Lesson Plan

When War Hits Home: The Ohio & Erie Canal Town of Peninsula, and the Civil War Election of 1864

A colorized photo of a canal boat, lumber and workers in a boatyard along the Ohio and Erie Canal
Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6-8.RH.7, 6-8.RH.8, 6-8.RH.9, 8.RI.1, 8.RI.2, 8.RI.3, 8.RI.6, 8.RI.8, 8.RI.9, 8.RI.10
State Standards:
Ohio 8th Grade Social Studies New Learning Standards: 1, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 22, 23
Additional Standards:
National Council for the Social Studies Thematic Strands: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10

Essential Question

Is it true that "all politics are local"? How does personal experience inform voting decisions? How does war hit home?


Students will be able to closely read excerpts from Civil War letters and identify personal politics and points of view conveyed within these letters; connect individual experiences with national events and connect personal politics with positions advocated by political parties; describe a place in time from documents, images, and maps; compare and contrast different individuals’ war time experiences; and connect past experiences in Peninsula, OH with present experiences in their own home town.


This lesson is firmly grounded in the politics and economics of the Civil War over the course of the years 1861-1864 and can be used to teach about every-day life on the home front as well as the war front and the connection between the two in what became, by 1864, a “total war”. Extensive work with primary source documents, images and maps supported by context notes, guiding questions, a vocabulary list, and a timeline will challenge students to think like historians, to infer, to compare and contrast, and to use evidence to justify their conclusions and their predictions.
While designed for 8th Grade Social Studies, the lesson could easily be adapted for 8th grade Language Arts, or enriched for high school U.S. History courses including AP U.S. History.

Visiting the Site:
Peninsula, Ohio is a living village that falls entirely within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CNVP). Its main street is an easily walkable National Historic District with a large number of buildings all dating to the Civil War and before including the Waterman and Boodey homes. An additional 22 properties in Peninsula - most connected to the canal including locks and an aqueduct - are also on the National Register of Historic Places. The Peninsula Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Peninsula Library and Historical Society have developed an online walking tour app that covers the town. The Chamber also promotes a large number of festivals and events from spring through fall. The Ohio and Erie Canalway organization has developed several “Quests” to promote exploration of the cultural and natural history of the town. Peninsula is centrally located in Cuyahoga Valley National Park which maintains a downtown visitor center/store which, along with several craft shops and restaurants makes the town a jumping off point for exploration of the rest of the park. The park has also restored the towpath trail along the canal and maintains remnants of the locks and aqueducts - all of which are interpreted with wayside signs and exhibits. A highly interactive Canal Exploration Center has been established at the north end of the park by CNVP to present the story of the canal’s conception, construction, and impact locally and nationally and another interpretation center focusing on the Canal Boat Building industry in Peninsula and Boston is maintained by CVNP in Boston. Bikes may be brought to or rented in Peninsula to use on the trail, and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad offers rides through the park - along with a bike and ride program - and has its central stop/station in Peninsula.


Review all of the materials available and determine the scope and depth of lesson which is desired.

Any combination of the following materials may be provided to students in print or online at the discretion of the teacher. The letter excerpts are numbered, and can easily be divided up or “chunked” to make them more manageable for students.

  1. (3) Maps of the Ohio and Erie Canal, Boston Township in Summit County, Ohio, and Peninsula, Ohio in 1874 (See Locating the Site)

  2. (2) Background Readings about Peninsula’s place on the Ohio and Erie Canal and wartime Politics in Peninsula (See Setting the Stage)

  3. (2) Fact Sheets giving Vocabulary and a timeline of National Events 1861-64 (See Setting the Stage)

  4. (2) Political Party Platforms - Democrat and Republican Platforms for 1864 (See Setting the Stage)

  5. (2) Sets of Excerpts from the Letters of Lieutenant George L. Waterman and Sergeant Levi Barker Boodey, both in Company C. of the 115th Ohio Volunteer Infantry along with (2) Newspaper Articles from the Dayton Journal (Republican) describing the shooting and death of Lieutenant Waterman (See Determining the Facts)

  6. (10) Images showing the town of Peninsula, the Waterman and Boodey Families, their homes, and their places of business (See Visual Evidence)

  7. (3) Images dramatizing a 19th Century election and showing the Civil War Memorial and GAR Hall dedicated by Peninsula following the war (See Putting It All Together)


Civil War Vocabulary: A list of vocabulary terms for the lesson, including Civil War terms, military ranks and units, and military and political figures named in some of the lesson materials

Download Civil War Vocabulary

Peninsula Images: Post-Civil War images of Peninsula, OH

Download Peninsula Images

Board of Public Works Report: 1864 Report of the Board of Public Works of the State of Ohio

Download Board of Public Works Report

Boodey Images: Images of Sergeant Levi Barker Boodey, his family, and their property

Download Boodey Images

Boodey Letters: Excerpts from the Civil War Letters of Sgt. Levi Barker Boodey, Co. C, 115th O.V.I. and Family

Download Boodey Letters

Civil War Timeline: A brief timeline of some important events during the Civil War

Download Civil War Timeline

The Dayton Journal: Another Copperhead Outrage: This is the first report of Lieutenant Waterman's shooting from the Republican-leaning Dayton Journal, Thursday, September 3, 1863

Download The Dayton Journal: Another Copperhead Outrage

Dayton Journal: Dead: This is the report in the Republican-leaning Dayton Journal of the death and public funeral of Lieutenant George L. Waterman in Dayton, Ohio

Download Dayton Journal: Dead

Democratic Party Platform: The Democratic Party Platform, August 29, 1864

Download Democratic Party Platform

Civil War Politics in Peninsula: This is an imagined debate between Merrill Boodey and J.D. Edson that could have taken place on the steps of Merrill Boodey's store in Peninsula, OH.

Download Civil War Politics in Peninsula

Republican Party Platform: The Republican (National Union) Party Platform, June 4, 1864

Download Republican Party Platform

Supplementary Resources: Links to supplementary resources for the lesson

Download Supplementary Resources

Travel on the Ohio and Erie Canal from Cleveland to Akron: This nostalgic description of an imagined trip from Cleveland to Akron along the Ohio and Erie Canal was written by Fred Bishop for publication as an article in the local Brecksville, OH newspaper, the Grist-Mill, in 1948.

Download Travel on the Ohio and Erie Canal from Cleveland to Akron

Waterman Images: Images of Second Lieutenant George L. Waterman, his family, and their property

Download Waterman Images

Waterman Letters: Excerpts from the Civil War Letters of Lieutenant George L. Waterman

Download Waterman Letters

Lesson Hook/Preview

Begin with the introductory activity, “All Politics is Local: Hard Choices in the Canal Town of Peninsula, Ohio on the Eve of the Civil War Election of 1864”. Use the introductory context and the letter from George Waterman to his parents to set the stage for the lesson. Questions for the introductory discussion can include:

  • How will news of home affect soldiers in the field?

  • How will news from the field impact family back home?

  • How will the combination affect voting decisions in the Presidential Election in 1864?


Step One: Getting Started - Image and Inquiry Question

  • Waterman Boatyard and Mustill Store

Step Two: Locating the Site - Maps

  • Ohio and Erie Canal
  • Boston Township
  • Peninsula, 1874

Step Three: Setting the Stage - 3-4 Paragraphs Background (+ Additional Readings)

  • Canal from Cleveland to Akron
  • Peninsula Politics
  • Democratic and Republican Platforms

Step Four: Determining the Facts - 2-3 Readings

  • Waterman Letters + Dayton Journal Articles
  • Boodey Letters

Step Five: Visual Evidence - 3-6 Images

  • Peninsula Main Street and Birdseye views
  • Waterman Family, Home, and Business
  • Boodey Family, Home, and Business

Step Six: Putting it All Together - 3-4 Activities

  • Epilogue - Remembering the War and Honoring Those Who Served
  • 1864 Election Role Play
  • Politics and Economics
  • “Our Town” - Describing a Cultural Landscape
  • “Night Meeting” - Two Voice Poem Prompt to connect 1864 and the present


See "Civil War Vocabulary" document under Materials.

Additional Resources

See the “Supplementary Resources” document under Materials.
Learn about self-guided "Quests" offered throughout the Ohio & Erie Canalway.

Contact Information

Email us about this lesson plan

Last updated: October 13, 2020