Civil War 150: Campaign to the End

Although they have suffered severe losses, the Confederacy clings to independence. The goal of Generals Sheridan and Sherman is to break the Confederate will in their campaigns of destruction. Their success will influence the reelection of Abraham Lincoln.
Additional Disciplines 
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One town, at the confluence of two rivers, at the gateway to the West and between North and South, is held by competing forces eight times. Federal soldiers burn the U.S. Armory to destroy thousands of weapons before Confederates can get them. Col. Thomas Jackson ships all machinery and tools to Richmond to produce weapons. John Brown becomes a martyr. Harpers Ferry is representative of a nation under siege and in transition.


Burning fields and homes, emptying and leveling barns and mills, and intimidating settlers in the South are themes of Fall 1864 to Spring 1865. Sheridan drives through the Shenandoah Valley and Sherman strikes to Savannah. They are under orders to win and to do so requires destroying the resources needed to live. The "perfect success" that Sherman declared left a "trail of burned mills and railroad stations, emptied barns and corn cribs, ransacked homes and vacant chicken coops." And so much more devastation and sorrow in the South.


In the midst of these campaigns, President Abraham Lincoln is facing reelection. Our Word Study examines the etymology of “campaign.” In addition, we focus on the songs of war and the work of the special artists sent by newspapers to be eyewitness visual reporters.


October 2014


Special Artists of the Civil War
Resource Graphic 

Develop Vocabulary
English, U.S. Government, U.S. History
Before reading "The last temptation of Abraham Lincoln," review vocabulary found in In the Know. Likewise, before reading "Tragedy and self-doubt birth a fierce warrior," review vocabulary found in In the Know.


"Word Study: Campaign Considerations" looks at the etymology of "campaign" within the context of military and political campaigns of Fall 1864 to Spring 1865. Only when Sheridan succeeded in the Shenandoah Valley and Atlanta surrendered to Sherman did Lincoln think he might win reelection. Michael Ruane writes in "Tragedy and self-doubt birth a fierce warrior": This was Sherman's March to the Sea — 150 years ago — a month-long advance that is one of the most famous and controversial campaigns in U.S. military history, as well as an event that foretold the death of the Confederacy.


Sing the Songs of War
Music, U.S. History

Music in the 1860s entertained, influenced public opinion, created a marching cadence and inspired troops. Some songs were written for Northern or Southern sentiments; others shared the tune and changed the lyrics. Review the resources found in the sidebar “Songs of War Between the States.”


Activities would include comparing and contrasting songs, indentifying songs that reflect the events and attitudes during the Civil War, and creating a program of 1860s songs to communicate the historic and cultural context. For example, introduce students to “Battle Cry of Freedom.” Discuss the Southern version, then have students listen to the Northern version to compare. Are they able to distinguish and categorize the versions?



Visit a Civil War Battlefield
Geography, U.S. History

The National Park Service preserves battlefields as well as wonders of the natural environment and cultural resources. Visits to these places entertain, expand understanding of the American experience and inspire.


A visit to a Civil War battlefield brings a history book to life. Students will experience the land where soldiers fought, camped and wrote diary entries and letters home. They can picture the troop movement diagrams and consider logistics dictated by topography, troop size and goals of leaders.


Visit a Civil War Battlefield,” a student activity, notes nine nearby battlefields that families and classes may visit. Each has a visitor center and other resources such as self-guided auto tours, trails and brochures. Students are asked to sketch a scene while there and to write about the visit. In addition to the suggested writing activity to reflect on the experience, teachers might have their students write diary entries as if they were soldiers, generals, medical staff, residents and family members while they are at different locations within the battlefield park.


Songs of War Between the States
Resource Graphic 

Draw Upon a Civil War Sketch Artist
Art, Career Education, U.S. History
Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and Harper’s Weekly and other newspapers hired amateur and professional artists to be eyewitnesses and to use their skills to report on the Civil War. James E. Taylor was among these special artists whose work has been preserved. Other Civil War sketch artists are in this Boston College collection. See the sidebar for other resources.

Be a Sketch Artist” provides a background on the profession and suggestions on how to be a sketch artist. Teachers might use The Becker Collection to review the work of Civil War sketch artists and to read the notes they placed on their drawings.


This activity might be combined with the “Visit a Civil War Battlefield” activity or a Civil War re-enactment. Students would be asked to sketch the location of the battle, buildings or a bridge. Their goal is to capture the moment. 


Conduct a Case Study
Geography, Reading, U.S. History

Harpers Ferry was a well-established town at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. More than 3,000 resided there — white, free men and slaves. In “Case Study: Harpers Ferry,” students are asked to look at the historic, economic, cultural and political America of 1800s through the lens of Harpers Ferry. They may also look at the town through the perspective of individuals who lived then. Topics and individuals are suggested.



Destroy a Breadbasket
Art, Economics, Geography, U.S. History
President Abraham Lincoln had ordered Gen. Ulysses S. Grant: Win the war and win it now. Read and discuss “The breadbasket of the Confederacy goes up in flames.” Discussion could include:

  • Define the “Burning”
  • Summarize the actions of Lt. Gen. Jubal Early and Gen. William Sheridan,
  • Why did Grant believe the Burning was necessary?
  • What would it have been like to be the owner of a forge or tannery, a wheat farmer or mother of small children in the Shenandoah Valley in late September and early October 1864?
  • What was the impact on the Southern economy?

Give students “Sheridan’s Valley Campaign.” Three days from Gen. William Sheridan’s campaign in the Shenandoah Valley are highlighted. These are from the timeline created by The Washington Post’s Gene Thorp. Questions for a closer reading are provided.


Map It
Career Education, Geography, U.S. History

Jedediah Hotchkiss hiked in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia before and after he settled in Augusta County and opened a school. A self-taught map maker, he was originally rejected for service in the Confederate Engineer Corps. He continued to make maps as an independent contractor for the 25th Virginia Infantry. His maps and knowledge of the land came to be valued by Stonewall Jackson and later General Jubal Early. 


Read the Hotchkiss map of the Shenandoah Valley for its details — topography, named features, rivers, towns and settlements. How would this map assist both Union and Confederate generals?


Review Gene Thorp’s map of the Shenandoah Valley and the larger arena of war.  Teachers may ask students to find locations on the maps.


Maps appear within the timeline. Pay particular attention to the map that accompanies the engagement at Fisher’s Hill in “Sheridan’s Valley Campaign” activity sheet. What information is provided? Do students recognize this as the same Gene Thorp map that now has additional layers of information? What benefit of having a less detailed map is illustrated by this map?


Complete the study questions that apply to “Sheridan’s Valley Campaign.” The general questions about maps may also be used with “Sherman’s March to the Sea” and “The March Beyond Savannah.”


Filter the Burning
Art, Drama, English
Students could be asked to use quotations from Wheeler’s article and additional reading of Civil War diaries and letters to create a readers theatre script. Teachers might form four to five groups, assigning each a different perspective from which to tell the story of the Burning.


Read About William Tecumseh Sherman

Vote in the 1864 Election
Civics, U.S. History
Nathan Kalmoe wrote in “The fall of Atlanta and Lincoln’s reelection: ‘Game-changer’ or campaign myth,” All told, Lincoln’s pre-Atlanta pessimism about his reelection prospects appears unfounded, and the predominant “game-changer” narrative surrounding the 1864 election looks mythical in this light. Saying so does not diminish the monumental significance of Lincoln’s reelection and Union victory, which still shape our politics today. But it does inform our understanding of how Lincoln won.


Read and discuss “The last temptation of Abraham Lincoln.” Questions could include:

  • What proof exists that Lincoln was pessimistic about his chances of reelection?
  • Achenbach states “[T]he presidential election Nov. 8 would serve as a referendum on the war.” Explain what specifically this means.
  • Who was Frederick Douglass? Why is it interesting that Lincoln turns to him for advice?
  • What do the political cartoons reveal about attitudes at the time?
  • Discuss the choice of McClellan as the Democratic candidate for president.
  • Give examples of Lincoln’s “campaigning” during the war? What we today might call political decisions and actions by an incumbent candidate.
  • The election was held in the midst of civil war. What does this communicate about American democracy?


March to the Sea
Geography, Psychology, U.S. History 
As Michael Ruane writes in "Tradegy and self-doubt birth a fierce warrior": This was Sherman's March to the Sea — 150 years ago — a month-long advance that is one of the most famous and controversial campaigns in U.S. military history, as well as an event that foretold the death of the Confederacy. Ask students to read Ruane's article. Discuss the goal and execution of Grant's orders. Then read "With a triumphant March to the Sea, Sherman unleashes 'hard war' on the South" and "A massacre launches the reparations debate."

In addition to discussion, students might be asked to debate this period in the Civil War.

Confront Slavery
Art, Civics, Government, U.S. History

The Washington Post graphics designer and cartographer Gene Thorp prepared the illustrated timelines of the Civil War 150 series. We have used segments from Fall 1864-Spring 1865 in this guide.

The handout “Slavery Abolished” has been left blank so teachers can determine the best assignment for their students. Use it as stimulus for student response. One of these suggestions may work for you:

  • Look carefully at the artwork. What does it reveal about passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? Include details that bring you to this conclusion.
  • Prepare a timeline of slavery in America.
  • Write an essay about the impact of slavery on secession.
  • Prepare a timeline of abolition of slavery and add commentary.
  • Read the memoir of a former slave. Write a first-person reflection on slavery.
  • Research the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
  • Read “The last temptation of Abraham Lincoln.” Write an essay about Lincoln, reelection and slavery. 


In The Know 

From "The last temptation of Abraham Lincoln" From "Tragedy and self-doubt birth a fierce warrior"
 Abolition Bunker
 Advocate Campaign
Carnage Chronicle
Caste Depredation
Cessation Despondent
Consequential  Encumber
Despotic Forage
Enigmatic Impudence
Factions Malevolent
Perpetuate Morose
Pretention Pillage
Ubiquitous Psyche
Rebranding  Rapture
Repudiate Subordinate
District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

Music. Connect music to other art forms and subject areas through understanding the historical and cultural context of music. (Standard 5)

Music. Compare and classify exemplary musical works by genre, style, historical period, composer, and title and explain the characteristics that cause each work to be considered exemplary. (HSA.5.H4, high school)

Visual Arts. Connect and apply what is learned in the visual arts to other art forms, subject areas, visual culture and communication and careers. (Connections, Relationships, and Applications, Standard 5)


Learning Standards for DCPS are found online at


Maryland Academic Content Standards 

Political Science. Evaluate roles and policies of the United States government regarding public policy and issues (Standard 1.0, Indicator 3)
a) Examine the effect that national interests have on shaping government policy, such as the abolitionist movement and slavery, states’ rights, and regional commerce


Academic content standards may be found at


Virginia Academic Content Standards 

Virginia and United States History. The student will demonstrate knowledge of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era and their importance as major turning points in American history by
a) evaluating the multiple causes of the Civil War, including the role of the institution of slavery as a principal cause of the conflict;
b) identifying the major events and the roles of key leaders of the Civil War Era, with emphasis on Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, and Frederick Douglass;
d) examining the political and economic impact of the war and Reconstruction, including the adoption of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States


Standards of Learning currently in effect for Virginia Public Schools can be found online at


Common Core Standards 

Literacy in History/Social Studies. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text. (Craft and Structure, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.4)

English Language Arts Literacy. Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information. (Integration of Knowledge and Ideas, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-128)

Literacy in History/Social Studies. Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis. (Craft and Structure. CCSS.ELA.Literacy.RH.9-10.5)


Common Core standards are found online at