Effects of the War - 1865 & Beyond: Traditional High School Lesson Plan

Grades: High School

Approximate Length of Time: 50 minutes

Goal: Students will be able to compare the United States before the war to the United States after the war.


  1. After reviewing primary source documents students will be able to evaluate Lincoln’s plans for Reconstruction, including plans for the readmission of Southern states, amnesty, and freedmen.
  2. Students will be able to identify the purpose of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.
  3. After reviewing various proposals, students will be able to hypothesize what changes will take place in the country during Reconstruction.
  4. Students will be able to discuss, in writing, the need for the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution.

Common Core Standards:

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

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.

Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/experiments, or technical processes.

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. Effects of the War PowerPoint
  2. Primary Source Documents Pack
  3. Graphic organizer


  1. Remind your students that at this point, the war is over and the Army of Northern Virginia has surrendered.
  2. Begin with the Effects of the War PowerPoint, moving through the slides without comment up to the "Now What?" slide. The presentation’s opening images show the devastating effects of the war and the assassination of Lincoln.
  3. At the “Now what?” slide, have students discuss the question using their knowledge of the Civil War and the primary source images they have viewed so far on the PowerPoint.
    1. Discuss the following with your students:
      • How do individuals recover from war?
      • How does a country recover from civil war?
      • If you were a slave, what would you expect at this point? What would you hope for?
      • If you were a Confederate, what would you expect at this point? What would you hope for?
      • If you were a Union supporter, what would you expect at this point? What would you hope for?
  4. Hold the PowerPoint at the "Now What?" slide.
  5. Place a large piece of masking tape on the floor long enough for students to align themselves along the taped line.
  6. Designate one end as “definitely not” and the other end a “definitely yes” to illustrate varying opinions on the following questions: (each question is asked separately and students may need to change positions depending on their answers)
    1. You are a former Confederate state, do you want to return to the Union? (students move) Ask: Why or why not? How would you feel?
    2. You are from the North, do you want the South to be punished for the war? (students move) Ask: Why or why not?
    3. You are a white Southerner who was a staunch Confederate. Would you swear an oath of amnesty (loyalty) to the Union? (students move) Ask: Why or why not?
    4. You are an African American veteran of the Civil War, do you want the former Confederate states to be allowed to do ‘business as usual’ upon their return to the Union? (students move) Ask: Why or why not?


Print out the PowerPoint with notes prior to class. There are notes included with the slides that can be on the printed slides, but won’t be seen by your students during the presentation.

Activity 1

  1. Continue the Effects of the War PowerPoint presentation.
  2. After you have read the 1865 Reconstruction Issues slide break students into five groups and provide each group with the Primary Source Documents Pack, assign each group the following (one or two) documents:
    1. 1865 Newspaper Excerpts (Franklin Repository) & Speech of the Hon. Reverdy Johnson
    2. Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address (1865) & US Constitutional Amendments, 1870
    3. 1863 State of the Union Address
    4. Lincoln’s Last Public Address
    5. Lincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction
  3. Have each group analyze their document, highlighting parts they find particularly compelling and answer the questions on the Graphic Organizer.
  4. Each group will present their document(s) and answers from the Graphic Organizer while the rest of the class fills in the sections for the documents they did not have. Students can also share the sections they highlighted so that their classmates can find the most compelling parts of each document.
  5. Continue to follow the PowerPoint presentation to the end.


Have students complete the Final Essay.

Assessment in This Lesson:

  1. Informal assessment during the discussion in the Anticipatory Set.
  2. Completed Graphic Organizer evaluating Lincoln’s plans for Reconstruction.
  3. Informal assessment through discussion questions asking students to hypothesize the outcome of Reconstruction.
  4. Completed essay.