The American Civil War and the Origins of Government Surveillance


What do the American Civil War and the NSA have in common? That’s the questions explored in the most recent video of the web series Time Capsule.

In “The Origins of Government Surveillance,” the Time Capsule team reveal how both the Union and Confederacy used spies and surveillance during the Civil War, and how these tactics laid the foundation for modern government surveillance.

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Time Capsule is made by The Good Stuff from PBS Digital Studios, in association with PBS LearningMedia. Each episode looks at what happened in the past to make now possible. PBS LearningMedia also has a number of helpful tools for educators designed to teach students about the Civil War.

For a more dramatic take on spying during the Civil War, check out the exploits of real-life spy Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow in PBS’s new Civil War drama Mercy Street.


Photo Credit: Library of Congress