Document-based question

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Document Analysis Learning

Using a school-wide

document based question.


S.S. Teacher:____________________

Grade: __7-8__

Document Score: _______

Essay Score: ___________


How did the things change in America following the Civil War?

This question is based on the accompanying documents. It is designed to test your ability to work with historical documents. Some of these documents have been edited for the purposes of the question. As you analyze the documents, take into account the source of each document and any point of view that may be presented in the document. You will be using these documents and answers and your knowledge of the Civil War to write an essay pertaining to the topic.

Historical Context: Following the Civil War, many changes took place both good and bad. Medical advancements and new weaponry developed during the war would change both fields. Socially the freeing of slaving and interactions between white and black people would lead to violent acts because of the nation’s commitment to equality.

Directions: The task below is based on documents 1 through 10. This task is designed to test your ability to work with the information provided by various types of documents. Look at each document and answer the question or questions after each document. Use your answers to the questions to help you write your essay.

There are several steps to forming an educated opinion.

  1. In Social Studies, read the Background Information. The reading tells about the United States Civil War.

  2. Quickly skim through the documents to get a sense for what they are about.

  3. Read the documents slowly. For each, use the margins to record:

    1. What or who is the source? Is it primary or secondary?

    2. What is the main idea (or main ideas) in the document?

  4. Use the chart below each document to record analysis and summary.

  5. Organize the documents into categorizing the type of effect.

  6. Prioritize your ideas. What had the most significant impact? What is second?

  7. Explain your priorities. Why is one more important than another?

Table of Contents:

Background Information (SS): A Brief Overview of the American Civil War

Document 1 (Science): Civil War Medical Tools and Instructions

Document 2 (Social Studies): Black Codes-Mississippi

Document 3 (CCTE/Int. Rdg.): Gatling Gun

Document 4 (Language Arts): The Haunted Tree – A Poem

Document 5 (Math): Railroads and Resources

Document 6 (Science): Amputations and Anesthesia

Document 7 (Social Studies): Jim Crow-Voting Laws

Document 8 (Language Arts): An Eyewitness Account of KKK Violence

Background Information (Social Studies)

A Brief Overview of the American Civil War and Reconstruction


The Civil War is the central event in America's historical consciousness. While the Revolution of 1776-1783 created the United States, the Civil War of 1861-1865 determined what kind of nation it would be. The war resolved two fundamental questions left unresolved by the revolution: whether the United States was to be a dissolvable confederation of sovereign states or an indivisible nation with a sovereign national government; and whether this nation, born of a declaration that all men were created with an equal right to liberty, would continue to exist as the largest slaveholding country in the world.

Northern victory in the war preserved the United States as one nation and ended the institution of slavery that had divided the country from its beginning. But these achievements came at the cost of 625,000 lives--nearly as many American soldiers as died in all the other wars in which this country has fought combined. The American Civil War was the largest and most destructive conflict in the Western world between the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and the onset of World War I in 1914.

The Civil War started because of uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in the territories that had not yet become states. When Abraham Lincoln won election in 1860 as the first Republican president on a platform pledging to keep slavery out of the territories, seven slave states in the deep South seceded and formed a new nation, the Confederate States of America. The incoming Lincoln administration and most of the Northern people refused to recognize the legitimacy of secession. They feared that it would discredit democracy and create a fatal precedent that would eventually fragment the no-longer United States into several small, squabbling countries.

For three long years, from 1862 to 1865, Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia staved off invasions and attacks by the Union Army of the Potomac commanded by a series of ineffective generals until Ulysses S. Grant came to Virginia from the Western theater to become general in chief of all Union armies in 1864. After bloody battles at places with names like The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg, Grant finally brought Lee to bay at Appomattox in April 1865. In the meantime Union armies and river fleets in the theater of war comprising the slave states west of the Appalachian Mountain chain won a long series of victories over Confederate armies commanded by hapless or unlucky Confederate generals. In 1864-1865 General William Tecumseh Sherman led his army deep into the Confederate heartland of Georgia and South Carolina, destroying their economic infrastructure while General George Thomas virtually destroyed the Confederacy's Army of Tennessee at the battle of Nashville. 

By the spring of 1865 all the principal Confederate armies surrendered, and when Union cavalry captured the fleeing Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Georgia on May 10, 1865, resistance collapsed and the war ended. The long, painful process of rebuilding a united nation free of slavery began.

Reconstruction was America's first experiment in interracial democracy for men. The Civil War entailed a dramatic expansion of the roles and responsibilities of the central government that resulted in the ratification of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. These amendments made involuntary servitude a federal crime, created a new federal dimension of citizenship for all Americans, and sought to guarantee universal male suffrage. 

The postwar period began with a series of fairly lenient Reconstruction plans put forth by presidents Lincoln and Johnson, who were both eager to see the former Confederacy returned to the Union with as much speed and as little vindictiveness as possible. As the ineffectiveness of Presidential Reconstruction became apparent in the face of clear violations of the freed peoples' constitutional rights and liberties, northern voters elected Republicans to Congress by a landslide. They were deemed "radical" by subsequent historians because they insisted that blacks be protected in their newfound rights.

Southern white resistance followed and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan in 1865 would battle to keep black men from fully experiencing the rights guaranteed to them by the Thirteenth and Fourteenth amendments. The KKK tried to deprive freedmen and women of their newfound rights through corruption and violence.

Document 1 (Science): Civil War Medical Tools and Instructions

1. Facts/What I See?

2. Inference/What do the facts Mean?

Summary Sentence (use facts and inferences to form an answer to the DBQ question )

(left) Surgical case, belonging to Pinchney Webster Ellsworth, M.D., 1860, a surgeon in the Civil War, and (right) a diagram from pp. 42-43 of “A Manual of Military Surgery” by Samuel D. Gross

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