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8th Grade Essay On Civil War

The Middle School Curriculum is a set of nine standards-based lesson plans and one final exam. Below are the Curriculum Lessons along with additional selected lessons, all of which fit within our Civil War Goals for Middle School Students. A final Middle School Assessment for the Civil War Curriculum is also available at the bottom of this page.

Sections of the Curriculum:

Pre-1861: Disunion

Students will be able to identify the causes of the American Civil War.

The Country Goes to War

Students will be able to describe the state of the nation and sequence the first events of the Civil War.

Antietam and Emancipation

Students will be able to state the meaning and impact of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Life at War

Students will be able to describe the day-to-day life of a Civil War soldier.

The Home Front

Students will be able to list examples of work done on the home front and describe how news traveled to the home front.

Shifting Tides

Students will be able to discuss the effects of the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, paying particular attention to the Gettysburg Address.

Bringing the War to an End

Students will be able to list and discuss the sequence of events leading to the end of the Civil War, paying special attention to the election of 1864.

Effects of the Civil War

Students will be able to discuss the effects of the Civil War.

Preserving the Memory

Students will be able to illustrate ways in which they can preserve the memory of the war.

The Civil War Summary & Analysis

A Very Uncivil War

For four years between 1861 and 1865, the United States engaged in a civil war. 

Divisions between the free North and the slaveholding South erupted into a full-scale conflict after the election of Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860. 11 Southern states seceded from the Union, collectively turning their back on the idea of a single American nation. Lincoln, who'd been in office for only six weeks, declared these acts of secession illegal, and asked Congress for 500,000 soldiers to crush what threatened to be an aggressive rebellion. 

In April 1861, the first shots were fired and what followed became a national tragedy of unimaginable proportions. More than 600,000 soldiers were killed and millions more wounded. Large sections of the South were ravaged by violent battles, and the Union nearly collapsed under determined Confederate forces.

The war itself began hesitantly, but after the Battle of Bull Run—in Manassas, Virginia— in July 1861, it was clear that warfare would last for many months, perhaps even years. Huge battles raged in places like Fredericksburg, Chickamauga, and Shiloh and in Virginia and Tennessee, where 40% of the 10,000 engagements of the war were fought. 

Winning victory after victory over poorly-led Union forces, Confederate General Robert E. Lee invaded Maryland in September 1862. But there he suffered a major loss at the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest engagement of the war. The following year, Lee trounced the Union Army at Chancellorsville and invaded Pennsylvania, leading to the climactic Battle of Gettysburg in which 50,000 men were killed or wounded and Lee was forced to retreat to Virginia, never to invade the North again.

In the West, Union General Ulysses S. Grant took the important Confederate town of Vicksburg on the Mississippi River on July 4th, 1863, the same day that news of the Union victory at Gettysburg reached Washington. 

But despite these key victories, the war still wasn't over. 

Grant launched his Overland Campaign in 1864 and fought a series of major battles. He hoped to destroy Lee's army by utilizing a strategy of attrition, but the tactic failed. In retaliation, Union General William Tecumsah Sherman marched from Atlanta to Savannah, burning the countryside as he went. By the spring of 1865, the South was exhausted, and on April 9th, Lee finally surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House, effectively ending the war.

Though most Americans knew that the central reason behind the war was slavery, it wasn't until the Battle of Antietam in September 1862 that Lincoln began emancipating the slaves. 

On January 1st, 1863, Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in captured Confederate territory. From that point on, the war officially became one over the issue of slavery. Still, it wasn't until after the war, in December 1865, that the 13th Amendment was ratified, finally freeing all slaves in America.

Economically, the war was a boon for the North and a disaster for the South. 

The North began the war with several advantages: more men, more money, more industrial power, and an extensive railroad system. And by the end of the war, the North continued to dominate economically, while the ravaged South struggled to recover economically and psychologically from the devastation of the war. 

In addition to losing many of its young men, sons, husbands, fathers, and friends to the conflict, the Southern planter aristocracy was crushed in the war, and never regained its political power.

The Civil War answered many of the fundamental questions of the American experiment: free or slave, one or many, united or divided. But it did so at a tremendous cost.

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