The Gettysburg Address

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Social Studies, United States History

Grade 5- 8


Students learn about Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg address in honor of Presidents' Day.


Give students some background information about Abraham Lincoln:
Presidential Term (1861-1865)
16th President
Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809, in a log cabin in the backwoods of Kentucky. When he was seven years old, his family moved to southwest Indiana where Lincoln helped to clear the fields and plant crops. His mother died when he was nine years old and his father remarried about a year later. He got along well with his stepmother and her three children. The family made another move to Illinois in 1830. Abraham was 21 years old and six feet four inches tall. He was muscular and physically powerful.
Abraham once said he went to school by "the littles"--a little now and a little then. He enjoyed reading and was a self-taught prairie lawyer. His political future began to take shape with his successful legal career in Springfield, Illinois. He ran for public office several times and served in the Illinois legislature and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
He married Mary Todd on November 4, 1842. They had four children, Robert (the only one who lived to adulthood), Edward, William, and Thomas ("Tad").
In 1858 he was the Republican candidate for the Senate. Though he was not an abolitionist, he was morally against slavery, a practice he had seen years before while visiting New Orleans. He ran against Stephen Douglas, and though he did not win, their debates made him famous. He was devoted to the cause of personal freedom for all people.
In 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States. As expected, the Southern (slave) states withdrew from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. He led the North through the Civil War and wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves. At Gettysburg, he gave one of his most famous speeches, declaring that government "of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
The war ended just as he was beginning his second term as president. He was planning the reconstruction of the United States. Within days of his second inauguration, Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. He died early on the morning of April 15, 1865.
Extension Activities

  1. Lincoln was born in Kentucky. He moved to Indiana at age seven. At 17 he built a flatboat and ran farm products down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. He married Mary Todd at her sister's home in Springfield, Illinois. He was named the Republican presidential candidate in Chicago, Illinois, and delivered his most famous speech at the battlefield cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He was assassinated at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. Locate and label these locations on a map of the United States.
  2. Lincoln was more interested in preserving the Union than ending slavery. Discuss the arguments for and against secession.
  3. Make a list of words that describe Abraham Lincoln, his appearance and personality. Organize them into a character sketch.
  4. Read more information about the Confederacy and the Union. What were the strengths and weaknesses of each group? Make a chart to show what you learn. Compare the advantages of the North and South. Which group do you think seemed likely to win?
  5. Do research to learn the major battles of the Civil War. Locate and label them on a map of the United States. Indicate which side was victorious in each.
  6. As a result of the war, Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross to help people in need. What duties do women perform (then and now) in time of war? How does the Red Cross respond to disasters today? What can you do to contribute to the organization?


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