Make the Civil War interesting! Here are 12+ Civil War Virtual Field Trips from a variety of sources that will get your students engaged, interested, and eager to learn more about this important time period.
The key to a successful Civil War Virtual Field Trip is making it super interactive. Every single one of these Civil War Virtual Field Trips goes beyond the basic documentary; we've included live tours with activity boxes shipped to you, live small-group classes, 360 degree videos, and augmented reality apps. And, supplement your Virtual Field Trip with suggested books and videos.
1. General Overview of the Civil War and Causes
Why: Before delving into specific Civil War Virtual Field Trips, it's extremely important that your students get a general overview of the Civil War and the causes leading to the Civil War.
Civil War Virtual Field Trip: For a general overview, we recommend Unexpected Virtual Tours' Civil War + Salt Virtual Field Trip. We love that this is a LIVE 1-hour virtual experience led by two knowledgeable and fun guides that includes an overall understanding of the Civil War from slavery through the surrender of the Confederacy, including important topics like Uncle Tom's Cabin. Our favorite part of this Virtual Field Trips is that it includes a thematic hands-on treat box shipped directly to students, including ciphers and codes to solve, salted caramel popcorn, and much more.
Video: Crash Course has two great and super entertaining 13 minute videos on the Civil War.
Book: For elementary students, the Magic Treehouse Civil War on Sunday is a great read-aloud or read-along book. For young adults, Annie, Between the States describes the divisiveness of the Civil War.
2. Slavery and the Underground Railroad
Why: The Underground Railroad emphasizes the brutality of slavery, the bravery of Black and white people who opposed unjust laws, and helps provide a framework to understand the Fugitive Slave Act and the Civil War.
Civil War Virtual Field Trip: This Virtual Field Trip can be taken by stepping through several different online exhibits. Start here to discover the Anderson Slave Pen which depicts the casual cruelty of slavery. Then, go to this virtual exhibit on Harriet Tubman and her extraordinary life. We also recommend listening to this audio recording of former enslaved people.
Video: This is a short 3 minute video summarizing misconceptions associated with the Underground Railroad by the fun and funny HipHughes. Also, this is a short video of an Ohio home utilized in the Underground Railroad. The audio on this video isn't the best but it offers a fascinating perspective of what the Underground Railroad stations actually looked like.
Book: There are many books about the Underground Railroad but a true account is Henry's Freedom Box about Henry Box Brown, who mailed himself to freedom.
3. Fort Sumter and the Civil War Begins
Why: The Civil War began with the bombing and Confederacy capture of Fort Sumter. The Confederacy's action led to President Lincoln immediately call for troops, plunging the country into Civil War.
Civil War Virtual Field Trip: One of Charleston's most popular attractions, this 360 degree virtual walk-through of the Fort Sumter museum and one of Liberty Square by Fort Sumter Tours gives students a feel for what these areas look like today. These 360 degree videos allow students to navigate through the exhibits.
Video: Lauren Kritzer provided this engaging 3 minute video of the cannon fire shot at Fort Sumter and how it began the Civil War.
Book: The Mystery at Fort Sumter is a cute book that includes a mystery at the location. It is not historically-heavy, but good for a basic introduction and supplementary activity.
4. Clara Barton and the Role of Women in the War
Why: Generally, when students learn about the Civil War, they learn about men since women were not supposed to be soldiers. But, women played important roles, as nurses, spies, farm owners, and even going to war dressed as men.
Civil War Virtual Field Trip: Outschool has two great classes on women in the Civil War to understand the role that women played. This one is a short 1 hour overview of women, while this one is a more extensive course on Clara Barton, the founder of the modern Red Cross.
Video: This short 4-minute video from American Battlefield Trust delves into the many jobs done by women during the Civil War. We also highly recommend using this amazing Google resource to take a tour inside Clara Barton's office.
Book: There are many books about Clara Barton including the popular Who Was? series.
5. Emancipation and Juneteenth
Why: The Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment freed all enslaved people in this country. Emancipation Day and Juneteenth became one of the most important holidays for freed Black people and continue to be celebrated today.
Civil War Virtual Field Trip: The Unexpected Virtual Tours Emancipation + Barbecue Virtual Field Trip traces the story of emancipation and Juneteenth from slavery through the present day with a focus on the stories of Harriet Tubman and John Brown. This Virtual Field Trip also includes an optional treat box with pralines and barbecue sauce which ties in the story of early Black success through industries like praline-making and barbecuing, and how these foods play a role in Juneteenth celebrations today.
Video: Khan Academy has a thoughtful and well-done 10 minute video on the Emancipation Proclamation and what it did (and didn't do).
Book: For younger grades, Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation and Juneteenth for Mazie are good choices. For older grades, The Book of Lost Friends is a fascinating look at the lives of slaves after Emancipation.
6. Daily Life of a Civil War Soldier
Why: More soldiers died during the Civil War than in the Revolutionary War, World War I, and World War II combined. The daily living conditions can help students understand why this time period was so difficult.
Civil War Virtual Field Trip: This Outschool class on the daily life of a Civil War soldier is brand new so we don't have a lot of information on it but it looks interesting and may be a good choice. We will update this section when we get more information about this particular virtual field trip.
Video: This Weird History video of Civil War soldier's life provides a lot of information and a look at everyday artifacts.
Book: For younger grades, this coloring book on a Civil War soldier's daily life is a great resource. For older grades, Gary Paulsen's Soldier's Heart describes the fictional story of a boy who enlisted.
7. Abraham Lincoln and the Union
Why: Abraham Lincoln's election started the Civil War and, due to his incredible efforts, the Union won. The Civil War is very much tied up in the story of President Lincoln.
Civil War Virtual Field Trip: Follow along with two different virtual exhibits. Start with the video of Lincoln's birth home, then hop on to the virtual tour of Lincoln's home in Springfield, Illinois with pictures and imagery of what the home looks like today.
Video: Free School has a quick 4 minute biography of Abraham Lincoln that hits the highlights.
8. Jefferson Davis and The Confederacy
Why: The Confederacy was the counterpoint to the Union and it is helpful to have an understanding of the Confederacy's political structure before delving into the battles. We are not suggesting that a look at the Confederacy should support the motives and decisions of the South, nor are we suggesting that this section be used to teach Lost Cause mythology. For teachers and parents concerned about how to teach this section, it is certainly possible to skip this section in favor of the general overview, above.
Civil War Virtual Field Trip: The American Civil War Museum has done an admirable job of taking important Confederate sites and interpreting them from the white and Black perspective during the Civil War. The ACWM also manages the White House of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis' home. The museum hosts different events on a weekly basis so check as to what is available, but one good interactive activity for kids is this Artifact Investigation.
Video: Today I Found Out has a good story on what happened to Jefferson Davis after the war.
Book: The Civil War for Kids activity book has 21 different activities that help students understand what happened both North and South in the Civil War.
9. Battle of Gettysburg
Why: The Battle of Gettysburg is the bloodiest battle of the Civil War and one of the most important battles in American history.
Civil War Virtual Field Trip: Outschool has a three session class on Gettysburg. The class is interactive with students assigned an identity of a person in Gettysburg, with individual and team assignments throughout the three sessions. The class also addresses the impact of key battle decisions made by Civil War leaders.
Video: American Battlefield Trust provides a 360 degree video on Gettysburg which shows what the battlefield looks like today. If you have a VR headset, you can also see this with VR. The Trust also provides a good explanatory video on the Gettysburg Address.
Book: For younger ages, Gettysburg Kids Who Did the Impossible tells stories about children involved in Gettysburg. Another great option is I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, told from the perspective of two escaped slaves. For middle and older grades, Two Girls of Gettysburg is a good choice about two friends who support the different sides of the War.
10. Battle of Atlanta and Sherman's March to the Sea
Why: The Union victory at the Battle of Atlanta struck at the South's main commercial and industrial center and Sherman's March to the Sea devastated the Confederacy, ultimately resulting in the surrender of the Confederacy.
Civil War Virtual Field Trip: The Atlanta History Center's Cyclorama is one of the largest "cycloramas" --- a circular painting with statues. It was painted and created to commemorate the Battle of Atlanta and has been renovated recently by the Atlanta History Center and re-interpreted to explain its controversial history. You can visit the Cyclorama virtually using their interactive app on the iPhone or iPad.
Video: Georgia Public Broadcasting has an excellent video on Sherman's March to the Sea here.
Book: The Diary of Carrie Berry offers the real diary of a 10-year-old child who lived through the Battle of Atlanta.
11. Appomattox Court House and Surrender
Why: Appomattox was where General Robert E. Lee met and surrendered to General Ulysses Grant. The entire village is a historic location. You can still visit the Clover Hill Tavern built in 1819, the location where Union soldiers printed paroles for Confederate soldiers.
Civil War Virtual Field Trip: Visit many of the locations at Appomattox with 360 degree videos. The Virtual Tour includes visits to the Confederate cemetery, the McLean house, the village, and the interior of Plunkett-Meeks store. You can also visit the Appomattox Court House via video at the same link. These 360 degree videos do have limitations on which browser to use so follow their suggestions.
Video: PBS has an 11 minute video on the surrender at Appomattox, including information about the negotiations.
Book: Willie McLean and the Civil War Surrender is a good option for this topic.
12. Lincoln's Assassination
Why: President Lincoln was assassinated just 10 days after the Union's victory. President Lincoln's death roiled the nation and significantly impacted post-War reunification and Reconstruction.
Civil War Virtual Field Trip: Ford's Theatre, the location of the assassination, has a behind-the-scenes Virtual Tour located here. This is one of the better free virtual tours with extensive 360 degree videos and in-depth historical information.
Video: This video from the Smithsonian provides a re-enactment of the Lincoln assassination held in Ford's Theatre.
Book: There aren't any good books for students specifically about the assassination but all of the books about President Lincoln include some aspects related to the assassination.
And, there you have it --- 12+ Civil War Virtual Field Trips that will keep your students engaged and excited about learning this important part of American history!
*By the way, here's our methodology in choosing Civil War Virtual Field Trips. Our historian compiles our Virtual Field Trip lists by selecting tours, videos, and books that provide a comprehensive yet fun approach to teaching these topics, devoid of political or religious leanings and focused entirely on presenting the history as it happened. Because of that, there are no Hollywood movies included here (such as Harriet or Lincoln) because these movies frequently conflate historical time periods or add in characters that did not exist in reality.
Yes, we include some of our products where our historian assesses the available products and determine that we have the best option available but there are other times where we recommend other products.