Civil War
Lesson Plan

Battles and Hallowed Grounds

You are here



You will need the following materials for this Lesson Plan:

  • 14 sheets of poster paper or newsprint
  • Enough online access for several groups to do basic research on historical figures
  • Journals or note paper for your students
  • Spirits of History passages (printout included Handout A)
  • List of battles (Handout B)
  • Gettysburg/Pickett’s Charge Combat Accounts ( Handout C)
  • Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address ( Handout D)
  • Gettysburg Address Analysis/Worksheet (Handout E)
  • Smithsonian Artifact/Object Worksheet (Handout F)
  • Optionally, a projector to show a video to start the lesson

To prepare, print and cut out the Battle names on strips of paper.  Put the strips of paper in a hat for students to select and pull from.

Before class starts take five pieces of newsprint together and mark each one 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, and 1865. At eye level place the newsprint horizontally across the back wall of the classroom keeping the pages in chronological order. You should then have a giant Civil War Timeline across the back of your classroom.
Show your students the IN4 Videos “War in the East” and “War in the West” as an overview to the lesson. For each video have students complete a 3-2-1 Note Card Activity listing:

  • Three important things that they learned from each IN4 video
  • Two things about which they would like to know more from each video
  • One thing that will stick with them from each In4 video
  • Noting on the back of the card the main point of each In4 video

Next show the first minute of the IN4 Video “Battlefields” and ask students to jot down on note paper the reasons that battles are fought as a result of information pulled from the video.
Write on the board or project on the screen the following terms:

  • “railroads”
  • “road crossings and intersections”
  • “rivers”

Have students write these terms down on their note sheet explaining that most Civil War battles were fought near railroads, road crossing and intersections, or rivers. Ask students to consider why this might be the case.


Activity 1: Examining the Key Battles

Next have students pair off and select the name of a Civil War battle from a hat. Handout A

Provide each pair of students a piece of newsprint and have them write the name of their battle across the top.
Have pairs of students research their battle using class sets of text book, Civil War Trust Battle Apps if applicable, or classroom laptops.

On their newsprint for each battle they should record the following:

  1. The dates
  2. The location and an explanation of why the battle was fought where it was
  3. A brief summary of the battle
  4. The names of the principal commanders
  5. A primary source from the battle
  6. The estimated casualties
  7. The Winner
  8. The impact of the battle on the Civil War.

Once finished, students should affix their newsprint to the timeline against the back classroom wall.
On a note taking sheet students should circulate through the room looking at the completed timeline recording important information.

Activity 2:  Battle Accounts from Gettysburg

Provide one-half of the class with copies of a Confederate account of combat at Gettysburg  related to Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863–and the other half a Union account of the aftermath of combat, either Lieutenant George Benedict’s of the 12th Vermont, “Post Pickett’s Charge Account From Near the Angle” or Private John Haney of the 17th Maine’s account of the same.
After both halves of the class have read their respective accounts select one or two students to dramatically read the accounts for the entire class. Then swap off the accounts so that the students who initially read Owen’s account will read either Benedict’s or Haney’s account Ask students to make a list of similarities between both accounts having them account for these similarities.
Write on the board or project on the screen “Seeing the Elephant.” Let students know that this phrase was often used by Civil War soldiers to describe combat. Have them define how both of these accounts lend themselves to this Civil War era colloquial phrase.

For homework ask students to research one of the battles on the list they have studied and write a battle narrative as if they were there and experienced it like Watkins, Benedict, and Martin. Have students share their accounts during the next class.

As an option you can also have students read the related issues of The Skirmisher to this lesson and complete the activities at the end as well. These would include the issues on Leadership, Geography, and Gettysburg.

At this point in the war Lincoln feels that it is important to go to Gettysburg and give a speech to the American people. Why do you think he chooses this point in the war?

Activity 3: Interpreting the Gettysburg Address

  1. Show a modified power point on the Gettysburg Address or the Gettysburg Address IN4 video.
  2. Provide students with a copy of the Gettysburg Address ask them to read it or have a student or groups of students do a dramatic reading of the Gettysburg Address
  3. Provide students with the Gettysburg Address Questions and review the discussion questions on the worksheet. Now the last page.
  4. Have students answer the questions independently
  5. We also recommend that you show a scene from the movie Lincoln where President Lincoln discusses Euclidian Geometry and it’s logic of equality. On a DVD this scene can be found at 1: 19. You can also find the clip on YouTube.

Next show students the final 3 minutes of the IN4 Video “Battlefields.” On a 3 x 5 card ask students to complete the following sentence: “Preserving Civil War battlefields is important because….” Discuss responses with the class.

Activity 4: Artifact/Object Activity:

At this point in the lesson employ the Smithsonian Artifacts/Objects Component