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Vicksburg During the Civil War: A Campaign, A Siege (1862-1863) lesson plan


By the spring of 1863, the only major city on the Mississippi River still under the control of the Confederacy was the city of Vicksburg. Maintaining control of Vicksburg was essential to the unity of the Confederate states. Confederate troops, as well as Vicksburg citizens, heroically held out for 47 days before surrendering to Union forces. It was during this 47-day siege that the citizens of Vicksburg, while the city was under steady shelling, were forced to live in caves. It is through the diaries and letters of such women as Emma Balfour and Mary Loughborough that history has been able to preserve the emotions, feelings, experiences, and thoughts of civilians that were affected by one of the most significant events of the Civil War.  The surrender of Vicksburg, to Union forces on July 4, 1863, indicated the beginning of the end of the Confederacy.


Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 3 and 4.


Grades 4 (with modifications) through 12.


The Mississippi History Now article, Vicksburg During the Civil War.

Mississippi history textbooks

Overhead (optional)

Overhead transparency and pen (optional)

Chalk and chalkboard

Pen or pencils

Notebook paper

Unlined paper

Art supplies for dioramas and dramatizations


Students will:

Create a diorama or map of the battle of Vicksburg.

Explain the significance of Vicksburg to Confederate and Union war goals.

Describe the life of citizens during the siege of Vicksburg.

Create a dramatization or compose a diary entry about the siege of Vicksburg.


The teacher will ask students to name significant events of the Civil War that occurred in the state of Mississippi. The teacher can record the student responses on the chalkboard. Using a map of the United States and/or the state of Mississippi, the teacher will locate the city of Vicksburg. The teacher will ask students to suggest why the city of Vicksburg was significant to the military strategy of the Union.  The teacher will tell the students that they will learn about the Battle of Vicksburg and its impact on the lives of the men and women of the city.



Assign the students to groups of three or four. Allow the students to create a diorama or three dimensional map of the Vicksburg campaign. As a group, the students should compose an essay that describes the Union military strategy used to capture Vicksburg.


Allow each group to share their models or dioramas of the Vicksburg Campaign with their classmates.


The teacher will ask students to speculate as to what life was like for the citizens of Vicksburg that were trapped in their city as it was under siege. The teacher can write student responses on the chalkboard or on an overhead transparency.


The teacher will ask the students to speculate on what life was like for citizens in the city of Vicksburg during the 47-day siege. Ask students to suggest what the role of women was during the siege.  The teacher can make a web on the chalkboard or on an overhead transparency, in order to record the student responses.  For each role students suggested, have students imagine the feelings and emotions that may have been experienced by these roles during the siege.


Ask for two student volunteers to read the excerpts of Emma Balfour’s and Mary Loughborough’s experiences during the siege of Vicksburg, that are included in the Mississippi History Now article.  The teacher can ask the students the following questions after the excerpts are read.


How are these two excerpts similar and different?


What type of emotions and feelings are the women experiencing in the events recorded in these excerpts?


How has the siege of Vicksburg affected the daily lives of these women and their families?


How are primary sources such as these diary entries important to understanding historical events?


How might the diaries have been useful to these two women during and after the siege of Vicksburg?


Allow students to work in groups of three or four for this portion of the assignment.  Ask the students to create a dramatization of the siege of Vicksburg. Examples are listed below:


Student groups can write and perform a radio broadcast that may have been produced, if radio had existed during the Civil War.


Student groups can write and perform a talk show segment on the effects of war on civilians during the siege of Vicksburg.


Student groups can pretend to be war correspondents/photographers sent to cover the siege of Vicksburg. They can draw a series of pictures with captions that tell the story of this significant Civil War event. The drawings can be displayed as if it is an exhibit.


If time does not permit for students to complete the dramatization, the teacher can ask students to write a diary entry for citizen of Vicksburg during the 47-siege. Allow students to move into groups of four in order to read their paragraphs. Have each student group choose one diary entry that will be read to the class.


The students will perform their dramatizations or read their diary entries to the class.



Maps or dioramas




Class participation




Diary entries



Have students research the Confederate and Union leaders involved in the siege of Vicksburg.


Allow students to take a field trip to the Vicksburg Memorial Park.


Mississippi History On Loan, a service offered by the Museum Division, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, has a number of videos on the siege of Vicksburg as well as the PBS series by Ken Burns, The Civil War . Videos listed in its catalog are available free of charge to Mississippi public schools and to eligible private schools. Complete the required form (if you do not have one, call 601-961-4724 and ask the audiovisual coordinator to mail one to you). Mail the completed form to: Mississippi History On Loan, Manship House Museum, 420 East Fortification Street, Jackson, Mississippi 39202-2340

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