Road to the Civil War a web-Quest for 8th Grade Social Studies Introduction

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Road to the Civil War

A Web-Quest for 8th Grade Social Studies


Slavery was one of the major causes of the Civil War.  Some slaves were able to escape their bondage through the underground railroad, which was a network of people that worked together to help slaves escape to freedom.  However, there were other issues that divided North and South in the 1800s.  These issues were cultural, economic, and political in nature.  The election of 1860 proved to be the breaking point, and what followed was the "War between the States," or Civil War, which lasted from 1861-1865.     

The Task

Your task is to create a quilt about the events leading up to the Civil War.  Read the directions below to create your quilt.

The Process

Your quilt will be constructed of Nine, 8 x 8 paper squares. Each square will have its own set of directions for completion.  When all squares are completed, attach them by using glue, tape, or staples.  You may also attach them to a poster board. 

Other than the center square, the quilt can be arranged in any pattern.

Center Square (square 1) - CAUSES OF THE CIVIL WAR

In this square you will explain one of the major causes of the Civil War.  Use the links to help you explain why this issue was a cause of the Civil War.  Choose from the following:

Compromise of 1850

Dred Scott v. Sandford

Uncle Tom's Cabin

The Tariff

States' Rights


Kansas-Nebraska Act

John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry

Square 2 - ELECTION OF 1860

Explain the important issues at stake in this critical election.  Use the sites to answer these guiding questions.  Write your answer in paragraphs.  You may include a picture of the candidates.

1.  Who were the candidates, and what were their platforms?

2.  Why was the outcome of this election so important?

3.  What does "secession" mean?

4.  What was the outcome of the election?,_1860


After the Election of 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union.  Over the next few months, 10 more states followed.  Which states sided with the Union?  With the Confederacy?  Which slave states remained in the Union?  Your teacher will provide you with a U.S. map.  Use the links, and textbook page 485, to help you label and color the map to show:

    1.  Union States and Confederate States

    2.  Slave States that remained in the Union

    3.  A timeframe for secession (when did states secede?)


Using the sites provided below, you are to write a paragraph summarizing what you have learned about the underground railroad.  Be sure to include information about how it got its name, when it was in operation, who was involved, and how the railroad worked. 

(Remember that the Underground Railroad was a network created to help slaves escape to the North.  Secret escape routes were passed on through secret codes used by the "conductors" and by slaves themselves.  These codes could be found in slave songs as well as hand sewn quilts.  Include some of this information in your summary).


Contrary to popular belief, the underground railroad was not one set route.  Use the sites below to explore the many routes that escaped slaves took. In this square you will draw a map of an escape route that you may have taken if you were slave trying to reach freedom in the north.  Give a brief explanation of why you chose the route that you chose and include why you chose your final destination.





In this square you will write a journal entry depicting what it would have been like to be an escaped slave traveling on the underground railroad.  Use what you already know about the underground railroad to make your journal entry realistic. Be sure to include what you see, who you meet, and how you feel. The information should be based on the route that you have chosen to take (square 3). The site below provides excerpts from journals of slaves, railroad conductors, and abolitionists to help guide you.



Choose one of the famous people from the Civil War period.  Use the link provided to research that person. On this square, you will include a picture of this person which can be downloaded from the internet. You must write a brief biography of this person.  Be sure to include his/her role in the Civil War.


How prepared was the North and the South to fight the war?  Each side had advantages and disadvantages at the beginning of the Civil War.  Square 8 should focus on the North and square 9 should focus on the South. Explain the advantages and disadvantages of each side on these two squares.



Your teacher will provide you with the rubric.

You will receive a timeline for completing each of the squares from your teacher.


Congratulations!! If you have made it to this point, you have successfully navigated your way through the Web Quest.  You have gained a much broader understanding of the causes of the Civil War and of those who were involved.



Credits & References

Ideas and resources gathered from the following sites:



Last updated on August 15, 1999. Based on a template from The Web Quest Page

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