Educational Resources

K-12 Classroom Lessons | High School | Lesson Plan: When Freemen Shall Stand


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

Students will compare the memoirs of American militiaman, Private John Pendleton Kennedy and British Army Sergeant David Brown to better understand their reasons for enlisting, their experiences and battle accounts. Students will then compare the experiences of the American regular soldiers in Canada to those of Kennedy’s and Brown’s.


At the conclusion of this block of instruction:

  1. Students will be able to compare the experiences of a Maryland militia soldier to those of British regular soldier. Then they will be able to research and compare these experiences with those of an American soldier of the regular Army.
  2. Students will learn to examine memoirs to better understand the War of 1812 and the advantages/disadvantages of using memoirs as a historical source.


Step 1: Introduction to Memoirs (5 Minutes)
Explain to students that they are going to explore two memoirs primary sources written by a Maryland militia soldier and a British Army sergeant during the War of 1812. Ask the following questions, “What are memoirs?” “How might they be useful sources?” “How might they be biased?” “What problems or advantages may develop recounting events and experiences years after they occurred?” “What is the difference between a biography and an autobiography?” “What are the advantages and disadvantages to each type of book?”

Step 2: Lesson Rationale (1 Minute)
Explain to students that they are going to work in pairs comparing the memoirs of John Pendleton Kennedy and David Brown to analysis the differences between a regular soldier and volunteer soldier/militia as well as the differences on British vs. American perspectives of experiences and events.

Step 3: Framing the learning activity. (5 Minutes)
Ask students questions about the War of 1812: “What is a regular soldier?” “What is a militia soldier?” What might their reasons be for becoming soldiers?” “What differences do you expect to read between American and British experiences during the War of 1812?” “What about differences in recounting battle and event specifics?”

Step 4: Pair and Share Activity (20-25 Minutes)
They will each receive the packet containing the memoirs and a class work sheet. (Note to teachers: Students only need pages 63-80 of Kennedy’s memoirs). Instruct them to write their answers on the Class work Sheet. Remind them that they will need to skim the text for the needed information. Allow them to ask questions.

Step 5: Synthesis of learning and assessment (5-10 minutes)
Discuss your findings as a group. Assign the homework (located on Class Work Sheet).


National History Standards
United States Era 4
Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)

Standard 1A- The student understands the international background and consequences of the Louisiana Purchase, the War of 1812, and the Monroe Doctrine.

Maryland State Curriculum Standards for United States History 

CC 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.
Grades 9-10: 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.
Grades 11-12: 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 of themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
Grades 9-10: RH 9-10.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
Grades 11-12: RH 11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source, provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationship among the key details and ideas.

CCR Anchor Standard #3 Analyze how and why individuals, events or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
Grades 9-10: RH 9-10.3 Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text, determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.
Grades 11-12: RH 11-12.3 Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas or events interact and develop 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
Grades 9-10: 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.
Grades 11-12: RH 11-12.6 Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue assessing the author’s claims, reasoning and evidence

Resource Sheets

  • Class work- When Freemen Should Stand (PDF)
  • Diary of a Soldier – Brown part 1 (PDF)
  • Diary of a Soldier – Brown part 2 (PDF)

Lesson Plan Documents for Download