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Interpreting the Evidence

Troy Soldiers Charge

  • 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:

    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    Capital District
    New York State
    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Troy Soldiers Charge, Excerpt from "Troy's Part in the World War 1918" in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Troy soldiers charging on the Western Front.  Excerpt from "Troy’s Part in the World War 1918."
Historical Context
World War I was different from prior wars in many ways.  European countries had relied on soldiers, cannons, and cavalry as key components of their militaries for hundreds of years.  However, rapid technological advancements during World War I changed the way wars were fought.

Although the industrial revolution and advances in firearms allowed countries to field huge armies, the ways these armies were used varied over time.  Before World War I, it was common for armies to be arranged in highly organized battle lines.  After exchanging gunfire, one or both sides would typically command their soldiers to charge toward the enemy and use bayonets and other hand-to-hand fighting weapons to finish the battle.

In World War I, the machine gun played a major role in phasing out bayonet charges.  Since strategically placed machine guns could allow a small number of troops to inflict heavy damage on the enemy (especially a large, close group of soldiers), traditional bayonet charges often resulted in a disastrous loss of life.  One of the largest losses occurred on July 1, 1916 when nearly 60,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers were killed or wounded on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  While commanders did not completely do away with massive charges (as seen in the photograph of soldiers from Troy, New York), they were considered an outdated tactic and used less and less frequently both in the closing years of World War I and in later conflicts.
Essential Question
How do communities view their role in national events?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and discuss the impact of this photograph on the community back home.
Historical Challenges
The bayonet charge was only one of many tactics that changed during World War I. Find and explain why another tactic was introduced or discontinued during World War I.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: After repeated charges, British and Commonwealth soldiers suffered 60,000 casualties in one day of battle on July 1, 1916. If about 20,000 of the casualties were wounded and not killed, what percent (to the nearest percent) did not return from the battle?
English: Write a journal entry as if you are soldier who knows he will be taking place in a charge the next morning.