Geography is War: The Lost Batallion

Students will analyze primary source accounts from the Lost Battalion to understand the role of the Lost Battalion in WWI, the impact of terrain and geography on the Lost Battalion and those attempting to dislodge it, and how the men overcame these difficulties and were able to hold their position.

Guiding Questions

  • What challenges did the men of the Lost Battalion experience during their ordeal?
  • How did geography and terrain impact their experience and its outcome?

Learning Outcomes

The student will be able to:

  • Analyze primary source excerpts to pull out key events from battle.
  • Link knowledge about war and geography to the specific situation of the Lost Battalion.
  • Communicate the challenges faced by these men in a product.


  • Hook
    • Have students reflect on the quote #1 on their student worksheet, “Geography is War!?!”  Do they agree or disagree with this statement? Why or why not?
    • Guide a brief discussion focused on how your students responded to this prompt.
      • Answers will vary.  Possible answers – wars occur over land, wars are fought over important high ground and waterways. Wars are fought for people to have sovereignty over their land.
    • Pass out the quote provided in hand out 1.6.  Have students read and consider the questions linked to the quote.

      "In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear, but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field to ponder and dream; And lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls.

      Joshua Chamberlain, speaking at the dedication of the Monument to the 20th Maine
      October 3, 1889, Gettysburg, PA

    • Ask Students: What do you think Joshua Chamberlain meant by these words he spoke at the dedication at Monument of the 20th?
      • Answers will vary. Possible answers include:  on great battlefields a spirit and memory remain; people come to remember and commemorate acts of valor on the battlefields; people come to thank the fallen soldiers for their sacrifice.
  • Explain to the students that they will be reading primary and secondary sources about the Lost Battalion, a battalion that became stuck /lost in the middle of the battle of the Meuse Argonne.  You have three options for conducting this Source Analysis:
    • Option One: Each student reads each source and completes a source tool for each (to modify, teachers may choose fewer sources or have students choose from a group of sources).
    • Option Two: Students work in a jigsaw group.  Students first meet in expert groups, in which students will analyze the same source using the source analysis tool.  Then students meet in “jigsaw groups”, or groups with students that have read different sources to compare and contrast the varying accounts.  Students in jigsaw group complete comparison tool (1.3).
    • Option Three: Students are assigned to groups of 1-6. and each student group reads two(2) different source and the group compares and contrast each students’ sources.  Each group member completes the comparison tool (1.3).
  • Assessment – Menu Products
    • Students will choose an option from the menu to demonstrate understanding of how geography and terrain impacted the Lost Battalion.
    • Menu products will be assessed using the accompanying rubric.
  • Closure: Ask students how the Lost Battalion’s personal accounts reflect the statements they read about to begin the activity.


Students will complete the: Source Tool; Comparison Tool; and the Final product (choice from menu) graded with accompanying rubric.


  • Sources may be modified to accommodate various reading levels
  • Choice of menu assignment allows for individual learning styles and preferences.
  • Menu products may be modified with regard to technology.  Students may create iMovies, digital documentaries, pod-casts or voice recordings if technology permits.  However, no technology is needed to complete the menu assignment.

Materials Needed