The North and the South: Pre-Civil War Era

Contributor: Kathi Thomas. Lesson ID: 10723

There is practically a war over what caused the Civil War! The popular notion that it was just slavery is simply too simplistic. Watch videos, read articles, and create visuals to tell the real truth!


United States

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


You may have heard the American Civil War was a war in which the North and the South fought over the issue of slavery. While that is certainly true, it is an oversimplification of a very complex conflict. The differences between these two regions of the United States prior to the Civil War contributed greatly to the southern secession from the nation. How could citizens of a nation so young and relatively small find themselves disagreeing about important matters? What regional factors played a role in what would erupt into a devastating and bloody war among countrymen?

In 1787, the Constitution of the United States became the document that bound the new American nation together and established the powers of government and the rights of individual citizens.

The Revolutionary War was in the past, and peace and unity were at the forefront of everyone's thinking. However, by the early 1800s, the northern and southern states were developing their own distinct regional characteristics that would eventually lead to differences in thinking about the powers of the states versus the powers of the federal government.

The issue of slavery became a great divider within the country. Storm clouds began to swirl over the young nation.

What were the distinguishing elements that set the North and the South apart? When contrasting the North and South of the Pre-Civil War Era, you must consider the differences in climate, geography, population, cities, economy, culture, and transportation.

To simplify this task, combine these topics into four general categories:

  • climate and geography
  • population and culture
  • economy
  • transportation

You will begin by exploring each region of the United States as it would have been in the early 1800s. In order to do this, you will need a place to record the information you learn:

  1. Fold a sheet of notebook paper, first vertically and then horizontally, to create four sections.
  2. Title this piece of paper "The North."
  3. Repeat the folding with a second sheet of notebook paper and title this piece "The South."
  4. On each sheet, label each of the four sections with the four categories:
    • climate and geography
    • population and culture
    • economy
    • transportation

Now you will read a brief overview of each region presented in this article on the American Battlefield Trust website: Civil War Overview: North and South.

As you read, take notes about information related to each category on the appropriate sheet of notebook paper. For example, on the sheet entitled "The North," under the category "Economy'" write growing industries. When you are finished, show your notes to your teacher and ask for feedback on what you have recorded.

You are going to add to your research in the Got It? section with more online sources.

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