Petersburg: Mowing History

Battery 5 at Petersburg National Battlefield

This guest post is by Adam Arenson, assistant professor of history at the University of Texas at El Paso and author of The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and the Cultural Civil War, about the Civil War Era as a battle of three competing visions — that of the North, South, and West. More at http://adamarenson.com.  This is the fourth in a series.

On many Civil War battlefields, all that is left is the land. For battlefield enthusiasts, just looking at the terrain can evoke the battle, the movement of the units, the decisions of the commanders, and the experience of the soldiers, and perhaps even the war’s greater meaning.

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Civil War Trust Teacher Institute in Boston

I am forwarding this announcement to all of you in the Boston area who teach k-12 history.  This is a great opportunity for professional development in the area of Civil War history.  Boston has an incredibly rich history and here is your chance shape it for your classroom during the Civil War’s 150th anniversary.  I’ve been involved as a presenter so I know firsthand how valuable this experience can be.  It’s an opportunity to hear dynamic speakers, tour some of the area’s important historic sites, and best of all it’s a great networking opportunity.  Here is the announcement:

This October 8-9, the Civil War Trust will host another of its popular Teacher Institutes in Boston, Massachusetts. The Institute is a two-day professional development for K-12 educators focused exclusively on the American Civil War and its relationship to Massachusetts. The professional development is free, thanks to Connecticut-based touring company Tauck, but space is limited to 50 attendees. Teachers who attend are treated to outstanding workshops led by educators specializing in the history of the Civil War and instructional strategies for teaching the War; a hard copy of the Trust’s Civil War Curriculum complete with 27 lesson plans, including all associated worksheets and a disk with all digital materials; a tour of the Black Heritage Trail, led by the National Park Service; a tour of Fort Warren, led by the National Park Service; Continuing Education Units; breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the first day, as well as breakfast on the second day; a Seven Day Link Pass and, best of all, two wonderful days in historic Boston! There are still spaces available but they will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis, so sign up now!  Click here for more information.

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A Public Service Reminder


As we begin the new school year I strongly encourage school administrators to think carefully about who they bring in from the outside to educate their students.  Case in point.  This past May the Major George B. Erath 2679, United Daughters of the Confederacy, presented a program to Dublin 8th graders about Texas in “The War Between the States.”  They actually ask the kids to sing “Dixie” at the end of the presentation.  Our kids deserve better.  On the other hand I appreciate the fact that this school is reaching out to its senior citizen community.  All the research shows that it is crucial that regular physical and mental activity is essential to maintaining one’s overall health as we get older.

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Taking Free Blacks Seriously

Cockspur Island, Georgia following the arrival of the Union Navy, April 1862

It’s a beautiful morning here in Boston.  I do most of my work in a local cafe within walking distance of my home.  In the morning it’s filled with a vibrant group of older Albanians, which often makes me feel like I am overseas.  I absolutely love it.

Back to the Civil War.  I am making my way once again through sections of Clarence T. Mohr’s book, On the Threshold of Freedom: Masters and Slaves in Civil War Georgia, which is essential reading on the subject of how both free and enslaved blacks both involved themselves in the Confederate war effort and how they were often forced to take part.  I just finished reading the section in which Mohr analyzes evidence of volunteerism in 1861 within the free black community of Augusta, Georgia.  First, here is an incredibly insightful comment by historian Matt Gallman, which was left on Brooks Simpson’s blog:

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Virginia Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission in the Classroom

Anyone remotely interested in the Civil War Sesquicentennial can’t help but stand in awe of the work the Virginia commission has done to bring the war to the people of Virginia and the rest of the country.  Right now a flatbed truck carrying a Civil War exhibit is traveling around the state and plans to visit every county by the end of its trip.  The commission also put together a series of videos on the war in Virginia narrated by Professor James I. Robertson, which it has made available to the public schools.  As of the writing of this post it has uploaded five of the modules to YouTube.  Here is the first one, titled “The Coming Storm”.  I highly recommend these videos for classroom use for both middle school and high school students.

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