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24 Weeks on the Potomac

24 Weeks on the Potomac

24 Weeks on the Potomac

Other, NYHS_1945.580.82
Document Description
Political cartoon depicting the slow start to the Civil War.
Who do the two large figures in the cartoon represent?
Who do the small figures represent?
What are the large figures doing?
What are the small figures doing?
What objects are present in the drawing?
Is the artist trying to send a positive or negative message about the war?

About this Activity


Lesson Topic:


Historical Context
When the American Civil War began in 1861, citizens of both the North and South had no idea how long the conflict would last. Many Northerners, including the Union army leaders, envisioned a three-month war that would quickly bring the South back into the Union. The assumption that it would be a short war, coupled with a surge in patriotism, led thousands of New Yorkers to voluntarily join the army. The men of the Penny family were no exception.

In 1860, the Penny family consisted of seven members: Elijah, Jane, Archibald, Alfred, Eugene, Charles, and Louise. They lived in the town of Southeast in Putnam County, New York. Elijah, the father, and the two older boys, Archibald and Alfred all volunteered to fight for the Union in 1861. The letters, census records, and military documents all provide a glimpse into one New York family's experience during this time of national unrest.

Essential Question
How did the Civil War impact individuals, families, and local communities?
Check for Understanding
Describe the overall message of this political cartoon. Compare the political cartoon's message with the description of life on the Potomac given by Alfred Penny in his letter dated January 10, 186[2]. How accurate is the political cartoon in depicting this period of the war?