Life at War: Traditional Elementary Civil War Lesson Plan

This image depicts two portraits of Union soldiers posing in their uniforms.

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.

Common Core Standards:

Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

NCSS Standards for Social Studies:

2—Time, Continuity, and Change
3—People, Places, and Environment
5—Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
6—Power, Authority, and Governance
10—Civics, Ideals, and Practices


  1. Life at War PowerPoint
  2. Anticipatory Questions
  3. Life at War Worksheet
  4. Where Battles Happen
  5. Samuel Cabble’s Letter Home
  6. John Sweet’s Letter Home
  7. Analyzing a Primary Source Letter


  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 seen on the printouts, 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. Work together to complete the Life at War Worksheet during the Power Point presentation.

Activity 2

  1. For the last two slides in the Power Point, 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?”


  1. As a class, read Samuel Cabble’s and John Sweet’s letters home.
    1. If you have are not planning on using the Antietam and Emancipation Lesson Plan, have your students watch Black Soldiers In4 on
  2. Analyze their letters using the Analyzing a Primary Source Letter.

Assessment in This Lesson:

  1. Completed the Life at War Worksheet
  2. Responses to the Anticipatory Questions
  3. Informal assessment through questions during the PowerPoint presentation
  4. Primary source letter analysis