Looking for a fun way to begin or end a unit on the Civil War? How about having your students create a Civil War caricature and experiencing a day in the life of a Civil War soldier by carrying a backpack equal to the weight soldiers carried and eat the hardtack that soldiers ate as well?
Create a Civil War Caricature
Students will enjoy this activity by tracing over different features already created in this packet so they can have fun, share some laughs, and stay engaged. Each one of these original features can be combined to make a variety of characters! The sillier the better!
Included in this product are 4 different bodies - a union soldier, a confederate soldier, a soldier on guard, and a soldier holding a cannonball. There are also 4 face shapes, 12 eyebrows, 12 eyes, 4 moustaches, 2 different sized beards, a cannon, a stack of cannonballs, 1 angled forage cap (2 different sizes), 1 straight forage cap (2 different sizes), 8 different mouths, 12 noses, and 6 sets of ears.
Using tracing paper works best, but you can still see the shapes under regular printer paper and trace over them. Students simply put their paper over the body the chose and trace the features, same for the face, eyes, ears, noses, mouths, etc.
I plan on creating a set of American Revolution caricatures in the future so keep an eye out for them!
Civil War Soldier Backpack Gear Activity and Hardtack Recipe
If you teach about the American Civil War in an elementary or middle school Social Studies class your students will love doing this activity and making this recipe. Even your most reluctant learners will take part!!
I teach 8th grade U.S. History and every year during our Civil War unit I give this packet to students as a homework assignment so they can have a hands-on experience the next day that they'll remember forever!
The homework assignment can be read through during class, which consists of a short story about a fictitious soldier from upstate New York who enlists in the Union Army. Upon enlistment the soldier is issued his backpack and gear. Students look through the list of gear such as a half shelter, gum blanket, and housewife and read a description what each item was used for.
Students then read that a soldier used to carry their rifle-musket, ammunition, and backpack with them everywhere they went. That totaled about 50 POUNDS!
The average soldier weighed less than 150 pounds so that was over 1/3 their body weight!
Students are then assigned to fill a backpack of their own with 50 pounds of weight (or whatever 1/3 their body weight is if they are under 50 pounds) and bring that backpack with them to school the next day. A teacher pass, which is included in this product, explaining why students are wearing their backpacks in school will be pinned to their backpack.
Finally, students are given a recipe for hardtack, which was a bread-like food many Union soldiers ate when there wasn't much else to eat. It tastes kind of like a saltine cracker and is simply made with flour, salt, and water. The recipe used is the one I received from a friend of mine who does Civil War reenactments.
The first year I did this another teacher called the local news station when she saw what our students were doing and they actually ended up on the news that night! Kids were wearing their backpacks to lunch and snacking on hardtack in the cafeteria.
Kids actively being involved in the history they are learning about. That's my favorite!
Check out my other Civil War activities:
American Civil War Era - 15 Famous Mystery Phrases - Research, Writing/Analysis
Civil War Bundle of Activities - 8 Different Products Included
Civil War Debates - 25 Topics - Research, Writing, & Speaking in Social Studies
41 Civil War Historical Fiction Book Choice with Lexile Scores
32 Famous Figures from the Civil War Era Trading Cards to Complete
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