Classroom teacher Assistance of music teacher will be valuable Key Skills
Performance Skills and Techniques
Information Media and Technology:
Research and Information Fluency
Using source materials to study the music of the Civil War, students will compare and analyize song lyrics, then perform one of the songs, either vocally or with instruments.
Compare and contrast lyrics of Civil War songs of the North and the South.
Identify whether a song is intended as a rallying song, recruiting song, popular entertainment song, campfire song, sentimental song, or patriotic song.
Identify primary and secondary sources of archival material using the Internet.
Interpret a Civil War song through performance with voice or instrument. Teaching Approach
Comprehensive Arts Education
What You'll Need
While students are doing small-group research, multiple computer stations with headphones will be a help.
General understanding of the Civil War (the sides, the timeline, the economic and cultural differences, the issues). To brush up on your Civil War knowledge, visit these resources:
Familiarity with popular music of the Civil War era, examples of which may be found at these websites:
Teachers should be aware that music of the Civil War era, including the original lyrics to “Oh! Susanna,” often contain language that we would consider offensive. Depending on the class, teachers may choose to restrict the students’ internet research to the sites we’ve suggested, or to discuss the way language changes to reflect changes in culture and in attitudes.
Prior Student Knowledge
A general understanding of the Civil War
Media Center or Library
Small Group Instruction
Large Group Instruction
Gather any musical instruments available. Keyboards, guitar, trumpet, harmonica, and snare drum would be characteristic instruments.
Students with physical disabilities may need modified movements.
Resources in Reach
Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.
1. Have students listen to and sing along to "This song from the 1840s was still a popular dance during the Civil War. Oh! Susanna" by Stephen Collins Foster.
2. Have students complete the This can be a pre-test to identify students’ preconceptions, or an opportunity to try out online research by searching for the answers. The handout is available in the Resource Carousel. True or False Quiz handout.
1. Discuss "Oh! Susanna" and how music can play an important part as a messenger of the past. We can read the lyrics, hear the music, and play the songs written over 135 years ago. Through music, people separated by hundreds of years can share a special connection and discover one another’s stories and personal journeys.
2 . Explain to students that they will explore four other songs of the Civil War:
"Lincoln and Liberty"
"We Are Coming Home Father Abraham"
"The Battle Cry of Freedom"
"Tenting Tonight or Tenting on the Old Camp Ground"
Students can work on this and the following steps in small groups or individually, depending on the number of computers available.
3. Have students search for one of these songs using the Web sites listed in the Sources section of this document.
Students should recognize whether the source is a primary or secondary source (sheet music from the time, or just a print of lyrics). Encourage students to seek out web sites that include sound files and lyrics. Have them record the lyrics and lyricist on the
Civil War Music Data Sheet, available in the Resouce Carousel.
4. Review basic information about the Civil War:
The Union Flag
The Confederate Flag
Basic conflicts between the North and the South.
5. Have students compare two versions of the same song, "The Battle Cry of Freedom." Both the North and South used this song during the Civil War. Compare and contrast the two versions using the interactive Venn Diagram.
Have students classify the song as a rallying song, a recruiting song, a popular entertainment song, campfire song, sentimental song, or patriotic song. Students should explain why it is one of these with two supporting points.
6. Have students locate and analyze four more songs. Students should find a Union song, a Confederate song, a song with different versions (such as “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which was also sung with words beginning “John Brown’s body lies a-moldering in the grave” and also “We’ll hang Jeff Davis from a sour apple tree”), and a song enjoyed by both. Have students use the Civil War Music Data Sheet and Venn Diagram to record what they learn.
1. Have students choose songs to perform as soloists or in groups. They may be sung or performed on instruments.
1. Distribute the accompanying Discuss answers and have students share which answers they found surprising. The handout is available within the Resource Carousel. Answer Key handout to the True or False Quiz handout to the students.
Extending the Learning
Students may perform more than one song. Each of the pieces may be recorded and used as a reference for future classes.
Students can compare the songs of the Civil War with songs of the Revolution, World War I, World War II, or the Vietnam era.
Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.
The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the
National Core Arts Standards ( http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.
Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.
Common Core/State Standards
Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.
National Standards For Arts Education
National Standards in Other Subjects