• Multiple angles on a Civil War turning point

Gettysburg by the Numbers: The Questions

Information for Teachers

Each topic detail in Gettysburg by the Numbers (there are a total of 60) includes one or more questions to help readers relate the “numbers” from then to life now. These questions vary from mathematical or factual, researchable questions (Remembering and Understanding levels of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy of Cognitive Learning) to forming hypotheses, formulating solutions to problems, or generating sophisticated, open-ended projects (Evaluating and Creating level). For teacher reference, we have compiled all the questions here. Use this list to track which questions students have selected for individual or group projects or to suggest questions for students who may need help.

Is there an answer key? No.
These questions are intentionally open-ended or subject to interpretation and personalized learning. We suggest that you use an adaptable rubric to assess student investigations and projects based on the questions. For more ideas on how to use the questions, see How to use GBTN in the classroom.

Casualties

War vs War: Which war(s) have you heard about the most? What events or mentions make them more notable? Do you know about them in proportion to the number who died, or does something else make a certain war more worthy of attention?

Population Proportions: Find out how many people live in your town/city. How many would .15% of the population be (equivalent to the proportion who died in at Gettysburg)? What about 1.8% (equivalent to the proportion who died in the Civil War). How many families would be touched by these deaths?  What kind of impact might it have on local business, families, schools, and the economy in general?

Men: During other wars, the loss of many men has changed the roles for people left behind. Can you find examples of how losing so many men can change employment, families, and even where and how people live?

Population Boom: What would it have been like to have that number of men march into your town? Where would you put them all? What would happen to traffic? What kind of resources does your town/city have for the arrival of large groups of outsiders? Who is in charge of planning in your town? Has your town ever handled a large, unexpected influx of people? Can you find examples in recent news of towns that had large numbers of outsiders arrive suddenly because of a media event or something else? How did they handle it?

Deaths per Day: What other dangers or factors cause between 90 and 599 deaths per day in the U.S.? Are there ways these could be prevented? What about diseases?

Generals: If the same proportion of NFL head coaches (the leaders and commanders of the teams) suddenly were taken away, what might happen to the followers (players)? How would they be replaced, and what do you think would happen to team wins/losses in the meantime?

Photographs: Why were photographs of Gettysburg especially powerful to those who saw them? What do you know about photography then? Why did people take photographs of individuals? How was  it different from the way we use today’s smart phone cameras? How often do you see a photograph of the scene of a major news event? How quickly can you find one?

Measurements: What else is about 59 miles? How long would it take you to ride a bike that far? What else weighs about 3,706 tons? How do people move something that heavy? What does this make you think about the numbers of casualties at Gettysburg?:

Clean Up

Townspeople: After a natural disaster, small towns must care for many who were injured or killed. How have communities you know managed crises such as storms or earthquakes? How many people were affected? How many were available to help them? How did young people your age pitch in?

The long road home: What other comparison can you make to describe how long this wagon train was? Think about freight trains that pass through at your local crossing. How long are they, and how long do they take to go by?

Burying the dead: What other Civil War locations include a cemetery? Are there any military cemeteries near where you live? What wars did the people buried there serve in? Do you have ancestors buried there?

This Hallowed Ground: What do people do to honor the burial sites of unknown soldiers? Are/were they honored the same way in different countries and at different times?

Communications

Telegraph: If you connected all the wires inside your house, how long do you estimate the combined length would be? Would people need wires to communicate for such a battle today? What would they use?

The Signal Corps :How many different characters and emoticons do you use to communicate when you text? If you had to develop a distinct system of signal flags to communicate with your friends, how many would you make?

Hot Air Balloons: Five thousand feet is how many times the height of your home? How many cubic feet of hot air does it take to lift one person? How much energy does it take to heat that air?

Drummers/Musicians: What kinds of audio signals communicate messages or warnings to us today? Who else uses audible signals to communicate?

Letters: How much of a soldier’s pay did he have to spend to send a letter home over 500 miles every day?

Costs

Military pay: What would a soldier need to buy for himself? How much would a Civil War private’s monthly pay purchase? How much does it cost today in your town to buy the same basics?

Horse tale: How many weeks/months pay did it take for a private to buy a horse? How does that compare with the pay it takes for a private today to buy a basic car?

Aiming higher?: By what percentage, if at all, has the value (in today’s dollars) of an 1861 rifle gone up? Why do Civil War rifles have such value today?

The cost of a war: What else could you buy today with the amount the Union spent on the Civil War? How many cars, houses, or school buildings could it buy? What could you buy with the same money to improve life for people in your town or state? How much does the current U.S. military spend in three years?

Demographics

Age: What are the mean, median, and mode ages for players of your favorite sport? How old is the oldest player? The youngest? How important is age in sports? In the military? In other fields?

Height/Weight: What are the average height and weight for American males your age today? What about for adult American males today? What might be the reason(s) for the differences between then and now?

Hometown: Why did certain states have more or fewer soldiers involved in the Civil War? How did the two sides (Union and Confederate) get soldiers? How is this different from the way countries build armies today?

Occupation: What do you think was the most common previous occupation of soldiers who joined the U.S. military in the last 20 years? Why were so many Civil War soldiers farmers? Why such a big difference between the farmer percentage from north and south?

Race: Imagine a conversation between a slave and a free black from the Army of the Potomac if they had met and been able to talk after the battle. Write it as a script or record it as a podcast.

Women: How much have women been involved in wars since the Civil War? What have their roles been?

West Point: What other college or university graduates a large portion of the experts in a certain field? So they end up working together or in competition? Where else in history can you find examples of leaders whose loyalties were tested? Is loyalty important in sports and other places in life?

Geography

Battlefield size: How large is your town or city? What part of your town/city is the same size as the battlefield? You can compare sizes of different geographic locations using this tool. What other events take place across this large an area?

Elevation: What is the highest point within the 18 square miles around your home? What is it used for? Why does elevation matter in a battle?

Day by Day: Can you plot a map showing the places you travel in a five day period and by what means you travel? Use a tool such as Google Maps or Google Earth.

How far how fast: With your full school backpack, how long would it take you to walk 26 miles? (How did you estimate your answer?)

Monuments

So many: Why does Gettysburg have so many memorials? What makes this place different from others? Why do sculptors treat memorials as an artistic opportunity? Who pays for monuments and where do they get the money? Are there other places in the world, perhaps outside the U.S., where there are large numbers of monuments? How are they like/different from Gettysburg?

Types: What types of monuments can you find in or near your school? In places you go in your community? List as many types as you can, including what you think motivated people to create them. What would be important enough to you to be worth a memorial?

Superlatives: Why is Pennsylvania’s monument the largest? Look at the time span between the battle and the dates of the monuments. What do these tell you about who might have built the monument and why? Why were people still building monuments at Gettysburg in the 21st century?

Animals: Where else do you see animals in sculpture? What kind of meanings do certain animals have when included in sculpture and  other artwork? Find examples of sculpture where animals have special meanings. Can you explain what the creator was trying to say?

“Unofficial” monuments: Why would a soldier leave his own “memorial”? What other unusual things do people sometimes use as memorials after tragic events? Where have you seen everyday people create spontaneous memorials? Is graffiti an appropriate way to add significance or draw attention to a special place? What is the difference between graffiti as vandalism and as a memorial? How would you decide what to “clean up” and what respectfully leave as a memorial?

State by State: Were there any states that did not build memorials? (Remember that not all 50 states were states then!) Why or why not? Compare the number of soldiers per state at the battle (see demographics) with the number of memorials. Is there a relationship? Why would that be?

Packs and Tents

Packing list: What does a backpacker on the Appalachian Trail carry today? What is similar or different about what they carry? Why?

Weight lifting: What other factors might make it possible for today’s soldiers to carry so much more? What about during Roman times? Why do soldiers need to carry so much? How else could the same goods be transported and what might be drawbacks of other means of transport?

Water, water: How much water does your family use in a hot summer day? What size container would it fill? If you were in charge of an Army, would you plan for the water needs of your soldiers? How? Who else must plan for water needs?

Tents: How much area does your home (house or apartment) cover? How does/did a military commander decide where to set up camp? Is a military camp different today from Civil War times?

Cost per soldier: Who paid the bill for Civil War soldier’s clothing and equipment? Did the soldiers themselves have to buy all or part of it? How des that compare to today’s U.S. military? When and how have private citizens contributed or donated equipment to help soldiers? What equipment do you believe should be supplied by the government, not the individual soldier?

Then and now: Why was the adjusted cost of equipping a Civil War soldier higher than the cost for a Word War II soldier?  Why so much more now? What factors affect the costs of outfitting large armies?

Soldier Clothing

Thread counts: How many shirts, pants, socks, and shoes do you own? How does this compare to people your age in other countries? Ask your grandparents how it compares to the clothing they had at your age. How do you explain the differences?

Covering costs: Why would it cost more for clothing items in 1863 than it does today?  What has changed about how clothing was made? Why might today’s uniforms cost the soldiers less than their “actual” cost? Who pays the difference?

By the yard: How many workers for how long does it take for modern day factories to produce two of the shirts you wear?

Packed and ready: Who paid the bill for Civil War soldier’s clothing and equipment? Did the soldiers themselves have to buy all or part of it? How does that compare to who pays in today’s military?

Supplies

Daily “Beans” in camp: How would a nutritionist today rate the diet of a Union Soldier? What was lacking? What did he eat too much of? Would he burn off about what he ate or gain/lose weight? How could nutrition affect the outcome of a war?

“Beans” on the march: How many pounds of food do 100 average American adults eat in one day? How many tons of food does your school cafeteria use in a year per 100 students? How much food do international or disaster relief programs provide per 100 people? How do these compare with the food for 100 Gettysburg soldiers?

Bullets: How many tons of metal does it take to build a major landmark like the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty compared with the metal used for Gettysburg bullets?
What kind of impact could 250 tons of lead left behind at Gettysburg have on the groundwater and the local environment?

Blankets: If you blanketed ¼ of a square mile area surrounding your school, what fields and structures would you be covering? How many recycled plastic bags would it take to make synthetic fleece blankets for all the soldiers? Which would use more natural resources?

Weapons

Artillery (Cannons): Which artillery type(s) gave one side or the other the greatest advantage? What factors have an impact on the artillery effectiveness?

Small arms (guns): What does “rifle” mean? What is the scientific reason why “rifling” improves a weapon?

Weapon Range: Which is better: a lot of lightweight weapons that can shoot only short range or heavier ones that can shoot very far? How do military commanders plan to make good use of both? Can you compare this to the ways a football coach might come up with a game plan?

Other types: What types of weapons were new at the time of the Civil War? Were any of them still in use during World War II? In Iraq and Afghanistan? Can you find examples of a war where one side had the newest weapons and that helped determine the outcome of the war?

Ammunition: How many typical 14 year old boys would it take to weight the same as all the ammunition used at Gettysburg? How many McDonalds burgers do you estimate they could eat in three days if they are limited to a healthy 2800 calories a day? Can you show this comparison in an infographic?

Weather

Observations: How does this weather compare to average temperature, precipitation, and humidity in early July where you live? How does weather affect what people do outdoors in July where you live? What impact do you think the weather might have had on the battle?

Battling Weather: What other types of equipment and activities are affected by weather? How have scientists and inventors worked to minimize the impact of weather on various activities and industries?

Clothing: If you were designing the ideal clothing for physical activity outdoors in July where you live, what materials and characteristics would be important? Can you create a detailed drawing of the ideal clothing?