U.S. History: Civil War- Interpreting a Civil War Battlefield

In this lesson activity, students will examine the changing interpretation of the Stones River National Battlefield. They will compare both the National Park Service mission statements and the park brochures for 1957 and 2014. A careful analysis of the mission statements and brochures should reveal a dramatic change in interpretation. The 1957 mission focuses on the scenic aspects of the park and the 2014 statement centers on the park’s responsibility to “educate...future generations.” Where the 1957 brochure focused simply on the events related to the battle, the 2014 brochure includes a timeline of the Civil War and information on the history of the neighboring town of Murfreesboro, women’s roles in a war-torn community, African American troops, and the small African American community of Cemetery that developed on the battlefield site after the Civil War. After completion of this activity, students should be able to discern and understand trends in America’s collective memory of not only Stones River, but the Civil War.

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 

Helpful Hints


  • Handout 1—Mission Statements
  • Handout 2—Brochures
  • Stones River National Military Park, Tennessee (1957 Stones River Brochure)
  • 2014 Stones River Brochure
  • Cohen, Sharon. “Teaching the Skill of Historical Interpretation.” World History Connected 8, no. 2 (June 2011). Accessed January 26, 2015. http://worldhistoryconnected.press.illinois.edu/8.2/cohen.html