• Lesson 2: The First Inaugural Address (1861)—Defending the American Union

    Photo of Lincoln’s first Inauguration, March 4, 1861. The Nation was on the  brink of war.

    Abraham Lincoln felt that the attempt of seven states to leave the American union peacefully was, in fact, a total violation of law and order. This lesson will examine Lincoln's First Inaugural Address to understand why he thought his duty as president required him to treat secession as an act of rebellion and not a legitimate legal or constitutional action by disgruntled states.

  • Lesson 3: The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854: Popular Sovereignty and the Political Polarization over Slavery

    Stephen A. Douglas

    Popular sovereignty allowed the settlers of a federal territory to decide the slavery question without interference from Congress. This lesson plan will examine how the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 affected the political balance between free and slave states and explore how its author, Stephen Douglas, promoted its policy of popular sovereignty in an effort to avoid a national crisis over slavery in the federal territories.

  • Lesson 3: Ending the War, 1783

    Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown.

    During the Revolutionary War there were several attempts made to end the fighting. In this lesson students will consider the various peace attempts made by both sides during the Revolutionary War.

  • Lesson 3: Kate Chopin's "The Awakening": Searching for Women & Identity in Chopin's "The Awakening"

    Kate Chopin. Image from the archives of the Missouri Historical Society.

    By studying other female characters in The Awakening, students will see how Chopin carefully provides many examples of a socially acceptable "role" that Edna could adopt.

  • Chaucer's Wife of Bath

    Wife of Bath

    Look into the sources of the Wife’s sermon on women’s rights to learn how real women lived during the Middle Ages.

  • Lesson 2: Kate Chopin's The Awakening: Chopin, Realism, and Local Color in late 19th Century America

    Kate Chopin. Image from the archives of the Missouri Historical Society.

    Introduce to your students concepts of realism, a literary movement in the 19th century that focused on reporting aspects of "common" life, through Kate Chopin's The Awakening.

    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 > U.S. > Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Culture
    • 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 > U.S. > Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Culture
    • History and Social Studies > People > Other
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Demographic Changes
    • History and Social Studies > People > Women
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Economic Transformation
    • 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
  • Lesson 3: Emulating Emily Dickinson: Poetry Writing

    Emily Dickinson

    In this lesson, students closely examine Dickinson’s poem “There’s a certain slant of light” in order to understand her craft. Students explore different components of Dickinson’s poetry and then practice their own critical and poetry writing skills in an emulation exercise. Finally, in the spirit of Dickinson’s correspondences, students will exchange their poems and offer informed critiques of each others’ work.

  • Lesson 2: Responding to Emily Dickinson: Poetic Analysis

    In this lesson, students will explore Dickinson’s poem “Safe in their Alabaster Chambers” both as it was published as well as how it developed through Dickinson’s correspondence with her sister-in-law Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson.