The following unit follows the unit on "What Caused the American Civil War?". It is one of the most popular parts of the history course with my students, since they learn an immense amount about an exciting period of history completely through interactive projects and a series of simulation games!
The next part of the unit is taught purely through strategy games! Students take on the roles of different politicians and generals and through a series of 'moves' based around 'decision points' they quickly develop a deep understanding of the people, places, events, themes, campaigns and battles of the war.
Game 1 - Classroom Simulation
The following strategy game was inspired by, and is based upon, the excellent materials provided at JuniorGeneral.org (@JuniorGeneral). I have developed it further with ideas of my own and a large dose of detailed historical information about events 1861-65 which means that the entire topic can now be taught through the strategy game!
Mission A: People and Places In this first stage of the simulation, students are divided into "Union" and "Confederate" teams and learn more about the key figures involved in the war. They can then use this to formulate a strategy for winning the simulation - which consists of various armies deciding how best to increase their strength and moving around a map trying to capture their enemies' capital city. A great way to get the class aware of the people and places involved. The Teacher Notes for this first stage of the game are important to have to hand.
For the strategy game, here is an interactive version of the Battle Map that you can save at the end of each lesson over the duration of the unit.
Mission B: Events and Themes In the second stage of the simulation, students are presented with a series of decision points based on key events that took place during the course of the war. For each one, both teams have to decide how their president would have reacted. Correct guesses lead to an increase in their armies' strength; incorrect guesses lead to a decrease. Further movements of armies around the map are then permitted. At the end of the 9 decision points students will start to be forming a clear idea of the various reasons why the Union won and the Confederacy lost. Not only this, but they will be able to comment on whether political, economic or military factors were most important. The Teacher Slideshow Presentation, complete with the decision points, will be needed for this part of the activity.
Mission C: Campaigns and Battles In this final stage of the game-based unit, students take the role of an advisor to either President Davis, or President Lincoln. They will be given a series of military, economic and political problems to deal with. Their first objective is to choose the course of action which they think their President took in real life (his 'approval rating' of you will then stay high). Their second objective is to correctly answer the factual questions they are given as the game proceeds (your 'factual knowledge' score will then stay high). As they proceed through the simulation, students complete the worksheet. At the end of the game there will be follow-up tasks. Students can play as a Confederate, a Unionist, or even against another player!
What can we learn from the songs of the Civil War?
In this activity, students analyse the lyrics (and, if possible, listen to the music) of popular Confederate and Unionist songs from the civil war. They then have to produce their own civil war song to a civil-war era tune of their choice. Their objective is to produce a song which clearly explains the causes of the war. Finally, they look at the legacy of the civil war on American popular music, using examples from The Band, Elvis Presley, Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd.