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Interpreting the Evidence

Soldier at a Cannon

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Global History and Geography
    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:


  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Soldier at a Cannon, World War I, c. 1917 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
World War I soldier stands next to a cannon, c. 1917.
Historical Context
There are basically two types of large artillery - the cannon and the howitzer (or mortar). A cannon fires a shell over a long arc and typically hits its target head-on. The howitzer (or mortar) lobs the shell over a high arc so it lands atop its target.

Some of the most widely used types of modern cannons (in the 20th and 21st centuries) are howitzers, mortars, guns, auto cannon. By the early 20th century, infantry weapons became more powerful and accurate, forcing most artillery away from the front lines. Cannons proved highly effective during World War I, causing over 75% of casualties. The onset of trench warfare after the first few months of World War I greatly increased the demand for howitzers, as they fired at a steep angle, and were better suited than guns at hitting targets in trenches.
Essential Question
How is old technology adapted to fit new situations?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and evaluate the effectiveness of this technology compared to newer technology used during World War I.
Historical Challenges
Create a visual of the types of artillery used in World War I. The visual must include pictures, captions and descriptions of each type.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: If 4,272,500 American troops were mobilized and 117,000 were killed, what is the % of casualties?