Civil War
Lesson Plan


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Activity 1: Create A Memorial/Monument

Show the IN4 video Civil War Monuments and the IN4 video Civil War and Memory then ask them why “national memory” is important. Tell them that they are next going to design a fitting memorial that will construct a national memory of the narrative of American history from 1776-1870.

Next, provide each student with a piece of small newsprint (11 x 14) and make available for all students’ colored pencils and markers. Tell each student that they are to design a reflective/contemplative memorial about the narrative of American history from 1776-1870. Here are the criteria that students can consider in their memorial:

  • focusing on the promise made in the Declaration of Independence as well as the relationship that was created between the government and the citizenry with the US Constitution and the compact between the thirteen original states.
  • National growth.
  • Compromises made as the nation expanded to preserve the Union.
  • Exploring the development of sectionalism as the nation grew the Civil War and the cost of lives
  • The process of reunification known as Reconstruction
  • Inscribing quotes as part of the design utilizing, perhaps at least one quote from the three spirits of history that accompanied them in the utilization of these lesson plans, Watkins, Shaw, and Taylor.

Have students share their designs with and explaining to classmates how they employed the criteria in their particular design.

Then project on the screen images of “The Stream of American History: 1770-1870” memorial that is located at the National Park Services’ Civil War Interpretive Center in Corinth, Mississippi. Images and a description can be found at: http://www.nps.gov/shil/historyculture/upload/water%20feature%203.pdf and have students see how their designs compare with the Park Services’ interpretation.

Write the board or project on the screen the word “memory.” Ask students to develop a definition of the word and brainstorm with them what they do to keep alive certain memories from their lives. Ask them “how” they do this?

Poll the class as to what sites or monuments the students have visited that have something to do with the National Memory of the United States and write them on the board. Ascertain how these places promote a kind of National “American” Memory.

Activity 2: Where Do You Stand?

  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 question mark slide. The images show the devastating effects of the war and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
  3. At the "Now what?" slide, students either need to ask a question about the immediate future after the war or make a statement about their expectations.
  4. If the following questions are not asked by the students, you can ask:
    • How do individuals recover from war?
    • How does a country recover from Civil War?
    • If you were a former slave, what would you expect at this point? What would you hope for?
    • If you were a former 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?
  5. Hold the PowerPoint at the question mark.
  6. Place a large piece of masking tape on the floor long enough for students to align themselves along the taped line.
  7. 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).
    • Assign multiple students different roles as indicated here. Be sure to have multiple role-players in the same category. You want to generate a variety of responses, even within the same category.
    • You are a former Confederate; do you want to return to the Union? (students move) Ask: Why or why not? How would you feel?
    • You are from the North; do you want the South to be punished for the war? (students move) Ask: Why or why not?
    • 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?
    • You are an African American veteran of the Civil War; do you want the South to be readmitted to the Union? (students move) Ask: Why or why not?
    • You are a woman
    • You are a wounded veteran – Union and Confederate
    • You are a former slave

Activity 3: Reconstruction Moves Ahead

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.

Continue the Effects of the War PowerPoint presentation.

Activity 4: Primary Sources

  1. After you have read the 1865 Reconstruction Issues slide break students into seven groups and provide each group with one of the following. 
    • 1865 Newspaper Excerpts (Franklin Repository)
    • Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address (1865)
    • 1863 State of the Union Address
    • Lincoln's last Public Address - The Balcony Speech
    • Lincoln's Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction
    • US Constitutional Amendments, 1870
    • Speech of the Hon. Reverdy Johnson
  2. Have each group analyze their document and answer the questions on the Graphic Organizer.
  3. Have each group present their document, perhaps with one student from each group doing a dramatic reading of the document, and answers from the Graphic Organizer while the rest of the class fills in the sections for the documents they did not have.
  4. Continue the PowerPoint presentation to the end.