Lesson Plan - Life at War
Civil War
Lesson Plan

Life at War

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A Civil War Curriculum Lesson

Grades: Elementary

Approximate Length of Time: 50 minutes

Goal: The student will describe the day-to-day life of a Civil War soldier.


  1. Students will be able to describe the use of the equipment, uniforms, weapons, and other items that soldiers would have carried.
  2. Students will be able to identify three reasons why battles happened in a certain location.
  3. After reading portions of soldiers’ letters, students will be able to identify and discuss hardships soldiers faced.
  4. Students will be able to discuss the role of the African American and immigrant soldier using primary and secondary sources.


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

  • Life at War PowerPoint
  • Anticipatory Questions
  • Anticipatory Questions Teacher’s Key
  • Life at War Worksheet
  • Where Battles Happen
  • Samuel Cabble’s Letter Home
  • John Sweet’s Letter Home
  • Analyzing a Primary Source Letter
  • Journey of a Slave Lithograph
  • Exit Ticket

Anticipatory Set/Hook:

  1. Distribute Anticipatory Questions to each student
  2. Have students complete their observations and answer questions with a partner.


Print out the PowerPoint with notes prior to class. There are notes included with the slides that can be on the printed slides, but won’t be seen by your students during the presentation.

Activity 1

  1. Pass out the Life at War Worksheet to each student.
  2. Read and discuss the Life at War PowerPoint with your class, discussing different aspects of soldiering.
  3. Have students complete the Life at War Worksheet during the presentation.

Activity 2

  1. Pass out Where Battles Happen and discuss as a class why battles happen in relation to railroads, waterways, and capitals, filling in the boxes.
  2. Discuss the second question, “Where else might a battle occur?”

Activity 3

  1. As a class, read Samuel Cabble’s and John Sweet’s letters home.
  2. Analyze their letters using the Analyzing a Primary Source Letter.

Activity 4

Pass out the Journey of a Slave Lithograph and have the students write a new caption under each scene to describe the action occurring in each picture.


Have each student complete the Exit Ticket that discusses hardships faced by Civil War soldiers.

Assessment in this Lesson: 

  • Completed the Life at War Worksheet
  • Responses to the Anticipatory Questions
  • Informal assessment through questions during the PowerPoint presentation
  • Primary source letter analysis
  • New captions for the Journey of a Slave Lithograph
  • Completed the Exit Ticket in which students list two hardships a Civil War soldier faced