It can be very useful to incorporate units that engage students with interactive lessons using the internet. These activities often take a great deal of preparation and you may encounter a few bumps along the way, but the results are worth the investment.
The following activities are designed for a 9th grade US History I class, but I am sure it could be used with middle school students, as well as other grades.
If you are comfortable using, it is a great way to share the activity. The students can click on the links and will be guaranteed to connect to the appropriate site. (WHEN SHARING A DOCUMENT, BE SURE TO CLICK THE “CAN VIEW” OPTION, NOT THE “CAN EDIT.” Your work could be deleted if a student accidentally hits the wrong button!)
Here is the lesson / Google.doc that I share with the students. I hope you find it useful.
I have included the answers in bold to save some time for teachers. If you do use this activity in your classroom, be sure to delete the answers before sharing with your students.

The Civil War Smithsonian: The Price of Freedom: Americans at War

The Smithsonian Museum is amazing for American History. I hope you all have an opportunity to visit one of the many museums in Washington DC. Today you are going to view artifacts from the Civil War, very exciting.

On the timeline, click on the Civil War then proceed to answer the questions.

1. Make a copy of this document and answer the questions. VALUABLE HINT: Click printable version of a caption on the website. This allows you to cut and paste to make it easier to answer the questions.

2. Click the follow link: Find the Civil War on the timeline. Click on the icon and begin the activity.


Overview: (1st slide)

1. List the

dates: 1861-1865

troops: 3,263,363

deaths: 529,332

2. Play the video (Watch) The is no question to answer, but this is important to understand the background information. The written transcript is below:

Civil War

By the middle of the 19th century the United States was splitting apart. Industry was bringing prosperity to the North while the South depended upon an economy based on plantations tilled by slaves. In the North, most citizens wanted to arrest the spread of slavery, while vocal abolitionists, branding it an indefensible evil, wanted to end it altogether. In the South, slave holders and small farmers alike feared that their way of life would disappear under the domination of the North. The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 transformed southern discontent into rebellion, as seven states seceded and created the Confederate States of America. When Lincoln refused to withdraw federal troops from Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, Confederate guns fired on the fort. Four more states now seceded and joined the Confederacy. A long and bloody war followed, leaving 530,000 young men dead and 400,000 wounded. As the North won, Lincoln was assassinated. And with him died his vision for reuniting the nation. Slavery ended. But African Americans did not win the full citizenship they had been promised. The struggle for their civil rights was just beginning.

Enter the exhibit: The exhibit includes a few sections. There is a brief description below to help you navigate through the activity.

BOLD TITLE – The title indicates the main theme of the section.

SLIDE SHOW* – Each section has a few primary source documents from the time period. Be sure to DOUBLE-CLICK the slides to enlarge the image so you have a more detailed view.

ARTIFACTS* – another great resource for artifacts from the time period.

* There may be a few questions related to the information in the slideshow or artifacts. For some answers, you may need to read the captions to the right. You may have to use the scroll down bar to the left of the caption to complete the reading.


Read the caption:

3. What was John’s Brown’s position on slavery?

He was anti-slavery.

4. What armory did he attempt to seize?

Harper’s Ferry

5. John Brown was a martyr as his statement recognizes. Copy down his quote in the last sentence. (What do you think he meant by this statement.)

“I am worth inconceivably more to hang than for any other purpose.”

John Brown SLIDESHOW (8) Be sure to double click the following slides:

6. Broadside advertising the sale of “Young Negroes”: How many “young negroes” are for sale? 17

7. Private Gordon: Describe Private Brown’s back.

John Brown ARTIFACTS (6) Click on the artifacts at the bottom of the page. Some of the slides have questions. View the artifact and read the caption to answer the questions.

8. John Brown Pike – Read the first few sentences. What incident triggered John Brown’s commitment to abolishing slavery?

When John Brown was 5 he saw a slave boy his age being beaten by a fire shovel. He vowed that day to fight slavery.

9. Slave Collar – Click and read the ENTIRE caption. What was done to make it easy to identify the slave?

A tooth was extracted so is the slave ran away again, she could easily be identified.


10. Fort Sumter Under Attack, 1861 Make THREE (3) observations about the picture.

The Civil War Begins ARTIFACTS (6)

11. 1860 Campaign Ribbon Write the slogan

Our Union, Now and Forever

12. 1864 Campaign Ribbon Write the slogan

Union Forever

13. “The Union is Dissolved” Broadside Explain what a Broadside is (2nd paragraph scroll down)

Broadsides (single sheets of paper usually printed on one side) served as public announcements or advertisements soon after the beginning of printing.

14. Great Seal of the Confederacy Write out the slogan in Latin and English (read caption 1st paragraph)

Deo Vindice  “God will vindicate”


15. Lithograph of Bull Run Make THREE (3) observations about the picture.

The Battle of Bull Run ARTIFACTS (13)

16. First Confederate National Flag – What was the nickname? What problems did this design present in battle?

“Stars and Bars” look to much like the Union Flag, soldiers were killed in “friendly-fire”

17. Bayonet and Scabbard Define each.

The bayonet was used as an additional deadly weapon to be attached to the end of military rifles. The scabbard is a sheath to cover it.

18. United States National 34 star flag: What was the 34th state? How many stars were taken off the flag during the Civil War?

United States National 34 Star flag was adopted with the admission of Kansas as the 34th state in January 1861. It was used until 1863 when West Virginia became a state. At no time did the National flag lose stars. Since the United States believed that secession from the Union was illegal, the flag continued to bear the stars of all the states of the union, even the Southern states. Flag makers had several designs for the 34 star flag; this is one of the later designs.


Early Southern Victories SLIDES (4)

Early Southern Victories ARTIFACTS (4)

19. Confederate Battle Flag: What is meant by phrase ‘the Confederate Flag was born out of necessity.”

The Confederate battle flag was born of necessity after the Battle of Bull Run. Amid the smoke and general chaos of battle, it was hard to distinguish the Confederate national flag, the “Stars and Bars,” from the U. S. national flag, the “Stars and Stripes.” Confederate Congressman William Porcher Miles suggested that the army have a distinct battle flag. General Pierre T. Beauregard chose a variation on the cross of St. Andrew. The battle flag features a blue cross, edged with a white band on a red field. There are three stars on each arm of the cross and one star in the center. The stars represented each of the states of the Confederacy, plus one. Beauregard was betting that one of the states with pro-Confederacy leanings, Maryland, Kentucky or Missouri, would join the Southern cause. That never happened, but the flag remained the same for the remainder of the war.

20. The Confederate Dispatch Bag. What information was contained in the Dispatch bag.

A dispatch bag was a brief case or document bag generally containing orders or other sensitive information.

Battle of Antietam SLIDESHOW (3)

21. The “Sunken Road”:  Zoom in and make THREE (3) observations about the picture.

Battle of Antietam ARTIFACTS (3)

22. Major General George McClellan’s uniform. The Battle of Antietam was the bloodiest battle in American History. List all the other wars that did not equal the deaths of these battles.

More soldiers were killed or wounded at Antietam than all the American dead in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War and the Spanish-American War combined.

Battle of Vicksburg SLIDESHOW (4)

23. Map of Vicksburg and its Defenses: What physical feature is a main factor in this area?


25. Men of Color poster: How many days was the term of service?

100 Days

Battle of Vicksburg ARTIFACTS (3)

30. Battle Rattle: What is the purpose of a Battle Rattle?

Civil War battle rattle used on smaller ships to call all hands to battle stations.

The Battle Of Gettysburg SLIDESHOW (2)

The Battle Of Gettysburg ARTIFACTS  (2)

31. New Testament: How many dead or wounded? In your own words, summarize what you feel the message of Abraham Lincoln was in his speech. (Read the entire caption)

The battle was commemorated by Abraham Lincoln’s legendary address. Lincoln stated: “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who died here that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have hallowed it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” The world has remembered both the battle and Lincoln’s eloquent words.

Sherman’s March (12)

32. Union Soldiers: Make THREE (3) observations about the picture.

33. Chevaux-de-frise Describe what you see. How effective do you think this would be in battle?

34. Destroyed railroads tracks. Explain what impact this would have on the war.
I did not include all sections of the exhibit, but it is a start. You can delete questions or add to fit the needs of your class and students. I will hopefully have an updated version of this activity in the near future.