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
Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
Curriculum Unit

The 1828 Campaign of Andrew Jackson and the Growth of Party Politics (4 Lessons)

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The Unit

Overview

Changes in voting qualifications and participation, the election of Andrew Jackson, and the formation of the Democratic Party—due largely to the organizational skills of Martin Van Buren—all contributed to making the election of 1828 and Jackson's presidency a watershed in the evolution of the American political system. The campaign of 1828 was a crucial event in a period that saw the development of a two-party system akin to our modern system, presidential electioneering bearing a closer resemblance to modern political campaigning, and the strengthening of the power of the executive branch.

In this unit, students analyze changes in voter participation and regional power, and review archival campaign documents reflecting the dawn of politics as we know it during the critical years from 1824 to 1832.

Guiding Questions

  • How did changes in the electorate affect the election of 1828?
  • How were party politics reflected in the campaign of 1828?
  • What was the source of Andrew Jackson's popularity?
  • What was the importance of Andrew Jackson's popularity?
  • What were the positions of the fledgling Democratic Party and its opposition?

Learning Objectives

  • Give examples to indicate how the franchise was extended in the first half of the 19th century.
  • Discuss possible effects of the extension of the franchise on the election of 1828.
  • Make a connection between changes in voting participation and the election of 1828.
  • Describe regional factors evidenced by the voting results in the election of 1828.
  • Analyze campaign materials from 1828.

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.
  • This unit is one of a series of complementary EDSITEment lessons on the early growth of political parties in the United States. Some student knowledge of the events and issues covered in the following complementary lessons is essential to a complete understanding of the presidential election of 1828.
    • The Growth of Political Parties covers such issues and events as the negative attitude among the Founders toward political parties, as reflected in Washington's Farewell Address; the differences in philosophy and policy between followers of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (who favored a less active federal government and eventually formed the Democratic-Republican Party) and the followers of Alexander Hamilton (who espoused a more powerful and active federal government and eventually formed the Federalist Party).
    • Certain Crimes Against the United States: The Sedition Act deals with—among other issues and events—foreign affairs during the Federalist presidency of John Adams, and the political differences that contributed to the creation of the Sedition Act, which led, in turn, to the demise of the Federalist Party.
    • The Election Is in the House: The Presidential Election of 1824 touches on events in the presidential campaign of 1824, in which every candidate belonged to the Democratic-Republican Party, throwing the election into the House of Representatives, and thus setting the stage for the election of 1828. The lesson also discusses the Electoral College and the procedure to be used when an election is thrown into the House of Representatives.
  • The first three lessons in this unit look at different aspects of the changes in the electorate that were occurring in the first half of the 19th century. With that background, students are better prepared to study the election campaign of 1828 in the final lesson. It is also important for students to have some knowledge of the controversial election of 1824. For relatively brief yet comprehensive background on the election of 1824 and the election of 1828 and its aftermath, read the following one-page articles from Digital History, a project of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, a link from the EDSITEment-reviewed resource History Matters:

If time permits, some students would benefit from the background gained through reading the essays as well.

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 > U.S. > Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
  • History and Social Studies > People > Native American
  • History and Social Studies > People > Other
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Politics and Citizenship
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Reform
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
Skills
  • Compare and contrast
  • Critical thinking
  • Historical analysis
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Using primary sources
  • Visual analysis
  • Birth of a Nation, the NAACP, and the Balancing of Rights

    "Wherever it goes, the Birth of the Nation film arouses widespread indignation."

    In this lesson students learn how Birth of a Nation reflected and influenced racial attitudes, and they analyze and evaluate the efforts of the NAACP to prohibit showing of the film.

  • "A Raisin in the Sun": The Quest for the American Dream

    Harlem street scene in the 1950s

    The play A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry, is used as a focal point for discussion of "The American Dream" as students explore how the social, educational, economical and political climate of the 1950s affected African Americans' quest for the good life in the suburbs.

  • African-American Communities in the North Before the Civil War

    St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, Pa.

    One of the heroes of the Battle of Bunker Hill was Salem Poor, a free African American.  Black people fought on both sides during the American Revolution. Census data also reveal that there were slaves and free Blacks living in the North in 1790 and after. What do we know about African-American communities in the North in the years after the American Revolution?

  • Lesson 2: People and Places in the North and South

    Anti-slavery poster form the 1850s

    Students develop a foundation on which to understand the basic disagreements between North and South.

  • Lesson 3: From Courage to Freedom

    Frederick Douglass.

    Frederick Douglass's 1845 narrative of his life is a profile in both moral and physical courage.  In the narrative Douglass openly illustrates and attacks the misuse of Christianity as a defense of slavery.  He also reveals the turning point of his life: his spirited physical defense of himself against the blows of a white "slave-breaker."

  • Lesson 2: From Courage to Freedom: Slavery's Dehumanizing Effects

    One of Douglass's goals in his autobiography is to illustrate beyond doubt that slavery had an insidious, spirit-killing effect on the slaveholder as well as the slave.

  • Lesson 1: From Courage to Freedom: The Reality behind the Song

    Frederick Douglass.

    One myth that Southern slave owners and proponents were happy to perpetuate was that of the slave happily singing from dawn to dusk as he worked in the fields, prepared meals in the kitchen, or maintained the upkeep of the plantation.

  • Lesson 2: Black Separatism or the Beloved Community? Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

    Malcolm X argued that America was too racist in its institutions and people to offer hope to blacks. In contrast with Malcolm X's black separatism, Martin Luther King, Jr. offered what he considered "the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest" as a means of building an integrated community of blacks and whites in America. This lesson will contrast the respective aims and means of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. to evaluate the possibilities for black American progress in the 1960s.