The Importance of Mary Custis Lee during
the Civil War and Reconstruction
Subject: US/VA History
Brief Description: Students
will learn about Mary Custis Lee and her role events of Robert E.
Lee and the Civil War. Students will also learn about the general
role of women during this time period and why Mary Custis Lee was
so important. The lesson plan will incorporate group work learning
and independent study. This lesson will span 3 class periods.
-Students will learn about Mary Custis Leeís role
during the time period of the Civil War and Reconstruction and her
connection to Arlington, VA
by reading a packet provided by the teacher and completing a packet
of worksheets provided by the teacher.
-Students will be able
to complete a mini-project of their groupís choosing.
-Students will complete a PowerPoint test with at
least 80% accuracy in order to maintain memory of information covered
Standards of Learning
-VUS.1 The student will demonstrate skills
for historical and geographical analysis, including the ability to
identify, analyze, and interpret
primary and secondary source documents,records, and data, including
artifacts, diaries, letters, photographs, journals, newspapers, historical
accounts, and art to increase understanding of events and life in
the United States;
evaluate the authenticity, authority,
and credibility of sources;
formulate historical questions
and defend findings based on inquiry and interpretation;
develop perspectives of time
and place, including the construction of maps and various time lines
of events, periods, and personalities in American history;
communicate findings orally
and in analytical essays and/or comprehensive papers;
develop skills in discussion,
debate, and persuasive writing with respect to enduring issues and
determine how divergent viewpoints have beenaddressed and reconciled;
apply geographic skills and
reference sources to understand how relationships between humans and
their environment have changed over time;
interpret the significance of
excerpts from famous speeches and other documents.
VUS.7 The student will demonstrate
knowledge of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era and its importance
as a major turning point in American history by
identifying the major events
and the roles of key leaders of the Civil War Era, with emphasis on
Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, and Frederick Douglass;
Mary Custis Lee, Robert E. Lee, Freemanís Village,
Civil War, Reconstruction, role of slavery
Butcher Block Paper
Color markers or colored pencils
Paper and Pencil
- Teacher will open the
lesson by questioning the students about their knowledge of Robert
E. Lee. The teacher will instruct the students to write down their
thoughts about Robert E. Lee on a piece of paper, in one column.
In the other column, the teacher will instruct the students to write
down their thoughts about Robert E. Leeís wife. The teacher will
not name Mary Custis Lee, but will let the students try and see
if they know. The teacher will use this activity as a opening to
the lesson plan.
teacher will introduce the lesson about a great pioneer in womenís
history, Mary Custis Lee. The students will be placed in 4 to 5
heterogeneous groups and each group will be given a packet of information. The packet of information will be provided
by the teacher. The groups will also be given a packet of worksheets
and a list of possible mini-projects that they will be able to choose
from for a formal assessment.
groups will use the packet of information on Mary Custis Lee to
complete the worksheets. During the group work time the teacher
will walk around the classroom, assisting students and conducting
informal assessment for the activity. The students will be given
the remainder of the class period to complete the worksheets and
will be reminded that they will need the worksheets to complete
the mini-projects that they will be working on the next class period.
students will begin the class day by reviewing some of the things
they learned the previous class period. The teacher will have the
students form their original groups where they will begin working
on their mini-projects. These projects are named mini-projects because
they will be able to complete and present their projects by the
end of one class period (if it is a block schedule time period).
teacher will provide the necessary materials for the mini-projects
(i.e. butcher block paper for the timeline, computer for the PowerPoint
presentation). Each group will be completing a different mini-project,
so multiple areas of the life and importance of Mary Custis Lee
- Each group will complete
a 3-5 minute presentation of their mini-projects at the conclusion
of class. As each group presents, other groups will actively listen
to the information being presented. Students will be asked to take
notes on any information they may not be familiar with or remember
from the worksheets. The day will be concluded with the students
completing their presentations.
students will be in the computer lab this period. The teacher will
have prepared a 10 question PowerPoint mini-quiz review of the information
they have covered about Mary Custis Lee. The students will work
on this activity by themselves, and will be able to print out the
correct responses for their notebooks.
teacher will allow for some question and answer time during this
period, so that students will be able to understand any material
which they may not have understood during the PowerPoint mini-quiz.
students will be able to use the final 45 minutes of class to type
a 5 paragraph essay which they will answer 1 of 2 questions that
are provided by the teacher. The questions will incorporate information
from the worksheets, presentation and PowerPoint mini-quiz. The
students will be not be able to use their notes for this essay.
The purpose of the essay is for students to put their knowledge
in written format. The students will receive a rubric prior to beginning
work on the essay. The essay will be printed out and turned in for
a formal assessment at the end of class.
students will be given a bonus question in which they will be asked
to link Mary Custis Leeís importance with the role of Robert E.
Lee during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
This lesson plan will incorporate both informal and
formal assessment. The informal assessment will take place throughout
day 1 and 2 and during the PowerPoint mini-quiz on day 3. The formal
assessment will be the final grading of the essay turned in at the
conclusion of day 3. The rubric for the graded essay will be provided
in the Appendix section of this lesson plan.
Websites Consulted for Packet:
one of the following choices for your mini project. All groups are
expected to work together to complete this assignment.
Complete a timeline of Mary Custis Leeís life. Include
all important dates with a description of the event that occurred.
Use colored markers and attempt to incorporate any original illustrations.
Be prepared to give a short presentation of your project to the class.
Complete a 7-9 slide PowerPoint presentation about
some aspect of Mary Custis Leeís life. Only one group will be able
to produce this project (because there is only one computer in our
classroom), so make sure to sign up early for this mini project. Be
prepared to give a short presentation of your project to the class.
Complete 2-3 illustrations depicting events in Mary
Custis Leeís life. These should be colorful and include a brief 2-3
sentence description at the bottom. Be prepared to give a short presentation
of your project to the class.
Create a family tree which depicts the lineage of
Mary Custis Leeís family. You should include her parents and her children
along with her husband. Include one fact about each person on the
family tree. Be prepared to give a short presentation of your project
to the class.
Create a map of Mary Custis Leeís house in relation
to Arlington, VA.
The map should be detailed with significant locations identified.
Be prepared to give a short presentation of your project to the class.
Remember: Supplies for this project will be provided by
the teacher. These supplies include: butcher block paper, markers,
rulers, scissors, and glue.
Information Packet on Mary Custis Lee
Letter from Mary Custis
Lee to Mrs. William Henry Stiles
This letter, dated 9 February 1861, was written by Mary Custis [Mrs. Robert
E.] Lee to her friend, Mrs. William Henry Stiles
of Savannah, Georgia. It tells how both Lees felt about South
Carolinaís intention to separate from the
Union. Mrs. Leeís comment on the unrest of
the Arlington slaves resulted
from the difficulties Lee encountered when he became executor of his
estate. The situation was seemingly unsolvable; Lee was in charge
of emancipating the Arlington
slaves, according to the instructions in George Washington Parke Custisí
will. However, the will provided that the slaves be freed only after
the estate debts were paid. Arlington
was deeply in debt when Lee took over as executor, and the only way
that the estate could make money was for the slaves to work. When
word about the emancipation spread through the slave community, they
no longer wanted to work and some slaves ran away. It is difficult
to determine to what extent this negative experience with slavery
influenced Leeís views.
From : http://www.stratfordhall.org/feb00doc/letter.htm
Mary Anna Randolph Custis
ary Anna Randolph Custis was born on October 1, 1808, the
only surviving child of George
Washington Parke Custis and Mary
Lee Fitzhugh Custis.As
a young girl, the diminutive and vivacious Mary, would play with Robert
E. Lee when he and his family visited Arlington House and the two
became very close. As a teenager, Mary had her fair share of suitors,
including a young congressman from Tennessee named Sam Houston. But, her heart
was set on Robert E. Lee. When Lee proposed to her in the summer of
1830, Mary accepted.
The Lees married in the family
parlor at Arlington House June
30, 1831. Their marriage produced seven children, six of
them born in the dressing room adjoining the Lee's
bedroom, according to family tradition. From all appearances,
the Lees had a warm and loving family life.
Mary Lee's own correspondence and a diary kept by
her daughter, Agnes,
paint a vivid picture of her personality. Though sometimes criticized
for her housekeeping by her husband, she was a gracious hostess and
enjoyed having frequent visitors at Arlington.
An artist like her father, she painted delicate landscapes, still
on view in the house. Mary was also an avid gardener like her mother.
She loved roses and grew 11 varieties in her flower garden at Arlington
House. As a young girl, she selected the second floor bedroom which
looked out onto her flower garden. She and Robert used this room as
bedroom after their marriage.
Preferring to spend her time in domestic pursuits,
Mary was not interested in the social scene of Washington,
but being well educated, versed in both Greek and Latin, she frequently
discussed politics with both her father and husband. She also kept
abreast of new literature by reading and discussing many books. Her
superior education and cultural interests made her eminently qualified
to take on the job of editing and publishing her father's Recollections,
a collection of news articles and reminisces of life at Mount
Vernon with the Washingtons that he periodically contributed
to the National Intelligencer. For years friends had urged
Mr. Custis to publish these recollections but he had put it off. Mary
Lee began the task shortly before her father died in 1857, and it
occupied her for over two years. The book, Recollections and Private
Memoirs of Washington
by His Adopted Son, George Washington Parke Custis, with a Memoir
of the Author by His Daughter, was published in 1860.
Closely following her mother's example, Mary Lee was
very religious. She and her family attended an Episcopal church near
army posts where ever they were stationed, and when they were at Arlington,
the Lees usually attended Christ
Church in Alexandriaóthe
same church that both Mary and Robert had attended in their childhood.
Mary followed the Custis family tradition of having family prayers
after breakfast and each evening in the family parlor.
Again following the example of her mother, Mary Lee
taught Arlington slave
women to sew, read and write. Advocating the idea of eventual emancipation,
Mary wanted to ensure that all of the enslaved people,
would be able to support themselves when they were freed.
During her adulthood, Mary developed severe rheumatoid
arthritis and became increasingly debilitated as she grew older. To
help with the pain, Mary and her family often visited many spas and
springs that were reputed to improve health. In letters to her husband,
she tried to downplay her illness, but it took its toll as the years
passed. By the 1850s Mary organized her daily routine so that she
climbed the stairs only twice each day, coming down in the morning
and going back up at bedtime. Upon the outbreak of the war, she was
walking with difficulty and by the end of 1861 she was confined to
a wheelchairóno doubt due to in part to her nomadic existence, moving
from plantation to plantation, and the stress of not knowing what
was happening to her husband and sons.
Following Robert E. Lee's resignation from the U.S.
Army on April 22, 1861,
he pleaded with Mary to evacuate Arlington House as Union forces were
certain to occupy the property. But leaving behind her family home,
the Washington relics
and the Arlington slaves
was difficult for Mary and she delayed. It was only the knowledge
that her husband was so deeply concerned for her safety that convinced
her to leave on May 15, 1861. As she wrote in a letter to General
Winfield Scott a few days earlier, ìWere it not that I would not add
one feather to his load of care, nothing would induce me to abandon
Mary and her daughters moved between several family
plantations before settling in Richmond
where they spent most of the War. Although confined to a wheelchair
and in nearly constant pain, she worked hard to support her husband
and the Confederate war effort. Throughout the war, she and her daughters
knitted socks for Confederate soldiers, which she sent to her husband
by the hundreds to distribute to his men.
After the Civil War, Mary accompanied Robert to Lexington,
Virginia where he became the president
of Washington College,
later named Washington & Lee University.
Arlington was very important
to her and she never quite got over its loss. ìLife is waning away,
and with the exception of my own immediate family, I am cut off from
all I have ever known & loved in my youth & my dear old Arlington
I cannot bear to think of that used as it is now & so little hope
of my ever getting there again. I do not think I can die in peace
until I have seen it once more.î
Mary Lee did visit Arlington
a few months before her death in 1873. Unable to get out of the carriage,
one of her former slaves, brought her a drink of water from the well. ìI rode
out to my dear old home but so changed it seemed but a dream of the
pastóI could not have realised (sic) it
was Arlington but for the few old oaks they had spared & the trees
planted by the Genl and myself which are raising their tall branches to the
Heaven which seems to smile on the desecration around them.î
Mary Anna Randolph
Custis Lee died on November 5, 1873 at the age of 66. She is buried next to her husband on
the Washington & Lee campus in Lexington, Virginia.
include the following for your graded essay:
paragraph essay format including three main ideas with supporting
information included (7pts.)
supported ideas (opinions must be followed up by fact) (3pts.)
and spelling (5pts.)
Bonus question will
be worth a possible 2pts!!!!!