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

1860-1861: The Country Goes To War

You are here

A Civil War Curriculum Lesson

Grades: High School

Approximate Length of Time: 50 minutes

Goal: Students will be able to discuss the state of the nation before the Civil War, citing specific documents and events.


  1. Students will be able to identify and sequence events leading up to the Civil War.
  2. Students will be able to identify and discuss the relationship of war and technology in the Civil War, focusing on the role of the telegraph, weapons, railroads and ironclads.


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

  • Bingo Review
  • Bingo Review with Teacher Directions
  • Civil War Timeline
  • Civil War Timeline Teacher Version
  • The Country Goes to War PowerPoint
  • Technology Centers Sheets
  • Technology Graphic Organizer
  • Technology in the Civil War

Anticipatory Set/Hook:

  1. Hand out Bingo Review to review facts from the Disunion Lesson.
  2. When Bingo is completed, have students write a headline describing the mood of the country in 1858.
  3. Ask students to hold up their headline for the class to see and discuss.


Print out the PowerPoint prior to class.

Activity 1

  1. Hand out the Civil War Timeline.   Students will fill in the blanks of the timeline, using information from class instruction during this lesson.
  2. Explain that while slavery had been an issue since the Revolutionary War, the events of the past decade had hardened attitudes about slavery.  This set the stage for the election of 1860.
  3. Begin The Country Goes to War PowerPoint presentation.

Teacher background

  • Democratic split – Northern Democrats in favor of popular sovereignty nominate Stephen Douglas. Southern Democrats in favor of a federal slave code that would allow slavery everywhere nominated John Breckenridge.
  • Republicans – Members of the party opposed expansion of slavery in territories but would leave the institution untouched where it currently existed.  This sectional party did not run in the South and nominated Abraham Lincoln. 
  • Constitutional Party – This party wanted to uphold the Constitution; nominated John Bell.
  • The split of the Democratic Party enabled a Republican Party victory. 

Activity 2

  1. Students will break into four groups to research one of four areas of technological advancement during the Civil War, using the Technology Centers Sheets. -
    • Railroads 
    • Telegraphs 
    • Ironclads
    • Weapons
  2. Students will record information on the Technology Graphic Organizer. 
  3. Upon completing their work, students will jigsaw with members of other groups to discuss and complete the graphic organizer.  Sources can be photocopied for large group use. 


Hand out Technology in the Civil War. On this form, students will rank what they believe are the top two technological achievements that they think will most affect the war. 

Assessment in this Lesson:

  • Informal assessment of Bingo activity, identifying events and compromises that led up to the war.
  • Completed Timeline, placing events leading up to the war in chronological order.
  • Informal assessment through cartoon interpretation and PowerPoint discussion questions.
  • Completed Technology Graphic Organizer.
  • Completed Technology in the Civil War, ranking the most influential technological developments.