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Civil War Battles Lesson for Kids

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I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.

Major Civil War Battles Lesson for Kids

Major Civil War Battles Lesson for Kids

This is the 26th lesson in a series of 27 hands-on lessons covering U.S. American History through 1865. This lesson focuses on the major battles of the Civil War. I used this plan while teaching a 45 minute history class for children in Kindergarten, 1st, & 2nd grades. Each lesson includes a biography report, history notebook page, history song, our favorite children's books, YouTube video, a history joke, & a variety of hands-on activities to make each lesson engaging & memorable. Use these fun lessons with your classroom, homeschool, after-school program, or co-op!

Student biography presentation on Robert E. Lee

Student biography presentation on Robert E. Lee

Student Biography Presentation: Robert E. Lee

1. Student biography presentation on Robert E. Lee

Review & Presidents Song

2. Review: Who invented the cotton gin? (Eli Whitney) Who had been a slave and then helped hundreds of other slaves escape? (Harriet Tubman) What was the Underground Railroad? (The route slaves would take while escaping.) How would they know which direction was north? (Following the North Star/Polaris) What was an abolitionist? (Someone who wanted to abolish or end slavery.) Name a famous abolitionist. (Sojourner Truth, Fredrick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Tubman, & others) Many abolitionists were of what religion? (Quaker) What was a woman's suffragist? (Someone who thought women should have the right to vote.) Name a famous women's suffragist. (Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, & others) The Southern states seceded & became their own country after which man was elected President? (Abraham Lincoln) Was the Confederate States of America the Northern states or the Southern states? (Southern)

3. Now let's go through all the Presidents. Sing through the entire song 2 times while either showing the video or flipping through pictures of the Presidents. (Be sure to add in "Donald Trump" at the end.)

You will need:

  • Screen to show the below video or a book showing Presidents or point to their pictures on a President place mat

U.S. Presidents Song

Billy Yank Union Soldiers vs. Johnny Reb Confederates

4. Assign the boys & girls sides.

  • The boys are the Billy Yank Union soldiers (the North). Give them blue hats.
  • The girls are Johnny Reb Confederate soldiers (the South). Give them gray hats.

You will need:

  • Civil War foot soldier headband hats for each child - I used the pattern of the hat (pictured above) and printed copies for each of my children. I used blue paper for the boys and white paper for the girls (as it would look gray). I cut out the hats. I stapled together a circle of construction paper to make a headband that would fit a child's head. Then I stapled a hat to each headband.
Dramatization of attack on Fort Sumter

Dramatization of attack on Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter simplified dramtization

5. Dramatize the battle at Fort Sumter.

  • The boys (Union) set up a fort using chairs
  • The girls (Confederates) ask, "You're in the South. You're in our country now. This is the Confederate States of America. Will you give up?"
  • The boys (Union) shout their reply of, "No!"
  • The girls (Confederates) replies, "Then we’ll blast you with cannons!" [They get to throw crumpled paper ball "cannon balls" at the boys fort.
  • Yay! The Confederate South wins. They get to keep Fort Sumter
  • The Northern Union says, "Oh no you don't! This means war!"

You will need:

  • chairs to form the fort
  • crumpled up paper balls
Scroll to Continue

Ironclads: Monitor vs. Virginia

6. If there were going to be battles in the water, both sides needed to build better ships.

  • Flip through the pages of Duel of the Ironclads: The Monitor Vs. the Virginia by Patrick O'Brien while summarizing this water battle.
  • The Merrimack (or Merrimac) was a burned hull of a ship, so the Confederate states covered it in iron that would protect it from cannonball blasts. They named this new ironclad ship the CSS Virginia.
  • The Union (North) heard about this new ironclad ship, so they raced to build their own version covered in iron. They named their new ironclad the USS Virginia.
  • Pass out a picture of the 2 ironclad ships. Have the children tape an aluminum foil flap oval over each ship (covering them in "iron"), so they can lift up the aluminum foil flap to reveal ship underneath. Tell them that the aluminum foil can remind them about the iron covering over the wooden ship.
  • This can go in their history notebook.

You will need:

  • Duel of the Ironclads: The Monitor Vs. the Virginia by Patrick O'Brien or other book on the Monitor & Virginia ironclads
  • a paper with the Monitor & Virginia ironclads models, punched with a 3 hole punch
  • per child: 2 aluminum foil ovals that fit over the ironclad pictures
  • scotch tape

Emancipation Proclamation

7. Emancipation Proclamation

  • Have children put their hats at their seats and hold up an Abraham Lincoln mask. [Pass out top hats if you have any.]
  • Abraham Lincoln decided he was going to make this war about something big. He was going to now make the war about slavery!
  • While the children hold up their Abraham Lincoln masks, have them say, “I have passed the Emancipation Proclamation. '[A]ll persons held as slaves' within the rebellious states 'are, and henceforward shall be free.'"
  • What does that mean? He didn't free all the slaves. He didn't free the slaves in the states that were still part of the Union. He said that all the slaves in the Southern States were free. According to the Southerns, Abraham Lincoln wasn't their President. He had no authority to free their slaves. This wouldn't mean much until after the North won the Civil War in 1865.
  • Have children put their Abe Lincoln face masks on the table. [We will be using the Lincoln face masks again.]

You will need per child:

The Southern Confederates (girls) who have to give up at Vicksburg after they run out of food

The Southern Confederates (girls) who have to give up at Vicksburg after they run out of food

Battle of Vicksburg

8. Battle of Vicksburg dramatization (Go through this dramatization quickly.)

  • Have the girls (Southern Confederates) sit on the floor. They are the people living in Vicksburg, Mississippi, which is along the Mississippi River.
  • The boys (Union) should put on their soldier hats. They will each grab a chair (that will be a pretend boat) and make a circle around the girls.
  • Under the leadership of Union General Ulysses S. Grant, the Union army surrounded Vicksburg with boats so that no food could get into their city. Most of the Confederate soldiers were fighting in other places, so they couldn't come home to protect their families & their homes.
  • The people were starving. The girls should say, "We're starving & about to die."
  • The people in Vicksburg are so hungry they eat all the rats. The girls should say, "Let's eat the rats."
  • Eventually the people in Vicksburg have eaten all the rats. They have nothing left to eat. Have the girls say, "We give up."
  • Yay for Union General Ulysses S. Grant. Now the Union controls the Mississippi River.

You will need:

  • chairs
  • the boys blue foot soldier headband hats
Battle of Gettysburg dramatization

Battle of Gettysburg dramatization

Battle of Gettysburg

9. Dramatize battle of Gettysburg.

  • Abraham Lincoln is sad that the war is continuing to drag on. He's starting to think that maybe they should just let the Southern states be their own country, the Confederate States of America. Then everything changes when the Union army has a major victory at the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.
  • Have the girls put on their gray foot soldier headband hats.
  • Give both sides lots of soft foam balls or crumpled up paper balls. I separated them by having each side on the opposite sides of a table. I gave the boys more ammunition (paper), and the girls better cover (mats) to hold over their heads. I told them I was doing this because the Union had more weapons but the South had better generals like Robert E. Lee who put troops his troops in better locations.
  • Allow for them to throw them at each other for 30 seconds.
  • After the 30 seconds, tell all the girls to lay down & pretend to be dead. At the Battle of Gettysburg, lots of Confederate soldiers died.
  • Tell the boys they can cheer because the Union army won.

You will need:

  • children's foot soldier headbands
  • lots of soft foam balls or crumpled up paper balls



10. After all this fighting, aren't you hungry? So were the soldiers! There wasn't much food left, though. They didn't have time to sit down & make Johnny Cakes like what we enjoyed last week. They had to stay on the move & march. That meant they got to eat hardtack, which was easy to carry & didn't require cooking. Pass out hardtack & let the children try some.

You will need:

  • hardtack (You can follow a recipe online or you can just take a refrigerated pie crust & bake it.)
Delivering the Gettysburg Address

Delivering the Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg Address

11. So many people died at the Battle of Gettysburg. They decided to hold a ceremony to honor those who died, & Abe Lincoln gave a very short speech there.

  • Have the children sit at the table & listen as I read the Gettysburg Address from Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln, illustrated by Michael McCurdy.
  • Have everyone remove their soldier caps & hold up their Abraham Lincoln masks again. Pass out top hats if you have them.
  • The children will recite parts of the Gettysburg Address after me: "Four score and seven years ago...that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
  • Have the children put their Abe Lincoln face masks on the table.

You will need:

  • Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln, illustrated by Michael McCurdy or other book with the words to the Gettysburg Address
  • Abe Lincoln face mask with eye holes cut out for each child
  • top hats of magician hats (optional)
Surrender at Appomattox Courthouse

Surrender at Appomattox Courthouse

Surrender at Appomattox Courthouse & Review

12. Dramatize the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

  • Select a boy to be General Grant & a girl to be Robert E. Lee.
  • Give Lee a sword & have him hand it over to Grant.
  • Lee should ask, "Can my soldiers leave with their horses."
  • Grant says, "Yes, just have them leave their weapons."
  • Have the girls hand over all the foam balls or paper balls & put them in a canvas bag held by Grant.

You will need:

  • a toy foam sword or stick to pretend is a sword
  • the foam balls or paper balls used earlier
  • a bag to hold the balls

13. Review: The first skirmish that started off the war was held at which fort? (Fort Sumter) Name the two ironclads. (Monitor vs. Virginia) What did Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation do? (freed slaves in the Confederate states) When Grant & his Union army beat Vicksburg, what river did they win control of? (Mississippi) Who won at the Battle of Gettysburg? (North/Union) Who gave the Gettysburg Address? (Abraham Lincoln) Where did Robert E. Lee surrender to Ulysses S. Grant? (Appomattox Courthouse)

14. There will not be a student biography presentation next week as it will be the last class.

We read through stacks of books. These were our 7 favorite books:

  • The Last Brother: A Civil War Tale (Tales of Young Americans) by Trinka Hakes Noble
  • Mary Walker Wears the Pants: The True Story of the Doctor, Reformer, and Civil War Hero by Cheryl Harness
  • Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero by Marissa Moss
  • Civil War Drummer Boy by Verla Kay
  • Lucy's Cave: A Story of Vicksburg, 1863 Karen B. Winnick
  • The Cemetery Keepers of Gettysburg by Linda Oatman High
  • You Wouldn't Want to Be a Nurse During the American Civil War!: A Job That's Not for the Squeamish by Kathryn Senior

CrashCourse History Battles of the Civil War

Native Americans & Columbus Lesson
Jamestown Lesson
Pilgrims Lesson
Thirteen Colonies Lesson
French and Indian War Lesson
Colonial Period & Revolution Rumblings Lesson
Boston Massacre & Boston Tea Party Lesson
First Shots & Declaration of Independence Lesson
American War for Independence Battles Lesson
Valley Forge & Battle of Yorktown Lesson
American Literature Lesson & American War for Independence Review
Colonial Christmas Party
Constitution Lesson
Three Branches of Government Lesson
President George Washington Lesson
Louisiana Purchase Lesson
War of 1812 Lesson
Monroe Doctrine Lesson
Trail of Tears Lesson
Oregon Trail & Battle of Alamo Lesson
California Gold Rush & Pony Express Lesson
American Industrial Revolution Lesson
Underground Railroad Lesson
Abolitionists & Women Suffragists Lesson
Civil War: The Confederate States & Abraham Lincoln Lesson
Civil War Battles Lesson
Civil War Party & End of Year Review Game
Fun, Free Hands-on Unit Studies (My Lessons in All Subjects)

© 2018 Shannon


Shannon (author) from Florida on August 13, 2018:

Thank you so much!

Liz Westwood from UK on August 12, 2018:

These lessons are great at bringing history alive.

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