do without:
1. Ken Burns’ brilliant documentary, The Civil War.  I use the scene by scene guide to show just the footage I need for my lessons. I could not imagine teaching the Civil War without this.  

2. James McPherson’s Fields of Fury:The American Civil WarPulitzer prize-winning author James M. McPherson covers the events leading to the War, the soldiers and generals who fought, and  key battles of the Civil War.  Written for a middle school audience, with many photographs, maps,  and paintings, this is an excellent source for readings and discussions.   

3. The Boys’ War by Jim Murphy is my go -to  resource for information about the role of children in the Civil War.  Boys  served in both the Union and Confederate armies as soldiers, drummers, buglers,  spies and telegraphers.  Murphy’s book uses letters and diaries to illuminate what this active participation felt like for children – some of whom were as young as 9!
4. Delia Ray’s Behind the Blue and Gray is a wonderful resource for learning about the life or ordinary soldiers – what they felt and did and hoped for during those long and often terrifying campaigns.

5. Paul Fleishman’s Bull Run is a Civil War drama told in sixteen voices – each representing a segment of the population.  Northern and Southern, these sixteen voices capture the complexity of issues and emotions that ran deeply on both sides. We read the play as a class, with students taking different voices, and then we use what we’ve learned as the basis for rich discussions.     

19 thoughts on “It’s Monday and Here’s What I’m Reading: June 3, 2013: A list of books to teach the Civil War

  1. Thanks for all of this Tara. I will note it for those teachers who have students studying the Civil War next year. I love The Boys' War-always like the books that focus on the children's roles. They did so much in the wars' past, and I suppose today, although sometimes not by choice. I have read Fleschman's Bull Run, think he does extraordinary story-telling. Am happy to have the other titles too!

  2. Shades of Gray (not the naughty version, but by Carolyn Reeder) and Ghost Cadet, both Civil War stories, are a hit with our 4th grade students. Both are fictional accounts (so they don't fit into this post, but may help with future Civil War lessons)Amanda

  3. You've got to take a look at Silvey's I'll Pass for Your Comrade: Women Soldiers in the Civil War. So many interesting facts! There are several fiction books about women soldiers, as well, like Clapp's I am Deborah Sampson and Durrant's My Last Skirt. I like slightly unusual facets of the war. (Avi's Iron Thunder and the submarine is good as well.)

  4. Have you read The Killer Angels? That was my gateway into Civil War reading. I love the Ken Burns series as well. I could listen to Shelby Foote talk for hours and hours. Thank you for sharing these resources. 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg coming up in one month by the way.

  5. My students love hearing about what kids their age did at anytime in history, Linda – just as kids everywhere do, I suppose. The more one uncovers about history, the more one realizes that children have been exploited for millennium. Sadly.

  6. Hi Tara, such valuable suggestions. I am thinking of borrowing a few of these books for my own daughter this summer for her reading list. While we do have quite a lot of fiction titles, we still don't have riveting nonfiction ones. I shall check out our libraries if we have these. 🙂

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