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Who Fought for the Confederacy?

In this activity students compare and contrast a political cartoon and a letter to the editor from 1862 that describe ordinary soldiers who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Objectives

  • Students will closely analyze a letter to the editor and a political cartoon to determine who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Instructions

Step 1: Before reading the letter or looking at the cartoon, ask students to consider the following question: Who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War?

Step 2: Have students read the historical background on the "Twenty Negro Law" passed by the Confederate Congress in 1862.  

Step 3: Have students read "A Georgia Soldier Condemns the Exemption of Slaveholders" and answer the following questions:

  • What does the solider claim in most worrisome to soldiers away from home?

  • How does the soldier define patriotism?  What does the soldier see as the key to the success of the Confederate States as a new nation?  

  • How does the soldier describe the different interests of rich and poor men in the Confederacy?  

Step 4: Ask students to look closely at the details in the cartoon "Southern Volunteers" and answer the following questions:

  • How many scenes are depicted in this cartoon?  What is happening in each of these scenes?

  • How do the words being spoken support the visual message of these scenes?

  • Do you think that this cartoon was published in a northern or southern publication?  Why?

Step 5: Ask students to discuss with a partner or small group what they learned from the letter and cartoon about the Confederate military during the Civil War.  Return to the question with which you began this activity: Who fought for Confederacy during the Civil War?  Consider what kinds of historical information a text document can convey and what kinds of historical information a cartoon can convey. How does the information in the cartoon fit with or contrast with the information in the Georgia soldier's letter?  

Choose one member of the group to report back to the larger group about these documents.  The reporter should briefly describe the contents and the points of view of  the documents they examined, what they learned from them, and how they relate to the following questions: Why was the Civil War fought?  Who fought in the Civil War?  What were the consequences of the Civil War? 

Historical Context

Between December 1860 and May 1861, eleven southern states seceded from the United States to form the Confederate States of America. The decision to secede was largely based on the fear that the federal government, under Republican Abraham Lincoln, would limit the expansion of slavery and perhaps ultimately abolish it. Yet three quarters of the southern white population idd not own slaves, and many southern yeoman (white farmers who did not own slaves) disliked the haughty pretensions and prerogatives of planters. The majority of white southerners, however, did support secession, and for a variety of reasons: their close economic ties with local planters, reinforced by ties of kinship; a belief in states' rights; hopes that they might one day rise to the slaveholding class; and the fear that Republicans would free the slaves and introduce racial amalgamation in the South. One Georgia secessionist offered this typical warning to his non-slaveholding neighbors: "Do you love your mother, your wife, your sister, your daughter? IF you remain in a nation ruled by Republicans, TEN years or less our CHILDREN will be the slaves of Negroes." 

As the Confederate States, also known as the Confederacy, went to war with the Union, it faced the task of raising an army where none had existed before. Despite a strong military culture, bolstered by many souther military academies that educated the sons of the planter elite, by 1862 the Confederate Congress could no longer rely on a volunteer military and instituted a draft. This activity ties together two kinds of primary sources about Confederate conscription laws: a letter from a Confederate soldier and a political cartoon that appeared in a Northern magazine.

Source | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, 2008.
Creator | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning
Rights | Copyright American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Item Type | Teaching Activity
Cite This document | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, “Who Fought for the Confederacy? ,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 11, 2018, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1380.

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