Your Daily At-Home Civil War Lesson:

gone with the wind movieposter

NOTE TO TEACHERS AND PARENTS: While all of the selected clips below are PG or G-rated, the movies themselves deal with complicated and often difficult subject matter so we, as always, recommend use of this lesson with your guidance and adjustments.

Week #5 of our Daily At-Home Civil War lessons has featured connections between your Civil War unit and Language Arts class.  On Monday we looked at effective speech writing with Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address; on Tuesday, Civil War communication systems; Wednesday we explored journalism practices; and yesterday a close look at Civil War poetry for National Poetry month.

Today, since it’s Friday, we are going to watch some movie clips to explore how we remember the Civil War, and how generation after generation redefines the lessons they apply, and the stories they tell, about this critical point in our nation’s history.  Many of our historians and educators at the park credit a specific movie, or even a specific scene, with first getting them interested in the study of history, leading them to the job they do each day.  Here are some examples of the inspirational power of the movies:

History Professor Jared Frederick from Pennsylvania State University and former park ranger: “As a student in grade school, the movie Gettysburg astounded me. Never before had I seen a movie with so many people in it. The scale of the battle scenes and the wonderful acting captured my imagination and encouraged me to study the Civil War. The next summer, I took my first family vacation there. That trip changed my life. By the time I was in fifth grade I knew I wanted to be a historian.”

Gettysburg National Military Park Chief of Interpretation, Christopher Gwinn: “Glory had such a huge impact on me, as did Gettysburg. The Little Round Top sequence is, in my opinion, a real well-done bit of film-making. And as strange as it may seem, the end credits in Glory, with the St. Gaudens memorial, really really spoke to me as a kid. I guess it drove home the “this was real” idea.”

Park Educator, John Hoptak: “But then came Glory in 1989 and that just cemented everything together. If I had to choose a scene, or two, though, I would have to go with the Parade when the 54th is departing Boston (the music of this scene is the best of the movie), the final assault on Wagner, and the “Give ’em [heck], 54th” moment.”

Park educator, Barbara Sanders: “My high school history teacher took our class to see Glory when it first came out; it was overwhelming how much I cared about the characters. I went back to see the movie multiple times, and then bought every book I could find on Colonel Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. An older movie called “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” cemented my interest in political processes and the ideals important for America to uphold, with its amazing sequence of the National Park memorials around Washington D.C.”

What movies have inspired you in some way?


Watch the five scenes below from five different movies about the Civil War. Think about and write a paragraph about each that answers the following questions:

“How would you describe the action in this scene?  What is going on, and what context questions does it leave you with?”

“What does the director want you to know or feel about the Civil War era by watching this scene?”

“What devices does the director use to communicate his message (music, close-ups, silence etc.)?

“Which movie are you most inspired to see in its entirety now?”

Gone With the Wind, Casualty List

This is a scene from the 1939 film “Gone With the Wind”, described as an epic historical romance.  The movie was adapted from a novel by Margaret Mitchell.  It is set in the South, beginning on the eve of the Civil War, and concluding during the Reconstruction era.

Shenandoah, War Quote

Shenandoah follows the story of widower, Charlie Anderson who is played by Jimmy Stewart, as he and his six sons run their Virginia farm during the Civil War.  Anderson tries to keep his family out of the war, but inevitably this proves impossible.


Glory – I Love The 54th

Glory came out in 1989 and followed the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the second African-American unit recruited for the Union army, and its white officers, from the creation of the regiment to their heroic actions leading the charge on Fort Wagner in South Carolina.  This scene takes place just before that charge.


Gettysburg, Chamberlain

The movie Gettysburg was released in 1993.  It is based on the novel The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, and looks at the battle from the perspectives of select commanders, including Confederate Generals Lee and Longstreet, Union Cavalry Commander, John Buford ,and the officer in this clip, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain who led the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry on the back slope of Little Round Top on July 2, 1863.


Lincoln, Meeting with Confederates

Directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie is an historical drama covering the last four months of President Lincoln’s life as he works to get the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed, that will abolish the institution of slavery.


Every spring for years we had taken our 8th graders to Gettysburg on field trips. Depending on what dates were available and our state testing schedule, we would often end up going early in the spring . One year we ended up going right at the beginning of April. The weather forecasted didn’t materialize and the day turned cold , leaving many students chilly and uncomfortable. I’ll never forget as we stood on Little Round Top, the wind picked up and  snow fell for a brief few minutes and blew all around us. It certainly was difficult , as we headed back to the buses, to envision the battle raging on a hot July day. Weather on all our trips in the spring were not like that, but it certainly made me have an open mind when my building principal asked us to consider moving the trip to the fall.


The fall is a great time to consider coming to Gettysburg on a field trip for several reasons and this post will highlight several opportunities to turn a spring field trip into a fall trip. It may not work for everyone, but it is worth considering.


A field trip in the spring fits in chronologically at a time in the scope and sequence of many  curriculums where the Civil War is being studied, but don’t let that be the only reason to keep a trip in the spring. Some challenges may present themselves when trying to schedule a spring trip such as :


  • Many states have standardized testing and a spring break in the spring to work around scheduling a trip
  • If you chose to do a ranger led program, you will have to provide a list of potential dates and wait for the lottery to find out your field trip date
  • Licensed battlefield guides may be all booked
  • It can be more crowded at the museum and battlefield sites due to an increased number of field trips
  • Student behavior at the end of the school year can be challenging at times
  • Weather can be an issue


A field trip in the fall can eliminate some of the challenges of the spring. Here are a few benefits to be found when bringing students on a fall field trip:

  •  There’s no standardized testing in the fall or extended days off to work around.
  • If you wish to do a ranger led program , your school can pick your date and program or programs as there is no selection lottery.
  • The Gettysburg Foundation museum with it’s timed ticket to the movie and cyclorama, are much less crowded and times are readily available to pick from.
  • The weather fluctuates much less. Now, the weather can still not be perfect , but chances are it won’t be as bad as the spring.
  • Student behavior may not be what is like at the end of the year
  • It will be much less crowded at local restaurants and battlefield sites.


What can you do on the field trip?

Free Ranger Educational Programs

There are several different types of programs to pick from. These programs are offered in the fall and spring. In the fall, teachers can pick the date and time of the program, where in the spring there is a lottery system for dates of programs where dates and times are picked based on several options a teacher gives so a teacher may not get their first choice.

Click here to view the list of offered programs

Movie, Cyclorama, and Museum

The Gettysburg Foundation Museum offers an informational movie, viewing of the Cyclorama painting, and museum visitation. Tickets are available at a reasonable cost per student.

Click here to find out the various opportunities offered by the Gettysburg Foundation 

Touring the Battlefield

Licensed Battlefield Guided Bus Tour 

A licensed battlefield guide is a trained professional who can lead a bus tour of the battlefield for students.  These guides train for years and must pass extensive tests administered by the National Park Service to qualify to give tours. These historians are the most qualified, knowledgeable, skilled and professional individuals licensed by the National Park Service as guides. A guide would ride on the bus with students. Again, in the fall, it will be much easier to schedule a guide as there could be limited availability in the spring. Guides can be scheduled by contacting the Gettysburg Foundation Sales office.

How to give students context for a fall field trip to Gettysburg

Many curriculums don’t cover the Civil War in the fall. Here’s a few ideas of how to work around that fact. Take several days before the field trip to stage a crash course or a “Gettysburg Week” . During the crash course, use some materials the Gettysburg  Education office provides to help students learn the basics about the causes of the Civil War and the battle of Gettysburg.

One item is the Traveling Trunk which can give students a hands on experience of Civil War items. The trunk contains a uniform, items a soldier would use to pass the time, medical items, and items related. The trunk can be reserved and shipped to your school.

Another trunk to rent is the traveling battlefield map. It’s a battlefield map in a “box”.

“Gettysburg Battlefield in a Box” traveling maps can be shipped to your school, with accompanying YouTube link and teacher’s guide for everything you need to teach the campaign and battle of Gettysburg interactively. The box can be used right in the middle of a classroom floor, or from a common room for the whole grade or school. The map materials and curriculum is recommended for students in grades 4 through 12. This activity can help give students a sense of the locations to be visited at the battlefield park.


Download one of the CURRICULUM MATERIALS  books from the

Parks as Classroom page on the Gettysburg National Park website 

The Pickett’s Charge booklet has some reference pages to help summarize the causes of the war, reasons for the battle taking place in Gettysburg, and a summary of the three days of the battle. Use pages 7 to 12 of the booklet.

Click here to download a PDF of the Pickett’s Charge booklet

Video Link

Video summary of the events of the Civil War up to Gettysburg to help set context in a basic format using an app called “Educreations“.

Here are a few links to some review and practice games

Gettysburg Quizziz  – Quizziz is an interactive game that can be played live in the classroom or assigned as an extension activity

Gettysburg Quizlet – Quizlet has a series of activities to practice vocabulary.

Click here to go to the Gettysburg National Park Education web site for all field trip information and available resources 


Consider giving a fall field trip a chance!


Blog post author Rob Finkill has been teaching 8th grade American History for 20 years at Derry Township School District in Hershey, PA. 2019 was also his ninth summer working as a teacher ranger at Gettysburg.

He has been bringing school groups to Gettysburg for many of those years and since 2017, has been coming in the fall.