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A student’s analysis of the turning point of the war, Vicksburg or Gettysburg

September 11, 2013

Lesson Title:  A student’s analysis of the turning point of the war, Vicksburg or  


Author:  Kim Greer, Nevada Middle School

Grade Level:  8th grade, 2 day lesson

Resources:  Classroom textbook, internet access, pictures of both Vicksburg and                                                                                          


Lesson Summary:  

Although there is no question that both the siege of Vicksburg and the Battle of Gettysburg are significant events, historians often disagree about which event should be considered the turning point of the Civil War.  Students will spend two days researching and learning about both actions, and use that information to form their opinion which they will argue in an essay. 

Common Core Standards:  

ELA-Literacy RH 6-8.1       Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary source.

RH 6-8.2                                Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

RH 6-8.7                                Integrate visual information with other information in print and digital texts

RH 6-8.9                                Analyze the relationships between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.

Key Terms:                         logistics, offensive, civilian

Historical background:  The siege of Vicksburg began in May 1863, and lasted until July 4, the day after the Battle of Gettysburg ended.  Gaining control of Vicksburg meant access to the completed Mississippi River, and disrupting Confederate movements in the West.  The Union victory at Gettysburg prevented a Confederate movement into the North, and sent Lee’s troops back to Southern territory.

http://www.history.com/videos/the-union-siege-of-vicksburg#the-union-siege-of-vicksburg  video clip

http://www.civilwarinteractive.com/ArticleTheChildrenofVicksbutg.htm  Citizen’s experience account

http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/gtburgcont.htm  Citizen’s experience account

http://www.history.com/videos/the-battle-of-gettysburg#the-battle-of-gettysburg  video clip



Anticipatory Set:  Ask students if they have heard of either event, and have them share what they know.  Tell them that they are about to participate in an analysis that has fascinated historians for 150 years.

Do Now Activity:  Two day research activity.


1.  Go to a computer lab so students can read material on the links at their own pace, and watch both videos with headphones.

2.  As they read the information found in the links, students should keep brief notes to address the questions posed about both events.

3.  At the beginning of the second day, students should use the side of the paper with two columns to brainstorm ideas about which event was the turning point of the war.

4.  By the end of the hour the student should have completed a 3-5 paragraph persuasive essay outlining their view.  The essay will be graded with regard to the use of facts provided.            












As you read the details provided on each link, take notes that answer the following questions:

1.  What were the objectives of each side during the battle/siege?

2.  Who were the leaders?

3.  Describe the challenges faced by each side regarding the location.

4.  How were civilians affected?

5.  What strategies allowed the North to achieve victory? 

6.  What might have happened if the South had won?


















                           Vicksburg                                                             Gettysburg



ASSIGNMENT:  You will write a 3-5 paragraph persuasive essay addressing whether Vicksburg or Gettysburg should be regarded as the turning point of the Civil War.  You must include background information about the battle/siege, details about both events, and consequences felt by both the North and the South after those events occurred.  The most significant consequences, in your opinion, will determine which event should be considered the turning point of the war.


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