Thursday, August 16, 2012
A House Divided: American Civil War History Resources for Kids
This month marks the 150th Anniversary of the U.S. Civil War engagement the Second Battle of Bull Run or, as the Conferderates called it, the Second Battle of Manassas. Many lives were lost during the battle and the resulting Confederate victory gave confidence to the Conferderates to go on the offensive. The offensive lead to the Conferderate Army marching into Maryland and Pennsylvania. The result was the Battle of Antietam (the bloodiest single-day battle in American history) and, the following year, the Battle of Gettysburg, a major turning point in the war. There's nothing like a personal visit to these national parks (Manassas, Antietam,and Gettysburg) to learn about history right where it happened.
I've been interested in the U.S. Civil War for many years because it is such an intriguing chapter in American history. It was a war that pitted a nation against itself, a war that divided families and friends, and it was a war about ending slavery. Of course the 150th Anniversary is a great way to get kids interested in the Civil War. I've found many engrossing books (both fiction and nonfiction) and easy-to-use databases that can give kids a good glimpse into the human struggles that went on during this war both on the battlefield and on the homefront.
There are many absorbing children's historical fiction stories. Bull Run is a novel that describes the first major battle of the Civil War. Besides fighting on land, the war was also fought at sea which is central to the story Iron Thunder: The Battle Between the Monitor & the Merrimac. As the war dragged on for years it affected homefronts like the one protrayed in Across Five Aprils. A great story for younger readers, based on true events, is From Slave to Soldier. For older kids The Storm Before Atlanta focuses on an alliance that is formed between a Union drummer boy, a young Confederate soldier, and a runaway slave.
There are also many nonfiction books to engage kids. Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About the Civil War not only provides insight on the lives of Union President Lincoln and Confederate President Davis, but also has general information about Civil War presented in a fun way with cartoons, illustrations, maps, and diagrams. Along those same lines kids will enjoy You Wouldn't Want to be a Nurse During the American Civil War!: A Job That's Not for the Squemish. Women played important wartime roles. Two great titles are Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent: How Daring Slave and Free Blacks Spied for the Union During the Civil War and Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sara Edmonds, A Civil War Hero. African-American Soliders in the Civil War is a good look at the bravery of these men and their struggles both on and off the battlefield.
Teens should check out this Civil War page from Teensite. It has excellent book suggestions, area civil war sites & events, informational websites, and more.
MCPL has authoritative, easy-to-use databases such as History in Context - U.S., History Reference Center, and the Oxford African American Studies Center. Be sure to also check out 150 Years Ago This Week - Maryland in the Civil War.
During this conflict Abraham Lincoln gave his famous speech known as the Gettysburg Address. In that speech he expressed his hope "that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth."