The Role of Women and Men In the Civil War

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This webquest explores the Civil War, the role of women and men played   in the Civil  War .

Civil WarCivil War


The Task:

Your job as students  is to explore various resources to help in your understanding of the role  women  and men played in the Civil War and the critical elements to the outcome of the Civil War. You will view movie clips  and  answer questions on a  document. 

Students -you will be using the information  to understand and prepare  a presentation on the  role women  and men played, the critical elements of  the civil  and why the nation was divided.

After viewing all information prepare a visual representation explaining the role women  and men played in the civil war .

women in the civil warwomen in the civil war


The Process:

Read all directions before you click.


Activity One (Day one)


Activity 1: Off to War

Teacher says to students ,"When was the   last  time you wrote a hand written letter.What prompted you  to write your letters? Now when was the  last  time you sent an email, and what was the occasion ? Did any of these communications contain important news? How important do you think writing a letter may be have been in the 19th century  in America, with telegraphs, but no telephones, and relatively slow means of transportation, people were often separated from one another without any other way to communicate.

Now I want you to watch the movie in your groups and think about these questions as you are viewing the movie?

We will divide up in groups now before viewing the movie.

You are going to work together. No more than 3 people to a group. Different genders in every  group to get a different perspective.

These are the roles for each person in each group: Facilitator, Time Keeper and the Recorder

Decide who's going to be what in each group.

These are the questions I want you to write down and reflect on while viewing

1. I want you to imagine you are living during the Civil War and one of your family members, has just enlisted and gone off to fight.

2. How important would it be to receive a letter in this situation?

3. What would those left at home hope to hear about? What would those gone off to fight yearn to know about you?

Now, let's watch the movie.

 Activity Two (Day one )

Now students here is your second set of questions.

Divide the questions out in your group. You will have 30 minutes to work on these questions.

Afterwards we will discuss.

 1.Did the men who signed on envision a long or short war?

2.What important choices did men have to make in these early days of the war?   Why do you think men from each side enlisted?

3.Why did Lee reject the offer to be general of the Union forces, and instead choose the Confederacy?

4 What did this decision portend for the future of the Civil War?

5.Were African Americans at first allowed to fight? What happened to fugitive slaves who fled to the  North?

6.If you were a man living during 1861, would you have enlisted?

7. If you were a woman, would you have wanted your brothers, husbands and fathers to sign up? and Why do you feel this way?


Activity 2: Reading Letters from the Civil War (Day 2)

Now we will watch  very last segment of the video, “Honorable Manhood” from 132:05 to 132:23.

This is a beautiful reading of the “Sullivan Ballou” letter, since made famous by the program itself.

 If you were Sullivan’s wife or children, would you plead with him not to enlist in the Union army?

Why or why not?

In how many ways does Sullivan comfort his wife by what he writes to her?

Does he have regrets for himself, or only for his wife and children?

Sullivan writes that he is “communing with God, my country, and thee.” What is his relationship to

the claims that each of these make upon his life?

Images of “wind” and “breath” appear and reappear in the letter. How are these images related at different

times to “God, my country, and thee”?

Sullivan says that he is perfectly willing to die to pay the debt owed to those who fell in the American

Revolution. What debt, if any, do we feel we owe to Sullivan Ballou and other men like him?


Day 3 (Activity 3)

 Now  class you will be divided  into small groups and each one of you will recieve a letter. There are letters written by southerners and northerners, including letters from a free African American family(the Demus letters).While most of the authors are men, there is a letter by Mary Jane Demus, two letters by E. and Fannie Hunt, and another set by Mary Lincoln.

After reading the letters analyzing the letters,  one member from each team will  come before the class as the letter writer.  If you love acting, this should be you. (Students with some dramatic flair to volunteer for this.)

Each “author” should then describe him or herself, thereby sharing the contents of the letter(s).

As another activity you can ask students to compose a letter in answer to the last one in the set they read, responding as the addressee might have.


Day 4 (activity 1)

Now class discuss these questions together in  your same group before we watch the video on women during this time in history

think about these questions as we few the film and be ready to  discuss in your groups.

 “She Ranks Me” from Episode 5 of  The Civil War, beginning at 53:31-56:34.

•How were women expected to behave at this time in history?

 •What can you infer about the way men were expected to treat women?

 What were women not expected to do, and what were some of the negative consequences they faced if  they broke with convention?

To help in the war effort, what activities could be done in the home?

 •   What difficulties did women face if they ventured from their homes in order to work? 


How did  these women have  break gender stereotypes in order to perform the roles they did in the

Civil War.? 

Heres a list of women who actually did contribute to the war :

Clara Barton – founder of the American Red Cross

Mary Ann Bickerdyke – hospital administrator

Belle Boyd – spy

Kady Brownell – “daughter” of a regiment

Lydia Maria Child – abolitionist and author

Dorothea Dix –Union superintendent of nurses

Rose O’Neal Greenhow - spy

•Sarah Edmonds – fought disguised as a man

Charlotte Forten – taught in the Freedman’s schools

Angelina Grimke – antislavery activist

Susie Taylor King – escaped slave, teacher and nurse

Mary Livermore – hospital administrator

Harriet Beecher Stowe – author and antislavery activist

Sojourner Truth – abolitionist

Harriet Tubman – abolitionist

Loreta Velazquez – recruited her own battalion as a man


Project Assignment:

Present to  class using a visual media: A movie, video, comic strip, power point presentation , the roles women and men played in the Civil War.



Your  work will be evaluated on the following areas:

      Group Particpation

  • Written work
  • Presentation

Using the following criteria:

  • Work is done cooperatively. See attached sheet for group and individual evaluation
  • Work is done in a timely manner.
  • Information is accurate and appropriate.
  • Presentation is well planned and informative.
  • Altar project is creative and organized.


After viewing the films , reading letters, student will have a better understanding of the roles men and women played in the Civil War.



Useful Websites about women in the Civil War:

Women’s Activities During the Civil War: A Select List of Photographs, Library of Congress

Biography of Charlotte Forten

(, a freeborn

African American who went South during the war to educated freed slaves.

Rose O’Neal Greenhow Papers,

Duke University

( Born in Maryland, O’Neal became a most effective spy for the Confederacy.

Biographies of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Lydia Maria Child

( (author and anti-slavery activist), and an essay about medical care during the Civil War.

Lydia Maria Child’s letters to the Governor of Virginia, 1860 in American Memory.

Hearts at Home: Southern Women in the Civil War Era, University of Virginia.


Women Soldiers of the Civil War,National Archives


Teacher's Page


•To learn about events that were critical to the outcome of the Civil War and its

meaning in American history.

• To learn about the roles ordinary citizens played in making history, both men and women.

•To learn to analyze what historians can learn from primary source material generated by average citizens.

•To learn as writers how to incorporate factual material into fictional accounts.