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Civil War

The American Civil War is the most important event in modern United States history. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War gave the nation a new birth of freedom. It created the country as we know it today. Numerous causes underlay the friction that resulted in the war; but paramount overall was the institution of human chattel slavery as practiced in the fifteen states of the American South. The Founding Fathers knew this was an issue that could tear the new nation apart at its very beginning; so they pushed off discussion of it. Decades of pendulum-like accommodation and attempts to inhibit slavery’s growth accompanied the nation’s expansion. However, by the 1850s the discussion seemingly could be put off no longer and pro- and anti-slavery forces coalesced as never before. With the 1860 election of a President and a party known to be anti-slavery the disunion began as the Southern states seceded and formed their own Confederate States of America. Four years of the most brutal warfare in all of American history ensued and were exacerbated by the incredible powers of perseverance enabled by the Industrial Revolution. The national and popular powers of the modern nation-state were manifest as the war ground on to the utter exhaustion of the South. In the end, millions of enslaved peoples were set free and the powers and levers of government were firmly entrenched in the national victory over the individual state. Post-war, the former American way of referring to the nation shifted from the plural these United States to the singular the United States.

Timeline 1861 - 1865 (Background Information 1846–1868)
Grades 6–12
Characters 35
Number of Timeline Events 217
Duration 2 weeks to 1 semester

$10.00$5.00 / Student

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Sample Timeline Events
(July 3, 1863 to October 26, 1863)

The Tide Is Turned! Lee's Army Defeated At Gettysburg!

(July 3, 1863)

After a titanic, three-day battle at this Pennsylvania crossroads town, the Union Army of the Potomac under General Meade emerges victorious. It has been a hard fought contest with place names that will enter the national consciousness -- Culp's Hill, the Devil's Den, the Wheatfield and Peach Orchard, Little Round Top and Cemetery Ridge. General Lee's last attack this afternoon, 13,000 men led by General Longstreet, fails to break the Union line and the rebels fall back in utter defeat to the chants of Yankee infantrymen remembering their most stinging defeat: "Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!" There are over 50,000 casualties in this battle, including over 8000 killed. It is the biggest battle ever on this continent. On the evening of the 4th, Lee will begin withdrawing is beaten army and retreat to Virginia. Meade cautiously follows him and does not administer the decisive crushing defeat that Lincoln hopes he will.

Vicksburg Falls! Father Of Waters Open Again!

(July 4, 1863)

After nearly seven weeks of siege, and with no hope for relief and supplies having run out, Confederate General Pemberton surrenders the strategic fortress to General Grant. The Union commander paroles the garrison and allows them to go back to their states, hopefully to spread the news of Federal invincibility in this fight. Along with the victory at Gettysburg yesterday, it truly seems the tide has shifted in this war to the Union advantage on all fronts.

Riots In New York City! Draft To Blame!

(July 16, 1863)

Rioting has been rampant in New York for three days. The mainly working class mob attacks the draft office, political offices, and later an orphanage for black children. Many immigrants (especially Irish) feel that fighting for the black man will just bring them north to take the low-wage earning jobs. Knowing the mob has already lynched and burned several blacks (at least ten), the police are able to hold off the mob until the children are taken to safety. The mob is furious they must fight in the war, while the wealthy pay the $300 fee to avoid the draft. Soldiers are sent in to halt the riots (including some troops who had fought Lee's Army at Gettysburg just ten days ago). The military will use fixed bayonets and end the riot today. Perhaps as many as 120 people are killed and 1,200 injured.

British Wage War Against Maoris In New Zealand!

(July 17, 1863)

The New Zealand Wars have been going on since 1860, but today they have escalated with a large British force invading the north island. By April 1864, the 14,000 British and native troops have defeated the 4000 man Maori force in the Invasion of Waikato. The wars will last another decade, however, before full British control is recognized by the tribal clans.

Black Troops Prove Their Worth!

(July 18, 1863)

The 54th Massachusetts Infantry, a “colored” regiment under young Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, will go down in history and in glory as they attack Battery Wagner in South Carolina with courage and elan that changes public opinion of the Negro soldier. The 54th will suffer almost 50% casualties, and Colonel Shaw, killed during action, is “trench” buried with his men. Earlier, in June at Milliken's Bend in Louisiana, two black Union regiments had performed superbly in battle and garnered praise.

President Lincoln Meets Frederick Douglass At White House!

(August 10, 1863)

The President meets with famed and respected abolitionist Frederick Douglass today and the black man pushes for full equality for Union 'Negro troops' in pay, promotions and all things. Lincoln is receptive but says he must "go slow" if he is to bring the nation along with him.

Low Point Of The War! Massacre In Lawrence!

(August 21, 1863)

The bloody conflict on the Kansas-Missouri border pre-dates the Civil War by seven years. It is brutal and protracted on both sides. Almost within the confines of the wider war, the Jayhawkers and Bushwhackers have been slaughtering each other and burning down farmsteads for years. Today it reaches a new point in ferocity and devastation. At the free-state "capital" of Lawrence, Kansas, Confederate William C. Quantrill and 450 pro-slavery followers raid the town and butcher 182 unarmed men and boys, while burning a full quarter of the town and all its merchants. The local Union commander in Kansas City will issue an order to "depopulate" seven western Missouri counties and forcibly remove the citizens so as to make the area guerrilla-free. The feelings on both sides cannot be any worse. It is akin to population cleansing.

Confederates Victorious In Huge Battle!

(September 20, 1863)

In what is already being called the "Gettysburg of the West" because of its size and number of casualties, the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Braxton Bragg has defeated William Rosecrans' Union Army of the Cumberland and driven it back into Chattanooga, Tennessee. There were over 60,000 men in each army and the 34,000 casualties include 4000 killed. Bragg will follow Rosecrans' retreating forces to Chattanooga and commence a siege of the town (in a "'bowl" surrounded by high ground).

Families And Waiting Girls Are Singing "When Johnny Comes Marching Home!"

(September 26, 1863)

Irish-American bandleader Patrick Gilmore submits his sheet music to the Library of Congress today. His lyrics, destined to be so popular, tell the tale of a girl waiting for her fiancee to come back home safe from war. In truth, Gilmour is writing about his own sister waiting on her Union artillery captain beau.

Grant Given Supreme Command In The West!

(October 16, 1863)

In order to consolidate control over all western theater operations and, particularly, to enable Union operations to proceed to lift the siege of Chattanooga, President Lincoln appoints Major General US Grant to command all operations and forces in the west. The meteoric rise of Grant continues; he was absolutely unknown just two years ago! Lincoln is a big fan of results and says "Find out what whiskey he drinks and send all of my generals a case, if it will get the same results," in reply to comments about Grant's supposedly drinking heavily at times.

The Football Association (FA) Is Formed In England!

(October 26, 1863)

The queer English sport of football gains traction today with the formation of a governing body. There is no telling where the game of soccer will go from here!


Unit Personas

1. Abraham Lincoln 19. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
2. Andrew Johnson 20. Mary Boykin Chestnut
3. Carl Schurz 21. Mary Todd Lincoln
4. Clara Barton 22. Matthew Brady
5. David Farragut 23. Oliver Otis Howard
6. Dorothea Dix 24. Phil Sheridan
7. Edward Stanton 25. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
8. Frederick Douglass 26. Representative Figure: Female Slave
9. George Brinton McClellan 27. Robert E. Lee
10. Harriet Beecher Stowe 28. Sam Watkins
11. Harriet Tubman 29. William H. Seward
12. Horace Greeley 30. Stand Watie
13. James Longstreet 31. Thaddeus Stevens
14. J.E.B. Stuart 32. Ulysses S. Grant
15. Jefferson Davis 33. Walt Whitman
16. Joe Johnston 34. William Lloyd Garrison
17. John Bell Hood 35. William Tecumseh Sherman
18. Joseph Hooker


Each Discourse unit provides an interactive, social media platform and accompanying curriculum to create a collaborative and entertaining educational experience.

Each unit includes the following:

  • Unit overview
  • 30-40 characters for students to role-play
  • Timeline Events that not only focus on the relevant events of the unit in study, but also encompass the cultural and broader events of the time period, thus providing context for the unit
  • Breaking News events with original source documents
  • Profile information about each character (teacher only)
  • Page for students to determine their relationships to each other character in the unit (auto-graded)
  • Period-relevant items for students to Like or Dislike based on their character (auto-graded)
  • Opportunity for students to create events and send private messages while role-playing their character
  • Advertisements appropriate for the time period; some include original video or music
  • Grading matrix for the role-playing (auto-completed as applicable)
  • A game-like trophy system that awards student progress
  • Teacher product instructions
  • Student use instructions
  • Teachers have access to the Discourse unit and students’ work for one year after the initial set-up date.
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