The Civil War Curriculum | Goal 8 | High School

KepisPost-1865: Effects of the War

By the Civil War Trust, Endorsed by History™History (tm) Logo

Grades: High School

Approximate Length of Time:  50 minutes

Goal: Students will be able to compare the United States before the war to the United States after the war.


1. After reviewing primary source documents students will be able to evaluate Lincoln’s plans for Reconstruction, including plans for the readmission of Southern states, amnesty, and freemen.
2. Students will be able to identify the purpose of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments
3. After reviewing various proposals, students will be able to hypothesize what changes will take place in the country during Reconstruction.
4. Students will be able to discuss in writing the effects of the Civil War on the United States today.


1. Effects of the War PowerPoint
2. 1865 Newspaper Excerpts  (Franklin Repository)
3. Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address (1865)
4. U.S. Constitutional Amendments, 1870
5. 1863 State of the Union Address
6. Lincoln’s Last Public Address
7. Lincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction
8. Speech of the Hon. Reverdy Johnson
9. Graphic organizer 

Anticipatory Set/Hook:

1. Remind your students that at this point, the war is over and the Army of Northern Virginia has surrendered.
2. Begin with the Effects of the War PowerPoint, moving through the slides without comment up to question mark slide.  The images show the devastating effects of the war and the assassination of Lincoln. 
3. At the “Now what?” slide, students either need to ask a question about the immediate future after the war or make a statement about their expectations. 
4. If the following questions are not asked by the students, you can ask:

a. How do individuals recover from war?
b. How does a country recover from civil war?
c. If you were a slave, what would you expect at this point?  What would you hope for?
d. If you were a Confederate, what would you expect at this point?  What would you hope for?
e. If you were a Union supporter, what would you expect at this point?   What would you hope for?

5. Hold the PowerPoint at the question mark.
6. Place a large piece of masking tape on the floor long enough for students to align themselves along the taped line. 
7. Designate one end as “definitely not” and the other end a “definitely yes” to illustrate varying opinions on the following questions:  (each question is asked separately and students may need to change positions depending on their answers)

a. You are a former Confederate state, do you want to return to the Union? (students move) Ask: Why or why not?  How would you feel?
b. You are from the North, do you want the South to be punished for the war? (students move) Ask: Why or why not?
c. You are a white Southerner who was a staunch Confederate. Would you swear an oath of amnesty (loyalty) to the Union? (students move) Ask: Why or why not?
d. You are an African American veteran of the Civil War, do you want the South to be allowed back into the Union? (students move) Ask: Why or why not?


Print out the PowerPoint with notes prior to class. There are notes included with the slides that can be on the printed slides, but won’t be seen by your students during the presentation.

Activity 1

1. Continue the Effects of the War PowerPoint presentation.

Activity 2

2. After you have read the 1865 Reconstruction Issues slide break students into seven groups and provide each group with one of the following:

a. 1865 Newspaper Excerpts  (Franklin Repository)
b. Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address (1865)
c. 1863 State of the Union Address
d. Lincoln’s Last Public Address
e. Lincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction
f. US Constitutional Amendments, 1870
g. Speech of the Hon. Reverdy Johnson

3. Have each group analyze their document and answer the questions on the Graphic Organizer.
4. Have each group present their document and answers from the Graphic Organizer while the rest of the class fills in the sections for the documents they did not have.
5. Continue to follow the PowerPoint presentation to the end.


1. Have students complete an essay on the following topic:

a. Consider the state of America today and determine if the Civil War achieved its aims. Does the United States today embody the key ideals of the democratic republican form of government:  individual human dignity, equality and the rule of law? List specific examples to support your stance.

Assessment in this Lesson:

1. Informal assessment in the anticipatory set of student’s understanding of the war at this point and what is to come in Reconstruction.
2. Completed Graphic Organizer evaluating Lincoln’s plans for Reconstruction.
3. Informal assessment through discussion questions asking students to hypothesize the outcome of Reconstruction.
4. Completed essay describing the effects of the war on the United States today.

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