Great Civil War Resources for K-12 Students

Learning about the American Civil War is not only critical for students in the United States, it also has the potential to engage all kinds of learners in a variety of ways. Through essays and articles, engaging web-based activities, and primary source documents such as photos, letters, diaries, and literature, students of all ages that explore the websites we have compiled, will gain a balanced perspective of the Civil War. They can walk in the shoes of a slave bound for freedom on the Underground Railroad, or make strategic decisions as Union General Ulysses Grant. They will learn about popular music of the day, about life on the home front through the love letters of its soldiers, the significance of paper money, or the role of women during the Civil War.

Teachers will also find lesson plans and resource to help guide the exploration of students. The Internet is full of fascinating and accessible resources about the Civil War–this list is just the tip of the iceberg!

General Resources

  • Civil War at the Smithsonian provides information and images of Smithsonian artifacts related to different Civil War topics, from Abraham Lincoln to life and culture during the war. Also includes a timeline and the story of what happened to the Smithsonian Institution during the war.
  • Civil War Overview is a multimedia overview of the war, with video and photographs, as well as links to student and teacher resources.
  • History.com’s American Civil War site is full of articles and video clips about a variety of themes and events, from women in the civil war, to the Battle of Bull Run.
  • National Park Service’s Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System is a great online resource with extensive articles focusing the social, economic, political and military perspectives of the Civil War. Also includes on-line activities for students, and links to lesson plans for teachers.
  • PBS’ The Civil War‘s site engages students with activities related to archival images and footage, and a thorough overview of the war, including maps, historical documents and biographies. Also includes classroom activities and lessons for teachers.
  • Smithsonian’s Civil War Studies site is good for older students, and includes articles from the Civil War Studies newsletter, fascinating trivia and even takes you on a photo tour of Fort Delaware and John Wilkes Booth’s escape route.

For Elementary School Students

  • American Civil War Kids Zone Exhibits is full of information, images and resource links on a variety of topics from the causes of the war, to news reporting during the war to medicine and hospitals, to songs, to recipes. A great resource which also includes links to other sites.
  • BrainPOP’s Civil War site has easy-to-follow animated videos, quizzes and educational activities. Includes resources and lesson plans for educators.
  • Gettysburg National Military Park Kidzpage has engaging information about the Civil War, from the big picture, to food, to flags, to slang, etc. Includes fun activities and quizzes, as well as information about the battlefield and Civil War-era artifacts.
  • Kids Guide to the Civil War is an easy-to-understand site created by elementary students, and full of information and photographs about the war. See a slide show, learn about major events and military campaigns, and test your knowledge with fun quizzes. Also includes book reviews and links to other resources.
  • The Civil War for 5th Graders has a ton of information geared towards middle elementary students covering topics from the sides, the causes of war, battlefield life, to reconstruction. Includes art and writing activities for 5th graders and links to other great Civil War resources.
  • The Civil War for Kids was created by elementary school students for elementary school students and includes a timeline, general information about battles and leaders, and special topics such as children of the Civil War. Also includes fun activities and links to more info.
  • The Underground Railroad site has an innovative approach to learning about slavery and the Underground Railroad–by studying the African American quilting tradition. Learn about the important information embedded in the quilts, as well as about aspects of slavery, one of the causes of the civil war.

For Middle School Students

  • Civil War Medicine tracks the advances of medicine during the Civil War, and highlights such as medical technology, amputations and transport.
  • Civil War Preservation Trust: Student Resources has great information and historical research tips for students. Includes glossary and a timeline, and fun civil war activities such as crosswords and quizzes. Also, links to information about historical civil wars sites and other resources.
  • Social Studies for Kids: The US Civil War has a timeline, glossary, and links to Civil War topics from abolition to reconstruction.
  • The American Civil War Homepage is a clearing house of annotated resource links, including articles, primary documents, links to discussion groups, and further web resources.
  • The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War highlights one northern and one southern, before, during and after the war, through extensive primary source documents including letters, newspapers and census records. Includes an extensive bibliography.
  • PBS’ American Experience: Ulysses S. Grant asks what you would do if you were in General Grant’s shoes, reveals what kids went through during the Civil War, and introduces the generals from the Union and Confederate armies. Includes interactive video that requires a plug-in, multimedia timeline and a teacher’s guide.
  • History Place’s Civil War has a detailed timeline of the Civil War with thumbnail images, and links to further information and larger images.

For High School Students

  • Abraham Lincoln Research Site has extensive and readable information about Abraham Lincoln. Includes photo galleries, speeches, and genealogy, and special information for students.
  • African-American Soldiers During the Civil War is a Library of Congress site that explores Black soldiers in the Civil War through valuable primary documents and photographs.
  • American Slave Narratives includes extensive firsthand accounts of slavery from over 10 former slaves. Includes suggestions on reading the narratives, as well as links to related resources on the web.
  • Black Confederates in the Civil War is a website dedicated to a little known topic: Black soldiers in the Confederate army. Includes noted examples of black confederate soldiers, problems with documentation, estimates of numbers, first hand accounts, and treatment of these soldiers by Union troops, to name a few.
  • Causes of the Civil War (Confederate View) provides the southern perspective about the causes of the war, from a variety of primary sources.
  • Chinese Soldiers Fought in the U.S. Civil War is a fascinating article about a little considered topic: Chinese soldiers in the American Civil War. Good starting point for a research topic.
  • Civil War Academy is full of general information about the Civil War, including information about music, uniforms, women, food, prisons, etc. Includes Civil War-era images and a link to a Civil War blog.
  • Digital History: Civil War Resource Guide is an online text book of sorts which includes links well as links to essential Civil War readings, primary source documents and further web resources.
  • From Slavery to Civil Rights is an interactive timeline of the Civil War and beyond, including photographs, a brief overview of different Civil War topics, and links to more information for each topic.
  • Great American History Overview of the Civil War is an detailed, interactive overview of the Civil War, from slavery to reconstruction. Click on a link to read an in depth article on the subject.(Note: Some of these links are broken, but there is still a lot of great information!)
  • Illinois in the Civil War has a range of information concerning Illinois’ role in the Civil War. Includes primary documents and genealogical information.
  • Letters from an Iowa Soldier in the American Civil War is a website full of letters written by Iowa soldier Newton Scott. Includes lesson plans using the letters, genealogical information about Scott, and links to other Civil War information.
  • National Archives Lessons: 1850-1877 is a National Archives collection of background information, educational activities and primary documents on different topics related to the Civil War. Includes Black soldiers in the war, and letters, telegrams and photographs illustrating factors that affected the Civil War.
  • Stonewall Jackson Civil War Confederate General provides a biography of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. Includes images and links to additional resources and products.

For Teachers

  • Center for American Music Teacher Resources includes a five Civil War themed lessons based around the music of the time. Includes song lyrics and streaming audio, as well as links to background information for context for the music.
  • Civil War Preservation Trust: Teacher Resources has extensive lesson plans for all grade levels, on a variety of topics from Civil War personalities, to Civil War slang, to the impact of Civil War photography to mapping the Civil War battles.
  • Life in the North and South 1847-1861 is a curriculum unit developed by the National Endowment for the Humanities and covers various themes such as plantation vs. factories in the North and South, slavery, life before the Civil War, and women in the war. Includes background information for teachers, guiding questions, activities, and assessment suggestions, and links to other resources.
  • Teaching the Civil War Through Technology Blog compiles great information about how to teach Civil War through the resources available on the Internet. Includes links to lesson plans, photo essays of modern battlefields, quick statistics about the war. A great resource.
  • The Role of Women in the Civil War is a web-based lesson plan geared at High School students Includes links to primary source documents and other resources for students to use in their research.
  • Wartime Correspondence is a language arts lesson plan that asks students to imagine what it was like to be involved in the Civil War. Includes lesson extensions for teachers.

Additional Museums and Archives

  • American Civil War Collections at the Electronic Text Center has compiled a number of collections of letters, diary entries, contracts, and other texts related to the Civil War. Collections include searchable transcripts as well as images of the primary source documents.
  • Beyond Face Value: Online Exhibition is on online exhibit about Civil War paper currency and the significance of its imagery. Includes an overview of the Civil War as well as extensive bibliography.
  • Civil War.com includes an overview of the Civil War, as well as timeline, information about battles, weapons, people and slavery, links to primary sources and information for teachers. Also Includes information about traveling around the US to Civil War memorial sites, current and archived news articles, and a discussion board.
  • Civil War Love Letters includes transcripts of love letters written by Civil War soldiers and their sweethearts. Includes links to other Electronic Exhibitions of Civil War-era letters.
  • Civil War Photos.net has over 1,200 photographs from the civil war, divided into categories such as Confederate State officers and soldiers, cavalry units, medical and hospitals, African Americans, civilians, etc. Also sorted according to location.
  • Civil War Treasures from the New York Historical Society presents an online exhibit of artifacts from the Civil War. Includes an overview of the collection and links to more teacher resources.
  • Hargrett Library Rare Maps of the American Civil War is a database full of links to images of rare maps from the Civil War.
  • Library of Congress: Gettysburg Address is on online exhibit about Lincoln and the Gettysburg address. Includes detailed descriptions of the exhibit items, archival preservation information, and links to related exhibits and multimedia highlights.
  • Library of Congress Teacher Resources: American Civil War provides an overview of the Civil War as well as teacher resources that provide links to primary sources such as maps and poems, and classroom activities and lessons.
  • National Geographic’s Underground Railroad is a multimedia web adventure that puts the viewer in the place of a slave trying to escape from slavery through the Underground railroad. Would you make choices that lead to freedom? Includes historical images, music and links to additional resources.

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