The Civil War


  • The Union's Grand Strategy, Activity | Ken Burns: The Civil War

    This activity works well as an introduction to learning about the Civil War. It sets the stage for student understanding of why the war was fought, the objectives and strategies of both sides, and the sectional differences that augmented the debate over the direction of the country. Students will view three video clips from The Civil War: A House Divided, Secessionitisand A Thousand Mile FrontThen, students will analyze a map of the Union’s “Grand Strategy” to defeat the Confederacy. Student questions provided here can be used for general class discussion or individual assessment. Answers to the questions are included.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Civil War Music, Activity | Ken Burns: The Civil War

    This activity shows students how both in the North and in the South, music was used extensively during the Civil War to rally troops and the public. Different versions of familiar songs, in which both sides borrowed each other’s tunes or lyrics, are presented. It was not uncommon for each side to serenade the other, or for battle to stop while an impromptu concert was held. Singing an “altered rendition” of one side’s favorite song was often done to poke fun at the enemy. Students will examine lyrics of “Battle Cry of Freedom” and “Dixie” with versions from both sides, and make conclusions about the lyrics. Student questions provided here can be used for general class discussion or individual assessment. Answers to the questions are included.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Lee and Grant at Appomattox, Activity | Ken Burns: The Civil War

    Students will view a video clip from The Civil War and analyze the surrender terms, as well as the events leading to Lee’s surrender. Then they will review selections from General Grant’s memoirs. Discussion questions follow, which can be used for general class discussion or individual assessment. Answers to the questions are included.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • African-American Troops, Activity | Ken Burns: The Civil War

    This activity helps students understand the impact of the Emancipation Proclamation on changing the nature of the war, as well as how that change was manifested in the entry of African-Americans to the Union cause. In this activity, students view a video clip from "The Civil War" on the formation of African-American regiments, particularly the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, explaining the difficulty African-American soldiers faced in being accepted as equals and how their bravery brought a modicum of acceptance, albeit reluctantly, by white soldiers. Students also analyze the final letter by Robert Gould Shaw, commander of the regiment, to his wife the day before the Union assault on Battery Wagner. Student questions provided here can be used for general class discussion or individual assessment. Answers to the questions are included. 

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Sherman’s March, Activity | The Civil War

    This activity helps students understand how the Union’s March to the Sea was one of the most controversial aspects of the later phases of the Civil War. Sent by Ulysses S. Grant to create havoc and destruction of all resources that would be beneficial to the enemy, Sherman began his Atlanta Campaign in May 1864. Students will view a video clip from The Civil War series that explains how after capturing Atlanta, Sherman marched his army to the sea, capturing the city of Savannah in December, and then marching through South Carolina into North Carolina. Students will then analyze two primary sources. Student questions follow, which can be used for general class discussion or individual assessment. Answers to the questions are included.

    Grades: 6-13+

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