Your reference to The Battle Hymn of the Republic reminds me of the value of introducing some songs of each era (as appropriate) in the history curriculum. Songs add a powerful heart component to the conceptual aspect of history teaching. The heart-wrenching civil war era is particularly noteworthy in this regard. Consider Longfellow’s I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. I always introduced my students to songs such as Tenting on the Old Campground; Just Before the Battle, Mother; and Dixie. Introducing the concept of the power of song and the reason armies have bands helps us understand the heart-pulling power of music and song to “move” soldiers.
On another note–the power of story to illuminate historical issues is phenomenal. I’ll long remember the first time I read A Horseman in the Sky in association with the Civil War.
A caveat is in order here…This mode of teaching is unpredictably powerful in its potential to grip the hearts of students. Consider your current class and its potential to be influenced. Your goal is for them to gain understanding of an era. There is always the potential of their “buying in to something” by receiving it in a way that you didn’t expect.
I wonder who else has something to offer regarding the use of song or story to illuminate history teaching?