Lesson Plan

Lesson 1: The Battle Over Reconstruction: The Aftermath of War

Collage of two Harpers Weekly Reconstruction related pictures and a Freedmen's Bureau picture.
Photo caption

Collage of two Harpers Weekly Reconstruction related pictures and a Freedmen's Bureau picture.

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As the Civil War drew to a close, the social, political and economic conditions within the rebellious southern states fueled discussion about how to restore them to the Union. This lesson plan will examine the nature and extent of some of these social, political and economic conditions and how they influenced the early thinking about and attempts at restoring the southern states to the Union. Students will consider the economic and material impact of the Confederacy’s defeat with the assistance of an interactive map that combines statistics and data with the thoughts and ideas of the people living through this difficult period. In coming to understand the physical and political devastation of the war, students will have a basis for better appreciating the challenges facing the nation as it worked toward devising a workable solution for Reconstruction.

EDSITEment also co-created a Smithsonian Learning Lab collection on Reconstruction that includes multimedia resources, access to newspapers from the era, and artifacts from Smithsonian collections. 

Guiding Questions

How did the social, economic, and political upheaval of the Civil War influence the policies of Reconstruction?

Did Reconstruction extend or undermine democracy in the United States? 

How did local and regional differences affect the ways in which Reconstruction was implemented? 

What did the Reconstruction Amendments mean for citizenship in the United States?

Learning Objectives

Assess the state of social, economic, and political institutions in the U.S. following the Civil War. 

Analyze data included in the statistical map interactive and incorporate this information within a position statement on the political, social, and economic crisis confronting the nation during Reconstruction.

Evaluate the conflicting philosophies and factions during Reconstruction and their impact on the era and beyond in U.S. history. 

Examine challenges to the goals of Reconstruction that emerged in different regions of the nation.