U.S. History: Civil War- The Role of the Telegraph on the Battlefield

In this lesson students will research and discuss this form of technology, its origin, and its advantages and disadvantages. They will investigate the innovation of telegraph communication and how it was used during the Civil War to report the progress of the war from the battlefield to the president. Students will understand how a telegraph works and will translate a message using Morse code. 

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
Compare and contrast the written version of a story, drama, or poem to the experience of listening to or viewing an audio, video, or live production of a text.
Analyze what a text says explicitly and draw logical inferences; cite textual evidence to support conclusions.
Compare and contrast a written story, drama, or poem to its audio, filmed, staged, or multi-media version, analyzing the effects of techniques unique to...
Analyze what a text says explicitly and draw logical inferences; cite several pieces of textual evidence to support conclusions.
Analyze the extent to which a filmed or live production of a story or drama stays faithful to or departs from a text or script, evaluating the choices made...
Analyze what a text says explicitly and draw logical inferences; support an interpretation of a text by citing relevant textual evidence.
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning objectives: 

After completion of this lesson, the student will know the origins and uses of the telegraph during the Civil War, be able to analyze primary source images of the telegraph, be able to translate and produce a message using Morse code, and understand how this innovation relates to future innovations in communications.

Essential and guiding questions: 

How did telegraph communications impact the Civil War, both on the battlefield and in the White House?

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 

Students can build a telegraph system and send messages regarding the outcome of Civil War battles from different commanders to President Lincoln. Use the following video as reference: Instructables: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-To-Make-A-Homemade-ElectricTelegraph!/

Helpful Hints


  • Computers with access to the internet
  • Optional hard copies of LOC images and Morse code
  • Handouts (included with lesson plan)
  • Picture Analysis Worksheet
  • Telegraph Research Worksheet
  • Telegram Message Worksheet