Educational Resources

K-12 Classroom Lessons | High School | Lesson Plan: Please Pay Me


Authors: Glenn Johnston and Johanna Seymour, Education Consultants, Maryland Military Historical Society
Grade Level: High School
Duration: One 40-Minute Class Period

The educational goal of this package is for students to examine letters written during the War of 1812. In each letter the author asks for payment for services rendered. Working in pairs, students will analysis the authors’ arguments, word choice, vocabulary and historical content. Then they will create a similar letter based upon what they have learned and their previous knowledge about the War of 1812.


At the conclusion of this block of instruction:

  1. Students will be able to read and analysis primary source documents from the War of 1812.
  2. Students will write a persuasive letter from the War of 1812 period using vocabulary, historical content and techniques learned from the lesson as well as draw upon their previous knowledge of the subject.


Step 1: Introduction to Primary Sources (4 Minutes)
Explain to students that they are going to explore primary sources written during the War of 1812 ask the following questions, “What are primary sources?” “What are secondary sources?”

Step 2: Lesson Rationale (1 Minute)
Explain to students that they are going to analysis letters from the War of 1812 for content, vocabulary, and technique. Students will discuss their findings as a class. Then they will write similar letters. After this class work, students will read their letters as a class, time permitting. They may work in pairs.

Step 3: Pair and Share Activity (20-25 Minutes)
Hand out Resource Sheets #1-6. Inform students that they are going to write their answers on Resource Sheet #6 and their own letters on the back side of Resource Sheet #6. Allow them to ask questions. For students who finish, they may start the letter-writing assessment activity.

Step 4: Synthesis of learning and assessment (10-15 minutes)
Discuss the findings as a class. Assign the letter-writing assessment activity to students. Time permitting, students will read their letters to the class. Instruct students to turn in Resource Sheet #6/their letters before leaving class.


Maryland Common Core State Curriculum Framework
Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies

CCR Anchor Standard #1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
RH.9-10.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
RH.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

CCR Anchor Standard #2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
RH.9-10.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text
RH.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

CCR Anchor Standard #4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
RH.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social studies.
RH.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of the text.

CCR Anchor Standard #6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
RH.9-10.6 – Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.
RH.11-12.6 – Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.

CCR Anchor Standard #8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
RH.9-10.8 Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.
RH.11-12.8 Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.

CCR Anchor Standard #9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
RH.9-10.9 Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
RH.11-12.9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

Topic Background

In 1814, Baltimore stood as the third largest city in the United States, with 40,000 citizens. After the defeat of the US Army at the Battle of Bladensburg in Maryland as well as the burning of the City of Washington, Baltimore’s citizens created the Committee of Vigilance and Safety, chaired by Mayor Edward Johnson. Meeting daily, it resolved to draft every white male between the ages of 16-50 and to provide each recruit with a firearm and accessories, including a bayonet, cartridge box, and tools necessary to maintain them. The Committee appointed Samuel Smith, a major general of the Maryland militia, to head the city defenses. Additionally, Smith served as a United States Senator (Federalist Party) and was a Revolutionary War veteran. Before accepting the position, he sought the approval of his uncle, Levin Winder, who was Governor of Maryland. Upon his uncle’s approval he took command of the Baltimore Military District from General William Winder, who had previously held command of the district.[1] The militia was under the control of the Governor of Maryland– not the President of the United States. General Smith answered to the Governor.

Nearly 9,000 citizens began work on August 27, 1814, digging earthwork defenses. Smith gambled that the British would approach by water so he concentrated citizens’ efforts along the waterfront and to the north and west of Baltimore. These workers could not rely on the federal or state government for aid such as blankets, tents and funds for workers’ families. The militia, under Major General John Stricker, had already appropriated local supplies, such as wagons which the defenders used to haul ammunition. Baltimore public funds became exhausted and Smith mortgaged his own property to replenish these funds.[2]

To aid the effort to gather any remaining supplies that the city’s residents possessed, the Committee of Safety and Vigilance required its residents to surrender any wheelbarrows and building supplies. Also they instructed hospitals to stand on alert. They appointed a relief committee to solicit cash for poor families whose chief breadwinner now worked for the city’s defense. Despite harsh conditions, Baltimore citizens felt a spurge of patriotism and eagerly joined the militia’s efforts to defend the city via these earthen works and water fortifications. Also joining the efforts, elements of the Regular Army and U.S. Navy, as well as militia and citizens from Pennsylvania and Virginia came to Baltimore’s aid. Although helpful in manning and maintaining the defenses, these out-of-state soldiers and workers further strained limited supplies

  • [1] John K. Mahon, The War of 1812. (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1972), 307.
  • [2] Mahon, 308.

Resource Sheets

  • 5 letters
  • Worksheet


  • Heidler, David S. and Jeanne T. Heidler, Daily Life in the Early American Republic,1790-1820, Creating a New Nation. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press,                       2004.
  • Hickey, Donald R. The War of 1812: A Short History. Urbana, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1995.
  • Hunt, Gaillard. As We Were: Life in America 1814. Stockbridge, Massachusetts: Berkshire House Publishers, 1993.
  • Mahon, John K. The War of 1812. Gainesville, Florida: University of Florida Press, 1972.
  • Pitch, Anthony S. The Burning of Washington. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1998.
  • Skeen, C. Edward. Citizen Soldiers in the War of 1812. Lexington, Kentucky: The  University Press of Kentucky, 1999.
  • Smith, Merritt Roe. Harpers Ferry Armory and the New Technology: The Challenge of Change. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1977.
  • Stagg, J.C.A. The War of 1812: Conflict for a Continent. New York, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
  • Tuckerman, Henry T. Tuckerman, ed., The Life of John Pendleton Kennedy. New York, New York: G.P. Putnam and Sons, 1871

Lesson Plan Documents for Download