The Civil War

Was the Civil War a War for Freedom?

Civil War Blueprint Cover ImageThe Civil War was a critical watershed in U.S. History, when the meaning of freedom for Americans and the meaning of union for the nation changed forever. This unit of study focuses on the events leading to the war, the perspectives of those who fought in or lived through the war, and the effects of the war on individual citizens and the nation.

More specifically, this unit addresses the causes of the Civil War, the perspectives of Northerners, Southerners, and abolitionists, and the critical battles of the war. This unit also provides detailed instructions to support student analysis of a number of relevant primary sources, including five of Abraham Lincoln’s speeches, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession. The unit concludes as it begins with a focus on an engaging and historically significant question: Was the Civil War a War for Freedom?

In addition to teaching students about the Civil War, this unit teaches students how to read, write, and think historically, analyze historical evidence from primary and secondary sources, and make interpretations.  Students will practice Common Core reading and writing skills, especially identifying the perspective or point of view of a source, integrating information from visual and written sources, identifying evidence from sources, and using that evidence to support an interpretation.  

Drawing on new historical scholarship about the most contentious time in American history, students consider: Was the Civil War a War for Freedom?

  • Unit Introduction 
  • The Road to War (Lesson #1:  Slavery; States' Rights; Sectional Differences)
  • Secession (Lesson #2:  Election of 1860; Philosophical Justification of Secession; Constitutional Requirements of Secession) 
  • Strategies and Battles (Lesson #3:  Advantages of the Confederacy and the Union; Military Strategies; Selected Battles (Fort Sumter, Bull Run, Monitor vs. Merrimack, Fort Donelson, Shenandoah, Shiloh, Antietam, Vicksburg, Fort Wagner, Gettysburg, Sherman's March to the Sea, & Appomattox))
  • Perspective (Lesson #4:  Analyzing Perspective; Views of Northern and Southern Groups; Perspectives of Historical Figures)
  • Lincoln's Speeches (Lesson #5:  Review of the Declaration of Independence; Address to the Illinois Republican Convention (the "House Divided" Speech), the First and Second Inaugural Addresses; The Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address
  • Emancipation (Lesson #6: Slaves Seek Freedom; Emancipation Proclamation)
  • Effects of the Civil War (Lesson #7:  Effects of the War on Different Populations; Massive Death and Destruction Caused by the War; Long-term Consequences of the War)
  • Final Assessment (Lesson #8:  Perspectives of Historical Figures; Assessing the Civil War as a War for Freedom)

The Civil War was  made  possible  by  the  generous  support  of  the  Walter  and  Elise  Haas  Fund and History Channel, in addition to California History-Social Science Project/ California Subject Matter Project funding.


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