1861: The Country Goes to War: Traditional High School Lesson Plan

Grades: High School

Approximate Length of Time: 90 minutes

Goal: Students will be able to discuss the state of the nation leading up to and at the beginning of 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.

Common Core Standards:

Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

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
8—Science, Technology, and Society
10—Civics, Ideals, and Practices


  1. Bingo Review
  2. Bingo Review with Teacher Directions
  3. Civil War Timeline
  4. Civil War Timeline Teacher Version
  5. The Country Goes to War PowerPoint
  6. Technology Centers Sheets
  7. Technology Graphic Organizer
  8. Technology in the Civil War
  9. In4 Video, Union
  10. In4 Video, Railroads in the Civil War
  11. In4 Video, Artillery in the Civil War
  12. Battlefield U, How to Fire a Civil War Cannon
  13. In4 Video, Small Arms in the Civil War
  14. In4 Video, Naval Tech During the Civil War
  15. In 4 Video, Civil War Photography
  16. Optional, Civil War Photography Live (9:04 video runtime)


  1. Hand out Bingo Review to review facts from the Disunion Lesson or from your own course work.
  2. When Bingo is completed, have students write a headline that might be seen in the paper in 1858 or as the country moves closer to war.
  3. Ask students to hold up their headline for the class to see and discuss.


Review the PowerPoint before 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.
  4. Watch the In4 video, Union – discuss with students what Union meant to this new country and the reasons why people in the North and South fought.

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. These involve videos from battlefields.org, so providing a way for students to view the short videos would be helpful.
    • Railroads
    • Telegraphs (no video)
    • Ironclads
    • Weapons
  2. Students will record information on the Technology Graphic Organizer.
  3. Students can also conduct independent research on the technology they have been assigned.
  4. 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 discuss what they believe will be the top two technological achievements that will have the most impact on the war.

Assessment in This Lesson:

  1. Informal assessment of Bingo activity, identifying events and compromises that led up to the war.
  2. Completed Timeline, placing events leading up to the war in chronological order.
  3. Informal assessment through cartoon interpretation and PowerPoint discussion questions.
  4. Completed Technology Graphic Organizer.
  5. Completed Technology in the Civil War.