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Impact of the Civil War

INTRODUCTION: In History in the Making, Chapter 16, you learned about the political, economic, and social impact the Civil War had on the American people. However, your textbook only provides an overview of how the war affected different segments of the population. Therefore, your task for this activity is to conduct historical research in order to better understand the impact of the war on blacks, women, or soldiers. This activity should help you recognize the role of diversity in American society as well as to undertake historical research and compose a compelling historical argument based on your findings. (Learning Outcomes 6, 12,13, 15 and 16)

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Documents Collections to Use:

  1. You must choose to focus on: (1) northern and southern blacks (as you are looking at the impact of war, you will probably want to concentrate on freedmen and Northern blacks); (2) northern and southern women; OR (3) soldiers, both black and white, on both sides of the conflict. After conducting your research, you must answer the question listed below based on your findings in the documents listed here:

2. Content and Focus of the Collections

    • Freedmen and Southern Society Project: A vast collection of documents with links to other documents, such as The Wartime Genesis of Free Labor.
    • The Civil War: Women and the Home Front. Another comprehensive collection of documents focusing on women and the society in the South
    •  The Civil War Trust. Documents here are divided into such subjects as Union and Confederate Army Documents, Personal Narratives, African American Soldiers of the Civil War, and Civil War Women
    • eHistory Primary Sources and Documents. This collection is digitalized from the library of Ohio State University. It is not as extensive as the other Collections, but worth having a look at.
    • The Valley of the Shadow. A very impressive project that focuses on two counties affected by the war: Augusta County, Virginia and Franklin County, Pennsylvania. The documents come from hundreds of individuals. When you enter the Archive, you see that the collection is divided into three chronological periods: The Eve of the War; the War Years; the Aftermath of the War. Each of these contains statistics, church records, maps and images, letters and diaries and newspaper articles from the two counties.
    • The Lincolns: a picture collection
    • Africans in America, Part 4: Judgment Day. A collection created by PBS that contains documents on slavery and emancipation. Topics include abolitionist and pro-slavery writings; life on plantations; slave markets and punishments.

    You must use at least three documents from at least two of these collections.

    Suggestions on which Collections to use by topic:

    As you can see, this is a very long list of documents from which to choose.  You must use at least three primary sources from two collections (the collections are those of the Civil War Trust, the Valley of the Shadow, Freedmen and Southern Society Project, etc) when composing your discussion. This post should be at least 4 long paragraphs in length.

    The documents are recommended by topic below in the hopes of helping you narrow bothyour subject and the sources.

    Recommendations for how to sort through the sources.

    If you are writing on women in the Civil War, the following Collections are relevant:

      • Civil War Trust, scroll to Civil War Women; Women and the Home front;
      • Valley of the Shadow/War Years/Letters and Diaries

      If you are writing on blacks/North or South, you should look at:

        • Freedmen and Southern Society Project: scroll to sample documents.
        • The Civil War Trust, scroll down to African American soldiers;
        • eHistory, scroll to Letters and Diaries;
        • Valley of the Shadow (enter the Archive and then go to The War Years and/or The Aftermath). This is a great collection, but vast and hard to use unless you can spend some time on it. That said, it’s worth the effort; 
        • Africans in America (most of this is slave-related)

        If you are writing on soldiers specifically, black or white, I would recommend using:

          • The Civil War Trust (African American soldiers and/or Personal Narratives; Union and Confederate Documents);
          • Valley of the Shadow/the War Years/Letters and Diaries

          Focus Question:

          Use the following question to guide your thinking and to prepare for the class discussion. In this activity, you will address one major question:

          What was the impact of the Civil War on the lives of blacks, women, OR soldiers (or how did the war change their lives)? In formulating your response to this question, you should think about the war’s political, economic, and social impact.


          You must post a summary of your findings for the class to discuss. This summary should be at least four solid paragraphs in length.

          1. Remember you need to base your response on the documents contained in the collections outlined above. This post should not be a statement of your opinion but rather it should be a statement of your interpretation of the evidence you compiled to support your position.

          In your initial discussion post, you need to summarize key points, using extensively the documents you have used in your research. Please remember to proofread your posts before you submit them as well as to list any relevant sources you used as evidence. After making your initial post, you should respond to at least two of your classmates.


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