Civil War Battles Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jason Brunken

Jason is a certified teacher with a Masters in Educational Technology and over 12 years of classroom teaching experience.

The American Civil War killed more American soldiers than any other war ever fought by the United States. From its beginning on April 15, 1861 to its end in April 1865, nearly one million American lives were lost. This lesson covers some of the most important battles of the war.

Battle of First Bull Run

Painting of the Battle of Bull Run
Painting of the Battle of Bull Run

Can you believe everyone was excited for the Civil War to start? President Lincoln ordered General McDowell to attack the South in July 1861. Confederate troops met the Union advance near Bull Run Creek for the first battle of the war, and stopped the Union troops. This battle set the tone for the war. After the Union army was sent running back across the river, everyone knew it would be a long, bloody war.

The Peninsular Campaign

In 1862, new Union General McClellan decided to invade Virginia from the sea and cautiously march on Richmond, the Confederate capital. Believing the South had more troops than he did, McClellan moved slowly, allowing the new Confederate General Robert E. Lee to defeat him in seven days of small battles. This convinced General McClellan to retreat to Washington, but he was wrong about the troops. The South had only half the soldiers the Union did.

Battle of Antietam

Painting of the Battle of Antietam
Painting of the Battle of Antietam

General Lee led his army of less than 40,000 into Maryland where a Union army of 80,000 waited. The two armies met at Antietam Creek where they engaged in the bloodiest day in the history of American war. At the end of the day, 23,000 soldiers were killed or wounded, and General Lee was forced to flee back to Virginia.

Battle of Shiloh

Most of the major battles of the war were fought in Virginia, but war raged in the West, too. Early in the war, the Union tried to invade the South through Tennessee resulting in the Battle of Shiloh. Shiloh is known for being the bloodiest battle in the Western Theater.

Battle of Gettysburg

Painting of the Battle of Gettysburg
Painting of the Battle of Gettysburg

In the summer of 1863, General Lee marched into Pennsylvania hoping to circle around, gain supplies, and attack Washington. Instead, the full force of both the Confederate and Union armies accidentally met at Gettysburg. It was the largest battle of the war, lasting three days. In all, 50,000 soldiers were killed or wounded. Lee returned south, never again to leave Virginia. It was the turning point of the war.

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