The following questions, adapted
from the original Civil War teaching materials, were designed
to help teachers initiate a classroom discussion following
Episode One: The Cause (1861)
1) Consider the events leading, directly or indirectly,
to the Civil War. Was slavery the main issue for the war’s
beginning? What were other contributing factors?
2) If slavery began in this country in 1619, why did it
take 200 years for it to become such a divisive issue?
What specific events helped to make slavery an issue of
public debate? Why did white people in the South believe
that their liberty required the continuation of slavery?
3) Do your students agree or disagree with Lincoln’s
idea that in a constitutional democracy no section of
the nation is free to break away--that to attempt to leave
4) Why did the spirit of compromise which had helped the
nation avoid civil war in earlier crises totally break
down by 1860?
Episode Two: A Very Bloody Affair (1862)
1) Research the major battles that occurred during the
first part of 1862. What were they? Why were they so significant?
2) Why is the Civil War often considered to be the first
modern war? Research the technology of war at the time
-- weapons, ships, transportation and medical practice.
Why were the casualties of the war so terribly high?
3) Consider the quote from Frederick Douglass, "Any
attempt now to separate the freedom of the slave from
the victory of Government; any attempt to secure peace
to the whites while leaving the blacks in chains will
be labor lost." Discuss the meaning of the quotation.
Could the war have ended without the freeing of the slaves?
Episode Three: Forever Free (1862)
1) Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant are known as the
two great generals of the Civil War. What traits did they
exhibit? What personality traits make a good leader?
2) What factors it difficult for Lincoln to issue the
Emancipation Proclamation even though he was personally
against slavery? Did he fear that freeing the slaves would
mean the dissolution of the union?
3) Who were the abolitionists? Where and when did the
movement begin? What were the risks of being part of the
Episode Four: Simply Murder (1862)
1) Why did the North have to resort to conscription in
1863? Do students believe the government should have the
power of conscription? At what point can the state impose
on your liberty in order to defend the nation?
2) What was the cause of the Richmond bread riots? Why
was the South so harshly affected by inflation? When did
the Confederates begin using their own currency?
3) Who were the "Copperheads"? What ideals did
they stand for? How can a country in the midst of a civil
war allow for freedom of expression?
Episode Five: The Universe of Battle (1863)
1) Why was the Battle of Gettysburg such an important
northern victory? How did Lincoln view the victory? Who
took responsibility for the Confederate defeat?
2) In what ways did women contribute to the war effort?
How do women participate in war today? Have their roles
changed? What issues did the Civil War feminists address?
3) The Shakers during the Civil War had been called the
first conscientious objectors. What does this term mean?
If the US issued a draft tomorrow, which students would
consider themselves conscientious objectors? Would it
make a difference what the war was about? Is war morally
right at certain times and morally wrong at others?
Episode Six: Valley of the Shadow of Death (1864)
1) How did supplies reach troops during the Civil War?
What types of supplies would troops need in order to fight
a war? How did the Union blockades affect the flow of
supplies into the South?
2) The Civil War often split families apart. Where do
students think one’s loyalty should lie-- with one’s
family or one’s country?
3) Trace Sherman’s advance through the South. Which
major cities lay in his path? Why do some southerners,
even today, consider him the greatest villain of the war?
Episode Seven: Most Hallowed Ground (1864)
1) Who was nominated by the Democratic Party for president
in 1864? Why did Lincoln choose a Democrat for a running
mate? What did it demonstrate about the Republicans’
faith in Lincoln’s popularity?
2) Why was Lincoln pressured to drop emancipation as a
condition for peace with the South? What other factors
were hurting Lincoln’s chances for re-election?
3) What implications can be drawn from Lincoln’s
4) What were conditions like at Andersonville Prison?
Why are there prisoners taken during wartime? What obligations
do captors have to their prisoners?
Episode Eight: War is All Hell (1865)
1) What was the significance, respectively, of the fall
of Savannah, Charleston, and Richmond?
2) What was the importance of the Freedmen’s Bureau?
3) Compare and contrast Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
with his Second Inaugural Address. What is the theme of
each? How do they differ?
Episode Nine: The Better Angels of Our Nature (1865)
1) Where did the phrase "reconstruction" come
from? What were the purposes of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth
2) What were the Jim Crow laws and how did they affect
the lives of southern blacks? What did "separate
but equal" mean?
3) Why do we commemorate wars? How is it important to
a country and to its veterans?