Lesson Plan

What Would You Do? Plotting and Planning Strategies of the Civil War

A Civil War era cannon sits in a green field pointing towards a large group of trees.
Grade Level:
High School: Ninth Grade through Twelfth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
11-12.RH.1, 11-12.RI.2, 11-12.RI.7
State Standards:
Georgia Standard(s) of Excellence:  SSUSH9; The student will identify key events, issues, and individuals relating to the causes, course, and consequences of the Civil War
Additional Standards:
Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies:
L9-10RHSS1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
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. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.

Essential Question

Was there a way that the south could have won the American Civil War? (Do not give the essential question until after the activity).


This simulation gives students the opportunity to plot and plan the military strategies of two imaginary countries: Gagoola and Tangmania. As an introductory lesson, this lesson allows students to explore the options available to civil war leaders. After the simulation, they should be able to answer the essential question:

Was there a way that the south could have won the American Civil War?
(Note: This lesson works best if the essential question is revealed after the activity)


This lesson can be used as either a pre-site or post-site activity in conjunction with a visit to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. It may also be used as a stand-alone introductory lesson in the classroom during Civil War study.

The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain is part of the Atlanta Campaign, a coordinated offensive by General Ulysses S. Grant  to destroy Confederate resistance and bring about an end to the War. A major focus was placed northwestern Georgia, with Major General William T. Sherman in charge of the Georgia offensive. From May to September 1864, Federal and Confederate forces fought across north Georgia from Dalton to Atlanta, with the fall of Atlanta on September 2, 1864, as the Campaign's high point. 


*Determine how the two groups will be chosen. It is suggest to use heterogenous groups to ensure equal comprehension of materials and quality of plans. 

*Make one copy per student of the Map, Vital Statistics, Civil War Strategies: Union North and Confederate South, and the Grade the Civil War Strategies assessment. 

*Make copies for half your class of each of the following: Gagoola Description and Tangmania Description. 


Hand out one copy to the half of the class assigned to create military strategy for Gagoola.

Download Gagoola - Description and Questions

Hand out one copy to the half of the class assigned to create military strategy for Tangmania.

Download Tangmania - Description and Questions

Hand out one copy to every student. Optional: Project this map on a board or overhead during the presentation by the Generals.

Download Map - Gagoola and Tangmania

Hand out one copy to every student.

Download Vital Statistics - Gagoola and Tangmania

At the conclusion of the lesson, give one copy to each student to use during the assessment.

Download Civil War Strategies: Union North and Confederate South

Lesson Hook/Preview

*Ask the students, "During the March Madness Basketball Tournament, why is it so hard to make a perfect bracket? If all the teams are ranked and they've played before, why is it so hard to predict the winner of each game?" Guide the students to the conclusion that even though the teams are known, the specific strategies used by each team, how those teams play that day, and how effective the strategies are against each other are unknown. 

*Tell the students that today they will have to create a winning strategy, just like all of the basketball team coaches. But instead of coaching a team, they will be coaching a country. 

*Ask students the question, "Who knows where in the world Tangmania and Gagoola are located?" Ask the students predict the continent on which these countries are located. 

*Then, explain to students that today they will be promoted to the position of military strategiest in one of those countries. They will be responsible for creating a winning military strategy for the country they are assigned. 


1. Divide the class into two separate groups. (Note: Make sure these groups are heterogenous in reading and cognitive ability level.) 

2. Assign each group the role of Tangmania or Gagoola. Hand to each member of the group their country's description.  

2. Hand to each student the map and vital statistics.

3. Each group will elect or choose students to perform each of the following jobs:

  • General - Present the group's military strategy to the class. 
  • Colonel - Make sure every group member is sharing thoughts, participating, and listening respectfully to others. 
  • Major - Draws on the map the strategy or troop movements after all group members have shared ideas and come to a consensus. 
  • Captain - Write down the answers to the country's questions with nice handwriting to turn in to the teacher. 
  • All other group members are Lieutenants - Write down the answers to questions 

4. Each group will cooperatively read the packet and answer the guiding questions. After answering the guiding questions each group will develop a battle plan and conditions for winning.

5. The two Generals will present their country's battle plan to the class as a whole. It is useful to project the map onto a smartboard, dry erase board or overhead to show troop movements. Make sure to emphasize that the second general to present cannot change his or her strategy after the first general presents. 

6. Ask students to share what they think is each country's chance at winning. Ex: 60% confident Gogoola will win. 90% confident Tangmania will win. Most students will not make a 100% prediction. 

7. Ask students why they did not say they were 100% confident about who would win the war. Now, come back to the original question posed in the introduction: on what continent do the students believe Tangmania and Gagoola are located? Tell students the answer is North America! These countries are actually the North and South during the American Civil War. 

8. Ask students to look back at the country vital statistics and map to predict which country represents the South and North. Answer: Tangmania is the North and Gagoola is the South. 

9. Hand out the "Civil War Military Strategies" of the Union North and the Confederate South. Ask students to compare the strategies they just came up with to the strategies of the real military commanders of the Civil War. 


  • Napoleonic - characteristic of Napoleon I, a successful military strategist who also had great ambitions and confidence. 
  • Attrition- the process of gradually reducing the strength or effectiveness through sustained attack or pressure.
  • Cordon Defense - The use of contiguous departments or positions to delineate and defend territory. 
  • Anaconda Plan - This Plan also known as Scott's Great Snake is the name of a strategy to subdue the seceding states in the American Civil War. The outline of the troop movement made the shape of a snake. 
  • Offensive - actively aggressive; attacking.
  • Defensive - used or intended to defend or protect.
  • Ground Forces - military vessels or troops with the purpose of fighting on land.
  • Naval Forces - military vessels or troops with the purpose of fighting on the seas or water. 

Assessment Materials

Civil War Strategy Report Card

Students will use the experience from Gagoola and Tangmania, as well as the "Civil War Strategies: Union North and Confederate South" to evaluate and grade the quality of each side's military strategy at the outset of the Civil War.

Report Card and Assessment

Download Assessment

Supports for Struggling Learners

*Before allowing students to create the war strategy independently, compare and contrast the Vital Statistics as a class. 

*Highlight or annotate copies of the country descriptions. 

*Highlight or annotate copies of the "Civil War Strategies: Union North and Confederate South". 

Enrichment Activities

*Have students research and answer the following question: How was Sherman’s 1864 Atlanta Campaign and subsequent March to the Sea an extension and fulfillment of the Anaconda Plan?

*Predict an answer to the question: why did the South lose the Civil War? Then, at the end of the unit, ask students to see if they still agree with their original prediction. 

Additional Resources

*Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield -https://www.nps.gov/kemo/index.htm

Contact Information

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Last updated: September 14, 2021