The end of May marks the beginning of the Siege of Vicksburg, a campaign against the pivotal port city of Mississippi that would ultimately decide the fate of the war. The Library of Congress houses numerous documents pertinent to teaching the Civil War. Today, they highlight the Vicksburg Daily Citizen’s Final Edition. Printed on the back of wallpaper, the piece highlights the defiant and innovative spirit of Confederates. Vicksburg would fall on July 4, 1863 after the citizens of the town suffered wide spread starvation, disease, and regular shelling from the Union Army.
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.
Not long after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on the first day of 1863, artist Eastman Johnson composed the small painting shown here. EntitledThe Lord Is My Shepherd, it portrays a young black man reading the Bible intently. He may well be a former slave, and reading scripture could…
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 Smithsonian has a blog where you can read about the Civil War via contemporary newspapers. You can read how the country experienced the lead-up and break out of the war in a ll of its angst, propaganda, and agony. It’s a fascinating online exhibit!
You can see the exhibit by clicking this link.
I played with digital storytelling in the classroom first semester and it went so well, I decided to do it again this semester as a project grade. To see my first experiment, see my previous post: “My First Attempt at Employing Digital Storytelling in the Classroom.” I followed along similarly to my first attempt but made a few minor adjustments. For example:
- Students were given a list of potential topics (a person, an event, etc) and had to sign up for one, no two students could present on the same topic.
- I modified my grading rubric.
- I emailed the parents in advance to let them know we would be working on this project.
Overall, yet again, the students amazed me with their dedication and hard work. As per usual, we had a few technical difficulties (but far fewer this time than the last). I was also excited to see students helping one another to resolve their problems. Students who really struggled with the technology last semester seemed to be the ones most excelled this time around. I did this project for both my Ancient History and US History classes, so I will include some examples for each.
Here were the instructions for my Freshmen Ancient History Class:
And here are the instructions for the Civil War Project (pretty similar)
The students were also given a copy of the grading rubric in advance:
The students did a great job. Here are some great examples:
After the students finished their projects, we watched them in class. I also included questions from all of their projects on the next quiz. As a small extra-credit opportunity, they were encouraged to comment on their classmates’ videos.
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.