Civil War

Studying the Civil War involves exploring the complex historical event that deeply divided the United States from 1861 to 1865, focusing on its causes, major battles, political implications, and the aftermath.

This educational activity covers the differences between the North and South, the role of slavery, key figures on both sides of the conflict, and the impact of the war on American society and history. Participants can engage in reading primary source documents, analyzing battle strategies through maps and simulations, and discussing the war’s lasting effects on the United States.


  • Enhances understanding of a pivotal period in American history
  • Develops critical thinking skills through analysis of historical sources and perspectives
  • Encourages empathy and understanding of the complexities of historical conflicts
  • Fosters a deeper appreciation for the impact of history on present-day society


  • Websites: Civil War Trust ( for detailed information on battles, maps, and historical documents
  • YouTube Videos: Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” documentary series for a comprehensive overview
  • Documentaries: “The Civil War” by Ken Burns on PBS
  • Books: “Battle Cry of Freedom” by James M. McPherson (Amazon) for an in-depth analysis of the period

Best Age to Start

12+ years old

Equipment and Materials

  • Internet access: Price varies by location
  • Books/Documentaries: Free (with library access) or up to $30 for purchases
  • Art supplies for map drawing and projects: Approx. $20-$50

Starting Tips

  • Begin with a documentary or comprehensive book to get an overview of the Civil War’s causes, major events, and outcomes.
  • Use interactive maps and timelines to trace the progression of battles and key events.
  • Examine primary sources, such as letters, speeches, and diary entries, to understand the personal experiences of those who lived through the war.

Commitment to Improve

  • Dedicate 2-3 hours per week to studying different aspects of the Civil War, including reading historical accounts and analyzing battle strategies.
  • Participate in discussions or debates to explore various perspectives on the war’s causes and consequences.

Requirements/Tasks for Mastery

  • Research Paper: Write an in-depth research paper on a specific battle, figure, or aspect of the Civil War, using primary and secondary sources.
  • Battle Analysis: Create a detailed analysis of a major Civil War battle, including maps, strategies, outcomes, and historical significance.
  • Presentation: Develop a presentation or exhibit that could be used to educate others about the Civil War, focusing on a particular theme or question.

Most Famous People Known for This Activity

  • Abraham Lincoln: The 16th President of the United States, whose leadership was crucial to the Union’s victory and the abolition of slavery.
  • Robert E. Lee: The commanding general of the Confederate Army, known for his military strategy and leadership.

Studying the Civil War offers insights into a critical period of American history, emphasizing the importance of understanding historical conflicts and their long-term impacts on a nation.


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