Understanding Disability During the Civil War through Music

11-12 & College


30 Min


Mid-19th Century US History


Social Studies



Social Justice Domain


This lesson immerses students in the Civil War era through the lens of disabled veterans, using the song “Invalid Corps” by Frank Wilder (1863). Students explore the societal attitudes towards disabled soldiers, reflected in the song’s lyrics, and draw parallels to modern-day treatment of veterans. Through group analysis and discussion, students delve into the historical context, dissect the song’s narrative, and reflect on the evolution of societal attitudes, enriching their understanding of the complex narrative surrounding disability and military service.

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Students will analyze a song from the Civil War era to determine how some nondisabled people treated disabled veterans during the war and explain the value of incorporating multiple sources into their historical research.

Content Warning

This lesson discusses topics related to war, disability, discrimination, and trauma. It includes references to the treatment of disabled soldiers during the Civil War, including derogatory terms and attitudes towards them.

Including this warning allows students to mentally prepare themselves for the content and provides an opportunity for those who might be particularly sensitive to these topics to discuss any concerns with the instructor ahead of time.


1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
3. Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.
4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text.
5. Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.
6. Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.
7. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media.
8. Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
9. Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

  1. Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.

Common Core State Standards | Page 61 and 64



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