What do you think of when you hear the words, "The Civil War." Slavery? The Confederacy? The deadliest war in United States history?
The only war fought on American soil (the Revolutionary war doesn't count since we didn't own the land!) the Civil War separated families, introduced a new era of warfare, resulted in the deaths of over 750,000 soldiers & countless civilians, and led to the abolition of slavery. In this issue you will meet some heroes and heroines-both real and those based on real people--of this tumultuous time in our nation's history.
Our Expert: Kathy Wiechman
by Kathy Cannon Wiechman
If, when I was young, you had told my teachers that I would love history and write about it, they would have laughed. I found history boring. Differentiating between the battle at Bull Run and the one at Bunker Hill frustrated me.
My view changed when I discovered historical fiction. I liked seeing other times through the eyes of people who lived them. Those stories made history come alive for me. Now, I write historical fiction with the hope that I can make it come alive for today’s young readers.
LIKE A RIVER is a Civil War story. The spark that led me to write this story was learning about the Sultana disaster. I'd read extensively about the Civil War as a student, but until I was an adult, I'd never heard about this incident that killed more people than died on the Titanic. Even though the Sultana was built in my home city of Cincinnati!
Boyds Mills Press created a wonderful Educator’s Guide for LIKE A RIVER, but I hope that students will read it for the story and not for what it might teach them. I learned firsthand that history is more enjoyable through story.
And story can teach. LIKE A RIVER shows aspects of Civil War history that many people haven’t heard before. It casually mentions that West Virginia became a state during the war. It shows life—and death—in Andersonville’s prison.
By following characters through life 150 years ago, readers see differences between then and now: the way gender roles have changed, the kind of work children were expected to do, how people traveled, and how they lived.
They also see similarities: the way teens disagree with their parents, the friendships young people develop, and the sorrow that follows the death of a loved one.
It’s all in the STORY. After all, that’s what hiSTORY is about.
Kathy Wiechmantaught Creative Writing and Beginner French and tutored Language Arts. But she always found time to write. Historical Fiction is her favorite genre and LIKE A RIVER is her first published novel. She lives with her husband in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Illustration by Robert Papp
This illustration is from The Last Brother: A Civil War Tale by Trinka Hakes Nobel. Robert Papp has illustrated many children's books and created covers for Cooks Illustrated magazine.
1. Break the class into two groups. Give each group a name and a cause to fight for - "cats are better than dogs" and vice versa. Provide name tags that clearly show which group they are part of. You may want to separate them physically in the room. Continue to another activity, such as lunch or recess, with the rule that they're not allowed to talk to members of the opposite group. After the time is up, reflect on how it felt to be against someone they are normally friends with.
2. Using a Civil War map, have your students identify places where they've traveled or have relatives living. Discuss what it would feel like to be at war with the people they know or have met in those places.
3. Place an object/group of objects on a table in the center of the room so that it can be seen from all sides. Use something with lots of variation so it looks different from different side and angles.
- Ask students to draw or write what they see, including as many details as possible. Encourage them to think about how the object makes them feel.
- Discuss their responses. Do they disagree with the way others describe the item? How does location/viewpoint affect what they see or even how they feel about it?
- Allow them to switch sides to see the viewpoints of their classmates. Explore some questions they could ask to help them understand other peoples' points of view on any topic. How does asking questions help deter fighting?
documentary film/lesson plan to explore the way
many people in the north benefited from slavery.
by Celie Waddington
Books on the Civil War are not hard to find, but if you're looking to educate yourself, look no further. The first book I read was Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation, by Pat Sherman. This picture book features Ben, a young slave who is trying to teach himself to read. He must keep his reading to himself, for, if he is discovered, he shall be severely punished. When Ben is sent to a slave prison, he uses his reading to inspire hope in the other slaves. This book is perfect if you want to teach your children about the horrors of slavery.
The next book I read is The Union Soldier, by Renee C. Rebman. This book is a non-fiction account of different aspects of the Civil War, such as camp life, the beginning of the war, and war training. It is good for a quick, one-afternoon read for the cold, hard truth. I did not enjoy this book as much as the other two, but it gave me good information.
The final book is the longest of the three; yet it's my favorite. Another non-fiction book, Those Courageous Women of the Civil War, by Karen Zeinert, is perfect for any reader interested in women’s issues. It explores how women contributed to the war effort, from nursing, to spying, to dressing as a man to help on the front lines, to staying home producing goods for the soldiers. This book was interesting, and it would be good for any social studies class.
Celie Waddington is 12 years-old and lives in Charlotte, N.C. She is obsessed with animals and video games but that doesn't stop her from enjoying a good book. She is the oldest of three siblings, an aspiring writer, and used to be Carol's plant-sitter and mail-gatherer until Carol moved out of her neighborhood. :(
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Kathy Cannon Wiechman
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Monica Graham won Grammar Rulz.
Mia Wenjen won Black and White.
Gayle Keresey won Molly by Golly.
The Civil War
Links & Lists for
Teachers and Parents
Ask your students to write a story that takes place during the Civil War. Integrate social studies with language arts by using the reproducibles for writing historical fiction.
Click here to order the ebook.
* Kathy Weichman for
sharing her story.
* Celie Waddington for
* Boyds Mills Press and
Robert Papp for books.
* Joanne Hunsberger for