The University of Alabama
CSS Alabama Teaching Resource
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CSS Alabama Digital Collection 

Page 2 

LESSON 1: Focus on Civil War History & Information Seeking


Students should learn: 
1. to use a Web resource to obtain information on a specific subject. 
2. about the nature of naval warfare and commerce raiding during the Civil War. 
3. about life during the Civil War by assuming the identity of a participant and viewing the events of the era from that perspective.

1. Make copies of the "Brief History of the CSS Alabama".

2. Ask students to read it.

3. Discuss the following:
a. What was a Commerce Raider? Why did they exist?
b. How many ships fell victim to the Alabama? What effects might this have had on American shipping? 
c. How did the Alabama operate? How did it stop ships? What was done with those ships and their crews? 
d. Was Captain Semmes a war hero or a pirate?

4. Have them explore the Virtual Journey page.

5. Writing Exercise - Look at Edward M. Anderson's letter to his father (from the Documents page). Based on their exploration of the Virtual Journey page, ask each student to write a letter home from the perspective of a CSS Alabama crew member or officer, a sailor on a Union ship that pursued or fought the Alabama (USS Hatteras, USS San Jacinto, or USS Kearsarge), or a passenger on a ship captured by the Alabama.

LESSON 2: Focus on Primary Documents


The lesson should promote: 
1. exposure to primary materials. There will be indepth interaction with one original document and lesser exposure to three others. 
2. development of critical thinking skills, historical thinking skills, and interpretation of facts. 


1. Make copies of the Brief History of the CSS Alabama.

2. Ask students to read it.

3. Make a transparency of a page from the Logbook of Lt. John Low. Discuss the purpose of sailors keeping logs of their activities.

4. Cooperative Learning Activity - Jigsaw Approach 
a. Make copies of Document 1, Document 2, Document 3, and Document 4. 
b. Divide the class into groups of four. 
c. Each group member should be assigned one of these personal accounts from the CSS Alabama Digital Collection and become an "expert" on its information. 
d. The students are then asked to read all four documents. 
e. Each student is then given time to study his/her specific assignment in detail. 
f. Each student meets in a new group composed of people who have been assigned the same document. 
g. These groups discuss their assignments in great detail, making careful notes of the important facts and their ramifications. 
h. These students return to their original groups and each takes a turn teaching the students in this group all they have learned about their documents. They discuss how each account differs from the rest and consider the discussion questions provided with the documents. 
i. The instructor grades students individually and as groups.