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Interpreting the Evidence

Effect of a 32-pound Shell at Fredricksburg, c. 1862

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Era:

    Civil War and Reconstruction (1850 - 1877)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Civil War

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Effect of a 32-pound Shell at Fredricksburg, c. 1862 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Effect of a 32-pound Shell at Fredricksburg, c. 1862
Historical Context
Approximately 620,000 Americans died in the Civil War, including battle deaths and deaths from disease. About 360,000 were Union troops, and about 250,000 were Confederate troops. The Battle of Gettysburg was by far the bloodiest battle of the Civil War with about 50,000 casualties in three days compared to the second-bloodiest battle, the Battle of Chickamauga, which had 34,000 casualties in two days.

Animals such as horses and mules also suffered during the war. More than one million were killed in the war. At the Battle of Gettysburg, about 1,500 horses and mules died.

Battlefield conditions were horrible for soldiers and animals. Artillery would bombard the opposing lines prior to an attack. During an attack, soldiers often would be ordered to assault the enemy by marching straight at them. The rifles used during the Civil War could only be shot once before being reloaded with gunpowder and bullets. Soldiers often had to rely on their bayonets during a battle.

Essential Question
How does war impact a society?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and evaluate the impact of this event on the local community and the soldiers involved.
Historical Challenges
During the Civil War, new rifles and bullets were developed. What were these new weapons and what were the advantages of them?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science: During the Civil War, many people died of disease and infections. What technology was/was not available during the Civil War to combat these diseases and infections?
English Language Arts: Research a battle of the Civil War. Write a diary entry describing your participation in the battle. You could choose to be a soldier, a commander, a doctor, or a nurse fighting on either side of the battle.