Civil War Medicine Lesson Plan

2nd Place, Best Lesson Plan Contest 2012-13
By P. Suzanne Smith

Civil War ambulance crew (Library of Congress)

Grade Level: Middle School, High School

Approximate length of time: Three 50-minute class periods


Students will analyze fictional and nonfictional texts about Civil War medical care.  Using a graphic organizer, students will differentiate facts from fiction regarding care for wounded soldiers during the Civil War.


1.  Students will be able to identify facts and myths regarding Civil War medicine.
2.  Students will identify the ways authors use history to inform their writing.
3.  Students will gain a better understanding of medical techniques used during the Civil War.

4.  Students will be able to identify the major causes of death related to Civil War battle wounds.
5.  Students will gain an understanding of how the use of credible evidence can support or discredit and author’s claims.

Materials Used:

Venn Diagram – example:
Fictional passage from  Gone With the Wind  by Margaret Mitchell
Novel  A Soldier’s Heart by Gary Paulsen

Suggested Nonfiction Resources : - videos

Suggested Fictional Sources:

Grades 7 and 8
Soldier’s Heart -  Chapter 8, pages 86 – 89
Paulsen, Gary. Soldier’s Heart. New York: Random House,  1998. Print.

Grades 9 and 10
Gone with the Wind  excerpts
Mitchell, Margaret. Gone With the Wind.  Project  Gutenberg. Nov. 2010. Web.  24 June 2013

Anticipatory Set/Hook:

Essential Questions: How can you recognize the truth?  Allow students to share and discuss their answers.
1.  Tell students you want them to view a brief video clip and decide whether or not the clip is based on the truth.
2.  View a portion of the Civil War field hospital reenactment at the link below. Caution: Some scenes may be too graphic for younger students. However, the opening minutes should be enough to engage their interests.
3.  Ask students if they feel the video was a factual reenactment. What is the difference between fact and fiction? How does fiction mistakenly become accepted as fact?
4.  As a whole group activity, create a two column fact and fiction list based on Civil War medicine and post the list in the room.
5.  Show video clip, “The Truth about Civil War Medicine”


Activity One: Fictional  Text Analysis
1.  Show video clip “Why Care About Civil War Medicine?”
2.  Students may work in pairs for this activity. Give each pair a Venn Diagram. Ask students to label one side fictional text and the other informational text.
3.  As appropriate for grade level, students will read one fictional passage from either Soldier’s Heart or Gone with the Wind. As they read, students will list all the facts about Civil War medicine, wounds, and care identified in the passages. Students will list these claims in the part of the Venn Diagram labeled fictional text.
4.  Show video clip “Africans, Women and War Medicine”
Summarizing Question: Does the fictional passages and video evidence support each other? Discuss.

Activity Two: Informational Text Analysis
1.  Ask student pairs to label the other side of the Venn Diagram informational text.
2.  Students will choose from the suggested informational links above to investigate claims made in the fictional text.  Students will attempt to confirm or deny claims made in the fictional passages. Any evidence found in the informational text should be listed on the side of the Venn Diagram labeled informational text.
3.  Show video clips on Civil War Medicine myths
Summarizing Question: Does the informational text and video evidence support each other? Discuss

Activity Three: Compare and Contrast
1.  Ask students to review the evidence listed in the fiction and informational texts sides of the Venn Diagram.
2.  Are any pieces of evidence listed on both sides? If so, move that evidence to the center, or common section, of the overlapping circles.
3.  View video “Myths About Antiseptics and Camp Life”.
4.  Based on the student’s analysis, have them draw conclusions and answer the following questions. Give students a few minutes to reflect and answer these questions individually.

A.  What is a myth about Civil War medicine?
B.  What is one medical fact we know and practice today that wasn’t known or used during the Civil War? Is there evidence of this fact in the fictional texts? Informational texts?
C.  How do myths become accepted as facts in our society?
D.  Discuss how student findings impact our understanding of history?
E.  After conducting this investigation, what do students understand to be the role of historical fiction?


How do students distinguish fact from fiction?
1.  Using their Venn Diagrams, students will play a brief game of “Two Truths and a Lie.”
2.  Each student pair will write down three sentences on a slip of paper. Two of the sentences will be truths about Civil War medicine and one sentence will be a lie.
3.  Other groups will use their Venn Diagrams as evidence to determine which sentence is the lie.

Students will create a 1 minute video clip, poster, or skit demonstrating one of the following topics.
A.  The way to determine fact from fiction.
B.  How do myths become accepted as fact?


1.    Teacher may need to create a small group and shorten reading passages.
2.    Teacher may use audiobooks for fictional reading.
3.    Teacher may use on videos for informational text.

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