Civil War Illustrations

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Civil War Illustrations

by Tina Letlow

8th Grade US History

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson students will examine and respond to questions regarding a set of illustrations that were printed regarding the Civil War. They will then create their own political cartoon of the Civil War.

Standards Addressed:
History/Social Science:

8.3:7 Understand the functions and responsibilities of a free press.

8.10 Students analyze the multiple causes, key events, and complex consequences of the Civil War.

Language Arts:

3.0 Literary Response and Analysis

Students read and respond to historically or culturally significant works of literature that reflect and enhance their studies of history and social science. They clarify the ideas and connect them to other literary works.

English Language Learner (ELL) Strategies:
Use of Supplementary materials:


Adaptation of Content:

Leading questions, highlighted text, restating.

Engaging Scenario:

Students will be working with partners analyzing illustrations on the Civil War. They will culminate the lesson by creating their own political cartoon.

Task Summary:

Activating Prior Knowledge:

Students will be broken up into mixed ability pairs. Each group will receive four political cartoons. Using the overhead the teacher will lead a class Q&A to identify the people in each picture and reflect on their historical importance. Students will label the people and record their historical significance on the back of the illustration.
Students will take turns reading the illustrations and restating their meaning to their partner.
Students will highlight portions of the illustration that are confusing in yellow and important information in orange.
Pairs will read questions for each illustration together and discuss possible answers. They will then record their answers.
Group Share:
Groups will share out what they thought of one of the cartoons with the rest of the class.
Political Cartoon:
Groups will design a political cartoon to address a concern of the Civil War.

Resources/Materials Needed:

1. Four illustrations on the Civil War (handouts #1-4)
2. Evaluating questions (handout #5)
3. Rubric for Political cartoon (handout #6)
4. Overhead transparencies of illustration
5. Blank Paper
6. Highlighters

Student Handout #5
Evaluating Questions

Handout 1

1. Describe what is occurring in each scene.

2. What represents Lincoln holding the Union together?

3. Who is representing the South?

4. Who do the angels portray?

5. What are blacks shown to be doing?

6. What is the cartoonist’s view of slavery? Support your conclusion with evidence from the cartoon.

7. What do you think about the cartoon?

Handout 2

1. Where is Lincoln in the photo?

2. Who is Lincoln speaking to?

3. What is going on in the picture that might upset Southerners?

4. How are Southerners portrayed?

5. How are Northerners portrayed?

6. What does Miscegenation mean? How is it portrayed here?

7. Why might this political cartoon be very effective in the North and the South?

8. What do you think about the cartoon?
Handout 3

Left Side

1. Who is Lincoln shaking hands with?

2. How is Lincoln portrayed?

3. How are blacks portrayed?

4. What in the picture gives you clues about Lincoln’s point of view on slavery?

Right Side

5. Who is shaking hands with Davis?

6. How is Davis portrayed?

7. How are blacks portrayed?

8. What in the picture gives you clues about Davis’ point of view on slavery?
Handout 4

1. How is Lincoln portrayed?

2. How is Davis portrayed?

3. What are they doing?

4. How is this different from cartoon three?

5. Which cartoon do you think is more accurate three or four? Explain your reasons.

Student Handouts 1-4
Copies of handouts are available from the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. The web address is
Handout 1

Emancipation Proclamation

DIGITAL ID:  3a04829 cph Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-950
Handout 2


DIGITAL ID:  3a11386 cph Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-8840
Handout 3

Union and liberty! And union and slavery!

DIGITAL ID:  3a04824 cph Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-945
Handout 4

The true issue or "That's what's the matter"

DIGITAL ID: 3a16240 cph Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-13957

Rubric Handout #6

Task: Create a political cartoon that addresses one or more concerns during the Civil War. Try to focus on the economic, political, and/or social issues involved. Illustrations should be artistic and include historically correct names, times and locations. The cartoon must be free from spelling and grammatical errors.

Exemplary (Exceeds the Standard) 45-50 points:

  • All of the Proficient criteria, plus

  • Cartoon addresses an economic, political or social issue of the time very well.

Proficient (Meets the Standard) 40-44 points:

  • Cartoon addresses an economic, political or social issue of the time well.

  • Cartoon is almost entirely historically correct

  • Cartoon is somewhat artistic

  • Few or no errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation

Progressing (Progressing Toward the Standard) 30-39 points:

  • Cartoon attempts to addresses an economic, political or social issue of the time.

  • Work contains numerous spelling and/or legibility errors

  • Cartoon is somewhat historically correct

  • More work is needed

Not Yet Meeting the Standard 0-29 points:

  • Cartoon does not address an economic, political or social issue of the time.

  • Cartoon is incomplete

  • Work contains numerous spelling and/or legibility errors

  • More work is needed



Teacher Evaluation

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