Civil War Animated: The Battle of Fredericksburg
The release of the cinematic masterpiece, Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln, is a boon for history teachers nationwide. This movie will certainly be nominated for multiple Academy Awards and draw countless millions to theaters. Even middle and high school students have been caught up in the rush to see this mature, adult-targeted film. History teachers have a grand opportunity to capture the hype surrounding the movie to engage learners who otherwise may not be as accessible.
If you are a teacher that attempts to align your teaching calendar with anniversaries of historical events, you may want to use this renewed interest in all-things-Civil-War to utilize the Civil War Animated website. Coming soon, in mid-December, is the anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg. The Civil War Animated website is a tremendous tool for engaging learners. It not only provides poignant, relevant historical context of the war’s battles, but it also allows students to interact with animated battle maps. For your students that love military history (and even those who may loath it), there are very few websites constructed that can quite as effectively capture their attention
The website itself provides a brief statement highlighting historical context and battle outcomes:
Following the indecisive Battle of Antietam Creek, President Lincoln replaces General George McClellan with General Ambrose Burnside. Burnside immediately submits a plan to race Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to Fredericksburg and on to Richmond. Lincoln accepts the plan and the Army of the Potomac marches to Fredericksburg. But extremely poor planning causes the pontoon bridges for crossing the river to be left at the end of the baggage trains allowing to Lee to concentrate his army and prepare for Burnside’s assault.
After introducing students to the importance, context, and outcome of the battle, the teacher can then direct students to the animations of the battles, found here. Notice, the animation begins with another historical survey of the battle. After students have read and internalized this, the teacher can direct them to the actual battle maps. When students click on “Play,” the animations begin. The progress of the battle is then animated step-by-step, with helpful narratives displayed and sound effects included. Fittingly for a history class, the final scene provides excerpts from primary sources that gave contemporary commentary on the battle’s outcome.