Last updated: January 11, 2016
Tracing the Civil War
- Grade Level:
- Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
- Social Studies
Students will examine the sites and events near the Natchez Trace Parkway in northeastern Mississippi. In these activities, we will focus on the Civil War sites found near the modern Natchez Trace Parkway in northeastern Mississippi: Okolona, Brice’s Crossroads, and Tupelo. Summary sheets and worksheets are provided below. Teachers can also bring their classes on field trips for many battlefield and event sites; related field trip guides are included.
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.
Student Task: The teacher will present the students with the Civil War Vocabulary Sheet. The students will either read or be presented with the background information for each battle and/or activity they will be performing. The students will participate in any and all activities the teacher chooses.
Teachers can choose any or all of the activities listed below.
Civil War Battles in Mississippi:
1.) The students will review the Campaigns and Major Actions in Mississippi sheet. The teacher can decide the best way to present this material to the class.
2.) The students will fill out the Civil War Battles in Mississippi Worksheet by matching the battles with the correct date.
3.) The students will then create their own timeline placing the battles in the proper sequence.
Railroads Map Activity:
1.) The students will review a map of Mississippi of the Civil War Railroad Network with the names and locations of five railroads that were active during the time of the Civil War.
2.) The students will complete the Railroads Map Activity Worksheet.
Battle of Tupelo Activity:
1.) The students will read or be presented with the Summary of the Battle of Tupelo.
2.) The students will answer questions on the Battle of Tupelo Worksheet.
Battle of Brice's Crossroads Activity:
1.) The students will read or be presented with the Summary of the Battle of Brice's Crossroads.
2.) The students will answer questions on the Battle of Brice's Crossroads Worksheet.
Battle of Okolona Activity:
1.) The students will read or be presented with the Summary of the Battle of Okolona.
2.) The students will answer questions on the Battle of Okolona Worksheet.
Teachers can find information on the locations and stops for these field trips using the Field Trip Guides for each Battle located in the Materials Section.
1.) The students will read or be presented the Summary of the Battle of Tupelo.
2.) Students can visit either of the two Battle of Tupelo sites outlined in the Tupelo Area Field Trip Guide.
Battle of Brice's Crossroads:
1.) Teachers should refer to the Battle of Brice's Crossroads Site sheet located in Materials.
2.) Students will read or be presented the Summary of the Battle of Brice's Crossroads.
3.) Students will tour the Mississippi's Final Stands Interpretive Center at the Brice's Crossroads Site on the Natchez Trace Parkway.
4.) Students will participate in a scavenger hunt to identify objects and people at the site using the Battle of Brice's Crossroads Scavenger Hunt Worksheet.
5.) Students will describe the exhibit in which each item was located.
6.) Students can tour any of the 5 different stops along the site outlined in the Battle of Brice's Crossroads Field Trip Guide.
Battle of Okolona:
1.) Students will read or be presented the Summary of the Battle of Okolona.
2.) Students can tour any of the 6 stops outlined in the Okolona Field Trip Guide.
The Confederate Cemetery:
1.) Teachers should call either the Okolona Carnegie Library or the Okolona Chamber of Commerce for a copy of a list of soldiers buried in the cemetery and a map of the cemetery plots.
2.) Teachers should tell students that cemeteries are a place of dignity and should be treated with respect.
3.) Students will use the map of the cemetery plots to learn how to find individual grave sites.
4.) Students can participate in two activities. Teachers should read The Confederate Cemetery Sheet located in Materials.
a. Activity 1: Make a Headstone Rubbing
i. Have students find a headstone that is fairly clean and solid.
ii. Students will tape newspaper to the headstone
iii. Students will gently rub the headstone with a crayon, gradually increasing pressure until the rub is complete.
b. Activity 2: Complete a Cemetery Scavenger Hunt
i. Students will work in pairs or teams.
ii. Students will be provided a list of items to search for. For example, find soldiers from as many different sites as possible, soldiers from as many different units, or find 3 soldiers from certain states or units.
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.
Provides general Civil War vocabulary that can be used for any of the classroom activities and field trips.
Provides teachers and students with the proper timeline of battles and the dates on which they were fought.
Each student must match battles with the correct dates and create a timeline placing the battles in the proper sequence.
Provides the names and locations of railroads active during the Civil War across Mississippi. Can be used to check student answers on Railroad Map Activity Worksheet.
To be completed after reading the Railroad Network materials.
For students to complete while at the Mississippi Final Stands Interpretive Center during the Battle of Brice's Crossroads field trip.
Provides teachers with location information on the Battle of Tupelo and the Confederate Cemetery, as well as information on stops to make during the field trip.
Provides teachers with location information on the Battle of Brice's Crossroads site as well as information on stops to make during the field trip.
Provides teachers with location information on the Battle of Okolona site as well as information on stops to make during the field trip.
Provides information on the Confederate Cemetery Field Trip and two onsite student activities.