• Lesson 1: Fragment on the Constitution and Union (1861)—The Purpose of the American Union

    Library of  Congress image of 1860 campaign illustration of Republican nominee Abraham Lincoln

    How did Abraham Lincoln understand the relationship between principles of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution? In this lesson students will examine Lincoln's "Fragment on the Constitution and Union" a brief but insightful reflection on the importance of the ideal of individual liberty to the constitutional structure and operation of the American union written in the last days of December 1860 when his election as president had brought the crisis of the American "house divided" to a head.

  • Lesson 5: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Rise of Social Reform in the 1930s

    Eleanor Roosevelt in Arthurdale, West Virginia, 1933.

    This lesson asks students to explore the various roles that Eleanor Roosevelt a key figure in several of the most important social reform movements of the twentieth century took on, among them: First Lady, political activist for civil rights, newspaper columnist and author, and representative to the United Nations.

  • Mission Nuestra Señora de la Concepción and the Spanish Mission in the New World

    Mission Nuestra Señora de la Concepción de Acuña, San Antonio, Texas, 1755.  Convento and church at dusk.

    In this Picturing America lesson, students explore the historical origins and organization of the Spanish missions in the New World, and discover the varied purposes these communities of faith served.

  • Who Were the Foremothers of Women's Equality?

    Portrait of Elizabeth Cady Stanton (seated) and Susan B. Anthony.
    Lesson Plans: Grades 6-8
    Curriculum Unit

    Life in the North and South 1847–1861: Before Brother Fought Brother (5 Lessons)

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    Overview

    More Americans lost their lives in the Civil War than in any other conflict. How did the United States arrive at a point at which the South seceded and some families were so fractured that brother fought brother?

    A complex series of events led to the Civil War. The lessons in this unit are designed to help students develop a foundation on which to understand the basic disagreements between North and South. Through the investigation of primary source documents —photographs, census information and other archival documents—students gain an appreciation of everyday life in the North and South, changes occurring in the lives of ordinary Americans, and some of the major social and economic issues of the years before the Civil War.

    Guiding Questions

    • What differences existed between ordinary Americans living in the North and those living in the South in the years before the Civil War?
    • What important issues are reflected in the differences between life in the North and the South?
    • What kinds of changes were taking place in the United States at the time?

    Learning Objectives

    • List three differences and three similarities between life in the North and the South in the years before the Civil War.
    • Discuss how these differences contributed to serious disagreements between the North and South.

    Preparation Instructions

    The Civil War erupted after a long history of compromises and sectional debates over representation, federalism, tariffs and territories. Though many of the political differences are beyond the scope of the intermediate curriculum, students can use their analysis of archival documents to begin to appreciate the differences between the North and South and the changes afoot in the United States that contributed to the developing conflict.

    Before you begin to teach this unit, review the suggested activities and familiarize yourself with the websites involved. Select, download and duplicate, as necessary, any documents you want the class to use.

    For the census activity in Lesson 3, either the teacher or students will need to keep a calculator at hand.

    You may wish to provide students with a copy of the Document Analysis Worksheet, available through the EDSITEment resource The Digital Classroom, to guide them as they review the documents in this unit.

    The purpose of this lesson is to prepare students with background information for understanding the causes of the Civil War. You can find information on the causes of the Civil War, accessible through a link from the EDSITEment resource The Internet Public Library.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    6-8

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > People > African American
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
    • History and Social Studies
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Civil Rights
    • History and Social Studies > Place > The Americas
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Demographic Changes
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
    • History and Social Studies > World > The Modern World (1500 CE-Present)
    • 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 > Politics and Citizenship
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Slavery
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
    Skills
    • Compare and contrast
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Debate
    • Discussion
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
    • Textual analysis
    • Using primary sources
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    Letters from Emily Dickinson: 'Will you be my preceptor?' (3 Lessons)

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    Overview

    In 1862, Emily Dickinson, one of the most innovative poets of the 19th century, ventured a letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, an editor, writer, and longtime contributor to the Atlantic Monthly who would become her long-time correspondent and mentor. She asked, "Are you too deeply occupied to say if my verse is alive?" Long perceived as a recluse who wrote purely in isolation, Dickinson in reality maintained many dynamic correspondences throughout her lifetime and specifically sought out dialogues on her poetry. These correspondences—both professional and private—reveal a poet keenly aware of the interdependent relationship between poet and reader.

    Similarly, Dickinson's letters expose a poet fully engaged in the process of crafting a persona. In another note to Higginson in the first year of their correspondence, Dickinson wrote, "When I state myself, as the representative of the verse, it does not mean me, but a supposed person." For students of writing, who often struggle to develop a distinctive voice, and then to modify that voice for different audiences, Dickinson's dialogues offer an instructive model. Ultimately, reading Emily Dickinson's letters alongside her poems helps students to better appreciate a remarkable voice in American literature, grasp how Dickinson perceived herself and her poetry, and-perhaps most relevant to their own endeavors—consider the ways in which a writer constructs a "supposed person."

    In this curriculum unit, students will explore Dickinson's poetry as well as her letters to Higginson and her sister-in-law Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson. They will work individually and in groups to reflect on Dickinson's views and the process by which she writes; assume the role of a critic/correspondent and analyze Dickinson's poetry, specifically noting the effectiveness of her persona; and, finally, emulate her writing style while, at the same time, synthesizing what they've learned about poetic voice in a poetry-writing exercise on "There's a certain Slant of light."

    Guiding Questions

    • How does Emily Dickinson perceive herself as a poet, especially as reflected by her correspondences with Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson?
    • In what ways does this perception manifest itself in her poetry?

    Learning Objectives

    • Recognize Emily Dickinson's poetic style
    • Engage in textual analysis and critical thinking
    • Reflect upon the concept of artistic persona and the creative process
    • Adjust their writing style to different purposes
    • Use imaginative writing techniques

    Preparation Instructions

    • For Lesson One, download the pdf worksheet, Emily Says, and cut out each individual quotation for distribution to student groups.
    • For Lesson Three, download and copy the PDF worksheet, Emulate Emily.
    • Re-read a number of Dickinson's poems to reacquaint yourself with her unique style. The poems used in this lesson are "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers" (216, 1859 and 1861 version), "They shut me up in Prose-" (613), "I dwell in Possibility-" (657), "There's a certain Slant of light" (258). More Dickinson poems are available at the Academy of American Poets or the American Verse Project. Note Dickinson's use of metaphors to express her ideas and her rejection of grammatical conventions, and her dependence on poetry to achieve understanding.
    • Since this lesson addresses Dickinson's persona, it is also helpful to review a few essays on how Dickinson is perceived today. You may want to read the Dickinson biography on the EDSITEment-reviewed website Academy of American Poets, and explore a few of the pieces, specifically Sandra Gilbert's essay, at Titanic Operas, Folio 1, available on the Dickinson Electronic Archives through the Academy of American Poets site. Central to this lesson is the well-known myth of Emily Dickinson as a ghost-like figure, dressed entirely in white and confined to her father's home in Amherst. Conversely, it's significant to note the extent of Dickinson's formal education and the value she placed on literature. Dickinson was well-versed in the poetry and prose of the 19th century, having read and appreciated, among others, the Brontës, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Thomas Carlyle, and George Eliot. As you read the biographies, pay attention to disparate views. While some scholarship portrays Dickinson as a romantic, heartsick figure (i.e., as someone weak who was acted upon), more recent feminist readings tend to view her as deeply aware of the image she actively created of herself.
    • Read at least pages 444 through 447 of Emily Dickinson's Letters, Thomas Wentworth Higginson's article for the October 1891 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, at the EDSITEment-reviewed American Memory Project. Higginson excerpts many of Dickinson's letters to him in this piece. Consider the ways in which Dickinson simultaneously seeks Higginson's input and resists his recommendations. Also, note her particular writing style and think about her views on poetry. Her letters suggest that, for her, writing poetry was instinctive, but they also reveal that she understood her writing in the context of other literary works. (As you read this piece, know that Higginson corrected, so to speak, Dickinson's grammar when he published her letters. For a better look at her unadulterated style, see the manuscripts in the Dickinson Electronic Archives, discussed below.)
    • In his essay, Higginson writes, "Even her letters to me show her mainly on her exaltee side; and should a volume of her correspondence ever be printed, it is very desirable that it should contain some of her letters to friends of closer and more familiar intimacy." For a glimpse of this intimacy, explore the "Emily Dickinson Writing a Poem" site, part of the Dickinson Electronic Archives, which is available through the EDSITEment-reviewed Academy of American Poets. Read the "Introduction," the letters between Dickinson and her sister-in-law Susan, and the manuscript excerpts. Pay particular attention to how Sue comments on Dickinson's poetry, how Dickinson in turn responds to Sue's suggestions, and how she expresses an awareness of herself as a poet writing for a greater audience. Think about how this exchange is more personal than the one between Dickinson and Higginson.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • Literature and Language Arts > Place > American
    • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > AP Literature
    • History and Social Studies > People > Women
    • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Poetry
    Skills
    • Creative writing
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Discussion
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Interpretation
    • Literary analysis
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Poetry writing
    • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
    • Textual analysis
    • Using primary sources
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    The Growing Crisis of Sectionalism in Antebellum America: A House Dividing (4 Lessons)

    Created July 17, 2010

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    Overview

    Our political problem now is “Can we, as a nation, continue together permanently—forever—half slave, and half free?” The problem is too mighty for me. May God, in his mercy, superintend the solution.

    —Abraham Lincoln to George Robertson, August 15, 1855

    In this unit, students will trace the development of sectionalism in the United States as it was driven by the growing dependence upon, and defense of, black slavery in the southern states. Initially seen as contrary to freedom but tolerated in order to produce the U.S. Constitution, by the 1830s the "peculiar institution" found advocates who saw it as a "positive good." Its expansion into Missouri, southern outrage over federal tariffs, and westward expansion into new territory produced a volatile and persistent debate over slavery that increasingly threatened to divide the American union. By 1860, the nation found an old Democratic Party split over the right to extend slavery into federal territory, and a new Republican Party nominating an anti-slavery, though not abolitionist, president. When Abraham Lincoln's election produced no national consensus to settle the matter of slavery's future, a southern "secession" sealed the fate of the Union.

    What characterized the debates over American slavery and the power of the federal government for the first half of the 19th century? How did regional economies and political events produce a widening split between free and slaveholding states in antebellum America? Who were the key figures and what were their arguments regarding the legitimacy of slavery and the proper role of the national government in resolving its future in the American republic? This unit of study will equip students to answer these questions through the use of interactive maps, primary texts, and comparative biographies.

    Guiding Questions

    • How did the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Nullification Crisis a decade later illustrate the widening divide between northern and southern states?
    • What were the leading arguments against slavery in the antebellum era and how did slaveholders defend the "peculiar institution"?
    • How did Senator Stephen Douglas try to reduce the growing sectionalism of America over the slavery controversy through the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and its policy of popular sovereignty?
    • In the 1860 presidential election, what political options regarding the spread of slavery did the American people face, and how did Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party differ from advocates of immediate abolition, popular sovereignty, and national slavery?

    Learning Objectives

    Upon completing the lessons in this unit, students should be able to do the following:

    • use maps of the 1820 Missouri Compromise and the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act to understand political and economic changes in the U.S. and why those changes provoked a debate over the expansion of slavery in America
    • list the main provisions of the 1820 Missouri Compromise and 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act
    • highlight the basic economic differences between the commerce of the North and the South
    • explain John Calhoun's theory of nullification, Andrew Jackson's view of national sovereignty, Stephen Douglas's policy of popular sovereignty, and Lincoln's understanding of constitutional self-government
    • identify influential opponents and defenders of American slavery
    • explain the reasons given for and against the morality and legitimacy of slavery under the U.S. Constitution
    • articulate the different solutions to the controversy over slavery in the territories proposed by Abraham Lincoln, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Stephen Douglas, Jefferson Davis, and William Lowndes Yancey
    • distinguish the priorities of the Republican Party from those of the two factions of the Democratic Party and the Constitutional Union Party during the 1860 election
    • explain how the differing views regarding slavery in the territories eventually produced a southern secession and a civil war
    • discuss whether or not the American Civil War was an avoidable war or "an irrepressible conflict"

    Preparation Instructions

    Review each 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 blackline masters for this lesson, available here as a PDF. Print out and make an appropriate number of copies of any handouts you plan to use in class.

    Each activity in this unit of study is designed for use as a stand-alone lesson, comprising three forty-five minute class periods. Taken all together, the lessons provide an overview of the causes of sectionalism that led to the American Civil War. Since available time and curriculum needs vary by classroom, the following guidelines for use are provided:

    Another approach you can use is to skim each lesson plan to see what specific activities each offers and choose only those that suit specific course objectives and content. Each lesson plan indicates how best to streamline that lesson's content and will suggest essential versus more rigorous treatment of a given subject.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > People > African American
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
    • History and Social Studies
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Civil Rights
    • 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 > Politics and Citizenship
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Reform
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Slavery
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
    Skills
    • Compare and contrast
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Debate
    • Discussion
    • Essay writing
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Map Skills
    • Online research
    • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
    • Using primary sources
    • Visual analysis
    • Writing skills
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    Kate Chopin's "The Awakening" (3 Lessons)

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    Overview

    Kate Chopin's The Awakening is a frank look at a woman's life at the turn of the 19th century. Published in 1899, Chopin's novella shocked critics and audiences alike, who showed little sympathy for the author or her central protagonist, Edna Pontellier. A master of craft, Chopin wrote a forceful novel about a woman who questioned not only her role in society, but the standards of society itself.

    In this curriculum unit, students will explore how Chopin stages the possible roles for women in Edna's time and culture through the examples of other characters in the novella. By showing what Edna's options are, Chopin also exhibits why those roles failed to satisfy Edna's desires. As students pursue this central theme, they will also learn about Chopin, her life, and the culture and literary traditions in which she wrote. Many late 19th century writers reacted against an earlier wave of sentimental writings, focusing instead on an approach more akin to “realism”—studies of daily affairs and commonplace events. Part of Chopin's realism relies on regionalism or local color writing, a style of writing that emphasizes regional differences in terms of language, dialect, religion, cultural expectations, class societies, and so on. Readers follow Edna—a Protestant from Kentucky—in her encounters with Catholic Creole society in Louisiana. Edna's role as “outsider” allows for a comparison between two different Southern cultures and her awakening in part results from the clash of the two world views.

    Guiding Questions

    • How does The Awakening speak to the roles of women and the conventions of literature at the end of the 19th century?
    • How does Kate Chopin use other characters in The Awakening in order to cast Edna Pontellier's desires—and social limitations—in sharp relief?

    Learning Objectives

    • Learn Kate Chopin's place in literary history
    • Define literary realism and discuss it as a style in American literature
    • Reflect on how culture and setting plays an important role in a novel, especially in local color and regional literature
    • Analyze Edna Pontellier's character development specifically in relation to other characters in the novella and generally in relation to women's roles in 19th-century America

    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, print, and copy for students the PDF, used in Lesson 3.

    Electronic Texts

    E-texts of The Awakening are freely available at the following locations:

    Realism

    The websites used in Lesson 2 provide a greater amount of detail -- and complication -- of literary realism of the 19th century, but the following two definitions serve as good starting points.

    In its literary usage, the term realism is often defined as a method or form in fiction that provides a "slice of life," an "accurate representation of reality."
    — from the Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism, ed. Joseph Childers and Gary Hentzi

    Literary realism is a 19th century conception related to industrial capitalism. In general, it means the use of the imagination to represent things as common sense supposes they are.
    —from Bloomsbury Guide to Literature, ed. Marion Wynne-Davies

    Literary realism is a variable, complex, and often argued about concept. No one work is a perfect example of 'realism'—Lesson 2 allows students to read through some basic attributes of realist literature in order to use that context to examine The Awakening. Practitioners of a realist style in the American tradition include William Dean Howells, Mark Twain, and Henry James.

    Local Color and Regionalism

    These two literary terms are often used interchangeably, and certainly they have many similarities. For the purposes of this lesson, students should not need to differentiate between the two, but for the teacher's clarity the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, excerpted in the EDSITEment-reviewed website Documenting the American South, distinguishes them as follows:

    Although the terms regionalism and local color are sometimes used interchangeably, regionalism generally has broader connotations. Whereas local color is often applied to a specific literary mode that flourished in the late 19th century, regionalism implies a recognition from the colonial period to the present of differences among specific areas of the country. Additionally, regionalism refers to an intellectual movement encompassing regional consciousness beginning in the 1930s.

    In The Awakening, as well as her short stories, Chopin frequently focused on the Creole culture of Louisiana. Unique regional features included a heritage that drew from French and Spanish ancestry, a complex caste system, the settings of urban New Orleans and rural vacation retreats like Grand Isle (located on the Gulf Coast). Chopin's use of a culturally foreign protagonist—Edna was a protestant from Kentucky, rather than a French-speaking Catholic Creole like her husband—casts cultural differences into even sharper relief. Specific textual examples of Edna's encounter with Creole culture can be found in Lesson 2.

    Unfamiliar Words and French Phrases

    Chopin's The Awakening is set in Louisiana—in the resort town of Grand Isle, as well as New Orleans. Often, the characters slip into French phrases, or Chopin uses words that might be unfamiliar to students—such as Creole or quadroon. Students should be encouraged to use either a print or online dictionary while reading—the Internet Public Library has several available, including Dictionary.com, which provides both English and French dictionaries.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • Literature and Language Arts > Place > American
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Culture
    • History and Social Studies > People > Women
    Skills
    • Creative writing
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Cultural analysis
    • Developing a hypothesis
    • Discussion
    • Essay writing
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Expository writing
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Literary analysis
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Map Skills
    • Oral presentation skills
    • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
    • Visual analysis
    • Writing skills
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    Abraham Lincoln on the American Union: "A Word Fitly Spoken" (4 Lessons)

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    The Unit

    Overview

    This unit explores the political thought of Abraham Lincoln on the subject of American union. For him, the union was not just a structure to govern the national interests of American states; it also represented a consensus about the future of freedom in America—a future where slavery would eventually be eliminated and liberty protected as the birthright of every human being. Students will examine Lincoln's three most famous speeches—the Gettysburg Address and the First and Second Inaugural Addresses—in addition to a little known fragment on the Constitution, union, and liberty to see what they say regarding the significance of union to the prospects for American self-government.

    Although Lincoln did not attend high school or college, he possessed a logical and inquisitive mind that found clarity in working out legal and political problems on paper. One fragment he wrote after the 1860 presidential election addressed how the Constitution and union were informed by the ideals of the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln wrote that while America's prosperity was dependent upon the union of the states, "the primary cause" was the principle of "Liberty to all." He believed this central ideal of free government embraced all human beings, and concluded that the American revolution would not have succeeded if its goal was "a mere change of masters." For Lincoln, union meant a particular kind of government of the states, one whose equality principle "clears the path for all—gives hope to all—and, by consequence, enterprize, and industry to all."

    As president of the United States, Lincoln used his First and Second Inaugural Addresses to explore the meaning of the American union in the face of a divided country. Upon assuming the presidency for the first time, he spoke at length about the nature of union, why secession was antithetical to self-government, and how the federal constitution imposed a duty upon him to defend the union of the states from rebellious citizens. When he was reelected four years later, and as the Civil War drew to a close, Lincoln transcended both Northern triumphalism and Southern defiance by offering a providential reading of the war and emancipation in hopes of reuniting the country.

    In his most famous speech, delivered upon the dedication of a national cemetery at the battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Lincoln gave a brief but profound meditation on the meaning of the Civil War and American union. With the Emancipation Proclamation as a new and pivotal development of the federal war effort, Lincoln sought to explain why the war to preserve the Union had to become a war to secure the freedom of former slaves. The nation would need to experience "a new birth of freedom" so that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

    Upon completing this unit, students should have a better understanding of why Lincoln revered the union of the American states as "the last best, hope of earth."

    Guiding Questions

    • How did Lincoln understand the principles of the Declaration of Independence as the goal of the American union?
    • How did Lincoln defend the Union from states seeking to leave or "secede" from the Union?
    • How did Lincoln see the Civil War as an opportunity for the nation to bring forth a "new birth of freedom" (or liberty for all), and why was this necessary for the survival of American self-government?
    • How did Lincoln seek to restore the American union as the Civil War drew to a close?

    Learning Objectives

    • Explain what Lincoln thought was the chief cause of America's prosperity.
    • Explain the principles of human equality and government by consent expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
    • Show how the principles of the Declaration represent the aim of the American union and constitution.
    • Articulate how Lincoln used a verse from Proverbs to symbolize the relationship between the principle of individual freedom and the practice of constitutional self-government.
    • Explain provisions of the federal constitution that Lincoln believed empowered him to defend the American union from attempts at secession.
    • Explain how South Carolina, as the first state to try to leave the Union, defended her attempt to secede upon Lincoln's election to the presidency.
    • Articulate why Lincoln thought he had a constitutional obligation as president to preserve the Union from attempts at secession.
    • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the pro-Union and pro-secession arguments, and decide which argument is the most philosophically defensible.
    • Explain why some Northern Democrats criticized Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
    • Explain why Lincoln thought July 4, 1776, was the birthday of the United States.
    • Articulate the connection Lincoln made between emancipation and preserving the Union.
    • Describe the "unfinished task" that Lincoln presented to the American people at Gettysburg.
    • Describe the historical context for Lincoln's second inauguration as president.
    • Articulate some of the concerns of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, a leader of the Radical Republicans, who controlled Congress after the election of 1864.
    • Describe the mood of the South as reflected in Confederate President Jefferson Davis's rhetoric in early 1865.
    • Explain Lincoln's understanding of how the war began, its relation to slavery, and the role of God in the conflict.

    Preparation Instructions

    • Review the lesson plans in the unit. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and links from EDSITEment-reviewed websites used in this lesson. 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 PDFs listed on the left-hand sidebar under "Additional Student/Teacher Resources."
    • Download the Text Documents for the lessons, available as PDFs. These files contain excerpted versions of the documents used in each lesson, 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.
    Analyzing 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.

    Unit Lesson Plans

    Each lesson in this unit is designed to stand alone; taken together they present a robust portrait of how Lincoln viewed the American union. If there is not sufficient time to use all four lessons in the unit, either the first or third lesson convey Lincoln's understanding of the American union as a means to securing "Liberty to all"—with the first lesson focusing on the principled connection between the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, and the third lesson addressing the practical connection between the Union war effort, the freedom of the newly emancipated slaves, and the preservation of American self-government. Adding the second lesson would show why Lincoln's understanding of the union and Constitution obliged the president to defend the nation from secession. Adding the fourth lesson would explore how Lincoln thought that only a common memory of the war as the chastening of God to both sides for the national (not Southern) sin of slavery could restore national unity.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > People > African American
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Civil Rights
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Culture
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
    • History and Social Studies > People > Other
    • History and Social Studies > People > Women
    • 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
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Developing a hypothesis
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Textual analysis
    • Using primary sources
    • Writing skills
    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