If you want to create a Civil War diorama, find inspiration from a professional example such as the largest military diorama in the United States, The Gettysburg Diorama in Gettysburg, Pa. In many museums around the world, dioramas of varying types help visitors imagine a moment in time through detailed reproductions of famous scenes. The Civil War has been the subject of many historical dioramas that illustrate famous battles, maps and events of the war.
Research the Facts
Before starting the diorama, research to verify the facts you know and to find out new information about the Civil War. Many educational sites provide categorized lists of links to Web and print resources about the war. These resources can assist you in deciding on a theme such as major battles during the war or differences in the way of life between North and South. Make notes about details such as uniforms and weapons for referencing while gathering supplies so that the diorama is accurate.
Plan the Diorama
After deciding on a theme, choose the supplies needed to create a scene that depicts a specific time or event during the Civil War. For example, you might highlight the First Battle of Bull Run, an early battle that was supposed to end the war but did not, as it was a spectacular loss for the North. Spectators sat on hillsides with picnic baskets to watch the battle near the Virginia city of Manassas, not far from Washington, D.C. But the spectators eventually fled in panic when Union forces were driven back by the confederates.
To create the diorama, use a large piece of plastic foam or a box as the base. Gather natural materials or craft supplies to recreate the terrain and buildings for a battlefield or plantation scene. Buy detail pieces such as soldiers, plants and animals from a hobby or toy store.
Assembling the Diorama
Make the ground cover and backdrop of the diorama using real grass and leaves or craft supplies to add dimension and apply paint to add detail. For example, create a scene depicting the destruction of Atlanta in 1864 at the hands of soldiers led by Union Gen. William T. Sherman. Alternatively, you could depict the destruction of single plantation. Paint a background showing buildings or fields in flames against a smoke-darkened sky. Create ground littered with shattered building materials and broken wagons made from wood scraps. Secure these to the diorama base with craft or hot glue prior to adding final larger pieces and details.
Adding Final Detail
Assemble the larger materials such as soldiers, buildings and animals on the base over the ground cover. Recreate Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House. Build a courthouse room with walls on three sides from wood pieces or a small painted box. Attach it to the base. Inside, create the famous scene by inserting details such as a fireplace, small desk and chairs, soldiers from both sides as well as Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, the northern general who accepted Lee's surrender. Use bits of modeling clay, thick craft glue or hot glue to attach pieces. Place the pieces in realistic poses so the diorama appears to recreate a moment in time. Add a small card to one corner of the base that describes the setting, date and significance of the scene depicted in the diorama.