Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Looking at Media Bias in the Civil War
Amy Pratt
American History
Civil War

Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • The type of classroom activity would be an individual assignment in which the students, technology based, and using both artifacts and primary sources.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

  • CLE-3a.S, Understanding the concept of location(SS3 1.5)
  • CLE-3a.U,Understanding relationships within places(SS3 1.10)
  • CLE-3a.V, Understanding relationships between and among regions(SS5 1.6)
  • CLE-7.A, Identify, select, use, analyze, and create appropriate resources for social studies inquiry(SS7, 1.7,3.5,3.6)
  • Local District Objective-Compare and Contrast Civil War from previous wars- A) Brother against brother B) Geography C) African-Americans D) Economics of the North and South (SS2 1.9)

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • They may use their textbook, America:Pathways to the Present as a supplement for their background on causes of the Civil War to enhance their newspaper article.

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • They will be doing research from the Library of Congress website that has primary sources that they will look at for their research. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpedu/features/timeline/civilwar/civilwar.html

Full description of activity or assignment.
  • For the American History class, this would be a brief lesson that we would begin discussing how depending on where you are from, what your beliefs are, what you have seen, are going to determine how the Civil War is being viewed. The students assignment would be to do research a on how the war is viewed by people and the bias that you see determined by where people lived. After they have researched and determined and have an understanding of why people reported on the war the way they did, for their assessment, they will write a newspaper article as if they are reporting on a the battle that started the Civil War. Their finished assessment will be graded by the rubric provided.

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:
  • The assessment that the student will be given will be to see first, if they can write a news article that can be determined clearly to view from one side or the other. Also, that they can follow directions and follow the rubric. Also, to see how creative that they can be in their writing and to take things from the chapter and incorporate them into their writing.


Civil War Newspaper Article


In order for you to get ideas on how people viewed what went on in the Civil War, you will need to do some research on how people viewed what was going on. You may use any approved Civil War website to do your research, but one that should definitely be checked out is the Library of Congress website:


Another website that will help you with overall facts about secession and the bombing of Ft. Sumter is the American Civil War Homepage:


Other pages that could be helpful to you:





You are living in the 1860's and are to witness the Civil war that will be fought on American ground...the war that will divide the Union. As a newspaper reporter you will present the facts as you see it.

The class will be divided in half. One half will create newspaper articles to present the North's point of view; the other half will create a newspaper articles to present the South's point of view.

Your newspaper article will contain the following features:

  • ·         You will write about the secession of the southern states and the bombing of Ft. Sumter.
  • ·         Especially focus on the causes of the war.
  • How would the South present the “facts”? How would the North present the “facts”?




In 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union and prepared to seize the United States forts in the harbor at Charleston, South Carolina. Major Robert Anderson (1805-1871) directed the harbor defenses. He made his headquarters in Fort Moultrie. He realized that South Carolina troops would soon attack Fort Moultrie and that it would be difficult to defend his position. He moved his headquarters and his sixty-one soldiers to Fort Sumter, an island in Charleston harbor.

On April 12, 1861, Pierre Beauregard, the Confederate general, demanded the surrender of the fort. Anderson refused. At 4:30 a.m. forty-three Confederate guns in a ring around Fort Sumter began the bombardment that initiated the bloodiest war in American history. Although the bombardment lasted 34 hours, there were no casualties. On April 14, Union troops evacuated the fort. The Confederates permitted Anderson and his command to leave with their weapons and their flag.

Directions: Your task is to write a front page Headline story about the outbreak of the Civil War. Your main objective is to focus on the causes of the war. Again, write for the South or write for the North.


1. TITLE OF HEADLINE STORY: Give a headline that expresses your point of view, for example:

2. DATELINE, BUG (Where and when did the story happen; the "bug" is your initial), for example:

Charleston, S.C., April 14, 1861 (your initial)

3. LEAD PARAGRAPH: This paragraph gives a summary of what happened.
Make the lead paragraph a real attention getter so that people will want to read more, for example:

for the North........


Charleston, S.C., April 14, 1861 (initial) Southern rebel forces fired upon federal troops in Fort Sumter and forced the surrender of the fort into rebel hands. The South is ready to use violence to establish their independence from the Union.


For the South.......


Charleston, S.C., April 14, 1861 (initial) The people of Charleston rejoiced as Southern troops bombarded federal troops in Fort Sumter and forced their surrender of the fort. This victory sends a clear message to Abraham Lincoln that the South stands firm in its declaration of independence.

4. Paragraph Two: Give details about the story....

Tell Who: Leader for the North - Major Robert Anderson

                Leader for the South - General P.G.T. Beauregard

       What: Union fortification, Fort Sumter, was attacked and taken
by the Confederacy.
       When:  April 12 and 13, 1861
(bombing began at 4:30 a.m. and lasted thirty-four hours)
       Where: Charleston, South Carolina harbor.

5. Paragraph Three and Four:

Explain two reasons why the Civil War began.
Use your worksheet, "Causes for the War".
You could write about the tariff laws, States' rights, or slavery.

6. Paragraph Five:

Wrap it up. Describe the feelings of the North or the South about secession and the beginning of war. You could state that the South wants to break away from the United States and become their own country in much the same way as the U.S. did in the Revolutionary War. Remember, this is a factual article so show your bias in a subtle way.


1. Write in black ink or type
2. Write on one side only
3. Be neat.
4. Write in the "third person" (e.g. the North, the South, or they)...
Do not use the "first person" (e.g. "I" or "we")

5. Follow the rubric!



Civil War Headline Article Rubric

An "3" article

*Takes a very clear point of view  
*Skillfully organizes information to support it.
*Demonstrates detailed, accurate knowledge of the time period.
*Deals with the most significant issues and trends relevant to the question.
*Supports ideas and conclusions with appropriate and accurate reasons and evidence; provides relevant, specific examples (names, events, places, etc.)
* Follows directions in formatting and organizing the article
* Article is very creative and neat.

A "2" article

*Takes a point of view and
*Adequately organizes information to support it.
*Demonstrates some knowledge of time period.
*Deals with relatively significant issues and trends.
*Supports ideas and conclusions with at least some reasons and evidence; provides examples, but in limited depth.
* Some errors in following directions for formatting and organizing the article.
* Article is neat.

A "1" article

*May not take a point of view  
*Organization is erratic.
*Little evidence of historical knowledge
*Demonstrates very little understanding of most significant issues and frequently goes off on tangents.
*Little attempt to support conclusions with examples.
* Did not follow directions in formatting and organizing the article.
* Article needs to be "cleaned" up.