The Mechanics of War

Science and Language Arts Activity

In this activity, students research and report on the tools and devices (machinery, weapons, transportation, etc.) in use at the time of the American Civil War.



  1. Ask teams of students to study text, photographs, and drawings of the Civil War period and brainstorm lists of machinery, tools, and devices in use at the time. The possibilities include cannons, rifles, trains, ironclads, transports, ships, medical tools, submarines, and cameras.

  2. Have students work individually or in pairs to look up information on one such device. They are to use what they learn to make an oral presentation, using visuals to explain the workings of the device. If possible, the visual should include a cutaway drawing.


Students can go on to place the device they are researching in time by making a comparison to earlier and later stages of development, thus creating a visual timeline.

Those students with an interest in costume and fashion can create a similar timeline for uniforms and civilian dress.

Students can research changes in medical care that has benefited those wounded in war. They might approach this by reading and reporting on the life of the individuals who initiated the changes, such as Clara Barton. Other possibilities: other 19th-century people who developed or introduced anesthesia, penicillin, antibiotics, and similar aids to healing.

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