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To Be or Not to Be: A Marriage of Civil War Descendants
What to Know
Teaching Time
2 45-minute periods
Grade Level
Middle School
  • Arts and Humanities
  • Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening
  • History
Historical Period
  • Civil War and Reconstruction - 1856-1876
It is not a well-known fact that the town of Chambersburg was burned during the Civil War. More "famous" burnings associated with the Civil War happened in Southern territory. (Sherman's march on Atlanta is one such instance that comes to mind.) But for citizens of Chambersburg, July 30th, 1864, was a day they describe as being unable to forget. By analyzing primary sources such as letters and photographs and even a claim of loss, students can find personal experience of mercy and terror in vivid detail. To look at the retaliatory event from multiple perspectives, students also examine the destruction and the equally vivid perspectives of those who incurred loss by Union soldiers in the Shenandoah area. In this lesson students will enact a play set 150 years later which features "the relatives" of many of those in the primary sources examined. The fictitious plot of a potential marriage between David Early and Sarah Hoke–a great grandchild of the general who ordered the burning of Chambersburg and one of a resident who experienced and wrote about it–allows students to acknowledge that war wounds sometimes run deep and are passed through generations. The play incorporates excerpts and showings of primary resources classmates have examined. Ultimately, the decision of forgiveness or retaliation will lie in the hands of your students, as they choose if the wedding should go on or not and support their decision with reasons they have learned from the lesson.


Students will be able to: 1. Understand the burning of Chambersburg in the context of the Civil War timeline and through various primary sources of multiple perspectives. 2. Incorporate reading, speaking, and dramatic skills to enact a play. 3. Use active listening skills to identify main arguments in a play. 4. Assimilate and interpret information through a persuasive writing assignment.

Standards Alignment

  • Arts and Humanities

    9.1.5. E. Knows and demonstrates how arts can communicate experiences, stories or emotions through the production of works in the arts
    9.1.8. B. Recognize, know, use and demonstrate a variety of appropriate arts elements and principles to produce, review, and revise original works in the arts.
    9.2.8. A. Explain the historical, cultural, and social context of an individual work in the arts.
    9.2.8. D. Analyze a work of art from its historical and cultural perspective.

  • History

    8.1.6. A. Understand chronological thinking and distinguish between past, present, and future time.
    8.1.6. B. Explain and analyze historical sources.
    8.1.6. C. Explain the fundamentals of historical interpretation.
    8.2.6 D. Identifies conflicts and cooperation among social groups and organizations in Pennsylvania history from beginnings to 1824
    8.3.6. D. Identify conflict and cooperation among groups.

  • Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening

    1.1.8.G. Demonstrate after reading understanding and interpretation of both fiction and nonfiction text, including public documents.
    1.2.8.A. Read and understand essential content of informational texts and documents in all academic areas.
    1.4.8. C. Write persuasive pieces.
    1.5.8.B. Write using well-developed content appropriate for the topic.
    1.6.8. A. Listen to others.
    1.6.8. D. Contribute to discussions.

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