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The Valley of the Shadow is a digital archive of primary sources that document the lives of people in Augusta County, Virginia, and Franklin County, Pennsylvania, during the era of the American Civil War. Here you may explore thousands of original documents that allow you to see what life was like during the Civil War for the men and women of Augusta and Franklin.




Textbook Unit #6

Civil War and Reconstruction

Topic for Thought:

How can primary documents be incorporated to help build student interest while developing skills that encourage students to analyze perspectives that may not be found in textbooks?

Chapter 16-

SECTION 1 The Two Sides: Choosing Sides, Comparing North and South, American against American

SECTION 3 A Call for Freedom: Emancipation Proclamation, African Americans Soldiers

Content Objective:

Students will look at primary sources (newspaper articles, song, recruiting poster) and secondary sources (textbook) for traditional and non-traditional perspectives that help show the complexity of the Civil War.
Standards: STRAND 1 (American History)

Research and Skills:

C1PO8 (Describe two points of view on same historical event)

C1PO& (Analyze cause and effect between individuals and historical events)
Civil War and Reconstruction:

C6PO1b (Sectionalism-States’ Rights)

C6PO4a ( Impact of C.W. on personal, social and economic aspects of American life

C6PO2 (Enactment of Emancipation Proclamation)

Introduction to Documents (Optional)

  1. This evening, with the help of a family member or an adult who is close to you, look through the souvenirs of your life that have been saved as you have grown. For example, these might include a photograph, a letter, a diary, a newspaper clipping, a birth certificate, a report card, or a library or social security card. Select one item that you are willing to share with your classmates and teacher, and bring it to class.

  1. During your turn in class, present your document providing the following information:

    1. What type of document is this?

    2. What is the date of the document?

    3. Who created the document?

    4. How does the document relate to you?

  1. Consider, for your document and the documents of your classmates, responses to the following questions:

    1. What does the existence of this document say about whoever created it?

    2. What does the existence of this document say about whoever saved it?

    3. What does the existence of this document say about American life in this era?



Kate Gilbert

Safford Middle School

8th Grade

Theme: Civil War

Standard: SS07S1-C1PO7, SS07S1-C1PO8, SS07S1-C6PO4a

Content Objective:

Students will look at primary sources (newspaper articles) and secondary sources (textbook) for traditional and non-traditional perspectives that help show the complexity of the Civil War.

Language Objectives:

Reading ELL-Intermediate: Students will read, discuss, analyze, and compare various primary documents while identifying key vocabulary and concepts.

Listening and Speaking ELL-Intermediate: Students will respond to questions from primary source documents from the Civil War. Students will have the opportunity to memorize and manipulate phrases for expression and effect.

Writing ELL-Intermediate: Students will write responses to a variety of questions concerning primary documents from the Civil War

Key Vocabulary: abolitionist, fugitive, Border States, union, Yankee, rebel, Emancipation Proclamation

Materials/Technology: Map of northern/southern states, handouts (attached at end of lesson for copying), overhead or projector (optional)

Preparation: Bell Work: From your textbook how would you describe a northerner’s view and the southerner’s view on African-Americans/slavery?

Create a T-chart for display using Franklin, Pa. and Augusta, Va as the title. Have students identify which is located in the north and which is in the south. Record student’s responses from Bell Work in the T-chart.

Lesson Sequence/Application Practice

As a class have students read, “Sensible Colored Folks” (attached) and answer/discuss questions. Also read “The Niggers are Coming”(attached) (be sure to discuss the use of the word “nigger” in this context). Answer questions for discussion at the end of each article.

  • Based on class needs this can be done whole group, small groups or individually

When using groups assign a reader(s), a writer (records answers for group), and a speaker (shares answers with whole group). Also encourage Talk Aloud and Talking to the Text strategies to help with understanding.

Reflection: Comparing Documents

  • Using the text, add key information from each article into the T-chart (add using a different color)

  • Were you surprised by the content of these articles? Explain your answer.

  • How do these two documents challenge your views about the north and the south during the Civil War?

  • How might the fact that Virginia and Pennsylvania were border states influence the views stated in each article?


Students will write a response to “Sensible Colored Folks” from the perspective of a southern slave owner.

Students will write a response to “The Niggers are Coming” from the perspective of a northern abolitionist.




Sensible Colored Folks
(Column 5)

Civil War-Era newspaper

Staunton Spectator, October 13, 1863

Augusta, Virginia

Full Text of Article:

The Petersburg Express is informed by Lieut. Daniels, who has just arrived at Petersburg from Fort Norfolk, that some 35 or 40 Southern negroes, captured at Gettysburg, are confined at Fort McHenry. He says that they profess an undying attachment to the South. Several times Gen. Schenck has offered to release them from the Fort, if they would take the oath of allegiance to the Federal Government and join the Lincoln army. They had peremptorily refused in every instance, and claim that they should be restored to their masters and homes in the South. They say they would prefer death to liberty on the terms proposed by Schneck.

Summary: (Optional) According to an account by a Lieut. Daniels, between thirty-five or forty Southern blacks captured at the Battle of Gettysburg by Northern forces are being held at Fort McHenry. While they have been offered release from their confinement if they would "take an oath of allegiance to the Federal Government and join the Lincoln army," the prisoners have refused the offer and have instead insisted that they should "be restored to their masters and homes in the South."

  • When and where (locate on a map) was this article written?

  • Why would this be news in Augusta, Virginia?

  • How does this article support the South’s beliefs?

  • Why might blacks want to stay in the South and not want freedom in the North?

  • Why do you think they used the word “Sensible” in the title?

  • If this article was written in a Gettysburg, Pa. newspaper what might the title say?


The Niggers are Coming--Fine Prospects Ahead
Civil War-Era Newspaper

Valley Spirit April 30, 1862

Franklin, PA.
(Column 4)

Excerpt: Three hundred Fugitives expect to get here next week.

Our citizens are, in the main, incensed at the appearance of these people, and the laboring people are particularly chagrined. Several of the men have money, and one negro had Treasury notes to the amount of a hundred dollars.

Here now, we have a practical demonstration of the effect of the efforts of the insane abolitionists to free the negroes. They already begin to come North in gangs of one hundred at a time, bringing along their children and Grand-mothers, to be supported by the people of the North. "Three hundred more are expected next week!" So we are told--and their good friends, the abolitionists, are trying to "secure them employment in the arsenals and Navy yards!" Pleasant prospects for the Irish, German and American laborer! Sambo to get all the work: poor white men to be thrown out of employ.

Easton Argus.

Summary: Notes the arrival in Philadelphia of over one hundred former slaves, who were met by a crowd of taunting whites and eventually by a welcoming committee of local blacks. It is rumored that some abolitionists will try to get them employment at the local navy yard. The author protests this action, saying it puts blacks in competition with white mechanics. He argues that the freed blacks should stay in the South to work on plantations.

  • Where (locate on the map) and when was this article written?

  • What is the author’s point of view of former slaves moving to Philadelphia?

  • Who do you think this article was written for? (audience)

  • What do you think the author’s purpose was?

  • Do you see any connections from the past to the present when reading this article? Explain the connection.

Additional Resources for Lesson Ideas:

The Battle Cry of Freedom

By George F. Root, 1862


Northern Version

Yes, we'll rally round the flag, boys
Rally once again,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!
We will rally from the hillside
We'll gather from the plains,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

The Union forever!

Hurrah boys hurrah!
Down with the traitor, up with the star,
While we rally round the flag, boys
Rally once again
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

We are springing to the call

For three hundred thousand more,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!
And we'll fill the vacant ranks
Of our brothers gone before,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

The Union forever!

Hurrah boys hurrah!
Down with the traitor, up with the star,
While we rally round the flag, boys
Rally once again
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

We will welcome to our numbers

The loyal, true and brave,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!
And although they may be poor
Not a man shall be a slave,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

The Union forever!

Hurrah boys hurrah!
Down with the traitor, up with the star,
While we rally round the flag, boys
Rally once again
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

Southern Version

We are marching to the field, boys,
We're going to the fight,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!
And we bear the Heavenly cross,
For our cause is in the right,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

Our rights forever!

Hurrah boys hurrah!
Down with the tyrants, raise the Southern star,
And we'll rally round the flag, boys

We'll Rally once again

Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!
We'll meet the Yankee hosts, boys,
With fearless hearts and true,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!
And we'll show the dastard minions
What Southern pluck can do,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

Our rights forever!

Hurrah boys hurrah!
Down with the tyrants, raise the Southern star,
And we'll rally round the flag, boys
We'll Rally once again
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

We'll fight them to the last, boys,

If we fall in the strife,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!
Our comrades - noble boys!
Will avenge us, life for life,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom.

Our rights forever!

Hurrah boys hurrah!
Down with the tyrants, raise the Southern star,
And we'll rally round the flag, boys
We'll Rally once again
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!


What is the focus of the Northern Song? What are they fighting for?

What is the focus of the Southern song?

Identify lines from the song and ask for explanations/meaning.

Divide class into small groups. Identify groups as northern or southern. Have groups take stanzas or chorus and create a beat for it. Have groups perform their part while alternating between northern and southern groups.

Reflect on how songs can encourage unity, focus, purpose and competition. How might these songs have helped the troops.


Analyzing the Document
1. Make a copy of the featured document for students, and direct them to read the poster and answer the following questions:

  1. Who do you think is the intended audience for the poster?

  2. What does the Government hope the audience will do?

  3. What references to pay do you find in this document?

  4. What references to treatment of prisoners of war do you find in this document?

  5. What evidence of discrimination during the Civil War do you find in this document?

  6. What evidence of Government efforts to improve conditions for black soldiers do you find in this document?

  7. What purpose(s) of the Government is/are served by this poster?

  8. How is the design of this poster different from contemporary military recruitment posters?

After the students have completed the assignment, review it and answer any questions they might raise. Then discuss more generally the contribution and status of black soldiers in the Civil War. Ask students to read the additional documents provided with this article to encourage further discussion.

Creative Writing Activities
2. Share with students the information in the introductory note; then assign them to draw on information from the note and the document to write one of the following:

  • a journal entry of a member of the U.S. Colored Troops

  • a letter from a U.S. Colored Troops soldier to a son who wants to enlist

  • an account of the role of black soldiers for either an abolitionist or Confederate newspaper

  • an interior monologue of the wife of a soldier in the U.S. Colored Troops reflecting on the circumstances of her family during his absence.

Oral Reports
3. President Harry S. Truman's Executive Order 9981, issued in 1948, marked the transition of the black military experience from a period of segregated troops to one of integrated forces. The order provided for "equal treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services" and commanded the desegregation of the military "as rapidly as possible." (Page 2 of this document is also available.)

Divide the class into six groups: Civil War, Indian wars, World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and Persian Gulf War. Assign each group the task of locating information about black troops engaged in these conflicts and presenting the information they discover in an oral report. Encourage imaginative presentations. Students should collect information about pay, equipment, service assignments, promotion potential, treatment of black prisoners of war, and the relation of combat service to the struggle for equal rights in each instance. Each group should attempt to locate statistical information about the numbers of black soldiers in arms for their assigned conflict and the numbers of black casualties, decorations, and commissioned officers. Outstanding individual or unit contributions in engagements should be described as well.


Written Document Analysis Worksheet




___ Newspaper
___ Letter
___ Patent
___ Memorandum


___ Map
___ Telegram
___ Press release
___ Report


___ Advertisement
___ Congressional record
___ Census report
___ Other




___ Interesting letterhead
___ Handwritten
___ Typed
___ Seals


___ Notations
___ "RECEIVED" stamp
___ Other














DOCUMENT INFORMATION (There are many possible ways to answer A-E.)

A. List three things the author said that you think are important:


B. Why do you think this document was written?


C. What evidence in the document helps you know why it was written? Quote from the document.


D. List two things the document tells you about life in the United States at the time it was written:


E. Write a question to the author that is left unanswered by the document:



Teaching With Documents:
The Fight for Equal Rights: Black Soldiers in the Civil War


"Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship."

Frederick Douglass

The issues of emancipation and military service were intertwined from the onset of the Civil War. News from Fort Sumter set off a rush by free black men to enlist in U.S. military units. They were turned away, however, because a Federal law dating from 1792 barred Negroes from bearing arms for the U.S. army (although they had served in the American Revolution and in the War of 1812). In Boston disappointed would-be volunteers met and passed a resolution requesting that the Government modify its laws to permit their enlistment.

The Lincoln administration wrestled with the idea of authorizing the recruitment of black troops, concerned that such a move would prompt the border states to secede. When Gen. John C. Frémont (photo citation: 111-B-3756) in Missouri and Gen. David Hunter (photo citation: 111-B-3580) in South Carolina issued proclamations that emancipated slaves in their military regions and permitted them to enlist, their superiors sternly revoked their orders. By mid-1862, however, the escalating number of former slaves (contrabands), the declining number of white volunteers, and the increasingly pressing personnel needs of the Union Army pushed the Government into reconsidering the ban.

As a result, on July 17, 1862, Congress passed the Second Confiscation and Militia Act, freeing slaves who had masters in the Confederate Army. Two days later, slavery was abolished in the territories of the United States, and on July 22 President Lincoln (photo citation: 111-B-2323) presented the preliminary draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet. After the Union Army turned back Lee's first invasion of the North at Antietam, MD, and the Emancipation Proclamation was subsequently announced, black recruitment was pursued in earnest. Volunteers from South Carolina, Tennessee, and Massachusetts filled the first authorized black regiments. Recruitment was slow until black leaders such as Frederick Douglass (photo citation: 200-FL-22) encouraged black men to become soldiers to ensure eventual full citizenship. (Two of Douglass's own sons contributed to the war effort.) Volunteers began to respond, and in May 1863 the Government established the Bureau of Colored Troops to manage the burgeoning numbers of black soldiers.

By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 black men (10% of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army and another 19,000 served in the Navy. Nearly 40,000 black soldiers died over the course of the war—30,000 of infection or disease. Black soldiers served in artillery and infantry and performed all noncombat support functions that sustain an army, as well. Black carpenters, chaplains, cooks, guards, laborers, nurses, scouts, spies, steamboat pilots, surgeons, and teamsters also contributed to the war cause. There were nearly 80 black commissioned officers. Black women, who could not formally join the Army, nonetheless served as nurses, spies, and scouts, the most famous being Harriet Tubman (photo citation: 200-HN-PIO-1), who scouted for the 2d South Carolina Volunteers.

Because of prejudice against them, black units were not used in combat as extensively as they might have been. Nevertheless, the soldiers served with distinction in a number of battles. Black infantrymen fought gallantly at Milliken's Bend, LA; Port Hudson, LA; Petersburg, VA; and Nashville, TN. The July 1863 assault on Fort Wagner, SC, in which the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers lost two-thirds of their officers and half of their troops, was memorably dramatized in the film Glory. By war's end, 16 black soldiers had been awarded the Medal of Honor for their valor.

In addition to the perils of war faced by all Civil War soldiers, black soldiers faced additional problems stemming from racial prejudice. Racial discrimination was prevalent even in the North, and discriminatory practices permeated the U.S. military. Segregated units were formed with black enlisted men and typically commanded by white officers and black noncommissioned officers. The 54th Massachusetts was commanded by Robert Shaw and the 1st South Carolina by Thomas Wentworth Higginson—both white. Black soldiers were initially paid $10 per month from which $3 was automatically deducted for clothing, resulting in a net pay of $7. In contrast, white soldiers received $13 per month from which no clothing allowance was drawn. In June 1864 Congress granted equal pay to the U.S. Colored Troops and made the action retroactive. Black soldiers received the same rations and supplies. In addition, they received comparable medical care.

The black troops, however, faced greater peril than white troops when captured by the Confederate Army. In 1863 the Confederate Congress threatened to punish severely officers of black troops and to enslave black soldiers. As a result, President Lincoln issued General Order 233, threatening reprisal on Confederate prisoners of war (POWs) for any mistreatment of black troops. Although the threat generally restrained the Confederates, black captives were typically treated more harshly than white captives. In perhaps the most heinous known example of abuse, Confederate soldiers shot to death black Union soldiers captured at the Fort Pillow, TN, engagement of 1864. Confederate General Nathan B. Forrest witnessed the massacre and did nothing to stop it.

The document featured with this article is a recruiting poster directed at black men during the Civil War. It refers to efforts by the Lincoln administration to provide equal pay for black soldiers and equal protection for black POWs. The original poster is located in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's–1917, Record Group 94.

Article Citation

Freeman, Elsie, Wynell Burroughs Schamel, and Jean West. "The Fight for Equal Rights: A Recruiting Poster for Black Soldiers in the Civil War." Social Education 56, 2 (February 1992): 118-120. [Revised and updated in 1999 by Budge Weidman.]


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