Lesson Plans Based on Movies & Film Clips!                                                  



    The Civil War
    From "Gettysburg"

    Note: Unlike most other TWM materials suggesting snippets of movies, this web page is not a complete lesson plan. It provides four suggested snippets along with suggesions for discussions and assignments to supplement lesson plans on the Civil War.

    Subject:     U.S. History and Culture - the Civil War

    Ages:        11+

    Length:      Snippet: Five segments, totalling 30 minutes. Lesson: Two 45-55 minute class periods.

    Learner Outcomes/Objectives:     Students will be introduced to the following issues of importance in the study of the Civil War:
    • the reasons soldiers from the North and South fought;

    • the immense frustration of the soldiers in the North's Army of the Potomac whose Generals were repeatedly out-maneuvered by Robert E. Lee;

    • the importance of the ground and strategic position in Civil War battles;

    • the concept of states rights;

    • the equivocal attitudes that many Southerns had toward slavery; and

    • the potential role of the naiton's former colonial master, England, in the War.

    Rationale:     An understanding of U.S. history requires an understanding of important issues in the Civil War.

    Description of the Snippet:    
      Segment #1:  Chamberlain Addressing the Second Maine deserters: DVD Scene 8: approximately ** minutes; Jump to Segment #1;

      Segment #2:  Colonel Buford's Fears About the Battle to Come: DVD Scene 9: approximately ** minutes; Jump to Segment #2;

      Segment #3:  Captive Rebels Explain Why They Fight; DVD Scene 18: approximately 8 minutes; Jump to Segment #3;

      Segment #4  Southern officers Explain States Rights; DVD Scene 20: approximately 3 minutes; Jump to Segment #4; and

      Segment #5:  Should the South Have Abolished Slavery and then Seceded? DVD Scene 25: approximately 6 minutes; Jump to Segment #5.

Learner Outcomes/Objectives
Description of the Snippet
Using the Snippet in Class:
      Step by Step
          Segment 1
          Segment 2
          Segment 3
          Segment 4
          Segment 5

An assault on Big Saturday, February 27, 1960 -- One of the students' tactical goals was to remove business support for segregation by making it costly and controversial.

Possible Problems for this Snippet:     None.

Location on DVD: Start at the begriming of the film and run it to the end of the section on the Nashville sit-ins.

    Using the Snippet in Class:    


    Review this Guide and decide how much of the
    Introduction is appropriate for the class and whether to add information to the introduction. Also determine which discussion questions and assignments to use.

    Step by Step

    1.  Tell students that the class will cover some important concepts in the study of the Civil War, including, the importance of the Battle of Gettysburg, why the soldiers on both sides put their lives on the line; why the Southern soldiers thought they were fighting the second American Revolution, and the role of slavery in the War from the Southern point of view.

    2.  Give an introduction to the lesson to orient the students into the setting in which the Battle of Gettsburg took place. A suggested introduction is set out below.

    The Battle of Gettysburg is generally thought to be the turning point of the Civil War. It was the summer of 1863, two years into the bloodiest war in American history. The South's Army of Northern Virginia had been largely victorious in all of its previous engagements. But the Confederacy was having increasing difficulties supplying its troops with food, clothing, guns and ammunition. The Union Army continued to grow in strength and its advantage in men and materiel continued to improve.

    The rebel commander, Robert E. Lee, believed that he had two choices. He could retire to Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, and try to withstand a prolonged Union siege, a tactic that he knew would ultimately be unsuccessful. Or, the Army of Northern Virginia could invade Pennsylvania. Lee chose invasion hoping that a brilliant victory in the North would force the Union to the bargaining table or encourage England to enter the war on the side of the South. At least, if the Southern army invaded Pennsylvania, its troops would be able to feed off of the rich Pennsylvania countryside. In addition, the pressure in Pennsylvania might cause the federal government to pull troops away from Vicksburg, which was then under siege by General Grant. (It did not.) By bringing the summer's campaign into the North, Lee would give some respite to the war ravaged Virginia countryside and disrupt the Union Army's plans to march again on Richmond.

    At Gettysburg, the Union fielded 83,300 men and sustained 23,000 men killed or wounded. The Confederacy fielded 75,100 men and sustained 28,100 men killed or wounded. The Federal Army of the Potomac entered the battle under a new and untested commander, General George Gordon Meade.

    Some historians disagree with the view that the Battle of Gettysburg was the "The High Water Mark of the Confederacy." They point out that Lee left the field with his army intact and that the South was able to sustain the fight for another 21 months. In any case, combined with Grant's capture of Vicksburg later that month, Gettysburg gave the Union hope of victory.

    SEGMENT #1:   Chamberlain Addressing the Second Maine Deserters

    In this scene, Col. Joshua Chamberlain, of the 20th Maine Infantry Regiment talks to deserters from the disbanded Second Maine Regiment. These soldiers refused to fight because the enlistments of the other members of their regiment had expired, but they had signed on for longer. The Army insisted that they serve out their enlistments and they didn't think it was fair. Since they had deserted, Colonel Chamberlain had the right to have them summarily executed. However, they were from his home state of Maine; instead, he tried to convince them to take up arms again and fight. Viewers later learn that all but six of the 100 plus reluctant soldiers decide to fight with Chamberlain. The remaining men were offered fair treatment for their decision not to fight. In the battle of Gettysburg, Colonel Chamberlain becomes a hero by ordering his regiment, then out of ammunitiion, to fix their bayonets and to surprise the attacking Confederate columns by charging down a strategic hill called Little Roundtop. This action by Chamberlain and the 20th Maine saved the Union left flank and was an important ingredient in the Union victory.
    3.   Play the first segment beginning at DVD scene 8 and ending with Buford looking *** . The film should be paused as the camera focuses on the cloudy sky.

    4.   Here are some suggested discussions based on Chamberlain's speech to the deserters of the Second Maine.
      "There were a thousand of us then. There are less than 300 of us now." -- This is realistic. Many union regiments suffered devastating losses. What were the reasons that the losses were so high? Suggested Response: Diseases killed twice as many men as were killed in battle. Some estimates are that 3/4s of the Union fatalities were from disease, rather than wounds suffered in battle. Hygeine in army camps was dreadful: there was often a lack of rudimentary sanitation facilities; soldiers were often cold and lacked shelter or suitable clothing; the food and water were often of poor quality; and the men were crowded together. Camps were breeding grounds for disease. Medical care was rudimentary. The existence of bacteria and its relationship to disease had not been discovered. Most of the deaths were caused by intestinal ailmemts such as typhoid fever, diarrhea, and dysentery. Many of the soldiers came from rural areas and didn't have immunity to common disesases such as measles, chickenpox, mumps, and whooping cough. These swept through the camps. Pneumonia and smallpox were also problems as was malaria for soldiers stationed near swamps where mosquitoes bred. Most wounds got infected and while surgeons understood that there was a rough correlation between cleanliness and low infection rates, they didn't know how to sterilize surgical instruments. Often, especially when they were short of water, they didn't wash their hands or their surgical instruments for days at a time. A good discussion will also cover the fact that at the time of the Civil War defensive weapons (a soldier in a trench or behind a stone wall with a rifle) were very powerful. A few soldiers, well protected, could defend a position against a much larger advancing force.

      "All of us volunteered to fight for the Union, just as you did. Some came mainly because we were bored at home. Thought this looked like it might be fun. Some came because we were ashamed not to. Many of us came because it was the right thing to do." -- Suggested Response: This, too is accurate. One of the major reasons that young men signed up to fight in the Civil War was that they were bored at home and, at the beginning, serving in the army seemed like it would be an adventure.

      "This is a different kind of army. If you look back through history, you'll see men fighting for pay ... for women, for some other kind of loot. They fight for land, [for] power. Because a king leads them, or just because they like killing. We are here for something new. This has not happened much in the history of the world. We are an army out to set other men free." Suggested Response: This comment by Chamberlain is correct so far as soldiers from Maine, Massachusetts or other abolitionists states were concerned. However, it was not true for most Union soldiers, who were fighting to save the Union, and generally for the cause of democracy. ***.

        (1) Lecture/Class Discussion Topic: What were most of the Union soldiers fighting for? Notes on Responses: A good answer would conclude that Chamberlain's statement was incorrect that this was the first war that men had fought on principle. Examples of wars fought on principle prior to this time include The Revolutionary War, the French Revolution. In addition, his statement that the Union soldiers were fighting to set other men free was true only for abolitionists who were a minority of Union soldiers, although perhaps they were a majority of the soldiers from Maine.

        (2) Lecture/Class Discussion Topic: What were the Southerners fighting for? Notes on Responses: Southern soldiers thought that they were fighting the second American Revolution, trying to keep their states free from foreign domination and upholding the principles of the Founding Fathers. Note that a good response will include recognition that one of the main reasons that the Southern colonies joined the American Revolution was a realization that slavery would soon be banned in the British Empire. The Southerners insisted upon implicit guarantees in the Constitution protecting slavery. A good response will also include a reference to economic theories of the cause of the war.

      "America should be free ground. All of it. Not divided by a line between slave state and free. All the way from here to the Pacific Ocean."

        Lecture/Class Discussion Topic: Describe how the U.S. came to be divided into slave states and free states. Notes on Responses: A strong answer will note the various compromises that were crafted during the first half of the 19th century in an effort to avoid the Civil War.

      "No man born to royalty. Here we judge you by what you do, not by who your father was. Here you can be something."

        Lecture/Discussion Topic: It is amazing when you think about how things change. Today, it would be a joke to suggest that the United States be governed by a king. However, 150 years ago, it was no joke. Kings and aristocracy ruled in most of Europe. It was less than 100 years since the King of England's rule in America had been overthrown. At the present time, we couldn't even think of going back to a system like that, but they certainly could.

      "Here is the place to build a home. But it's not the land. There's always more land."
        Lecture/Discussion topic: Where were we getting the land? What if you were a Native American and heard this speech? What would you think about the statement that "there's always more land"?

      "You and me. What we're fighting for, in the end... we're fighting for each other."

        Lecture/Discussion Topic: Could this be said for any war?

      General Question on Chamberlain's speech: What issues in Chamberlain's monologue resonate in today's world? Consider the concept of patriotism, support for war, and respect for others. This film gives the impression that Union soldiers fought primarily to free the slaves. While this was true for many, especially soldiers from the New England states, the majority of Union soldiers would not have risked their lives to eradicate slavery. They were fighting to keep their country together. This was not simply patriotism. If states could secede from the Union, the country would eventually dissolve into several competing small countries. The dissolution of the United States would have shown that democracies could not hold together and were not stable. The cause of democracy in America and in the world would have been set back hundreds of years. It was to prevent this process of division that the North went to war. (As blacks were permitted to enlist in the Union Army and died fighting for the Union, and as the North and President Lincoln searched for a rationale for the horrific loss of life caused by the war, the abolition of slavery came to be more and more important. See Learning Guide to "Glory" and Learning Guide to "Abraham and Mary Lincoln - A House Divided".)
    5.  Discussion on Buford's Vision: Ask the following questions:

      Buford needs to deprive the enemy of the high ground and hold it for two hours before more troops arrive. What do you think a military leader should do when he is placed in a position that requires him to subject his men to certain death in what he thinks is a useless cause?

      The movie was filmed largely at the actual Gettysburg Battle Ground, which is now a national park. Several of the characters in the film comment on the "ground" upon which the battle is fought. What are your thoughts about the specific terrain upon which war is fought: do you think the territory would make a difference in today's world and today's wars? After Col. Chamberlain's speech, the movie shows Col. John Buford deliver his vision of what is to come on this battlefield. Based on past failures of the Union Army in engagements against Southern armies led by Robert E. Lee, Col. Buford predicts defeat. The acting makes clear the conflict that soldiers feel when they are required to fight a battle in which they believe defeat is inevitable. Buford calls the battleground a "gorgeous field of fire" and says he and his men will "charge valiantly and be butchered valiantly." However, as it turns out, the Union generals get this one right and the valor of the Union soldiers is not wasted.

      6.   Play the second segment of the Snippet, beginning at Scene 18. The scene ends as the conversation sparked by the interview with a freed slaves ends. This segment of the snippet is approximately 8 minutes.
        Note to Teachers: This is an especially important scene for showing the value of respect. In the beginning a few captive Rebel soldiers explain why they fight in this war. They assert that they are not fighting to keep the "darkies" enslaved but for their own rights to live as they chose: live and let live.

        The scene then moves to focus on a captive "John Henry," a runaway slave. Col. Chamberlain and one of his officers then sit under a tree and engage in a discussion of the importance of race in an individual's life as well as the value of egalitarianism. The assertion is made that justice is more important than race and that an honorable man is the true aristocart.

        In this snippet, Col. Chamberlain quotes fragments from Shakespeare's tragedy, Hamlet, act two, scene two, to support his belief that there is a "divine spark" in the eyes of all men.

        The lines from Hamlet quotedby Chamberlain are:
        What a piece of work is a man! How noble in
        reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in
        moving, how express and admirable! in action
        how like an angel! in apprehension how like a
        god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of
        animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintes-
        sence of dust? Man delights me notů
        Whereas Hamlet bemoans his disillusion with mankind, Col. Chamberlain holds to his belief in the divinity of man, despite the misery of war.
      7.   1. What do you think about the concept of race? Do you think someone should value his or her race above individuality? Under what circumstances can a person transcend race? Use examples of persons from your own life or from mass media who seem t have transcended the dictates of race. 2. Look at the lines from Shakespeare spoken by Chamberlain. The attitude expressed is called "humanocentric." What aspects of this concept do you believe to be valid and which do you believe to be outdated and suspect in the modern world 3. In criticism of judging a man according to his race or in terms of his parentage, the officer in conversation with Chamberlain argues firmly against both slavery and the aristocracy. How do you think the value of justice lies in opposition to both of these social conditions?

      8.  Play the third segment of the snippet, Scene 20. End the scene when

      Notes on Responses:In this scene, a group of Southern officers attempt to explain their concept of states rights as it is inextricably tied to the rights of the individual. Since the government under which they live supposedly derives its power from the consent of the people, they feel they have a right to resign when they no longer give their consent. An analogy is given in which they compare the government to a Gentlemen's Club from which they would resign should that club begin to rob them of their freedom. The men argue that they do not want to be ruled by a president in Washington any more than they would want to be ruled by a king in London. >

      Play the last segment, scne 25 untill .. 1. In the scene called "The Gentlemen's Club," Southern officers argue the morality of the war in terms of state's rights, an idea that is still a part of the American political system. Think about the idea of state's rights and write about the state you live in and how it may be different from the others in terms of laws and social behaviors. Do you believe America should consider itself one large state now that mass media makes state distinctions less important? Comment on and defend your position about whether you think it is proper for some states to allow, for example, gay marriage and medical marijuana, whereas other states do not. 2. Explain and argue for or against the validity of the analogy of a gentlemen's club as a way to understand an individual's relationship with government.

      1. How might the United States look today had the South freed the slaves and then gone to war against the North, an action that Col. Longstreet suggests may have pulled the British into the war as an ally to the Confederacy? Would the Union have been forced to join with the Confederacy? 2. Write about the idea that governments would rather lose a war then admit a mistake. Can you suggest any wars this country has fought that might make this idea plausible? Explain your answer using references to specific wars.


Teach students about Mahatma Gandhi, the development of nonviolent mass action, and the Indian independence movement. See Snippet Guide to Defying the Crown -- India 1930 From "A Force More Powerful".

Click here to Set-Up-the-Sub for this lesson.

Why not show the whole movie? TWM strongly recommends this film, especially the sections on the Nashville sit-ins, Gandhi and the Indian independence movement, the resistance to apartheid in South Africa, and the emergence of Solidarity in Poland. See Learning Guide to "A Force More Powerful"

This Snippet Lesson Plan consists of sections of the Learning Guide to "A Force More Powerful".

Building Vocabulary: holistic, experiment, overt, humiliating, segregation, desegregation, apartheid, KKK (Ku Klux Klan), Gandhian, discipline, anticipating, sit-in, dramatize, grievances, boycott, backfire, strategic opportunity, controversial, equivalent, contingency, a story of national significance, historic moment, on principal, indignation, mobilized, momentum, retailer.

Give us your feedback! Was the Guide helpful? If so, which sections were most helpful? Do you have any suggestions for improvement? Email us!

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

Reminder: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing this snippet.

Click here for a website from the filmmakers.

PHOTOGRAPHS, DIAGRAMS AND OTHER VISUALS:   Photographs of Signs Enforcing Racial Discrimination: Documentation by Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Photographers from the Library of Congress and Photographs -- Civil Rights Collection.

"The best-kept secret (about the Nashville sit-ins) was the training we received. Reverend Lawson was older, and he gave us confidence. I was a young, wild student.... Those movements that were successful had leadership training." Rev. Bernard Lafayette, one of the students trained for the Nashville sit-ins, quoted in "Nonviolence still key, civil rights leaders say" from Tennessean.com.

For an example of how American women, lead by Alice Paul, developed the principles of Gandhian nonviolent mass action, apparently independently, and used them to secure the vote for women in the United States, see Learning Guide to "Iron Jawed Angels".

"Unfortunately the concept of nonviolence for many people is that you get hit on one cheek you, turn the other cheek. You don't do anything. But nonviolence means fighting back. But you are fighting back with another purpose and with other weapons." -- Bernard Lafayette

Singing "We Shall Overcome" -- The boycott allowed the whole community to participate.

James Lawson in a strategy meeting

There can be no change without enlisting the support of the majority.

John Lewis (later elected to the U.S. House of Representatives) talking to police.

"Arrange and number one, your fight is to win that person over. And that is a fight. That is a struggle. That's much more challenging than fisticuffs." -- Bernard Lafayette

The white power structure in Nashville was fractured by the sit-ins. The business community needed relief from the boycott and began to look for a way to satisfy the students' demands.

Bernard Lafayette arrested. The arrests of the students dramatized their grievances.

    Photos by Vic Cooley / Nashville Banner archives.

Questions 4 & 6 have been adapted from Question #3 in the Discussion Questions suggested in the website from the filmmakers. The answers have been supplied by TWM.

For curriculum standards relating to the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, Click here.

Links to the Internet -- Nashville

  • The Daring of Nonviolence Common Dreams News Center;
  • Interview with John R. Lewis.

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