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Lesson Plan Civil War Photographs: The Mathew Brady Bunch


The Civil War was the first American war thoroughly caught on film. Mathew Brady and his crew of photographers captured many images of this divisive war, ranging from portraits to battle scenes. These photographs--over 1,000--are in Library of Congress online collections of Civil War photographs.

Students become reporters, assigned to sort through these photographs and find one that will bring the war alive to their readers. They write a newspaper article based on their chosen photograph and publish it online.


After completing this unit students will be able to:

  • Analyze photographs as primary sources.
  • Navigate the Library's online collections of Civil War photographs.
  • Describe particular events of the Civil War in specific detail.

Time Required

Two weeks

Lesson Preparation




Sample Products

Battle of Antietam Kills Thousands!

Baltimore Times

September 18, 1862

Battle Of Antietam Kills Thousands!
By Carl

Dead Soldiers on Antietam Battlefield

Yesterday, Generals McClellan and Lee met in Maryland near Sharpsburg, each with large armies. Lee, wanting to take the war out of Virginia led his army into Maryland and took up a good defensive position along Hagerstown Pike down to the town of Sharpsburg. McClellan's Northern Army met the Southerners around six in the morning.

Shown is a picture taken by Alexander Gardner of Confederate dead along the Hagerstown Road. A fence of wood runs along the road. It seems that these men were under command of General "Stonewall" Jackson or maybe General D. H. Hill.

Hagerstown Road is on the Northwest/West section of the battlefield. At one point, it is about 4,000 feet from the Potomac River. The worst of the fighting near this road took place in a farmer's cornfield. This was the first fighting in the battle.

Early in September of 1862, Robert E. Lee led his army of Southern soldiers from northern "war-torn" Virginia into Maryland. He planned to force the Northern army into a showdown battle that would be decisive for Southern independence. Some of Lee's documents were lost by a messenger and later found by the Union. The Northern Army intercepted the Southerners near Antietam Creek, MD.

The large battle that occurred lasted all day long. In the end, the Southerners retreated to Virginia. McClellan refused to pursue the enemy. He remarked that his men were too tired and hurt to give chase.

The Union claimed victory in this battle, even though it was mainly a draw. So far, yesterday was the bloodiest day of the war.


"Antietam." Encarta 98. CD-ROM. 1998.

Kennedy, Frances, ed. The Civil War Battle Guide. Boston: The Conservation Fund, 1990.

Dead Confederate Soldiers at Devil's Den

Gettysburg Times

July 4, 1863

Dead Confederate Soldier At Devil's Den
By Hannah

Dead Confederate sharpshooter in "The devil's den."

Exactly two days ago dozens of soldiers, the majority Confederates were found dead in "The Valley of Death." These men died in the Battle of Devil's Den, which took place July 2, 1863 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Many of the men were hit with cannonballs, one after another, and the amount of casualties was too much to comprehend.

Twenty-seven thousand Confederate casualties were recognized, but one man stood apart from the others, said the photographer Alexander Gardner. This Confederate soldier was killed in "The Valley of Death", which was the stream flowing next to his death spot. "The Valley of Death" was red during the battle, flowing with blood.

This Confederate soldier was one of Hood's troops, and probably died at the very beginning of the battle. The soldier never made it up the hill, and was shot next to the creek. The creek was almost the farthest the Confederates made it up the hill.

The land the Confederates fought on was a steep and rocky piece of land. Many soldiers died in Devil's Den, although the soldiers were on their way to Little Round Top to fight there. The Confederates had come marching to the foot of Devil's Den while they had occupied the land also.

As the Confederates occupied Devil's Den, they shot across Plum Creek to Little Round Top, where the Union troops were. Many men, including the man in the photograph died in The Valley of Death. The main reason for this was because the Union soldiers were shooting from the top of Little Round Top and The Valley of Death was at the bottom of the hill.

During the battle of Devil's Den the Union soldiers were also trying to take control of The Mississippi River in The Battle of Vicksburg. At the end of the battle the Confederates lost 27,000 men and the Union lost 23,000 men. The Union soldiers were then trying to take control of the Mississippi River after they had won the battle.

The Battle of Vicksburg and The Battle of Gettysburg were going on at the same time as this battle. This made it more difficult for both troops. The general for the Union was General Meade and the general for the Confederates was General Lee.

The battle mainly took place at the bottom of a hill. The Confederates charged to the bottom of the hill, then there was a creek right before the hill. The hill was called Little Round Top, and the creek was previously known as Plum Creek, but when so many people died there it became known as "The Valley of Death".

The man in the photograph was charging up the hill when he died. The Confederates then got no further than Plum Creek. The happened because the Union kept on firing and firing, until "The Valley of Death" was flowing red with blood.

This battle tallied 50,000 casualties, and the man in the photograph was only one example of the tremendous amount of lives lost there. So many loved ones and young soldiers died in this brutal battle. The image of the creek flowing with blood and area littered with bodies is unforgettable.


Catton, Bruce. The Civil War. New Jersey: Wing Books, 1982.

Murphy, Jim. The Long Road to Gettysburg. New York: Clarion Books, 1992.

Man Drops Everything and Fights

Gettysburg Gazette

July 10, 1863

Man Drops Everything and Fights
By Liz

Old Hero of Gettysburg

One week ago, seventy-two year old John L. Burns dropped everything to fight for his country in the battle of Gettysburg.

From his house, Burns could see the armies of the Union and the Confederacy locked in battle at Gettysburg. At first he stopped what he was doing and just watched. Then he grabbed his rifle and ran to fight when the 150th Pennsylvania came to reinforce the Union forces at the end of the first day.

Burns fought successfully on the second day, but he was wounded on the third, probably as he was defending the ridge against Pickett's charge. Even though wounded, he kept fighting until the battle was over. Since he was not a regular solider, he simply went home at the battle's end and resumed his normal life.

But his life soon became anything but "normal". The story of his bravery quickly got out among his friends and neighbors and then spread all over the nation as his cobbler shop was visited by many reporters, myself among them. Burns was now a national hero, "the old hero of Gettysburg", as the press calls him.

The battle of Gettysburg, in which he fought, was harsh and bloody. On the first day, the Union almost lost the high ground, and might have been driven off if it were not for the reinforcements, including the 150th Pennsylvania and John L. Burns.

On the second day, the Union was again threatened with loss of the high ground. What saved them was a Union bayonet charge that drove back the attacking Confederates.

The third day marked the Confederate's last attack. General Pickett directed a charge against the ridge on the Union command and artillery was positioned. As the Rebels moved toward the hill, Burns was wounded in the leg by a fragment of a cannon ball. He stopped the bleeding and continued to man the low wall that he was defending.

Gettysburg marked the last major threat by the Confederacy against the Union. Lee's forces were turned back, never to seriously threaten Washington again. At the same time, the Confederacy was defeated at the siege of Vicksburg.

Vicksburg is a town at the edge of the Mississippi River. The Confederates knew it was the last city for the Union to get on the Mississippi River, so the Confederates reinforced it. It was no use. After a six week siege the Confederates surrendered to the North.

This might be the turning point for the Union if they keep winning their battles. Even if they don't win the war, the battle of Gettysburg and John L. Burns will always be remembered.


1863: The Crucial Year. USA: Media Projects Incorporated, 1993.

"A Walking Tour of July 3, 1863". Into the Valley of Death . Online. <>l. 10-19-98.

"Battle of Gettysburg Homepage". Battle of Gettysburg Homepage . Online. <>. 10-19-98.

Concise Dictionary of American History. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1992.

Gettysburg, The Confederate High Tide New Jersey: Time-Life Books Inc., 1967.

Richmond Burned!

Richmond Times

April 7, 1865

Richmond Burned!
By Heather

Destruction in Petersburg, VA.

On April 3, 1865, Union troops led by General Grant captured Richmond immediately following the fall of Petersburg, which was just one day before the Union attacked the Confederate capital.

Richmond has been a major focus for destruction because it is the Confederate's capital. The north felt that if they could just gain control over Richmond they could win the war.

At the time, Confederate armies at Fredericksburg were blocking the path to Richmond. Grant believed that if he could defeat the Southern forces in Fredericksburg that then he'd have an open path to Richmond.

The Confederates, that were living in Richmond, knew that the Union was coming so they burned the important parts of the city so that the Billy Yanks wouldn't benefit from capturing Richmond. After the city was burned it's residents evacuated the city before arrived.

The paper mill in the picture was burned by the Confederates because the Southerners thought that it was an important part of the city and didn't want the Union to benefit from it.

Just before the Fall of Richmond was the siege of Petersburg. Petersburg was a port on the Appomattox River. It was a major trade center where products like luggage, tobacco, clothing, and livestock came in and were shipped out.

The fall of Petersburg was on April 2, 1865 and it was only one day later that the north captured Richmond.

Right by Petersburg is Fort Henry which was established in 1645. Fort Henry is where the ten month siege took place

This could very well be the last big battle of the Civil War. Maybe this war will finally end and then the citizens of North America will be able to resume their normal lives. It's been a long and bloody war, may the best country win.


"Richmond (Virginia)." Microsoft 1998 Encyclopedia Deluxe Edition. CD-ROM. 1998.

"Timeline-1865." The American Civil War Overview. Online. <http://anake.advanced.Org/3055/graphics/timelines/ timeline1865.html>. 19 October 1998.

USS Omondaga Spotted on James River

Aikens Times

July 27, 1864

USS Omondaga Spotted on the James River
By Justin

Photograph of USS Omondaga

The USS Omondaga, a two turreted monitor, was spotted again on the James River near Aiken's Landing, Virginia. The two barges on the makeshift dock are probably bringing supplies to our troops as they chase the Rebs to Richmond.

It is suspected that the USS Omondaga is guarding the supplies for they are in enemy territory. If the Confederate soldiers were to take the supplies, our soldiers would be in a pickle. The Rebels, though, would have everything they need.

The USS Omondaga is equipped with two turrets. Each turret has two 200-lb cannons for strong artillery bombardment. It is one of the many ironclads that sits mainly underwater, making it a hard target to hit.

Many boats like this are being used in the naval blockades on Confederate coasts. This keeps the Europeans from trading with the Rebels. They cannot ship cotton out, or buy supplies. Without the supplies the Confederates will surely surrender.

If a European ship comes into a Confederate harbor or port, the blockade ships will fire a few warning shots, without hitting the ships. If the ship doesn't leave it will be sunk. On the other hand, if a Rebel ship tries to leave the harbor and sell cotton or trade cotton from a CSA ship for supplies from a European ship, it will without warning be sunk!


"Civil War." Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. CD-ROM: 1998.

The U.S. Civil War, 1861-1865. "Warships: Monitor." <>. 10/25/98.

Battle of Antietam: Over 22,000 Casualties in Single Day

The New York Gazette

September 23, 1862

Battle of Antietam: Over 22,000 Casualties in Single Day
By Jeff

Casualties at Antietam

Just six days ago on September 17, 1862, the bloodiest single day so far in the Civil War was fought in Antietam, Maryland, where Confederate troops under the command of General Robert E. Lee clashed with Union soldiers led by General McClellan. The violent battle raged on for only one day as the Union men pushed the Rebels out of United States territory back into Virginia.

The photo shown was taken about two days after the Battle of Antietam, and shows the disgruntled body of a Confederate soldier lying limp in a ditch used as a rifle pit. The gruesome body shown was a result of lethal artillery shells firing down upon the infantrymen. The men in the background are Union soldiers probably burying the bodies of dead Confederates, and even a few of their own.

In the early morning of the battle, Confederate and Union soldiers met in D. R. Miller's cornfield where hidden Rebels overwhelmed many surprised Union troops. Only after a couple of hours was the Union able to push back the Confederates.

The second major part of the battle took place at Sunken Road. Here, Confederate soldiers held their ground at a crucial point with a fence to cover them. After a while though, they could not handle the heavy fire from the Union. After the battle, this area was nicknamed "Bloody Lane."

In the final major dash, the Union attacked a Confederate stronghold right near a bridge. The first few waves of Union men were completely unsuccessful, but then they swarmed the bridge and drove the Rebels back into Confederate territory. The military skills of the Southerners were no match for the sheer number of Union men.

Although there was no real victor of the Battle of Antietam, the Union claimed a win because even though they lost more men than the Confederates, they did fulfill their purpose which was to drive the Army of Northern Virginia back into their own land.


Biel, Timothy Levi. The Civil War. San Diego: Lucent Books, Incorporated, 1991.

Kent, Zachary. The Battle of Antietam. Chicago: Children's Press, 1992.

John Burns Now Considered a Hero

Gettysburg Times

July 6, 1863

John Burns Now Considered A Hero
By Paige

Old Hero of Gettysburg

Just a few days ago, our own John L. Burns fought for the Union in the Battle of Gettysburg. Little did he know that he would soon become a hero for what he did those three tragic days. While serving with the 150th Pennsylvania regiment, he was wounded. Before he knew it, Abraham Lincoln, our president, sought out this 72-year-old cobbler when he'd heard about how brave Burns was.

The Battle of Gettysburg was a long and vicious one. The Confederates suffered 27,000 casualties. The battle is considered a major turning point for the Union in this war.

This battle lasted three long, hard days, and was the bloodiest battle of the war so far. 170,000 men fought for their countries, while 50,000 of those men got lost, died, or became wounded. All of the soldiers that died, though, died a glorious and honorable death fighting for what they believed in.

What happened on the last day was Longstreet's Assault, also known as Pickett's Charge. This was a Confederate attack led by General Pickett on the Union's strongest position in the line. That seemed to be a good plan, but was extremely unsuccessful.

But even before that, on the second day, was the worst fighting of the battle. More Union troops had come over to reinforce the fishhook formation made the day before. The Rebels had tried to take over Culp's Hill but did not succeed.

The two Generals were General Meade for the Union, and General Lee on the Confederate side. Both were considered to have good strategies, but Meade led his army to a great, devastating Lee tremendously.

Before this bloody battle, the Battle of Chancellorsville occurred. That was considered General Robert E. Lee's greatest victory over the Union. 12,800 rebels were casualties, while the Union suffered am whopping 17,000 casualties.

The Billy Yanks had had a bad morale after Chancellorsville because they did not win the two battles previous to Gettysburg. Still, they were determined to fight and try their hardest to win, which is the same way the Confederates felt that last day, but the Union won over all, and now they are back on their feet again.


Clark, Champ. Gettysburg:The Confederate High Tide. Alexandria: Time Life Books, 1985.

"Gettysburg, Battle of." Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. CD-Rom. 1998.

New Type of Ship Fights for North

Washington Post

July 11, 1862

New Type of Ship Fights for North
By Elizabeth

Sailors on deck of Monitor

HAMPTON ROADS, Va.--Officers of the U.S.S. Monitor displayed their new type of battleship as it lay anchored in the James River in Virginia on July 9, 1862. Four months ago it fought a battle that could change the course of naval warfare forever.

The twelve officers are posing in front of the ship's turret, one of the many new features of this vessel. It can turn allowing the ship's two cannons to be pointed in any direction. It gave the ship its nickname, "a tin can on a shingle."

Unlike the traditional battleship, which is made of wood, the Monitor is covered with iron. This kind of ship is called an ironclad. That makes it harder for cannon balls to sink the ship.

The ship fought a famous battle just four months ago, in March 1862, against the Merrimac. Both ships were ironclads.

The Merrimac was a Union ship at the beginning of the Civil War. But the Confederates captured it and turned it into an ironclad renamed the C.S.S. Virginia. But in common usage it was still called the Merrimac.

On March 8, 1862, the Merrimac won a victory at Hampton Roads, Va., against Union ships who were blockading the Confederate coast.

A Union officer watching the one-sided battle between the Merrimac and one of the Union ships, the Congress, said that the Merrimac "fired shot and shell into her with terrific effect, while the shot from the Congress glanced from her sloping sides without doing any apparent effect."

But the next day, March 9, the Union ironclad, the Monitor, arrived on the scene. The Merrimac and the Monitor fought each other for almost five hours.

Describing the first exchange of gunfire, Lt. Samuel Dana Greene, an officer on the Merrimac said, "The turrets and other parts of the ship were heavily struck, but the shots did not penetrate; the tower was intact and it continued to revolve. A look of confidence passed over the men's faces and we believed the Merrimac would not repeat the work she had accomplished the day before."

Neither ship was able to do much damage to the other ship. The battle was considered a draw.

Although there was no winner, the battle will be likely to change the course of naval warfare forever. It has brought worldwide attention to the importance of ironclad ships.

The Monitor was built in less than four months according to the design of a man who is not in the picture. His name was John Ericsson, a Swedish immigrant.

Ericsson's design was unusual and not everyone liked it. But when it was shown to President Lincoln, he said, "All I have to say is what the girl said when she put her foot into the stocking. 'It strikes me there may be something in it.'"

The Union has plans to build other ships designed by John Ericsson called "monitors." They will be ironclad, easy to maneuver, and will have revolving turrets.

The officers of the Monitor include Captain John Lorimer Worden, a young man of 24 with a long beard. He was blinded permanently in one eye by an explosion in the battle.

Lt. Samuel Dana Green, the second in command, is 22. He took over after Worden was wounded. Another officer was Lt. Thomas Oliver Selfridge Jr.


Dekay, James Terius. Monitor: the Story of the Legendary Civil War Ironclad and the Man Whose Invention Changed the Course of History. New York: Walker and Company, 1997.

Freedman, Fred. Duel of the Ironclads, in Pictures. New York: Time-Life Books, 1969.

Miss Ridgway's Civil War Battlesheet.

"Monitor and Merrimack." World Book Encyclopedia, 1972.

Nobles School."The Monitor and the Merrimack: Battle of Hampton Roads." <http//>. 10/25/98.

Pratt, Fletcher. The Monitor and the Merrimac. New York: Random House, 1951.

Shotgun's Home of the American Civil War. "Hampton Roads, the Battle of the Ironclads. <> 10/29/98

Still, William N. Ironclad Captains: the Commanding Officers of the USS Monitor. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1988.

The U.S. Civil War, 1861-1865. "Warships: Monitor." <>. 10/25/98.

Skin to Bones

Aikens Times

July 27, 1864

The Civil War Gazette - April 13, 1865
By Anna

Cold Harbor, Va. African Americans collecting bones of soldiers killed in the battle

On the battlefield in Cold Harbor, Virginia, the bones of both friends and enemies were being collected this day in April 1865. The soldiers' bones were from the battle of Chancellorsville which took place in 1862. These brave men were killed in the battle because they fought for a cause in which they believed.

This photograph was taken when African-American males were picking up the corpses of bodies that had been laying there for nearly three years. All that remains of the bodies are just bones. In this picture you can see an example of the skulls and bones, that just lay wasting.

The soldiers bodies have never and will never have a proper burial. One reason they will not have a proper burial is some of their families will never be informed that these individuals have died. As a sign that a battle took place in Cold Harbor, gun powder is all over the battlefield.

The battle of Chancellorsville has been known as Lee's greatest victory, but everyone should remember it for all the individuals who fought, were wounded, and died. The battle is another example of the huge loss of life during our Civil War.

The war is coming to an end. And a startling event has happened. Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. This took place at a theater in Washington. Lincoln died from his wound. General Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, and the war has ended, leaving the country to heal its own wounds.


"Cold Harbor, Battle of." Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. CD-ROM: 1998.

Joe H. Kirchberger. "The End Of The War: April 1865." The Civil War and Reconstruction. New York: Facts on File, 1991.

What Are We Here For?

Alexandria Gazette

August 2, 1865

What Are We Here For?
By Sarah

Fort C.F. Smith, Alexandria, VA

Company I of the Second New York Heavy Artillery pictured here on August 1, 1865, in front of an earthen bunker at Fort C.F. Smith in Alexandria, Virginia, had lots of time to get their picture taken since they are not going home until September when they finish their tour of duty in the "Union" army. Now that the war is over, however, they keep asking themselves, "What are we here for?"

During the war, these soldiers and many others stationed at forts built around Washington. D.C. were on the lookout for any unwelcome Confederate visitors. The guns were polished every day and the soldiers were ready for battle but Washington D.C. was only threatened once during the war in the summer of 1864 when a skirmish, with 14,000 Confederate troops led by Jubal Early, occurred in front of Fort Stevens, in the northern part of Washington. D.C.

For those wanting the thrill of war being stationed at Fort C.F. Smith was not the place to be. Life was pretty plain, simple and almost boring since it was kept away from the bloodshed of the war. In the morning, the soldiers practiced drills, parades and inspections. At night, there was time for shenanigans and many of the men could be found in any one of Washington's taverns.

Fort C.F. Smith was built on the high ground North of Spout Run with a view of the Potomac River. The fort had a 368-yard perimeter and gun emplacements to hold up to twenty-two canons.

Six forts in Alexandria, were built after the Union invaded Virginia on May 21, 1861. Lincoln knew that Arlington heights and Alexandria needed to be captured to help the survival of the Union. Hence, Arlington heights and Alexandria were seized by Federal troops so that forts could be made to protect D.C. After the defeat at Bull Run, Union officials knew that Washington needed more protection than it already had.

Fort C.F. Smith and Fort Whipple were built in 1863 to protect the flank of the Arlington Lines (the string of forts built in Alexandria). By the end of 1863 there were 60 forts, 93 batteries, 837 canons, and 23,000 men in place to protect D.C.

Fort C.F. Smith was named in honor of General Charles Ferguson Smith. He was born in April of 1807 the son of an army surgeon. He was promoted to Major General on March 21, 1862 and was put in charge of the army (only for a short period of time) when Grant was accused of drunkenness.

During this period of time, he led the army to Pittsburgh Landing where, while getting on a boat, slipped and scraped his shin. The wound became septic and he was taken to Grant's Headquarters in Savannah where he died on April 25, 1862.

The land that Fort C.F. Smith was built on was property owned by the Jewell family who was ordered off the land. Union men destroyed his house and dug a ditch in its place.

These soldiers who are asking themselves what are we here for, now know the answer. They're counting the days, hours, minutes and seconds until they can go home to see their families.


Arlington Public Library. Central Branch. Virginia Room. Vertical File. Arlington Civil War Forts-Fort C.F. Smith.

Cheek, Charles D. Historical Archeological Survey of Fort C.F. Smith. Arlington: 1994.

Lesson Procedure

This project is meant to be incorporated into a broad unit on the Civil War. The project will work best if it is started in the latter part of the unit. That way, students will have some background knowledge about the events of the war.

Teachers should make themselves familiar with the Civil War photographs collection, including all background information links found on the main page.

Have the requisite materials ready before each activity.

Activity One - Overview (1 day or less -- Classroom)

Introduce students to the project using the Student Project Outline. Review objectives, guidelines, and project timelines.

Activity Two - Photographic analysis (1 day -- Classroom)

Before class, print or share the Primary Source Analysis Tool form, one for each student. Print out four photographs from the Civil War photographs collection. Also try to use different types of scenes. For example you may choose the following photographs (click on thumbnail image for larger image):

  1. Distribute a Primary Source Analysis Tool form to each student.
  2. Discuss the form, perhaps using a present day photo as an example.
  3. Give each student a copy of one of the four photographs chosen and copied.
  4. Students analyze the photograph, recording their thoughts on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher's guide Analyzing Photographs and Prints to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.
  5. Have students get into four groups, based on their photographs.
  6. Students should share their observations and questions, comparing them to other group members who analyzed the same photograph.

Activity Three - Civil War photograph selection and analysis of specific photo (2 days -- Internet Research Lab)

Before class, bookmark or share the Civil War photographs collection and print or share the Primary Source Analysis Tool form for students.

Day One

  1. Introduce the Library of Congress online collections to students, focusing on the Civil War photographs collection.
  2. Demonstrate the methods of searching Civil War Photographs collection, with immediate hands-on follow-up by students.

Day Two

  1. Students search the collection for a photograph, using search strategies of their choosing. This photograph will be the focus the news article, so encourage students to explore the collection carefully. Have each student print or save a copy of the selected photograph.
  2. Hand out a blank copy of the Primary Source Analysis Tool form to each student.
  3. For homework, have students analyze their selected photographs using the same steps used in class.
  4. Remind students to take care in brainstorming questions they have about their photographs. These questions will form the basis for their research investigations.

Activity Four - Research (2 or 3 days -- Internet Research Lab/Library)

Preprare a copy of the Research Guide for each student. Students should bring their photograph and their completed photographic analysis form with them to the library.

  1. Have students take out their photographs and completed Photographic Analysis forms.
  2. Draw students' attention to the questions they brainstormed at the bottom of the form and instruct them to start their research based on these questions.
  3. Conduct mini-lessons, as needed, on Media Center resources and Internet search strategies.
  4. Pass out copies of the Research Guide. Students should take notes based on their research investigation on this form. Remind the students that they will need to create a "Works Cited" list as part of their project.

Activity Five - Writing (2 days – completed in the English Classroom or in the Social Studies Classroom if teaming arrangement is not available)

This activity should take place after research is completed and does not take place on concurrent days. Students will need their photograph, completed primary source analysis tool, and completed research guide.

Before class, review How to Write a News Article. Print or share it with students, if desired, for use on Day One. Review, and print or share, if desired, the Peer Editing Guide with students, for use on Day Two. Review Student Products if desired.

Day One

  1. Pass out copies of How to Write a News Article.
  2. Review the assignment with the students, including guidelines, objectives and drafting timeline. Review Student Products if desired.
  3. If time permits, students can begin drafting.

Day Two

  1. Have students take out the rough drafts of their news articles.
  2. Pair up students and have them switch papers.
  3. Pass out a copy of the Peer Editing Guide to each student.
  4. Have students read and edit each other's articles following the guidelines on the Peer Editing Guide.
  5. Students should then revise their news articles.

Activity Six - Self Assessment & Peer Evaluation (1 day -- Internet Research Lab)

Prior to the lesson, print or direct students to the Self Assessment & Peer Evaluation.

  1. Pass out the Self Assessment & Peer Evaluation.
  2. Have students view their project and complete the self assessment portion of the form.
  3. Have students view the projects completed by their classmates and complete the peer evaluation part of the form.


Students will build on the skills developed during this project by using the photographic analysis techniques applied to other online primary sources throughout the year. For example, students may analyze photographs from other online collections, such as Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives or Detroit Publishing Company.

Teachers may choose to have more advanced students apply their primary souce analysis skills to text sources such as the George Washington Papers or American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940.

For a complete listing of the collections, be sure to use the Digital Collections page.

Lesson Evaluation

Students and instructors will evaluate work process and product throughout this investigation. Custom rubrics may be used for the photographic analysis activities, the research process, and the final product (article).


Student Project Outline


You are a reporter during the Civil War. You will be viewing hundreds of photographs taken by Mathew Brady and other photographers who are out in the field. Your job is to sort through their photographs and find one that will bring the war alive to your readers. Once you find this "perfect" picture, you will write a corresponding newspaper article.


The Civil War was one of the first wars caught on film. The majority of the photographs taken during the war were by Mathew Brady and other photographers who worked for him. The Library of Congress online collections include over 1000 of these photographs which have been digitized and published online. It is from the Library's collections of Civil War photographs that you will select your photograph. Your teacher may have additional questions to focus your analysis and discussion.

How To Be An Investigative Reporter

Photographic analysis

Before you can begin, practice learning how to analyze a photograph. What you see is not necessarily what you get! Look at a photograph from the Civil War given to you by your teacher. Looking at your photograph, complete the Primary Source Analysis Tool, to learn strategies on photographic analysis. When you finish, compare your findings with your classmates who analyzed the same photograph.

Civil War photograph selection

On the first day online, browse the Civil War photographs collection so you are familiar with it. Follow your teacher's directions on how to search these photographs.

On the second day, search the collections and choose the photograph you wish to use. Print or save the photograph according to the teacher's directions. Print or save the photograph according to the teacher's directions.

Analysis of specific photograph

Take a look at your photograph and analyze it using the skills you learned in the photographic analysis lesson. Make sure you have a copy of the Primary Source Analysis Tool. This will help you formulate questions which you will answer through your research.


Bring your photograph and completed Photographic Analysis Form to the library for two days of research. To help you with your research, use your Research Guide for note taking. Begin your search for information based on the questions you wrote on your photographic analysis form. You may use online sources as well as books, magazines, etc. Don't forget to record your citation information in the correct format.

Research Guide


Use this form to guide your research about the Civil War photograph you have chosen. As you complete your research, take notes under each section of this form. Use additional paper for notes, and print out useful information you find. Be as detailed as possible in each category. Your task is to be a detective: Investigate every aspect of your photograph in order to create an accurate news article. Use at least two sources for information (we encourage you to use more), and list the citation information on the back of this form.


When was the photograph taken (month, year, date if known)? What was happening locally and nationally at that time?



Where was the photograph taken (city, state, battlefield, house, etc.)? What was the significance of this location or place at the time the picture was taken?



Who is in the picture? Investigate all aspects of the photograph. If no people are in the picture, use this space to research people who were involved in the events that took place in the location/time of your photograph.



What happened before this picture was taken? What were the events leading up to this photograph? What event was occurring when this picture was taken? 



What was the importance of the events and people in your photograph? Where does this photograph fit into the broader events of the Civil War?



List citation information for each research source here. Consult your research handbook for format.

  • Source #1:


  • Source #2:


  • Source #3:


  • Source #4:



As you complete your research, go over How to Write a News Article. Write your rough draft on your own and then bring it to class and complete the Peer Editing Guide. Revise your article.

How to Write a News Article


Write a newspaper article that reports the facts associated with your selected photograph.


You will be writing in a different style than you are used to in class. Newspaper articles generally contain sentences and paragraphs that are short and direct. Most paragraphs in news articles contain a maximum of three sentences.


Newspaper articles should contain the following items:

  • Headline - An attention getting phrase at the top of the article.
  • Byline -  By, your name.
  • Lead Paragraph - Start with a strong, interesting sentence to get the reader engaged. Include the who,what, when, where, why, and how as appropriate.
  • Explanation and Details - This section will include several brief paragraphs describing the details in your photograph.
  • Background - This section will include several brief paragraphs explaining events leading up to the picture, related national stories, etc.


Newspaper articles should be written without bias. In other words, you should report the facts objectively – don’t give opinions in your news article.

Works Cited:

You also need to create a Works Cited list that includes at least two sources. This must be in correct format.

Peer Editing Guide


Peer Reviewer:

Subject of News Article:

  1. Does the news article give you a clear picture of what happened in the photograph? If yes, how?


  2. What was the most interesting part of the article? What is your opinion about the piece.


  3. Does the article have a catchy headline and a byline? If not, suggest a catchy headline.


  4. Does the lead paragraph include the who, what, when, where, why, and how?


  5. What other information should be included in the lead paragraph?


Look at the remaining paragraphs.

  1. Are there remaining paragraphs?


  2. What are the main ideas of each remaining paragraph?


  3. Are the remaining paragraphs well organized (most important details first, etc.)?


  4. What additional organization or information would help?


  5. Are any parts of this article biased? If so, which parts?


  6. List at least two specific strengths of the article.


  7. List at least two ways the article could be improved.


  8. Is the works Cited List included? Is it in proper format with at least two sources?


Check capitalization, punctuation and spelling.

Rating Scale:

5=Superior   4=Good   3=Average   2=Fair  1=Poor

Lead Paragraph          
Remaining Paragraphs          
Grammar & Mechanics          
Overall Effectiveness          

Self Assessment & Peer Evaluation

Review your article and your classmates' articles. Give some feedback using the Self Assessment & Peer Evaluation. This is your chance to be the evaluator.

Self-Assessment & Peer Evaluation

Self Assessment

  1. What was the topic of your photograph and news article?
  2. After completing the photo analysis, what were some of the questions you had?
  3. How did you start your research? What resources were most helpful?
  4. Do you think you accurately reported on your photograph in your news article? Why or why not?
  5. What did you learn from completing this project?
  6. What did you most enjoy about the project?
  7. What did you least enjoy about the project?

Peer Evaluation

Read through the different articles created by your classmates.

  1. Which news articles did you enjoy reading the most?
  2. What made these articles enjoyable?
  3. What suggestions or questions do you have about other articles? Make sure to include the name of the article(s).

General Questions

  1. What would make the project better in the future? (What would you change about the assignment?)
  2. Are there any other comments you would like to share about the project?


There are several grades in this project. Your teacher will complete a final evaluation to give you feedback on your final product. Additionally, the different activities have their own evaluation criteria and grades.

Photographic analysis          
Analysis of your specific photograph          
Peer editing          
Self and peer assessment