Teacher’s Guide to Torn Union

Welcome to the teacher’s guide to the Tennessee History for Kids booklet called Upon a Pivot [2019-2020 edition].

Rather than buying a single classroom set, please consider buying one for every student. We sell these booklets for $2 and print them on non-glossy paper because we want students to write in their booklets and keep them.

Please do NOT copy the booklets. That is a violation of our copyright and makes it difficult for us to continue to exist. The reason we sell them for only $2 is so teachers will not be tempted to copy the booklets.

If you have any comments about the booklet or would like the answers to the quiz questions, please email Bill Carey at bill@tnhistoryforkids.org.

Robert Cruickshank/Library of Congress

Chapter One: The Age of Jackson

There is a lot of material on this website to supplement Chapter One.

Click here for a virtual tour of Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage; here to go “In Search of Andrew Jackson”; and here for a video in which “History Bill” meets General Jackson.

In regards to Cherokee removal, click here for a virtual tour of New Echota and here for a virtual tour of Red Clay.

February 20, 1857, Athens Post

Chapter Two: Divided Lines

There are two images in this chapter that deserve a closer look. The first is the ad on page 9, shown here, from a 1857 edition of the Athens Post. Click on it to make it larger.

Tintazul: Julio Reisderivative

The second is the map on page 9. Click on it to make it larger.

Before students move onto the Civil War, it is important for them to notice a few things about free states and slave states. Americans who know about the Civil War generally know that states such as Georgia, Virginia, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas were slave states. However, they often don’t realize that Maryland, Delaware and Missouri were slave states.

Maryland is most important one of these from a strategic point of view. When the Civil War started, Washington D.C. was surrounded on all sides by slave territory. That’s why President Lincoln was so worried about Maryland seceding (discussed on page 57-58). That’s also why General Robert E. Lee invaded Maryland in the summer and fall of 1862 (discussed on pages 63-64). Lee was hoping that his army would gain support as it moved through Maryland (which didn’t really happen.)

In regards to the Nat Turner Rebellion, click on the clip below to see a newspaper article about the event at the time.

Finally, is a photo of the masthead for William Lloyd Garrison’s newspaper, the Liberator. If you search online you will find many Liberator articles verbatim.

Chapter Three: Railroads and Telegraphs

This is fascinating material. As I discuss in more detail in our new eighth grade booklet (called Free and Independent State) it took at least 50 hours to get from Nashville to Knoxville via stagecoach before the railroads came along, and there is no reason to think that travel was much easier in any other part of the country.

B&O Railroad stock certificate

Railroads changed everything. In this chapter, we talk about how the railroad which connected Baltimore to the Ohio River led the way.

Click on the photo which appears on page 14. I am not a railroad historian by any means. However, I love this image because it conveys the fact that when railroads first started, they didn’t look like they later did. I think that is true of all inventions.

The telegraph, meanwhile, was equally revolutionary. In 1815, an American army led by Andrew Jackson fought a British army near New Orleans, as detailed in our previous booklet, Upon a Pivot. What people didn’t know at the time is that the peace treaty was signed before the battle, but it took so long for news to be spread at that time that the battle was fought anyway. A generation later, news traveled from Washington D.C. to New York to points all over the United States in a matter of seconds.

Chimney Rock, in Nebraska
Mike Tigas photo/Wikipedia

Chapter Four: Westward Ho!

I’m often reluctant to publish domain names of other educational websites, since I don’t know who created most of them or what they intend to do with them. However, I make an exception for the website called

Independence Rock, in Wyoming

“OregonTrail101.” Click here to be taken to it, and to read a lot of great first person accounts of life on the trail.

Devil’s Gate, in Wyoming
Ryan Reeder/Wikipedia

Also in regards to this chapter, there were photographs of landmarks along the Oregon Trail that I wanted to use in this chapter that we just didn’t have room for.

Click on these, on the left and the right, and show them to your students.

If these photos don’t make you want to go on a trip out west, nothing will!

Chapter Five: Texas and War

The map on page 23 would take a lot of Americans by surprise. Click on it to make it larger.

Click here to be taken on a Tennessee History for Kids virtual tour of The Alamo; here to see the video that accompanies it; and here to go “In Search of David Crockett.”

Chapter Six: Gold Rush

The place where James Marshall discovered gold in Northern California is now a state historic site. Click here to check it out.

We don’t do the map on page 30 justice. Click on the image of it to see it better. As you can clearly see from the map, California was sort of “off on its own” when it first became a state.

Library of Congress map

Sidebar: Seward’s Folly

I found this March 5, 1868, article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that gives you some idea of why the American purchase of Alaska made no sense to people in 1868. Very interesting reading.

Also, check out the Jeopardy clue below from December 2019.

Chapter Seven: War Clouds

I once found myself in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis, and I went in search of Dred Scott’s grave, which took me a long time to find. However, it was very worth it. Click here for a Tennessee History for Kids tour “In Search of Dred Scott.”

The Tennessee History for Kids primary sources booklet Powerful Words 5 has an excerpt from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, with questions at the end. Click here to see about getting a copy.

Finally, I have always been intrigued by the painting of John Brown. I suppose the fact that it used to be the cover of an album I owned when I was a teenager added to this fascination. I have recently learned that the artist of this painting was John Steuart Curry, and that members of the Kansas legislature objected to its content, which is why it wasn’t placed on the wall of the Kansas State Capitol after it was finished.

In any case, click on it, show it to your students, and see if they find it as intriguing as I did.

Chapter Eight: Life of Lincoln

Click here to see a Tennessee History for Kids video about President Lincoln and (in the process) find out why there is an Abraham Lincoln museum near the Cumberland Gap, in Tennessee.

This is a good time to point out that one of the nation’s most respected and popular Abraham Lincoln interpreters lives in Nashville. His name is Dennis Boggs, and we have brought him to many Tennessee History for Kids events. Click here to learn more about him and his presentation.

Chapter Nine: Up From Slavery

The Knoxville Register, February 1, 1820

In 2017-2018, I spent several months researching slavery advertising in Tennessee newspapers and wrote an entire book called Runaways, Coffles and Fancy Girls on the history of slavery in Tennessee based on that research.

I don’t think the content of the book is necessarily appropriate for all fifth grade audiences, but I do think it is important for everyone in Tennessee who teaches about slavery to know about its major points. For instance, I documented 906 different runaway slave ads in Tennessee newspapers between 1791 and 1863, practically all of which were published between 4 and 12 times each. This reminds us that newspapers profited from and were part of the institution of slavery.

This ad ran often in Memphis newspapers

Also, the book reports that a slave died in the construction of the Tennessee State Capitol (something the state has never acknowledged before) and the government of Nashville owned 26 slaves.

Click here to read a column which summarized the findings of the book and here to learn more about how to get a copy.

Chapter Ten: Election and Fort Sumter


The map on page 48 is pretty important. Click on the image to the right to see it larger.

There is much more content about Tennessee and it secession vote in the booklet Work for Freedom, which fifth grade teachers use to help cover the stand-alone semester of Tennessee history. As you go through the Civil War in this semester and in this booklet, please remind yourself that students will come back around and learn more about Tennessee and the Civil War then.

Here is another photo of what Fort Sumter looks like today. It is amazing that such a bloody and horrible war would have started over an island so small.

Shutterstock photo

Chapter 11: North and South

Library of Congress

There is a lot of very important information in this chapter.

For starters, click on the image on the right to make the photo larger.

Now, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: The movie Gone With The Wind is not an accurate depiction of the Civil War or of the South, and I don’t think teachers should show the whole thing. However, there are some very good scenes in the movie. One of them is the one where Rhett Butler explains why the North has huge advantages over the South. Click here to see this scene which, in my opinion, is very appropriate to show to students.

Chapter 12: Three-month war

Library of Congress photo

There are three images in this chapter which really need to be blown up larger for detail. The first is the one on page 56 which shows the pro-union rally in New York in April 1861. It is astonishing to realize just how many people attended this rally, considering how many people lived in the United States at the time. In the generations since the war, there has been a lot of talk about the fighting spirit of the Confederacy. What this photograph reminds us is that the fighting spirit of the North was amazing as well.

Library of Congress

The second is the illustration of General Winfield Scott’s Anaconda Plan. If you click on the image and look at it carefully, you will see a lot of illustrations on the map which editorial writers couldn’t create today.

The third is the painting of Bull Run, which shows the real sense of panic that engulfed the Union Army during that battle.

Sidney E. King/National Park Service

Chapter 13: Shiloh and Antietam

Library of Congress photo

First of all, click on this historic photo and look closely at the photo of President Lincoln with General McClellan. The look on McClellan’s face is interesting, because it turns out that he didn’t think much of the president. In fact, in a letter to his wife, McClellan once referred to Lincoln as “nothing more than a well-meaning baboon.”

Click here to read more about McClellan and the manner in which he snubbed Lincoln.

To me, the interesting thing about this is that President Lincoln didn’t, apparently, lose his temper with the general.

There is obviously quite a bit about the Battle of Shiloh on this website; click here for a virtual tour of the battlefield. Just keep in mind that students will be going back over the Battle of Shiloh in the fall of fifth grade, when they do the stand-alone semester of Tennessee history.

Chapter 14: Proclamation

When I researched and wrote my book on the history of slavery, I discovered that there aren’t very many photographs of slaves that were taken before the Civil War. However, there are some amazing photographs of slaves (or of people who had recently freed themselves from bondage) that were taken during the war. Here, on the right and the left, are two examples.

The photo on the right was taken in 1862 by Timothy O’Sullivan. Shown here are some of the enslaved people on a plantation in South Carolina owned by J.J. Stanton.

The photo on the left (photographer unknown) shows former slaves at a contraband camp which had previously been used as a female seminary. The photo is held by the Louisiana State Library.

Finally, this point: Many Americans misunderstand what the Emancipation did, and didn’t do. If you can help your fourth grade students understand it better than most Americans, then you have gone a great job!

Chapter 15: Vicksburg and Gettysburg

Library of Congress photo

First of all, the photo on page 74 shows Union soldiers at Fredericksburg on the day before the battle there. This was a disastrous battle for the Union Army, so we can assume that many of the soldiers shown in this photo died the next day.

I do realize that Ken Burn’s miniseries The Civil War is not entertainment for fourth graders. I do, however, believe that well-behaved and thoughtful fourth graders could get a lot from its 6-minute segment on the Gettysburg Address. (It has been known to bring adults to tears.) Click here to see it.

Library of Congress/photographer unknown

Also, click on this image and show it to your students. This is the only photograph that was taken at Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (the red arrow points to the person who is believed to be Lincoln.) The reason that the photo is so blurry and that Lincoln is not shown standing straight up is that the photographer was taking his time. You see, he thought that Lincoln would speak for a long time, but he didn’t. That’s how short the Gettysburg address was!

Curiously, there is now a dispute about whether Lincoln is the man pointed to with the arrow. Click here to read about this.

Chapter 16: Surrender and Assassination

Click here for a virtual tour of the Andrew Johnson Historic Site.

On the right is a painting by Alonzo Chapel called “The Last Hours of Abraham Lincoln.” You will notice that Vice President Andrew Johnson is seated and to the left.

Chapter 17: New Amendments

This is important material, and by now you are late in the school year. As I researched and wrote this chapter, I was amazed at how potentially difficult and complex it was. Please email me at bill@tnhistoryforkids.org if you have any suggestions as to how I could have done it better.

Library of Congress/George N. Barnard photographer

Chapter 18: Unbroken Line

The photo on pages 86-87 really does deserve a closer look. Click on it to make it larger.

The old Tennessee Central Railway
Roundhouse in Nashville
Photo: TN Central Railway Museum

Since your student have never seen a roundhouse before, it may not be obvious how much destruction is obvious from this photo. Click on the image to the left to see what a roundhouse is supposed to look like.