Civil War Battle Strategy Lesson Plan

The Roads to Antietam

Activity 1

Distribute Lee’s “Proclamation to the People of Maryland” handout. Have students read the proclamation slowly, and then work in pairs to answer the comprehension questions that follow. Discuss the answers to the questions as a class.

Activity 2

Ask students to guess how the Union Army will respond to Lee’s invasion of the North, then distribute “Confederate Special Orders #191 handout to students. Have them read the orders slowly, and then work in pairs to answer the questions that follow. Discuss students’ answers, and then split them into mixed ability groups of approximately 4-5 students each.

 Introduce student groups to the battle plan activity by presenting them a copy of the “Lost Orders Map” inside a sheet protector. Having them read the text on the back of the “Lost Orders Map.” Tell students that the map shows the approximate layout of the Confederate and Union armies at the time when General McClellan was presented with Special Orders #191. Instruct Students to work together to create a Union battle plan based on the map. Assign one student as the “commanding general.” This student will have the responsibility of leading the group, settling any disputes and approving the final battle plan. Provide students with dry-erase markers so they can draw/revise their battle plan on the sheet protector as many times as needed. Be sure to point out the terrain obstacles that students must consider in forming their plans. After they have finished their plan, tell students to prepare to present their plan to the class.

 Prepare a laminated poster or an overhead projector sheet of the “Lost Orders Map.” Have each group of students explain their battle plans to the class by drawing on the poster or overhead sheet. After each group presents their plan, ask the other students for comments/questions about each plan. After all groups have presented, have students vote on the battle plan they feel is best (not including their own plan) and justify their vote.


  1. Read the “Proclamation to the People of Maryland” and “Confederate Special Orders #191” in pairs or as a class.
  2. Pair students needing help with research with students that have strong research skills.