Today is the 204th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln is one of America’s most celebrated Presidents, having served during the Union’s darkest time – the Civil War. His problematic tenure in office saw the United States nearly torn apart, the abolition of slavery, and the beginnings of our reunification. His assassination at Ford’s Theatre in April 1865 ensured he would not live to see the survival of his beloved country.
Black soldiers could not officially join the Union army until the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863. But, on the ground, they had been fighting and dying from the beginning.
When three escaped slaves arrived at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, in May, 1861, Union General Benjamin Butler had to make a choice. Under the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, he was compelled to return the men into the hands of the slaveowner. But Virginia had just signed the ordinances of secession. Butler determined that he was now operating in a foreign territory and declared the men “contraband of war.”
When more enslaved men, women and children arrived at the fort, Butler wrote to Washington for advice. In these early days of the Civil War, Lincoln avoided… The Uncertain Promise of Freedom’s Light: Black Soldiers in The Civil War | Around The Mall.
The American Civil War was the most devastating American Conflict in our history. New research indicates that the death toll was significantly higher than previously determined.
Previous estimates had put the death toll at around 620,000 (with most dying from infection and disease). New research puts than number at 750,000 (more than 21% higher than previous determinations). These findings are published in in the December 2011 issue of Civil War Magazine by Dr. David Hacker.
To learn more about the new research, see the article listed above or the briefer article on at BBC News.
The USS Monitor was one of the first iron clad naval ships and most famous for engaging in battle with the Merrimack (in the first battle between ironclad ships). When the turret of the Monitor was raised, two skeletons were found along with it.
Now, forensic anthropologists are using the skulls of the deceased crewmen in an attempt to reconstruct the faces of the ship’s sailors. The men both appear to be Caucasian and between the ages of 17 and 24. If successful, this will be the first time their faces have been seen in more than a hundred and fifty years.
The Civil War submarine, the H. L. Hunley, has finally been unveiled in Charleston, South Carolina. The Hunley, which had several unsuccessful training exercises (resulting in the death of her crew), sank for the third and final time on February 17, 1864.
The rediscovery of and subsequent raising of the Hunley has raised great interest amongst historians and lay-men alike. Now, with this display, individuals are now able to see the Hunley for the first time for more than a century.
“No one alive has ever seen the Hunley complete. We’re going to see it today,” engineer John King
To learn more about the Hunley, its raising, conservation, and see the gorgeous images of this innovative confederate ship, see the article on MSNBC.
Smithsonian Magazine Highlights the top 8 little known, obscure, and sometimes just odd facts regarding the American Civil War. The odd facts include:
- The brothers Chang and Eng Bunker (the famed “Siamese Twins”) were drafted in the war.
- “Rectal Acorns” were used to smuggle messages by spies and couriers.
- General Lee had a pet chicken that accompanied him and lived at his home.
- Southern cultural standards had odd and strenuous requirements on women in terms of ‘mourning requirements’ – men were expected to be slightly sad briefly and then move on.
- After the Battle of Shiloh, several soldiers reported glowing and iridescent wounds.
- Confederate President Jefferson Davis shared his name with a Union General which led to some amusing (and deadly) guffaws on both sides!
- The famous Southern General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was a severe hypochondriac.
- President Abraham Lincoln carried with him a $5 confederate bill in his wallet.
To learn more about these obscure events, see the article in the Smithsonian.
This month’s Archaeology Magazine highlights the Civil War Shipwreck of the Mary Celeste off the coast of Bermuda. The steamship Mary Celeste sunk off the coast of Bermuda on September 6, 1864. Archaeologists of the Waitt Institute in conjunction with NOAA have been working to bring new light to the Civil War shipwreck and highlighted numerous, distinct finds.
To learn more about the excavation, read the article in this month’s Archaeology Magazine: Letters from Bermuda.
Continued excavations at the newly discovered Camp Lawton in Georgia are bringing to light new information on life in Confederate P.O.W. camps. Archaeologists have been able to identify the regiments and ranks of various soldiers based on moments and medals that the prisoners retained (and subsequently lost) during their interments.
When I first moved to Texas five years ago, I was introduced to a new Holiday I had never heard of – “Juneteenth.” Everyone spoke about it in the way that you do of references you assume everyone understands, “What are y’all doing for Juneteenth?” or “Have you seen the school’s planned display for Juneteenth?” I finally got up the nerve to ask a colleague what the deal was in “Juneteenth”? I figured it was some celebration of Texas Independence (a topic of which I know shamefully little due to the fact that I’m a ‘foreigner’ here in the Great State). However, what I learned was a shocking and fascinating story of slavery, the American Civil War, and a small beach town of Galveston, Texas.
The story of Juneteenth begins with the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia in April of 1865. The event marked the end of the war and, along with it, an end of slavery in the Southern States. Even though the slaves had been officially freed in the Emancipation Proclamation (check out this great link by the way, it’s a featured document in the government archives) on January 1, 1863 with President Lincoln’s statement:
“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.”
It wasn’t until the official surrender of the Confederate states that the Union was actually able to enforce the proclamation. Not surprisingly, the news of Lee’s surrender and the freedom of the slaves took a while to make its way across the South where roads and communication lines were disrupted. It was not until June 19, 1865 that the slaves of Galveston, Texas (one of the western-most cities in the Confederacy) learned of their freedom from General Gordon Granger, when he arrived in the small Texas town along with 2,000 Union troops and read order number 3:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
The slaves of Texas, more than 250,000 of them, learned that they were free more than two months after the end of the war. A series of grass-roots celebrations followed and continues to the modern day. This month’s Smithsonian Magazine highlights the history of Juneteenth in this article. I highly recommend it for those interested in Civil Rights and the American Civil War.
This is day 2 at the Learning Institute at the American School of London led by the esteemed Leah Treesh. Our big project of the last couple of days has been Digital Storytelling. Now, I had heard of digital storytelling, and played with a few examples but had never really sat down and played with it. I’m so glad that I got the opportunity to do so because there’s a lot of cool stuff that I plan to implement in the next academic year!
The goal of digital storytelling, at least broadly (teachers will need to develop their own immediate and focused goals), is to enable story to use images, text, video, audio, etc to present a topic or idea. It allows for greater creativity and, from the experience in class, focus and investment. It’s a lot more engaging than a simple oral report and combats my problem with students giving PowerPoints presentations (they all want to write their report on the slides). We were given a step-by-step process (I’ll go over it here) that you can tweak for individual needs. I’ll even put in here my finished product.
The overall step-by-step process was published by the University of Houston’s Digital Storytelling webpage (a great resource and tool – if you’re interested at all in Digital Storytelling, this should be your first step).
Part One: Define, Collect, Decide
- Select a topic for your digital story
- Begin thinking of the purpose of your story – are you answering a question? provoking a response? informing your audience? etc.
- Create a folder in your documents in which to store, text, pictures, video, etc.
- Start locating resources such as music, photos, text, etc.
I decided to specifically choose and write a project that is directly related to my course content. Leah Treesh brilliantly suggested that we build our projects around an existing lesson plan and then we could use it as a demonstration to our students for what we are looking for in their projects. Since I will be teaching U.S. History again this Fall, I decided that I would adapt my lesson plan on Civil War Battles and focused specifically on the Battle of Gettysburg. Instead of having my students do an oral presentation (with PowerPoint or other visual aid) on a battle of the Civil War, I will have them present a Digital Story along this model.
I then proceeded to collect a number of resources, images, audio, etc. To ensure that there wasn’t a copyright issue, I used a website called Creative Commons. This website searches for license free (or educational license) content, to ensure that copyright is not violated. Being the Battle of Gettysburg, and the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, there was a lot of material available – photos, videos, music, and more (all at a professional level) for free! It was very cool.
Part Two: Decide, Select, Import, Create
- Decide on the purpose and point of view of your video.
- Select Select the images you would like to use (you may want to edit them)
- Select the audio you would like to you.
- Select the content and text you would like to use for your digital story.
- Modify number of images and/or image order, if necessary.
The way that we did this was with story-boarding. Apple’s Pages actually has a story-board template. However, you can easily use Keynote or PowerPoint to the same purpose. Because I didn’t have access to pages on my loaner computer, I wrote a story-board (think of it as an outline with pictures) using Keynote.
It essentially serves the same purpose as an outline for an essay and ultimately can be tweaked and changed. I moved the order around in mine and completely removed the reference to Vicksburg. I also, when seeing how the timing worked, put in a few additional photos.
Part Three: Write, Import, Record, Finalize
- Write a scrip that you will use for the narration in your digital story.
- Import images into your chosen application (e.g. GarageBand, iMovie, Keynote, PowerPoint, JayCut)
- Use your microphone (many computers already have it built in) and record the narration of your script.
- Finalize your digital story and then save it in the appropriate format (hint – you can even upload it onto YouTube to share!).
I took about an hour or so to write up my script. I’ll attach a copy of it here: The Battle of Gettysburg Script. If you want to read it, it’s a simple Word document. If I had had a little more time, I would have spent more energy editing it and likely given a copy to a friend or colleague for review. Still, not bad considering the time constraints.
I then used iMovie (yay for loaner-Macs) to make the final product. I find it a lot easier to use and it present a much more professional looking final product. Most of my colleagues that used iMovie for the first time found it very easy to adopt-to and the process itself wasn’t overwhelmingly time-consuming or cumbersome. Others in the group used PowerPoint or JayCut – but the process there was less straight-forward. Clearly, your actual creation process is dependent on the software you elect to use. However, thanks to intuitive modern software, google, and patient friends, most of us can make a pretty solid product with little investment and a shallow learning curve.
Part Four: Demonstrate, Evaluate, Replicate
- Show your digital story to your colleagues.
- Using a rubric, gather feedback about how the story could be improved, expanded, and used in your classroom.
- Teach your students how to create their own digital story.
- Congratulate yourself for a job well done!
When we all finished, we then took turns showing our presentations. As we’re all at different divisional levels and have various responsibilities (e.g. administrators, educators, tech people, etc), we all had different topics and presentations. The level of creativity in the room was amazing!
So, here is my finished product. It’s not too bad (although I can still think of ways I could improve – especially the sound). Still, I was pretty happy with how it turned out and think it will be a great resource in my classroom and am excited to see what my students come up with.
I thought I would also include a video created by my friend and colleague Jane Cooper who not only made her first video, but did it her first time using a Mac computer!
You should also check out Karen Arrington’s blog, where she highlights her experience.