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Lesson Plan

Civil War Civilian Experience

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Experiencing the Battle of Franklin, TN

Grades: Middle School

Length of Time: Approximately one 50 minute class period

Goal: Through the examination of primary sources related to the Battle of Franklin, students will gain an understanding of Civil War battles and how these battles impacted civilians caught in their path.


It is encouraged that you complete the Experiencing the Battle of Franklin lesson before starting this lesson. While your students can complete this lesson without the other, the first lesson provides a context for the battle.


  1. Given primary sources, students will be able to list post-battle hardships faced by civilians caught in the path of a major battle;
  2. Given primary sources, students will be able to write about a historic event from the point of view of someone who was there, discussing many of the hardships people in that historic moment faced.


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


  • Sympathizer – one who shares the interests or feelings of another; during the war, Union and Confederate sympathizers;
  • Breastworks – a temporary fortification that is chest high;
  • Alleviate – to lessen suffering or make it more bearable;
  • Ebbing – receding, flowing out; going from a better state to a worse state;
  • Scanty – less than sufficient in quantity or quality;
  • Enumerated – to count items or make a list of items;
  • Compelled – irresistibly urged to do something; caused to do something by overwhelming pressure; Repast – a meal;
  • Accordance – agreement;
  • Exertions – a very noticeable effort brought on by hard work;
  • Inclinations – a person’s natural character or natural likings;
  • Quartermaster – officer who provides food, clothing and supplies to a body of troops;
  • Provision – act or process of giving something which is very necessary; when capitalized, from God;
  • Larder – pantry;
  • Alma Mater – a school or university that one has attended; comes from Latin (“fostering mother”)

Anticipatory Set:

Ask your students, "What do you think happened to the people who lived in a town when a battle was fought in their town?  Do you think people were hurt?  What happened to the town after the battle was over?"

Explain that there were hardships almost every time civilians found themselves in the path of large numbers of Civil War soldiers.


Activity 1: Primary Sources

Label each copy of Fannie Courtney, Civilian & Unionist with a #1.
Label each copy of C.B. Ruggles, US Sanitary Commission with a # 2.
Label each copy of Adelicia McEwen German, Civilian & Student with a #3.

Provide a third of your class with document #1.
Provide a third of your class with document #2.
Provide a third of your class with document #3.

Have all students read their documents independently.

Place students in groups.  Make sure each group has someone who read document #1, #2, and #3.  Give students 5 minutes to tell their group mates what document they read, who wrote it, and what it was about.

Hand out the “Problems, Problems” worksheet for the students to complete as a group. 

Together the students will identify 4 problems civilians living in Franklin would have faced during and after the battle.  Students will also identify 4 actions they took in response to these hardships.

Activity 2:  "Problems, Problems"

On the smart board, overhead, or bulletin board, place the words “Problem” and “Action.” 

Elicit examples of “problems” from members of each group. 

Once the “problems” have been determined, conduct a class discussion about what civilians did in response. 

Discuss other consequences which might have been experienced by civilians in other places throughout the war.


Informally asses student’s responses during the discussion. 

Students will write a journal entry in which they envision that they are a civilian who lived through the Battle of Franklin and its aftermath.  They will use their “Problems, Problems” worksheet in order to include at least three problems and their civilian’s reaction. Evaluate the “Problems, Problems” journal entry using the "Problems, Problems" Teacher Rubric.

Students will use adjectives and adverbs in their writing.  They will begin this assignment in class and complete it for the next day if necessary.

Collect the “Problems, Problems” worksheet and make sure the answers are appropriate for the task. 

Adaptation Ideas  

  • Give each group one page of the primary source text and have them volunteer ideas from their section alone
  • Use the primary sources as inductive vocabulary lessons
  • Have students paraphrase their documents for understanding
  • Instead of a journal entry, students could complete a graphic organizer such as a “word web,” or word webs could be substituted for the bulletin board activity