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“Living through Civil War Then and Now” (focusing on the Battle of Vicksburg)

August 15, 2013

“Living through C ivil War Then and Now” (focusing on the Battle of Vicksburg)

Nancy Ohmart

6th grade-8th Grade (I also teach 7th grade World History so this would fit right into my curriculum for World History and then I could tie it into my 8th Grade American History the next school year)

TIME ALLOWED:  3-6 Days or hours of class time


http://www.civilwarhome.com/insidevicksburg.htm– lengthy description of battle

http://www.civilwarhome.com/battleofvicksburg.htm- short description of battle

http://multimedia.post-gazette.com/ThenNow/Vicksburg/default.asp- pictures of battle scene

http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/vicksburg/maps/vicksburgmap.html- interactive map

http://www.mnhs.org/library/Christie/letters/transcripts/wg630919.html- letter of William Christie as he writes about the morality of war

http://wwwmnhs.org/library/Christie/letters/transcripts/wg630531.html- letter of William Christie, describing the siege of Vicksburg

http://www.nps.gov/vick/forteachers/letters-home-foster.htm- letters of William Lovelace Foster, a chaplain to troops at Vicksburg

http://www.natchezbelle.org/oldtime/diary/htmwhich includes diary entries of a Mrs. Miller who lived through the siege of Vicksburg

http://www.cw-chronicles.com/blog/category/a-soldier- includes soldier, Osborn H. Oldroyd’s account of the Siege of Vicksburg including a song he wrote


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11138790- background information on Civil War in M.E.

www.onbeing.org/program/two-narratives-gives both Palestinian and Israeli narratives on key conflicts

www.vispo.com/PRIME/leohn1.pdf- textbook comparison of Israeli and Palestinian conflicts including lots of primary statements/documents


Lesson Summary:  Students will gain greater knowledge of the American Civil War and develop a deeper comprehension of the continued strife of civil wars in our world still today.  Then they will apply their increased knowledge to a comparison/contrast activity through primary document analysis of the personal lives of those who lived through the American Civil War and those who continue to live through civil war strife today. Finally, the students, in groups, will convey their evaluation of what they have learned through the creation of a prezi which they will share with their classmates.


 Common Core Standards:

  1. CCSS.ELA- Literacy.RI.8.2Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.
  2. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.3 Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events
  3. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.2b- Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples
  4. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.3d.- use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events.
  5. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.9-Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.


Missouri Show-Me Knowledge Standards:

SS 2- Knowledge of continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States and the world

Missouri Show-Me Performance Standards:

  1. 1.7 – evaluate the accuracy of information, questions and ideas while recognizing the perspective of others

GLE’s - Tools of Social Science Inquiry

  1.   Knowledge of the use of tools of social science inquiry

D. Use of technological tools for research and presentation


1.  Colonel - a commissioned officer ranking above a lieutenant colonel and a brigadier

  1. Major-General –a commissioned officer ranking above a brigadier general and below a lieutenant general
  2. Expedition -  an excursion or journey made for a specific purpose, such as a war
  3. Infantry – foot soldiers
  4. Batteries -  a fortified emplacement for heavy guns
  5. Capitulation – an agreement or set of conditions, including the action of surrendering or ceasing to resist an opponent
  6. Veered – changed directions suddenly
  7. Siege –a military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or fort, cutting off supplies, with the aim of causing surrender


This is a great, short, overview of the Battle of Vicksburg and is taken straight from the second source above.  I would divide my students into groups of 3-5 and hand each group a portion of the below reading.  Then I would instruct them to summarize and be prepared to relay what they summarized to the class.

 “From mid-Oct. 1862, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant made several attempts to take Vicksburg. Following failures in the first attempts, the Battle of Chickasaw Bluffs, the Yazoo Pass Expedition, and Steele's Bayou Expedition, in the spring of 1863 he prepared to cross his troops from the west bank of the Mississippi River to a point south of Vicksburg and drive against the city from the south and east. Commanding Confederate batteries at Port Hudson, La., farther south prevented the transportation of waterborne supply and any communication from Union forces in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Naval support for his campaign would have to come from Rear Adm. David D. Porter's fleet north of Vicksburg. Running past the powerful Vicksburg batteries, Porter's vessels, once south of the city, could ferry Federals to the east bank. There infantry would face 2 Confederate forces, one under Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton at Vicksburg and another around Jackson, Miss., soon to be commanded by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston.
        In Jan. 1863 Grant organized his force into the XI Corps under Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand, the XV Corps under Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, the XVI Corps under Maj. Gen. Stephen A. Hurlbut, and the XVII Corps under Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson. Simultaneous with Grant's Vicksburg offensive, Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks began his maneuvering along the Red River in Louisiana. Hurlbut's corps was subsequently transferred to New Orleans. With his 3 remaining corps, Grant began operations late in March. On the 29th and 30th McClernand's and McPherson's men, at Milliken's Bend and Lake Providence, northwest of Vicksburg, began working their way south, building a military road to New Carthage, La., preparatory to a move south to Hard Times, La., a village opposite Bruinsburg, Miss.
        On the night of 16 Apr., at Grant's request, Porter took 12 vessels south past the Vicksburg batteries, losing 1 to Confederate fire. On 17 Apr. Grierson's Raid began. Led by Brig. Gen. Benjamin H. Grierson, Federal cavalry left La Grange, Tenn., for 16 days riding through central Mississippi to Baton Rouge, La., pulling away large units from Vicksburg's defense to pursue them. Porter, encouraged by light losses on his first try, ran a large supply flotilla past the Vicksburg batteries the night of 22 Apr. Sherman's troops, many at work on a canal project at Duckport, abandoned this work, joined in a last action along the Yazoo River, northeast of Vicksburg, and 29-30 Apr. made a demonstration against Confederate works at Haynes' Bluff and Drumgould's Bluffs, diverting more of Pemberton's force. Also on 29 Apr., as McClernand's and McPherson's troops gathered near Hard Times, Porter's fleet assailed Confederate batteries at Grand Gulf, 33 mi. southwest of Vicksburg, testing the Grand Gulf area as a landing site for Union troops. Though Porter found the guns there too strong, he had succeeded in further diverting Pemberton in Vicksburg.
        Grant had originally determined that Rodney, Miss., would be the starting point of his invasion, but took the advice of a local slave and picked Bruinsburg instead. McClernand's and McPherson's corps were ferried east across the Mississippi from Hard Times 30 Apr. That day Grant sent word north for Sherman to follow McPherson's route south and join him.
        On I May the Federal invasion force engaged the Confederates in the Battle of Port Gibson. Pemberton had just over 40,000 men assigned to the Vicksburg region. Since they were scattered throughout the area, chasing Grierson and wary of Sherman, few of them could be brought to bear against Grant on short notice. Defeated at Port Gibson, Pemberton's troops moved north. Grant, to Pemberton's confusion, pushed northeast. Sherman's corps joined him 8 May, and 12 May the engagement at Raymond was fought. Johnston took personal command of Confederates at Jackson, 15 mi northeast of Raymond, 13 May. On 14 May Federals quickly won an engagement at Jackson, cut off Johnston from Pemberton, and ensured the latter's isolation for the rest of the campaign. In 2 weeks Grant's force had come well over 130 mi. northeast from their Bruinsburg landing site.
        Ordering Sherman to destroy Jackson's heavy industry and rail facilities, Grant turned west, roughly following the Southern Mississippi Railroad to Bolton, and 16 May fought the climactic combat of his field campaign, the Battle Of Champion's Hill. With the largest force he had yet gathered to oppose Grant, Pemberton nevertheless took a beating there and pulled his army into the defenses of Vicksburg. In a delaying battle at Big Black River Bridge, 17 May, Confederates crossed the Big Black, destroying their river crossings behind them. Undeterred, Federals threw up their own bridges and continued pursuit the next day.
        Approaching from the east and northeast, McClernand's, McPherson's, and Sherman's corps neared the Vicksburg defenses 1 8 May, Sherman's veering north to take the hills overlooking the Yazoo River. Possession of these heights assured Grant's reinforcement and supply from the North. The next day Federals made the failed first assault on Vicksburg. The second assault, 22 May, was a disaster for Union forces, showed the strength of the miles of Confederate works arching east around the city, and convinced Grant that Pemberton could only be defeated in a protracted siege.
        The siege of Vicksburg began with the repulse of the 22 May assault and lasted until 4 July 1 863. As the siege progressed, Pemberton's 20,000-man garrison was reduced by disease and starvation, and the city's residents were forced to seek the refuge of caves and bombproofs in the surrounding hillsides, Hunger and daily bombardments by Grant's forces and Porter's gunboats compelled Pemberton to ask for surrender terms 3 July. Grant offered none, but on the garrison's capitulation immediately paroled the bulk of the force. Many of these same men would later oppose him at Chattanooga.
        Pemberton's surrender ended the Vicksburg Campaign. But during the siege, to the east Johnston had raised a 31,000 man force in the Jackson area. On 4 July, as Confederates were being paroled, Sherman moved his force to oppose this new threat. Sherman's march would result in the Siege of Jackson.”




As students come into class the first day of this lesson, I would hand them a notecard to write down, as their admittance fee into class, their own inference as to the meaning of the following quote, shared with our TAH Grant Group at Gettysburg in July, 2013 by Dr. Carol Reardon, “This is the great reward of service.  To live, far out and on, in the life of others.” – Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, 20th Maine, Defenders of the Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg.  Allow students about 2-3 minutes and encourage them to share their inferences and perspectives.  The instructor will need to explain the importance of the 20th Maine and who Col. Chamberlain was.  This is a great way to open your students’ minds to what they will be participating in, “comparing the past to the present.”


First Two Days: (depending upon how many activities you decide to have your own class participate in):  After students are finished their inferences with the admittance fee quote, second have them divide into their 6 o’clock groups and they are to summarize and share the short over-view of the Battle of Vicksburg.  (Here, a teacher could show a prezi over the Battle of Vicksburg, there is a plethora of those out there).  Third, which is also optional (I like to include many learning strategies because I do realize classrooms are diverse with many different learning abilities) would be to show the interactive map of the Battle of Vicksburg, encouraging students, if they have access to their own personal devices/computers, to follow along while you take them through this (I would do this to reinforce how this was truly a personal battle, with a town under siege). Fourth, have primary letters (from above sources – you could even tea dye them and crumple them up to make them look more authentic and/or laminate them) on several different tables and ask students to get into their 9 o’clock groups to do primary document analysis (you can use your own form OR use the great one on the National Archives website which is included above).  Give about 10 minutes and then ask EACH group to have a spokesperson to share their analysis; encourage students to make a list of similarities and differences to the documents AND to their own lives today (this activity could take 20 minutes or as long as an hour – allow students to direct the discussion as much as possible, which often encourages them to create their own perspectives and apply to their own lives in a deeper cognitive direction). 

 Finally, ask them to divide into their 3 o’clock groups and encourage students to begin researching how this battle was personal and how that could relate to their own lives today.  This will be their homework daily. They will use that research in their own group presentation.

You may ask what are the “clock groups” referred to above.  I give each student a notecard and ask them to draw a clock, placing 3, 6, 9, and 12 onto it.  Then, I ask students to get with each other and write down each other’s names in each of the four spots, thus you have four working groups).  It is a great way to give students ownership into dividing their own class, yet, not having the same students working together (sometimes, not accomplishing to their full potential what they could). 


SECOND TWO DAYS of class:  Do similar activities with the conflicts going on in the Middle East especially in reference to Israelis and Palestinians. There is a plethora of personal accounts in the textbook in the resources above.  I would, personally, go through and find 5-6 quotes which are most applicable to your own unique, diverse classroom for students to again (possibly if time allows) do primary document analysis again, this time using the 12 o’clock groups. The purpose of this part of the lesson (ALTHOUGH YOU COULD HAVE STOPPED THE LESSON WITH THE ACTIVITES FOR THE FIRST TWO DAYS AND HAD A GREAT LESSON) is to encourage the students to apply history to the present. Students will continue working, days 4-5, on their own research and creation. Also, there is a great you-tube video which works here to convey part of the story; I would allow students 3-5 minutes to process and discuss the purpose of the you-tube video (although you could actually have students jot down 3-5 phrases, concepts, and/or ideas they found interesting about the video OR they may have a question about.  IF you do utilize this video, please be ready for questions, which means you may need to do some prior  knowledge digging, yourself, of the subject.–   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rn12wcZaZF8

Days 5-6 will be spent allowing students to share their group creations (may take longer depending upon your own time length allowance of the students’ technological creation, AND how much discussion the prezis encourage, which is one of the main purposes of this lesson, in its entirety, to encourage students to see how history applies to them today.

HOMEWORK:  Students will spend a week, in and out of class, researching to create their comparison/contrast prezi over Civil Wars, then and now, including why it is applicable to them today. 

ASSESSMENT:  Students assessment will be over their in-class participation, their research time utilization, and their final group project, the prezi.

For students’ in-class participation and also for their research time do two separate grades, daily, on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being excellent. You can utilize the following rubric for the prezi OR create your own.
















Student Name:     ________________________________________







Content - Accuracy

All content throughout the presentation is accurate. There are no factual errors.

Most of the content is accurate but there is one piece of information that might be inaccurate.

The content is generally accurate, but one piece of information is clearly flawed or inaccurate.

Content is typically confusing or contains more than one factual error.

Sequencing of Information

Information is organized in a clear, logical way. It is easy to anticipate the type of material that might be on the next card.

Most information is organized in a clear, logical way. One card or item of information seems out of place.

Some information is logically sequenced. An occasional card or item of information seems out of place.

There is no clear plan for the organization of information.


Group delegates tasks and shares responsibility effectively all of the time.

Group delegates tasks and shares responsibility effectively most of the time.

Group delegates tasks and shares responsibility effectively some of the time.

Group often is not effective in delegating tasks and/or sharing responsibility.


Project includes all material needed to gain a comfortable understanding of the topic. It is a highly effective study guide.

Project includes most material needed to gain a comfortable understanding of the material but is lacking one or two key elements. It is an adequate study guide.

Project is missing more than two key elements. It would make an incomplete study guide.

Project is lacking several key elements and has inaccuracies that make it a poor study guide.

Spelling and Grammar

Presentation has no misspellings or grammatical errors.

Presentation has 1-2 misspellings, but no grammatical errors.

Presentation has 1-2 grammatical errors but no misspellings.

Presentation has more than 2 grammatical and/or spelling errors.


Background does not detract from text or other graphics. Choice of background is consistent from card to card and is appropriate for the topic.

Background does not detract from text or other graphics. Choice of background is consistent from card to card.

Background does not detract from text or other graphics.

Background makes it difficult to see text or competes with other graphics on the page.

Use of Graphics

All graphics are attractive (size and colors) and support the theme/content of the presentation.

A few graphics are not attractive but all support the theme/content of the presentation.

All graphics are attractive but a few do not seem to support the theme/content of the presentation.

Several graphics are unattractive AND detract from the content of the presentation.


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