Lesson Plan

Tracing the Civil War

A Civil War cannon in front of a monument.
The Civil War Tupelo Battlefield Site in Tupelo, Mississippi

NPS Photo

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Grade Level:
Sixth Grade-Eighth Grade
African American History and Culture, Civil War, History, Slavery, Social Studies
Themed unit designed for multiple class periods
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
MS Eighth Grade Competency/Obj.2
Civil War, USCT, Mississippi, railroad, united states colored troops, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Samuel Sturgis


Students will examine the sites and events near the Natchez Trace Parkway in northeastern Mississippi. In these lessons, we will focus on the Civil War sites found near the modern Natchez Trace Parkway in northeastern Mississippi: Okolona, Brice’s Crossroads, and Tupelo. Teachers can choose any of 5 classroom activities regarding these battles and the Civil War Railroad network. Teachers can also bring their classes on field trips for many battlefield and event sites.


Enduring Understanding: Strategies used in the Civil War affected both soldiers and citizens.

Essential Question: What were the purposes of the Civil War battles that occurred along the Natchez Trace? 

The student will:

1.) Learn the history of one or more battle of the Civil War

2.) Learn how these battles affected our history

3.) Learn where the battlefields and memorials are located along the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi

For the complete lesson plan, please email natr_education@nps.gov or call 1-800-305-7417. Please indicate whether or not you need an accessible lesson plan.


By the time the Civil War began, railroad networks and steamboats on the river systems had replaced roads such as the Natchez Trace as the preferred way of moving goods and products. Mississippi had several major railways connecting important river ports such as Memphis, Vicksburg, New Orleans, and Mobile to other major cities and ports around the southern United States. Controlling the railroads and rivers in Mississippi became important during the Civil War for both the Union and Confederates. These transportation networks were vital for moving supplies and troops to the areas where the conflict was being waged. For these reasons, the war that came to Mississippi centered on places like Corinth, Vicksburg, Jackson, and Meridian: important transportation hubs.


In January 1861, Mississippi became the second state to secede from the Union. The cotton industry had made Mississippi very wealthy and also dependent on the slaves that made up most of the work force on the plantations. The Mississippi River delta in the western part of the state and the Black Prairie in the central part were fertile and prosperous agricultural regions. These areas would provide the Confederacy with much needed provisions and supplies as the war would progress.

The Union efforts to control the Tennessee River valley and its attendant railroads would bring Mississippi its first taste of war in April 1862 at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee. The Union victory there put the Confederates on the defensive in nearby Corinth, a railway crossroads at the junction of the Memphis & Charleston line and the Mobile & Ohio line. A series of battles raged in and around Corinth much of 1862 resulting in Union victories and control of the Corinth area.

An important part of the Union strategy for victory was to gain control of the Mississippi River. Union forces captured New Orleans, Louisiana in April 1862 and Memphis, Tennessee in June 1862 leaving Vicksburg, Mississippi as the last major Confederate city on the great river. Several Union efforts against Vicksburg beginning in late 1862 saw engagements at Port Gibson, Raymond, and Jackson and ultimately resulted in Vicksburg's surrender in July 1863 and Union control of the Mississippi River.

In 1864, Union forces turned their attention to the Black Prairie and the railroad city of Meridian which sat at the junction of the Mobile & Ohio line and the Southern of Mississippi line. The struggle to control this area of Mississippi would results in the battles near Okolona, Baldwyn, and Tupelo.

By the time the war ended in 1865, Mississippi would host nearly 200 battles and skirmishes resulting in thousands of casualties. About 80,000 Mississippians would serve in the war, 30 of them rising to the rank of general, and the Confederacy's only President, Jefferson Davis, came from the state. Many of the war's most important personalities fought in Mississippi. Ulysses Grant, William T. Sherman, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and Joseph E. Johnston are among the most recognizable. Many lesser known but equally important to history are men like John Pemberton, Stephen D. Lee, Earl Van Dorn, and Sterling Price of the Confederacy and William Rosecrans, Benjamin Grierson, and Samuel Sturgis of the Union.


1.) Civil War Vocabulary Sheet

2.) Campaigns and Major Actions in Mississippi

3.) Civil War Battles in Mississippi Worksheet

4.) Mississippi's Civil War Railroad Network

5.) Railroads Map Activity Worksheet

6.) Summary of the Battle of Tupelo

7.) Battle of Tupelo Worksheet

8.) Battle of Tupelo Worksheet Answer Sheet

9.) Summary of the Battle of Brice's Crossroads

10.) Battle of Brice's Crossroads Worksheet

11.) Battle of Brice's Crossroads Worksheet Answer Sheet

12.) Battle of Brice's Crossroads Site

13.) Battle of Brice's Crossroads Scavenger Hunt Worksheet

14.) Summary of the Battle of Okolona

15.) Battle of Okolona Worksheet

16.) Battle of Okolona Worksheet Answer Sheet

17.) Tupelo Area Field Trip Guide

18.) Battle of Brice's Crossroads Field Trip Guide

19.) Battle of Okolona Field Trip Guide

20.) The Confederate Cemetery Sheet

21.) Newspaper, crayons, and tape for Headstone Rubbing Activity



Participation in activities.

Park Connections

Educated students as to the battles that occurred along the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi and the sites that can be visited, including the Confederate Cemetery.


1.) After performing the classroom activities, have the students go on a field trip to the battlefields and Confederate Cemetery.

2.) When discussing important figures in the Civil War, such as Jefferson Davis or Robert E. Lee, bring up the lesser known figures from the battles in Mississippi.

Additional Resources

Okolona Carnegie Library (662-447-2401)

Okolona Chamber of commerce (662-447-5913)

Civil War to Civil Rights Trading Cards. Printed Trading Cards are only available by visiting National Park units that are associated with the Civil War. 

Place and People of Tennessee in Civil War

Vocabulary Terms - Civil War Vocabulary

The Civil War Humanitarian Perspective

Corinth, Mississippi Civil War Interpretive Center

Mascots of the Civil War Mascots

Women in the Civil War

Christmas and the Civil War

Weapons in the Civil War

Army Organization during the Civil War

Irish Women and the Civil War

Whose Side are you on? Lesson plan for group disscussion

Prisoner care during the Civil War lesson plan

Primary source newspaper article London Times

Medicine and the Civil War 


See Vocabulary Sheet in Materials

Last updated: January 9, 2018