City Under Siege: Pre-Visit

At the end of the lesson, each student:

Will list three characteristics of an area where people would settle. Will explain how the landscape has been a significant factor to the success of a city. Will explain the significance of transportation in the success of industry. Will identify two successful industries of a southern city in 1860.

Copies of the unmarked maps of Petersburg with focus questions.

Pencil and paper

The power of place has played a large role in determining the course of American history. Settlers who traveled miles and miles over water and land for a new beginning probably did not randomly select where to land their boats or carriages to make their new homes. They looked for certain characteristics of the land where they settled.

Involvement of the Learners:
What are some questions you would have for your parents, if they announced that the family was moving to a new city?

Transition to Explanation:
Now, imagine that you have no telephones, no cars, and no electricity. What would you look for in a place to make your home?

Pass out pieces of white paper. Instruct students to draw a picture of a place where they would make their home, if they were moving to a new state or territory in 1860?

Write a brief paragraph to accompany your drawing. Explain what you would look for in a city or state and why.

Pass out the blank maps of Petersburg in 1861. Do not tell students what city is represented in the map. Students will read the scenario of this city, answer the focus questions about this place, and finally decide if he or she would choose to live there.

Scenario of the Unknown City

When the war began in 1861, this city was a growing city filled with fine houses, busy shops, and successful factories. The city's 18,000 residents were proud of this prosperous town, which was a trading center with local and world markets. Farmers would bring their crops from the surrounding countryside to this city. Town merchants were successful from the traffic that came in and out of the city. By 1860, this city had become the third largest city in the state and one of the most important.

Why was this city so successful, according to the map?

Why would people from the surrounding countryside bring their goods into the city?

How did these travelers help the economy of the city? (Hint: Think of the local merchants)

If you were new to a state, is this a city where you would choose to live? Why or why not?

Provide clues to the students about what city is represented by the map.

This was city in the state of Virginia.

This city was home to tobacco manufacturing companies, cotton and flour mills, and iron works industries.

This city was located 23 miles south of the Capitol of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Answer: Petersburg, VA
Question for thought: Why were the citizens of Petersburg worried that it might become a target for the Union army during the Civil War?

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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Mailing Address:

Petersburg National Battlefield Administration Office
1539 Hickory Hill Road

Petersburg, VA 23803


(804) 732-3531 x0

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