Lesson 1: Factory vs. Plantation in the North and South

Louisiana plantation, 1865
Photo caption

Louisiana plantation, 1865.

By 1860, the differences between the North and South had become so great that Northerners and Southerners felt as if they belonged to two different countries. What were some of these differences? Which ones were important enough to fight about? Explain to students that they are going to study life in the United States in the years before the Civil War to gain a better understanding of why people grew willing to fight to defend their way of life.

Many of the documents students will look at reflect the lives of ordinary people, those who would fill the ranks of the armies and those on the home front supporting the war effort. Public support for a war comes more easily when those who have to fight feel they are defending what is important in their own lives. Students will learn about everyday life before the Civil War in the South and North to begin to understand which differences were significant.

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.