Lesson Plans

Civil War & Reconstruction

Virginia and the Civil War

Author: Maureen Fornatora

School: Newton-Lee Elementary

Grade Level: 4th

Time Estimated: 5 days

Historical Background

The presidential election of 1860 brought Abraham Lincoln to the highest office of the nation. President Lincoln was a member of the newly formed Republican Party, which held an antislavery position. President Lincoln’s election signaled to the southern states that it was time for secession. The state of South Carolina was the first to act. Its state legislature met in December 1860 and voted to remove the state from the Union. By the time President Lincoln’s inauguration took place on March 4, 1861, six additional states had left the Union: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.

The seven seceding states became the Confederate States of America. At a convention in Montgomery, Alabama delegates created the Confederate Constitution, named Mississippian Jefferson Davis as provisional president until a formal election could take place, and made Montgomery, Alabama the Confederate capital. The constitution included language which preserved slavery, states’ rights, and political liberty for whites. President Davis desired a peaceful separation; however, the United States did not concur with the secession.

The United States government maintained military installations within the seceded states. One of those installations was Fort Sumter. It was built upon an island on the entrance to the Charleston Harbor. Both President Lincoln and President Davis desired authority of the fort. Sumter’s commander, Major Robert Anderson, would not surrender the fort. President Davis was determined to have the fort; Confederate Colonel James Chestnut, aide to General P. F. T. Beauregard, fired the shot that began the Civil War.

Not long after the first shots were fired on Fort Sumter, four upper Southern states decided to join the Confederacy to make the total count of Confederate states now eleven. Virginia was one of those states; the other three included Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee. The Confederacy also decided to move its capital from Montgomery, Alabama to Richmond, Virginia. Richmond was selected because Virginia held greater prestige since it was one of the thirteen original colonies; however, the new capital’s location also placed it in greater danger.

This unit will focus on Civil War events which took place in Virginia, beginning with “The First Battle of Bull Run, 1861,” which students will study through excerpts from the diary of Horatio Nelson Taft. They will then proceed to learn about Lincoln’s goal of blockading the southern ports with the Union navy, with special emphasis on the battle between two iron-clad ships, the Monitor and Merrimac (March 1862). Students will hear about the devastation at Antietam near Sharpsburg, Maryland (September 1862) and President Lincoln’s subsequent decision to announce that he is freeing all the slaves in areas rebelling against the United States in his Emancipation Proclamation . They will then use a map to study the Battle of Fredericksburg and learn how General Lee defeated the Union troops (December 1862). They will then focus on ending events of the Civil War. One will be the fall of Richmond (April 1865), and the final event will be the surrender at Appomattox Court House (April 1865).


Objectives

Students will:

  1. Use graphic organizers to collect and display information
  2. Work cooperatively with peers
  3. Use oral language skills to share information
  4. Use written language skills to exhibit their understanding
  5. Read and comprehend various texts with teacher support

SOL Skills

VS.1: Students will develop skills for historical and geographical analysis including the ability to:

a) identify and interpret primary and secondary sources to understand events in history;
b) determine cause and effect relationships;
d) draw conclusions and make generalizations;
f) sequence events in Virginia history;
g) interpret ideas and event from different historical perspectives;
h) evaluate and discuss issues orally and in writing:
i) analyze and interpret maps to explain relationships among landforms, water features, climatic characteristics, and historical events.

SOL Content

VS.7b: Students will demonstrate knowledge of the issues that divided our nation and led to the Civil War by:

b)describing Virginia's role in the war, including identifying major battles that took place in Virginia.

  • The first Battle of Bull Run was the first major clash of the Civil War. Confederate Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson played a major role in this battle.
  • General Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, defeated Union troops at Fredericksburg, Virginia.
  • Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy. It fell to General Ulysses S. Grant and was burned near the end of the war.
  • Lincoln used the Union navy to blockade southern ports. An important sea battle between the Monitor (Union) and Merrimack (Confederate), two iron-clad ships, took place in Virginia waters near Norfolk and Hampton. The battle was fought to a draw.
  • The Civil War ended at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, where Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in April, 1865.


Materials

    Secondary Sources:

  • The Civil War: Strange and Fascinating Facts, Chapter 1: "The Travail of Wilmer McLean"
  • “The First Battle of Bull Run, 1861,” Eye Witness to History (2004)
  • “The Battle of the Ironclads, 1862,” Eye Witness to History (2005)
  • “Surrender at Appomattox, 1865,” Eye Witness to History (1997)
  • Appomattox Court House, Virginia. The Surrender; The Gentlemens Agreement. United States National Park Service
  • Student textbook, Virginia
  • Classroom wall map of Virginia

Teacher Created:


Procedures

Day 1

Objective: The first Battle of Bull Run was the first major clash of the Civil War. Confederate Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson played a major role in this battle.

  1. Begin with a review activity (Handout 1) which focuses on two items: the differences between the northern and southern states and significant events leading up to the Civil War.
  2. State the objective for the day’s lesson. (See above)
  3. Read aloud on Wilmer McLean, who was a retired grocer from Alexandria on whose estate along Bull Run the first major battle took place.
  4. Have students generate, as a class, a 3-4 sentence diary entry as if they were present for this event, making sure to date the entry.
  5. Explain to students how historians use personal diaries to learn about the past, most specifically an individual’s point of view of an event in the past. One thing that historians look at in a diary is who the author is and what were his motivations for writing it. They also look at what inspired the writing.
  6. The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft - Provide a general background for Mr. Taft:
    • Horatio Taft was appointed as an examiner in the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C. in 1858. He rented a house Northwest D.C. He kept a diary which begins on January 1, 1861 and ends of May 30, 1865.
    • Abraham Lincoln's two boys, William (Willie) and Thomas (Tad) were regular playmates of Horatio Nelson Taft Jr. (Bud) and Halsey Cook Taft (Holly) until Willie Lincoln died of typhoid fever in February 1862.
  7. Project the image of Taft's diary for July 18th-20th.
  8. Have students study the source and state their observations.
  9. Pass out transcripts for the diary entries for students to evaluate and discuss in small groups.
  10. Use the following questions to guide discussion:
    • What do you notice about the diary entry?
    • What questions do you have about what you observe?
    • What historical information do you know about this day or the events noted in the diary entry?
  11. Pull back to a whole group to share observations of the transcripts.
  12. Show understanding of the day’s lesson by completing the summary activity. (Handout 2)
  13. Homework: Give each student a new transcript of an excerpt from Taft's diary to analyze.
  14. Extension: The battles of the Civil War were named differently by the North and South. Which named it “The Battle of Bull Run” and which named it “The Battle of Manassas”? How did each decide upon the names of the battles?

Day 2

Objective: Lincoln used the Union navy to blockade southern ports. An important sea battle between the Monitor (Union) and Merrimack (Confederate), two iron-clad ships, took place in Virginia waters near Norfolk and Hampton. The battle was fought to a draw.

  1. Begin with students sharing the diary evaluations in pairs or triads. (Collect afterwards)
  2. State the objective for the day's lesson. (See above)
  3. Define important terminology: blockade, port, iron-clad, draw (Handout 3)
  4. Provide background information regarding Lincoln's strategy to use the Union navy to blockade southern ports. The North wanted to deny the South access to supplies and to shut down its ability to export cotton to England. (Cotton was a major source of revenue.) To do this, it began blockading its ports.
  5. Explain to students the complex process of taking photographs. (Two photographers, mixing of chemicals, issue of time, etc.) Also explain to students that photographers often wanted to share a specific thought or emotion with the pictures they took. Thus, when looking at a photograph, one needs to consider what might have been the perspective of the photographer.
  6. Project the image of Taft's diary for March 10th, 1862. Have students study and state any of their observations. Pass out copies of the diary entry’s transcript. Use the following questions to guide a class discussion:
    • What do you notice about the diary entry?
    • What questions do you have about what you observe?
    • What historical information do you know about this day or the events noted in the diary entry?
  7. Provide students with a copy of "The Battle of the Ironclads, 1862" from EyeWitness to History to read with a partner.
  8. Show understanding of the day’s lesson by completing a summary activity. (Handout 2)
  9. Remind students of the complex process of taking photographs. (Two photographers, mixing of chemicals, issue of time, etc.) Also explain to students that photographers often wanted to share a specific thought or emotion with the pictures they took. Thus, when looking at a photograph, one needs to consider what might have been the perspective of the photographer.
  10. Homework: Give each student a photograph analysis worksheet (Handout 4) and a photograph to analyze. (Photographs from American Memory, Library of Congress)
    • Photograph one: Deck and turret of U.S.S. Monitor
    • Photograph two: Officers of the U.S.S. Monitor grouped by the turret
    • Photograph three: Sailors on deck of U.S.S. Monitor; cookstove at left
    • Photograph four: Sailors relaxing on deck of U.S.S. Monitor
  11. Extension: Research other iron-clad ships that were used in the Civil War.

Day 3

Objective: General Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, defeated Union troops at Fredericksburg, Virginia.

  1. Begin with students forming "jigsaw groups" to share the U.S.S. Monitor photograph that each evaluated for homework.
  2. State the objective for the day’s lesson. (See above)
  3. Display the map from the following website from the Virginia Center for Digital History:
    http://valley.vcdh.virginia.edu/MAPDEMO/Theater/TheTheater.html
    Help students focus on the geography of war, troop movement, etc.
  4. Select and view the troop movement of Virginia troops from Augusta County, VA: 5th Va Infantry, 1st Va Cavalry, or Staunton Artillery. Stop when troop movement reaches Fredericksburg. (If the selected one bypasses Fredericksburg, have student make a 2nd selection.)
  5. Distribute one of four quadrants of the Battle of Fredericksburg map to each person.
    http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/civil_war_maps/
  6. Have pairs/triads write down key points: things that they notice, questions that they may want to ask about the section of the map, and historical background that they have on Fredericksburg.
  7. Pull small groups back together for a class discussion.
  8. Project graphic organizer on Smart Board. Use the following questions to guide discussion, and record discussion comments on the Smart Board:
    • What made up your quadrant?
    • What questions do you have about your quadrant that might be answered when the map is put together?
    • What historical information do you know about Fredericksburg?
    • Thinking about the troop movement that we observed from the "Valley" website, where do you think the troops will move to following this battle? Why?
  9. Distribute a copy of the full map to each student, and project the full image on the Smart Board.
    • Have students compare their analyses now that they have access to the full map.
    • Locate the troop positions, batteries, names of commanders, roads, railroads, etc. on map.
  10. Provide historical background. (These will be on index cards which will be passed out to random students. Those individuals will read them aloud in the order in which they took place.)
    • There had been complaints by Pres. Lincoln and Edwin M. Stanton (Secretary of War) about the inaction of the Union army. Gen. Burnside, commander of the army of the Potomac, was determined to immediately launch an attack on the Confederate Army.
    • The Union Army attacked the Confederate Army at Fredericksburg, Virginia on Dec. 13th 1862.
    • The Union Army numbers were 122,000; the Confederates numbered 78,500. Confederate sharpshooters initially delayed the Union Army from building a bridge across the Rappahannock River.
    • After clearing out the sharpshooters, Union troops had trouble mounting frontal assaults against Confederate troops commanded by James Longstreet and Thomas Stonewall Jackson.
    • Confederate troops held positions on the heights overlooking Fredericksburg; Union troops made numerous suicidal assaults to take these hills but were unsuccessful.
    • At the end of the day, losses for the Union army were 12,700 killed or wounded, compared to Confederate losses of 5,300.
    • Union troops withdrew the night of December 15th, 1862.
  11. Show understanding of the day’s lesson by completing a summary activity. (Handout 2)
  12. Homework: Have students then write a 3-4 sentence journal entry as if they were present for this event, making sure to date the entry.
  13. Extension:
    • Research the generals for the North and South who commanded during this battle.
    • Union troops withdrew after the Battle of Fredericksburg. Where did they go?

Day 4

Objective: Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy. It fell to General Ulysses S. Grant and was burned near the end of the war.

  1. Begin with students sharing their journal entries in pairs or triads. Ask how many took the position of a Union soldier? A Confederate soldier?
  2. State the objective for the day’s lesson. (See above)
  3. Since the day’s lesson refers to an event three years after the Battle of Fredericksburg, it would be important to give the students some perspective regarding those in-between years.
  4. First, display again the map from the following website: http://valley.vcdh.virginia.edu/MAPDEMO/Theater/TheTheater.html. Select the same troops from the previous lesson and view the movement through the Battle of Fredericksburg until Richmond.
  5. Then have students refer to "Fact File" in their text, Virginia, to read about major battles that took place outside of Virginia. (Students will need access to sticky notes for this part of the lesson.)
    • Have students take turns reading aloud the entries and then locating them on the map insert on that page.
    • Have students tally (on a sticky note) the Union wins and the Confederate wins; then ask which side won the most major battles outside of Virginia?
  6. Tell the students that President Lincoln placed General Grant in command of the Union forces, and General Grants' main goal was to capture Richmond.
    • General Grant fought Lee’s forces throughout 1864; however, General Lee kept Grant out. Lee’s forces lost Petersburg. Have students find Petersburg on the map and draw conclusions as to the effect of this event.
    • With Petersburg no longer in the way, the Confederates fled their capital, setting fire to storehouses, destroying many buildings as they left.
  7. Project the image of Taft's diary for April 3, 1865 and April 6, 1865, side by side.
  8. Have students study the images and state their observations.
  9. Pass out copies of the diary entries’ transcripts.
  10. Use the following questions to guide a class discussion:
    • What do you notice about the diary entry?
    • What questions do you have about what you observe?
    • What historical information do you know about these days or the events noted in these diary entries?
  11. Show understanding of the day’s lesson by completing a summary activity. (Handout 2)
  12. Homework: Have students then write a 3-4 sentence journal entry as if they were present for this event, making sure to date the entry.
  13. Extension: Analyze photographs from American Memory reflecting the damage done to Richmond. Give each student a photograph analysis worksheet (Handout 4) and a photograph to evaluate.

Day 5

Objective: The Civil War ended at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, where Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in April, 1865.

  1. Begin with students sharing their journal entries in pairs or triads.
  2. Project image of McLean house on SmartBoard.
  3. Have students complete a photograph analysis worksheet. (Handout 4)
  4. Tell students that the image is that of the McLean House, where the meeting between General Grant and General Lee took place.
  5. Provide them with the historical background: "Gentlemen’s Agreement."
  6. Explain to the students that no photographs were taken of this event; however, the image was recreated by Keith Rocco, based upon research by National Park Service historians and curators. It is titled "The Surrender."
  7. Project image of "The Surrender" on SmartBoard.
  8. Use SmartBoard tools to isolate parts of the image for student analysis, including:
    • Location of General Grant
    • Location of General Lee
    • Location of Lieutenant Colonel Ely S. Parker
      • Lieutenant Colonel Ely Parker made the formal ink copy of General Grant’s letter that spelled out the terms of surrender. "Having finished it, I brought it to General Grant, who signed it, sealed it and then handed it to General Lee," Lt. Colonel Ely Parker (From NPS, Appomattox Courthouse)
    • Location of Captain Robert T. Lincoln
    • Location of Colonel Charles Marshall
      • Lee's aide-de-camp was the great-nephew of Chief Justice John Marshall. Charles Marshall chose the site of the surrender meeting and was the only Confederate present, in the McLean House, besides General Lee. Visit Appomattox Court House National Historical Park.
      • From NPS, Appomattox Courthouse
  9. Complete Event's Graphic Organizer. (Summary)
  10. Homework: Have students then write a 3-4 sentence journal entry as if they were present for this event, making sure to date the entry.
  11. Extension: Research the background of other individuals present at the McLean House, especially Captain Robert T. Lincoln. Was he related in any way to President Abraham Lincoln?

Differentiation

Day 1:

  • Provide a word bank for the review activity.
  • Provide a summary sheet that includes a fill in the blank format. (Handout 2)

Day 2:

  • Provide an alternate terminology activity in which students match terms with possible definitions.
  • Provide a summary sheet that includes a fill in the blank format. (Handout 2)

Day 3:

  • Provide a summary sheet that includes a fill in the blank format. (Handout 2)

Day 4:

  • Provide a summary sheet that includes a fill in the blank format. (Handout 2)

Day 5:

  • Provide a summary sheet that includes a fill in the blank format. (Handout 2)

Assessment

Daily: Journal entries completed by individual students.

End of Unit:

  • Students will sequence the five events
  • Students will take a quiz based on the “summary” information from the “Events Graphic Organizers” (Handout 6)


References: Web

Eye Witness to History
http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com

    This resource provided the following articles: "Timeline of Civil War"; "The First Shot of the Civil War: The Surrender of Fort Sumter, 1861"; "The First Battle of Manassas, 1861"; "The Battle of the Ironclads, 1862"; "Surrender at Appomattox, 1865."

American Memory, Library of Congress
http://memory.loc.gov

    This resource provided the photographs used in the lesson. It also provided the information regarding use of photography during the Civil War.

National Park Service
http://www.nps.gov

    This resource provided information about Appomattox, including the image by Keith Rocco and the information on "The Gentlemen's Agreement."

Valley of the Shadow Project, Virginia Center for Digital History
http://valley.vcdh.virginia.edu/

    This resource provided the interactive site for the troop movement during the Civil War.

References: Books & Media

Thomas, Emory M. The American War and Peace, 1860-1877. Prentice Hall, 1973.

    This resource provided background information on the Civil War.

Davis, Burke. The Civil War: Strange and Fascinating Facts. Wings Books, 1982.

    This book contains, as the title indicates, different and unique information related to the Civil War. The story of Wilmer McLean is included in this book, in the chapter titled “The Travail of Wilmer McLean.” This book also has a chapter on nomenclature related to the Civil War, in the chapter titled, “Which War?”

Haskins, Jim. The Day Fort Sumter Was Fired On: A Photo History of the Civil War. Scholastic Trade, 1995.

    This book provided background information on the Civil War, tracing the course of the Civil War from Bull Run to Appomattox. It also included numerous photographs.

Foner, Eric and Garraty, John A. The Reader's Companion to American History. Houghton Mifflin, 1991.

    This is a general reference book.