Lesson Plan - 1860-1861: The Country Goes To War
Civil War
Lesson Plan

1860-1861: The Country Goes To War

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A Civil War Curriculum Lesson

Grades: Elementary

Approximate Length of Time: 55 minutes

Goal: Students will be able to describe the state of the nation and sequence the first events of the Civil War.


  1. Students will be able to create a timeline of events from the election of Lincoln to the First Battle of Manassas.
  2. Students will be able to complete a map identifying the Southern states, Northern states, and border states.
  3. Students will be able to read and summarize portions of Abraham Lincoln’s and Jefferson Davis’s first inaugural addresses.


Download the lesson plan, along with the following materials and PowerPoint, at the bottom of this page.

  • The Country Goes to War PowerPoint
  • Timeline Activity Sheet
  • Blank Map of the U.S. in 1860
  • Labeled Map of U.S. in 1860 (for teacher use)
  • Presidential Inaugural Addresses
  • Exit Passes


Print out the PowerPoint prior to class.

Activity 1

  1. Using The Country Goes to War PowerPoint, review events leading up to the bombardment of Fort Sumter. 
  2. Have students complete the Timeline Activity Sheet, filling in events as they appear in the PowerPoint.

Activity 2

  1. Using the Blank Map of the U.S. in 1860, create an overhead or project the blank map for classroom viewing. 
  2. Hand out the Blank Map of U.S. in 1860.
  3. As a group, color the Union states blue, the Confederate states grey, and the border states green. 
  4. Draw in or highlight major physical features such as the Mississippi River and the Appalachian Mountain Range.

Activity 3

  1. Hand out the Presidential Inaugural Addresses to each student.
  2. Read through the excerpts as a class.
  3. Go over the questions as a group, and have students answer independently or as a group.


On an Exit Pass, have students write how they think citizens felt as the country approached going to war. 

Assessment in the Lesson: 

  1. A completed timeline of the events leading up to the Civil War.
  2. The presidential inaugural addresses have been read and summarized and the related questions are answered.
  3. An Exit Pass discussing how citizens felt about the approaching war has been completed.