Lesson Plan

Escape the Battlefield, Win the War!

Grade Level:
High School: Ninth Grade through Twelfth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
11-12.RH.1, 11-12.RH.2, 11-12.RH.3, 11-12.RH.4, 11-12.RH.5, 11-12.RH.6, 11-12.RH.7, 11-12.RH.8, 11-12.RH.9, 11-12.RH.10
State Standards:
South Carolina US History Grade Level 11

USHC- 1.1
USCH- 1.2
USCH- 1.3
Additional Standards:
AP US History Key Concepts

Essential Question

How did the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution lead to the eventual surrender of General Cornwallis and the British troops at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781?


How did the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution lead to the eventual surrender of General Cornwallis and the British troops at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781?


The American Revolution in the North had become static and by 1780 the British decided to focus their efforts on utilizing the support of Loyalist in the South, and re-establish royal colonies. The Southern Campaign began with the British siege of Charleston, SC in the spring of 1780. The British continue to march through South Carolina with early victories at Waxhaws and Camden.

However, a sudden battle in the wilderness frontier at Kings Mountain that ended as a Patriot victory revealed a weakness in England’s plan and helped turn the tide of the American Revolution. Patriots, militia, free and enslaved African Americans, and over-mountain men, mostly Scotch-Irish immigrants used unconventional guerilla warfare tactics effectively against the British.

Following the Battle of Kings Mountain, British General Cornwallis needed to regroup and in the mean -time General Nathaniel Greene organized a new offensive for the Continental Army. By January of 1781, Greene had placed General Daniel Morgan in charge of an army of Continentals and militia at the Battle of Cowpens. Militia sharp shooters used unconventional military tactics by targeting the officers first, in order to, create chaos and confusion for British Col. Banastre Tarleton and his force of British Regulars. The Battle of Cowpens ended with a miraculous victory for Morgan and the Patriots. Both forces included women, and black slaves or servants in their camps (Scoggins, 2004).

British troops under the command of Cornwallis met up against Patriot forces again, on March 15, 1781. This time at Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina. Even though the battle ended in defeat for the Patriots, Cornwallis suffered such staggering losses that he retreated to the North Carolina coast.  

By May of 1781 General Greene laid siege to an important British outpost full of Loyalists at Ninety Six in South Carolina. Greene with the help of 1,000 patriot troops staged the longest field siege of the Revolutionary War against 500 loyalists defending Ninety Six (Buchanan, 1997). Greene failed to capture the notorious British constructed earthen mounds known as the Star Fort. However, the Loyalists had to retreat and burned everything in their colonial town to keep patriots from being able to make use of it. Most of these Loyalists fled to Canada to escape retaliation of the patriots (Southern, 2009).

Ultimately, the events of the Southern Campaign became the catalyst that brought the American Revolution to an end. England’s altered strategy of re-establishing royal colonies and banking on loyalist support in the South eventually left Cornwallis surrounded and surrendering at Yorktown in October of 1781. The American Revolution officially came to a close with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. America had finally gained its independence and become a new nation, but not without the help of multiple diverse groups, each with their motivations.


 Escape Room Materials

  1. Copies of all primary resources for each student (Included in this lesson, links to electronic version also included.)
  2. UV pens and UV flashlights (links included in LP for info on where to get them)
  3. Locks with keys or combinations (4)
  4. Some type of box that can be locked to hold clues or steps (3 boxes needed)
  5. Puzzle Pieces (3 sets)
  6. Copies of Southern Campaign timeline (3 copies) Included electronically


Download Southern Campaign Timeline

Download Final Message

Download Pension Record Escape Room Clues

Download Southern Campaign Escape Room Directions

Lesson Hook/Preview

SCETV Southern Campaign Video on The Battle of Cowpens
(approx.. 8 min.)



Southern Campaign Escape Room Directions.docx
Step 1: GOAL- Explain to students that a vital message MUST be delivered to the correct person at the correct location before time runs out or the Americans will risk losing the Revolutionary War. They MUST figure out how to unlock the message in time by figuring out the clues and unlocking the next activity.
Step 2: Break the students into three groups.
Step 3: Hide an index card (with the phrase: This task will be easy if you just use Common Sense) in plain sight somewhere in the room (I chose to staple it next to a picture of George Washington on my classroom wall).
Step 4: The first set of clues to decipher that will open the Word Lock is hidden inside a copy of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense.
Activity 1: Each group will be assigned a pension record to evaluate
Pension Record Escape Room Clues.docx
Pension Records
Click on the link or copy in browser to find to the pensioner’s record.
Thomas Young- http://revwarapps.org/s10309.pdf
Andrew Ferguson- http://revwarapps.org/s32243.pdf
William Meade- http://revwarapps.org/s19394.pdf
Silas P. Wooten- http://revwarapps.org/s40730.pdf
Step 5: Use code deciphered in Activity 1 to unlock Activity 2 in first lock box.
Step 6: Activity 2- Follow the directions using the letters and puzzle pieces inside the box to find the clues and code to open lock box #2.
Inside of lock box #2 is a set of UV flashlights and three ziplock bags with puzzle pieces and a letter from the Southern Campaign (primary resource) for each of the groups. The students need to read their group’s letter and then put together their puzzle, (answer the question listed below in the directions). One of the puzzles will have the correct symbol (answer written in UV pen, the other two will be distractors with penalties.
Teacher Info Activity 3
Directions: Read the primary source documents (letters) linked below
What is the common historical thread of the letters?
Put your group’s puzzle together to see if you have the correct answer.
Click on the links below to access the Letters from the Southern Campaign
Step 7: The code from Activity 2 will open the lock box containing activity 3
Step 8: Activity 3- (Use timeline link below) Print cards and cut them apart. Distribute one set of cards to each group. Students will put them in the order in which the historical events happened. They will have to use inquiry to find the dates. (Optional: time students to see how quickly they can put them in the correct order). If the order is correct, each group will use the UV flashlight to reveal the clue to figure out the number they must contribute to unlock the last box. Inside last lock box is the message. (Teachers: Make sure you print final message and place in 3rd locked box)
Final Message.docx
Southern Campaign Timeline.docx
Step 9: But wait… you are trapped in the room… to unlock the door lock you MUST figure out the code by identifying to whom and where the message is to be delivered.
Display these clues on the projector screen after all 3 locked boxes have been opened.
Where: You MUST take the message from the colony established in 1670, to somewhere important to the Revolution in the colony established in 1607. (Hint you MUST know the rank in order of date)
Who: Deliver it to the 1st
Answer to last clues:
SC est. 1670 was the 11th colony
Virginia est. 1607 was the 1st (somewhere important is Yorktown)
Deliver to George Washington the 1st president
Get the message to George Washington in Yorktown, Virginia
To unlock the door use the code 111
Step 10: Unlock the door and get the message delivered.


  1. Backcountry- In the 18th century, the area beyond the fall line, including the piedmont, and the mountains; also known as the upcountry, the frontier, and the wilderness.
  2. Baggage- Military supplies such as tents, tools, and rations carried in wagons.
  3. Continental – 1. Professional soldier, The Continental Congress issued them their uniforms and weapons and paid them when there was money. 2. Paper money, which became worthless because of over-issue and lack of confidence in the government.
  4. Double envelopment- Envelopment is an attack on the enemy’s flank, rear, and sometimes the front. Double-envelopment would entail attack or a surrounding on both flanks, hence all sides.
  5. Dragoon- Similar to cavalry. The dragoons rode to battle on horse- back but could also fight dismounted.
  6. Loyalist- An American fighting to keep the colonies a part of Great Britain, and loyal to the Crown.
  7. Militia- Volunteers who fought for short periods of time. They wore their own clothes and provided their own weapons. Both the Americans and British had militia fighting for them.
  8. Patriot- An American fighting for freedom from British rule.
  9. Southern Campaign- The era of the American Revolution mostly between 1780-1781, in which the British focused their efforts on gaining support from loyalist in the South. It ended with major victories for the patriots and ultimately led to the British surrender at Yorktown, Virginia October 19, 1781.
  10. Primary Sources- Records left by someone who witnessed or experienced an event. They may include letter, diary or journal entries, drawings, manuscripts, newspapers, court records, and artifacts.
  11. Escape/Breakout Room- An activity in which groups are placed/ “locked” in a room and given a series of task and clues to unlock in order to “escape” the room in a certain amount of time or fail the “mission”. 

Assessment Materials

Exit Slip - After having read multiple primary sources throughout the Escape room activity, this will be used to assess student understanding of how the American Revolution changed the identity of Americans from British colonial subjects to citizens of a free and independent republic.

Short Answer Question: I Choose… 

Using complete sentences in paragraph form respond to the following: (answer all parts of the Short Answer Questionand be specific).

a.) Briefly explain ONE specific historical cause that would result in colonist fighting on the side of the British as a loyalist.

b.) Briefly explain ONE specific historical cause that would result in colonist fighting on the side of the patriots.

c.) Briefly explain ONE specific historical cause that would result in African Americans choosing to fight for either the patriots or the British.

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Last updated: February 5, 2019