Report From the Field: Fredericksburg and Harpers Ferry

It doesn’t get much better that spending five days with thirteen enthusiastic students at some of our most important Civil War battlefields. After flying into Washington, D.C. on Sunday we hit the ground running by heading directly to Fredericksburg, Virginia. Our tour began at Chatham, where we discussed the history of the town of Fredericksburg and the difficult choices that its residents were forced to make during the 1860 election and secession winter. This was also an ideal location at which to situate the 20th Massachusetts Infantry as the battle commenced on December 11.

Once across the river we parked along Sophia Street, where we discussed the street fighting that the 20th Mass. experienced as well as its participation in the looting of the town. After a quick lunch we headed up to Marye’s Heights to discuss the December 13 battle and the role of the 20th Mass. as it moved to engage North Carolinians along the Stone Wall. Continue reading “Report From the Field: Fredericksburg and Harpers Ferry”

A Civil War Sesquicentennial Project

How has memory of the American Civil War changed over the past few years in the South? What trends can be discerned and where specifically do we see this playing out? I was thinking about this earlier today as I was reading another story about a local community that has discontinued the tradition of honoring a Confederate holiday – this time, Confederate Memorial Day in Cullman County, Alabama. As many of you know this follows on the heels of Charlottesville’s decision to discontinue recognizing Lee-Jackson Day.

I’ve also been thinking about this in connection with a project that is still in the very early stages that involves turning my last ten years of blogging into a book of essays about recent Civil War memory. Much of what I have posted is about decisions on the state level and in local communities that involve how communities remember this history. Rather than rely on anecdotal evidence I would love to be able to say something more substantial about how Civil War memory has evolved. There are a number of possibilities. Continue reading “A Civil War Sesquicentennial Project”

The North’s Civil War: A Research Seminar

This may come as a surprise to some of you, but at the end of the year I will be leaving high school teaching behind to explore other opportunities in history education. I plan to say more on this in a future post. For now, I want to share one new adventure that I will embark on in September. Earlier this year I was invited to create a research seminar for honors undergraduate students at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester for this coming Fall semester. If I remember correctly, around twelve students from area colleges will be admitted to the seminar. This was certainly not something I anticipated, but I jumped at the opportunity.

Since 1978 the AAS has invited scholars to introduce students to the research process through a seminar focused on a specific historical subject. It’s been quite some time since I taught a college course, but given the emphasis that I’ve placed on primary source research throughout my teaching career and my own experience in the archives I feel up to the challenge. This will also give me the opportunity to explore the AAS’s collections for my own research projects. I am embarrassed to admit that I have yet to visit. Continue reading “The North’s Civil War: A Research Seminar”

Following the 20th Massachusetts From Antietam to Gettysburg

It’s that time of year again. In three weeks students at my school will spend time outside the classroom setting engaged in a broad range of activities. Last year I helped lead a group of 40 students on a civil rights trip from Atlanta to Memphis. It was an incredibly rewarding experience for everyone involved.

This year I will lead my own group of 12 students on a Civil War battlefield tour that will explore the war in 1862 and 1863. We will visit the battlefields of Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg as well as the town of Harpers Ferry.  The time frame of the battles will give us the opportunity to explore a number of issues, including the relationship between the battlefield and home front and the gradual shift in Union policy toward emancipation. Continue reading “Following the 20th Massachusetts From Antietam to Gettysburg”

Wait For the AP US History Test Scores

It is unclear where this latest round of anti-intellectualism will end in connection to the new AP US History curriculum. As many of you know more than one state is considering legislation that would ban the the course. The accusations are on the whole vague and reflect a commitment to teaching a certain narrative of American history rather than encouraging students to develop the requisite skills that would allow them to draw their own conclusions.

As far as I can tell the accusations being leveled at AP teachers across the board by Republican lawmakers come with not one visit to an actual classroom. Continue reading “Wait For the AP US History Test Scores”