Lesson Plan

The War of 1812 - Baltimore's Role

The Battle of Fort McHenry - Alfred Jacob Miller

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Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
4.RF.4.b, 4.RF.4.c, 4.SL.4
State Standards:
VSC Objective Alignment: 5.C.2.,6.D.1.
VSC Social Studies Skills and Processes: 6.A.1., 6.A.3.
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts.


Students will read primary and secondary source documents to identify the actions of the citizens in the defense of Baltimore during the War of 1812.


The War of 1812 was fought between the United States and Great Britain from June 1812 to the spring of 1815. Beginning with the end of the American Revolution in 1783 Britain frustrated the new nation by failing to withdraw from the area around the Great Lakes, supporting the Indians in the frontier and refusing to enter into equitable commercial agreements with the United States. Especially egregious was the practice of impressing Americans into British service.

One of the actions taken by the United States was the passing of the Embargo Act
banning all American ships from foreign trade. The embargo failed to change British and French policies but succeeded in devastating New England shipping. Additionally, other economic measures that were attempted failed to deter the Europeans in their destructive policies aimed at the United States. The elected Congress of 1810 included a group known as the War Hawks who demanded war against Great Britain. New England shippers who feared further destruction of their trade opposed war. However, on June 18, 1812, President James Madison signed a declaration of war that Congress passed. The first two years of the war saw numerous campaigns, many of which devastated the young nation's forces.

In 1814 the United States faced complete defeat. The British planned to attack the United States in three main areas: in New York along Lake Champlain and the Hudson River; at New Orleans; and in the Chesapeake Bay. The British appeared near success in the late summer of 1814. American resistance to the diversionary attack in Chesapeake Bay was so weak that the British, after winning the Battle of Bladensburg, marched into Washington, D.C., and burned most of the public buildings. President Madison had to flee into the countryside. The British then turned to attack Baltimore but met stiffer resistance and were forced to retreat after the American defense of Fort McHenry.



Transparencies of each Student Handout
1 copy for each student of Handout "Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812"
Colored pencils or thin lined markers
Copies of primary source documents and graphic organizers for Group Handouts (1 for each pair of students)
Recruitment Poster
Letter written by John and S. Bell to Thomas C. Bell
Letter written by John Harris to Doctor William Harris
Paper for newspaper article

Duplicate worksheets and primary source documents
Prepare transparencies or charts of each activity from the worksheets


Student worksheets, history, handouts.

Download Lesson materials

Lesson Hook/Preview

The purpose of this activity is to provide the students with an example of the mood of the citizens of Baltimore prior to the British attack in September of 1814.
Display Transparency 1.
Read aloud the words of the song.
Ask the students to interpret what they think the words mean. (The students should be able to explain that this is a poem, or message about a battle or war. (Accept all responses.)
Reread the words again, line by line and "translate" for the students.
Tell the students that this was an old song that the citizens of Baltimore sang when they knew that the British troops under the command of General Ross where advancing on Baltimore. Get reactions from the students regarding the mood of the citizens based on the words of the song.


Part 1 - Purpose for reading: What actions did the citizens of Baltimore take to prepare for a possible attack by British forces?
Display transparency of Handout #2
Distribute "Pictorial Field Book Handout #1" (Note to Teacher: This is a
secondary source document. Make sure that the students understand the difference between a secondary and primary source. )
Direct students to paragraph #1. Read this paragraph, highlight or underline words or phrases that are important to the understanding of the text. Complete the graphic organizer which asks, Who, What, Tell Me and Show Me.
Distribute the graphic organizer to groups of students and assign each group a paragraph to read.
Bring the students to the front of the room in the order that their paragraph appears in the reading. Have students retell the story using their graphic organizers as a guide. Emphasize the role of the citizens and troops in preparing for the battle.

Part 2 - Independent Practice
Divide the class into pairs. Assign a primary source document and reading guide sheet to each pair of students. The documents include a recruitment poster from 1813 and letters written immediately after and several months after the actual

Groups: Recruitment Poster (Teacher's Note: There is a recruitment
poster from Connecticut included for display purposes only.)
Letter written by John and S. Bell to Thomas C. Bell
Letter written by John Harris to Doctor William Harris
Have students read the assigned document and complete the appropriate
Allow students to respond to the prompts. Record responses.



artillery – weapons for discharging missiles; a branch of an army
battery – an emplacement for one of more pieces of artillery
blockade – an action to keep supplies from getting into or out of an area
brigade –a large unit of soldiers
fortifications – a fort or defensive earthwork, wall, etc.
master – a person in charge; a military title
repose – calm, peace
vessels – ships

Assessment Materials

Direct students to prepare a newspaper report on the events they just learned about in class, using the facts from the primary source documents.

Supports for Struggling Learners

Student Grouping: When assigning students to work in groups, make sure that groups are heterogeneously mixed so that there is an opportunity for peer support.

Primary Source Documents: For low literacy students, provide student-friendly wording for each document. Assign passages based on level of difficulty and student ability.

Additional Resources

Maryland Adventure by Suzanne Ellery Chapelle pages 93-95
Cobblestone Magazine. James and Dolley Madison, March 1996,
Volume 17 - Number 3.

Contact Information

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Last updated: June 24, 2015