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Civil War
Lesson Plan

Battle of Fredericksburg

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Using Maps to Study Battle History

Grades: 6-9

Approximate Length of Time: Approximately 2 class meetings

Goal: The students will gain an understanding the American Civil War through the study of The Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia using mapping skills, technology, and primary sources.


  1. Students will be able to identify locations, physical features, measure distance, and draw in troop positions on a map; given a web based presentation includes maps, a historical narrative, and images
  2. Students will be able to explain in writing or orally a historic event that took place and the reasons for certain outcomes; given a map with identified locations, physical features, and troop positions

Materials Used:

Download the lesson plan, along with the following materials, at the bottom of this page.

***It is highly recommended that you review the animated map, and go through the activity sheet questions before you present this to your students.  The reason for this is so that you become familiar with the sections of the animated map during which you or your students will have to pause to gather information.


  • Flank – The side of the army, to attack the flank is to attack the sides
  • Pontoon – flat bottom boats that float on water
  • Artillery – Weapons in combat, such as canons
  • Telegraph – a coded message sent a distance through a wire or series of wires
  • Looting – robbing or stealing during war or a major disaster
  • Feign – To move in one direction and then quickly move in another direction in an attempt to trick your opponent or enemy.
  • Race - a stream, channel, or current.

Anticipatory Set:

Have you ever used a map? 
What is usually on maps?
What can maps tell you?
Do you think you can tell a story or history using a map? 
Do you think maps were used during wars? Do you think maps are currently used during wars?  Why do you think they are used? How might they help?


Part 1:

  1. Introduce your students to the Fredericksburg Battlefield page on the Civil War Trust website. 
  2. Explain that this is where information about The Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia can be found including the animated map of the battle.
  3. Show your students how to access the map
  4. Watch the animated map one time through with your students
    1. Watch the introduction first
    2. When given a choice between going to Marye’s Heights (pronounced Marie’s Heights) and Prospect Hill & Slaughter Pen Farm, do Marye’s Heights first.

Part 2:

  1. Hand out a copy of the Animated Map Battlefield Activity Sheet & Maps to each student to complete while viewing the map. 
  2. Have your students read the directions carefully and explain that they are most likely going to have to pause the map and even go back to certain sections. 
  3. Explain that when the program gives a choice of going to Marye’s Heights or Slaughter Pen Farm, they will see both, but to do Marye’s Heights first.
  4. Watch the animated map as a class group or students may work individually.
  5. Collect the students Animated Map Battlefield Activity sheet and maps or allow them to continue to work outside of class.

Optional - Part 3:

  1. Go to the historic maps of Fredericksburg
  2. Have your students compare their maps to the three historic maps. Ask:
    1. Do you recognize any names of commanders, locations, or physical features? Which ones?
    2. How do you think these maps were created?  Did they have helicopters to see above?  Did they have Google Earth?  Were maps already created and copies available?
    3. Do you think these maps are incorrect in any parts?
    4. How do you think historians use these maps?

Optional - Teaching Civics Through Preservation

Use this lesson in conjunction with the Teaching Civics Through Preservation program. 

If your students really enjoy learning about Fredericksburg and find the battle fascinating, they might be interested to know that there is a still parts of this battlefield to be saved. You can view the battle over the modern landscape by pushing the "modern aerial view" button that appears next to the play and pause buttons in the Slaughter Pen and Prospect Hill section of the map.


Can maps help us when studying an event?
What are some of the ways maps can help us?
What is one thing you learned about the Battle of Fredericksburg by using the maps?


Review the students work on the Animated Map Battlefield Activity page.  They should have filled in the parts of the map required and answered the questions correctly.