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Describing Virginia's role in the war, including identifying major battles that took place in Virginia.



  • In this lesson, students will identify the major battles in Virginia during the Civil War and the surrender at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

  • Begin the discussion about why so many battles took place in Virginia and have the students brainstorm their ideas. List the responses on a chart.

  • Point out that in 26 major battles and more than 400 engagements of the Civil War, more men fought and died in Virginia than in any other state.

  • Remind them that the Confederate capital was moved from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond and that the Union capital was located in Washington, D.C. Explain that when people go to war, the strategy is to capture the capital of the enemy, because the leadership and decision-making take place there. Because Richmond and Washington, D.C. are only 90 miles apart, the Union and Confederate soldiers battled on Virginia soil.

  • Give students an outline map of Virginia. Locate Manassas, Richmond, and Washington, D.C. Have students mark those locations with sticky dots. (Another idea is to have them draw stars or hole-punch size dots.)

  • Have students refer back to Manassas and identify it as the first major battle of the Civil War.

  • Explain that the Confederates won the Battle of Bull Run (or Manassas) and that a famous Virginian earned his nickname during this battle. He was General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Tell students he played a major role in this battle.

  • Read from a book about “Stonewall” Jackson.

  • Use the National Park Service Web site for additional background information. (http://www.nps.gov/mana/index.htm)

  • Have students locate Fredericksburg on a map of Virginia. Place a marker on Fredericksburg and explain that during this battle, General Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, defeated Union troops. It was a major Union defeat. Use the National Park Service Web site for additional background information. (http://www.nps.gov/frsp/fredhist.htm)

  • Refer to a Virginia map and have students locate and mark Norfolk and Hampton.

  • Explain that most battles were fought on land, but one important battle took place in the waters here between two ironclad ships, the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia (formerly USS Merrimack). President Lincoln used the Union Navy to blockade southern ports, which led to this battle. The battle was fought to a draw.

  • Have students locate Richmond on the Virginia map. Remind students that Richmond was the Confederate capital. Explain that by April 1865 it had fallen to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. Have students draw fire on the map and tell them that the city was burned by the Confederates to prevent the Union army from seizing their supplies and government buildings. Share picture from "Virginia: The History and Culture of a Commonwealth" from the Library of Virginia. Learn more about the fall of Richmond at http://www.civilwar.org/. . ./warfare-and-logistics/warfare/richmond.html.

  • Refer to a Virginia map and locate Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Explain that General Lee surrendered to General Grant at this location. Use the National Park Service Web site for additional background information: http://www.nps.gov/apco/index.htm. This event ended the Civil War.

  • Have the students make predictions about life in Virginia after the Civil War. List their responses on a chart to be used in the next lesson.




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Updated on August 11, 2008.