Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
Curriculum Unit

Civil War: A "Terrible Swift Sword" (3 Lessons)

Created July 17, 2010

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The Unit

Overview

Whether it be called the Civil War, the War between the States, the War of the Rebellion, or the War for Southern Independence, the events of the years 1861-1865 were the most traumatic in the nation's history. The secession of the southern states, and President Lincoln's decision to prevent them forcibly from leaving the Union, triggered a conflict that would see fighting on battlefields as far apart as Pennsylvania and Texas, Missouri and Florida, and would leave nearly a million Americans on both sides dead or wounded. Indeed, casualties in the Civil War exceeded those of every other war in which the United States has ever participated, combined.

But the sheer costs of the war were matched by its importance. It was fought over two basic questions-whether it was legal under the U.S. Constitution for a state to leave the constitution, and whether the practice of chattel slavery was consistent with the nation's founding principles. The Union victory established that the answer to both questions was no.

This curriculum unit will introduce students to several important questions pertaining to the war. In the first, they will examine original documents and statistics in an attempt to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each side at the start of the conflict. The second addresses the two turning points of the war-the concurrent battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg-as well as the morality of the Union's use of "total war" tactics against the population of the South. Finally, in the third lesson students will examine a series of case studies in Abraham Lincoln's wartime leadership; by using primary sources they will be asked to assess whether, based on his performance during his first term of office, he deserved a second.

Guiding Questions

  • Which side possessed the overall advantage at the start of the Civil War?
  • How did the Union win the war?
  • Did Lincoln's performance as a wartime president during his first term of office justify his reelection in 1864?

Learning Objectives

  • Compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of the North and South using various primary source documents.
  • Analyze the economic advantages possessed by both sides on the eve of the Civil War.
  • Compare and contrast each side's strategic objectives for the war.
  • Explain Great Britain's interests in the Civil War, and how they might have affected the balance of forces between the two sides.
  • Explain why the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg were the turning points of the war.
  • Evaluate the role of Sherman's "total war" tactics in bringing about a Union victory.
  • Argue whether it was necessary for Abraham Lincoln to suspend habeas corpus.
  • Assess whether the Emancipation Proclamation was sound wartime policy.
  • Explain why the decision to arm slaves was so controversial in the North.
  • Evaluate Lincoln's refusal to conclude a compromise peace with the Confederacy.
  • Identify the major issues in the 1864 presidential election, and make an overall judgment as to whether Lincoln deserved a second term.

Preparation Instructions

Review each lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and links from EDSITEment-reviewed websites. Download and print out selected documents and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing. Alternatively, excerpted versions of these documents are available as part of the downloadable PDF, such as this one for Lesson Plan One.

Download the Text Documents for each lesson, available as PDFs, such as this one for Lesson Plan One. This file contains excerpted versions of the documents used in the first and second activities, as well as questions for students to answer. Print out and make an appropriate number of copies of the handouts you plan to use in class.

Working with Primary Sources

If your students lack experience in dealing with primary sources, you might use one or more preliminary exercises to help them develop these skills. The Learning Page at the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress includes a set of such activities. Another useful resource is the Digital Classroom of the National Archives, which features a set of Document Analysis Worksheets. Finally, History Matters offers pages on "Making Sense of Maps" and "Making Sense of Oral History" which give helpful advice to teachers in getting their students to use such sources effectively.

The Lessons

  • Lesson 1: On the Eve of War: North vs. South

    Created July 17, 2010
    A Confederate artillery battery at Charleston, South Carolina

    This lesson will examine the economic, military and diplomatic strengths and weaknesses of the North and South on the eve of the Civil War. In making these comparisons students will use maps and read original documents to decide which side, if any, had an overall advantage at the start of the war.

  • Lesson 2: The Battles of the Civil War

    Created July 17, 2010
    "A Harvest of Death."

    Through the use of maps and original documents, this lesson will focus on the key battles of the Civil War, Gettysburg and Vicksburg and show how the battles contributed to its outcome. It will also examine the "total war" strategy of General Sherman, and the role of naval warfare in bringing about a Union victory.

  • Lesson 3: Abraham Lincoln and Wartime Politics

    Created July 17, 2010
    The re-election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency in 1864

    This lesson will look at the partisan political issues which emerged in the election of 1864 around Abraham Lincoln's role as a wartime president. Through an examination of primary documents, students will focus on Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, the Emancipation Proclamation, his decision to arm the freed slaves, his refusal to accept a compromise peace with the South, and the election of 1864.

The Basics

Grade Level

9-12

Subject Areas
  • History and Social Studies > People > African American
  • History and Social Studies
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Civil Rights
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Culture
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Demographic Changes
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Economic Transformation
  • History and Social Studies > People > Other
  • History and Social Studies > People > Women
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Globalization
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Immigration/Migration
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Politics and Citizenship
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Reform
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Religion
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Slavery
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > War and Foreign Policy
Skills
  • Compare and contrast
  • Critical analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Debate
  • Evaluating arguments
  • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
  • Historical analysis
  • Internet skills
  • Interpretation
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Map Skills
  • Online research
  • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
  • Textual analysis
  • Using primary sources
  • Visual analysis
  • Vocabulary
  • Writing skills
  • Jack London's The Call of the Wild: "Nature Faker"?

    Photo of the dog that inspired Jack London's Buck. Copyright Richard Bond and  Helen Abott.

    A critic of writer Jack London called his animal protagonists “men in fur,” suggesting that his literary creations flaunted the facts of natural history.  London responded to such criticism by maintaining that his own creations were based on sound science and in fact represented “…a protest against the ‘humanizing’ of animals, of which it seemed to me several ‘animal writers’ had been profoundly guilty.”  How well does London succeed in avoiding such “humanizing” in his portrayal of Buck, the hero of his novel, The Call of the Wild? 

  • Pioneer Values in Willa Cather's "My Antonia"

    Portrait of Willa Cather from the Carl Van Vechten collection,

    Students learn about the social and historical context of Willa Cather’s My Antonia and work in groups to explore Cather's commentary on fortitude, hard work, faithfulness, and other values that we associate with pioneer life.

  • Lesson 3: George Washington on the Sedition Act

    George Washington.

    What arguments were offered in support of the Sedition Act? Washington's favorable attitude toward the Sedition Act illustrates that reasonable men in 1798 could support what most modern Americans would regard as an unjust law.

  • Carl Sandburg's "Chicago": Bringing a Great City Alive

    Carl Sandburg.

    In this lesson students examine primary documents including photographs, film, maps, and essays to learn about Chicago at the turn of the 20th century and make predictions about Carl Sandburg's famous poem. After examining the poem's use of personification and apostrophe, students write their own pieces about beloved places with Sandburg's poem as a model.

  • William Penn's Peaceable Kingdom

    William Penn, Founder of the English colony of Pennsylvania

    By juxtaposing the different promotional tracts of William Penn and David Pastorius, students will understand the ethnic diversity of Pennsylvania along with the “pull” factors of migration in the 17th century English colonies.

  • Pearl S. Buck: "On Discovering America"

    American author Pearl S. Buck spent most of her life in China. She returned to  the U.S. in 1934 and became an advocate for immigration.

    American author Pearl S. Buck spent most of her life in China. She returned to America in 1934, "an immigrant among immigrants…in my native land." In this lesson, students will explore American attitudes toward immigration in the 1930s through Pearl S. Buck's essay, "On Discovering America." They will explore the meaning of the term "American" in this context and look at how the media portrayed immigrants.

    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    The Campaign of 1840: William Henry Harrison and Tyler, Too (3 Lessons)

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    The Unit

    Overview

    After the debacle of the one-party presidential campaign of 1824, a new two-party system began to emerge. Strong public reaction to perceived corruption in the vote in the House of Representatives, as well as the popularity of Andrew Jackson, allowed Martin Van Buren to organize a Democratic Party that resurrected a Jeffersonian philosophy of minimalism in the federal government. This new party opposed the tendencies of National Republicans such as John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay to invest more power in the federal government. Van Buren built a political machine to support Jackson in the 1828 election. Van Buren's skills helped give the Democrats a head start on modern-style campaigning and a clear advantage in organization. The Democrats and Jackson defeated the National Republicans in 1828 and 1832 and maintained their hold on the presidency when they bested the Whigs—a union of former National Republicans, Antimasons, and some states' rights advocates—in 1836. But a major economic depression in 1837 finally gave the Whigs their best chance to occupy the White House. They faced Andrew Jackson's political organizer, vice president, and handpicked successor, President Martin Van Buren, vying for a second term in the midst of hard times.

    As they prepared for the election of 1840, both Democrats and Whigs were organized for campaigning on a national scale. In an election that would turn out an astounding 80 percent of a greatly expanded electorate, campaigners sought to appeal to a wide range of voters in a variety of voting blocks. The contest between Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison marked the first truly modern presidential campaign, with methods today's students are sure to recognize.

    Lessons in this unit allow students to become familiar with the issues and personalities and to review an assortment of primary documents. As students analyze them, they reflect on the presidential campaign of 1840. How was it conducted? What was the role of campaign advertising? How crucial were issues to the election of William Henry Harrison? How crucial was image?

    Guiding Questions

    • What issues were important to the presidential campaign of 1840?
    • In what ways was the campaign about issues? In what way was it about image?
    • What in William Henry Harrison's background made him the choice of the Whig Party in 1840?
    • How did the Whigs promote Harrison's image in 1840?
    • In what ways did Harrison's background correspond with or contradict his image?
    • What made Martin Van Buren the choice of the Democratic Party in 1836?
    • How did the Democrats promote Martin Van Buren's image?
    • In what ways did Van Buren's background correspond with or contradict that image?
    • Why is the campaign of 1840 often cited as the first modern campaign?

    Learning Objectives

    • List some issues important during the campaign of 1840.
    • Compare and contrast the careers of Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison before they became president.
    • Explain why the Whigs wanted to find a candidate in the mold of former president Andrew Jackson.
    • Discuss the ways in which Harrison did and did not fit the mold.
    • Identify some basic differences between the Democrats and Whigs.
    • Discuss the use of visual images in the 1840 campaign.
    • Take a stand as to whether the campaign of 1840 was based more on substance or image.

    Preparation Instructions

    • Review the lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and other useful websites. Download and print out documents you will use and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing.
    • Download the Master PDF. Print out and make an appropriate number of copies of any handouts you plan to use in class.
    • Links to graphics on the EDSITEment resource American Memory, which are used throughout this lesson, lead to a page with a low-resolution image and links to bibliographic material and higher-resolution images.
    • Andrew Jackson's enormous popularity greatly contributed to the ability of the newly constituted Democratic Party to win three consecutive terms in the White House (1828, 1832, 1836). There are many similarities between Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison, a fact that did not escape the notice of those who backed Harrison's candidacy. Both Jackson and Harrison acquired national reputations as war heroes. Both, at one time or another, embraced the contradictory goals of fair treatment of American Indians and the acquisition by the U.S. of land from the American Indians. Both men led troops in important victories in the War of 1812. Though Jackson was the first presidential candidate to use a variety of campaign novelties such as buttons, posters, flasks, matchboxes, and mugs, Harrison's campaign took such promotion to new heights. Harrison won election by a wide margin in a year when about 80 percent of eligible voters went to the polls.

      Additional information may be found in the document "Background for the Teacher" (see  Pages 1-4 of the Master PDF), and in the introduction to each lesson below.
    • Students will learn about the careers of Jackson, Harrison, and Martin Van Buren, when they read the following essays on the EDSITEment reviewed website The American President: NOTE: The section of The American President about William Henry Harrison is accompanied by an essay entitled A Manufactured Hero (From Philip Kunhardt, Jr., et. al., The American President [New York: Riverhead Books, 1999], pp. 18-23). It raises many questions that were the impetus for this lesson. What would it mean to manufacture a hero? Were Jackson and Harrison truly heroes in their time? Would their deeds be considered heroic today? Were either Jackson or Harrison manufactured heroes? How were the similarities and differences between Jackson and Harrison reflected in the content and conduct of the campaign of 1840? How were issues and image used to promote Harrison (and, to a lesser extent, Van Buren)? Was the campaign of 1840 focused more on image or substance? In what ways? Why?
    • For background on prior presidential election history, consult two complementary EDSITEment curriculum units. The Election Is in the House: The Presidential Election of 1824 reviews the several serious contenders for president, all claiming allegiance to the Democratic-Republican Party. It also covers the vote in the House of Representatives after no contender received a majority of electoral votes. Students are given the opportunity to reflect on the corruption claims of Andrew Jackson's supporters and how historians gather evidence and draw conclusions. The expansion of the electorate and the contest of 1828 are covered in The 1828 Campaign of Andrew Jackson and the Growth of Party Politics. In this unit, students study the personalities and issues in the election of 1828, and analyze statistics reflecting voting participation rates from 1824 to 1836 and voting results in 1828 to gauge the impact of both the new trends in the electorate and the candidacy of Andrew Jackson.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Culture
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
    • History and Social Studies > People > Other
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Immigration/Migration
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Politics and Citizenship
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
    Skills
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Discussion
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Using primary sources

    After School

    Your Family Anthology

    anthologyWhen editors put together a literary anthology, they choose pieces that tell a certain story. Whether it's a poetry anthology about city life, an anthology of folktales from the American West, or an anthology of short stories by African American writers, the pieces selected work together like the parts of story to illustrate a certain period, genre, or theme.