Lesson Plan

August Anguish at Andersonville: A High School Math Lesson

The graves of August 1864

Overall Rating

Add your review
Grade Level:
High School: Ninth Grade through Twelfth Grade
Math,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
G.CO.3, G.GMD.3, S.CP.1
State Standards:
Georgia Social Studies Standard SS8H6 The student will analyze the impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction on
Thinking Skills:
Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.


How can I as a historian use math skills to explore and better understand the Andersonville prison during the Civil War? 


After the breakdown of the prison exchange system in mid 1863, both Union and Confederate forces were forced to hold prisoners for an extended period of time.

The Confederacy first held Union prisoners in the capital city of Richmond, VA, but this placed a tremendous strain on the city’s resources. So in early 1864 the Confederacy built a new prison in rural Georgia – Camp Sumter, which quickly became known as Andersonville.

By the summer of 1864 Andersonville was incredibly overcrowded. Approximately 33,000 prisoners were held in a space intended for 10,000 and diseases related to sanitation and nutrition were rampant. By the time the prison ceased operation 45,000 men passed through the prison gates, and 13,000 of them died, making Andersonville the deadliest ground in American history.

It can sometimes be difficult for students to grasp to scale of suffering at Andersonville. This activity provides an opportunity for students to apply math skills and get a better sense of the overcrowding and death that occurred in August of 1864, when the prison was at its maximum population.


*Decide whether the activity will be completed independently, in pairs, or in groups.  

*Make one copy for each student of the “Understanding the Suffering at Andersonville”, “Extension” and “Reflections”

*Students will need pencil and possibly a calculator  


Use to complete math activity.

Download Consolidated Monthly Returns, August 1864

Use to complete math activity.

Download Map of Andersonville

Use to Complete Math Activity.

Download Daily Returns, August 1864

Complete as an extra challenge to apply Andersonville comprehension at a higher-level.

Download Extensions

Lesson Hook/Preview

Choose one of the following lesson hooks:


  1. Review with students the appropriate mathematical skills that they will need.
  2. Distribute to each student or group a copy of the age appropriate worksheet of “Understanding the Suffering at Andersonville”
  3. Distribute copies to each student or group copies of the following:
  • ”Daily Returns, August 1864”
  • “Map of Andersonville Prison”
  • “Consolidated Monthly Return, August 1864

4. Give students time to work through the assignment. 

5. Using your answer key, go over the procedures with the students and help them solve each of the problems. 

6. Discuss with students what these statistics mean. Ask students to answer the “Andersonville Reflection Questions” independently. 

7. Hand out the “Extension Activity” directions. Ask students to choose one of the extension activities to complete or propose a different extension activity. 

8. If time and budget permit, consider taking a field trip to Andersonville. 


*Representative SampleA subset of a statistical population that accurately reflects the members of the entire population. 

*Mortality Rate - A measure of the number of deaths (in general, or due to a specific cause) in a particular population, scaled to the size of that population, per unit of time.

*Statisticsthe practice or science of collecting and analyzing numerical data in large quantities, especially for the purpose of inferring proportions in a whole from those in a representative sample.

*Linear Functions - Any function that graphs to a straight line. What this means mathematically is that the function has either one or two variables with no exponents or powers.

Assessment Materials

Understanding the Suffering at Andersonville

Use the “Understanding the Suffering at Andersonville” activity as an assessment of math skills.

Understanding the Suffering at Andersonville

Download Assessment

Rubric/Answer Key

Understanding the Suffering at Andersonville

Use to check the “Understanding the Suffering at Andersonville” activity as an assessment of math skills.

Understanding the Suffering at Andersonville KEY

Download Rubric/Answer Key

Supports for Struggling Learners

*Heterogeneous pairs for the activity

*Use of a calculator

*Lower-level math versions of this activity are also available. Search for either “August Anguish at Andersonville – Middle School” or “August Anguish at Andersonville – Elementary School”.

Enrichment Activities

*Research modern-day violations of international law and war crimes. Suggest ways that math can help prevent or explore these modern-day violations of international law.   

Additional Resources

American Red Cross, Exploring Humanitarian Law Curriculum. www.redcross.org/ehl

Banfield, Susan. The Andersonville Prison Civil War Crimes Trial: A Headline Court Case. Enslow Publishers, 2000.

Cloyd, Benjamin. Haunted by Atrocity: Civil War Prisons in American Memory. LSU press, 2010.

Futch, Ovid. History of Andersonville Prison. University of Florida Press, 1968.

Leonard, Elizabeth D. Lincoln's Avengers: Justice, Revenge, and Reunion After the Civil War. W. W. Norton & Company, 2004.

Kellogg, Robert H. Life and Death in Rebel Prisons. Hartford, 1865.

Marvel, William. Andersonville: The Last Depot. University of North Carolina Press, 1994.

The Trial Of Henry Wirz, 1866. https://go.nps.gov/wirztrial

Witt, John Fabian. Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History. Free Press, 2012.

Related Lessons or Education Materials

*August Anguish at Andersonville – Middle School

*August Anguish at Andersonville – Elementary School  

Contact Information

Email us about this lesson plan

Last updated: July 2, 2015