One of the primary objectives in my Civil War class is to have the students understand and experience some of the things a typical soldier in the ranks might have experienced during the war. Of course, the kids do not get ticks or lice (thankfully), nor do they contract dysentery (also thankfully), further…no one is shooting at them (I am especially pleased about this one).
But there are a few things we can recreate. For example, I recently tasked them with a research project where the students read a number of soldiers’ letters and journals. From this point they assumed the identity of a soldier (Union or Confederate) and wrote a letter home. The objective was not only to recreate an authentic look and feel but more importantly, voice the spirit of the times. You can check out the results HERE.
Last week I took a break from the more rigorous classroom work – we formed ranks and marched to the school kitchen where we made…and then subsequently ate the Civil War delicacy: hardtack. To get them in the mood, I had them read an excerpt from John Billings’s 1887 Hardtack and Coffee – you can read the excerpt yourself HERE. I’ve included a recipe with the document. Trust me, it’s not very complicated.
So, we made it…we ate it…and some kids asked for seconds. Go figure.
As you all most surely know, this stuff – the standard Union soldier ration – was as hard as a rock. So, many would fry up some delightful (perhaps rancid) pork fat to help soften the concrete-hard cracker. Now, we didn’t do that. Those of you who know me will know why and those of you who do not – well…suffice it to say…that would not fly at my school. Instead, we soaked the hardtack in coffee, which is also a perfectly legit recreation of what an actual soldier might have done to ease the blow to his molars.
At any rate – teachers, take a break from the hard stuff (see what I did there) and put together this very hands-on project. You’ll get a lot of mileage out of it and your students will have a nice snack…who knows, they might even learn something 🙂
Greetings all! I have been posting updates on Twitter of late chronicling the progress of my next web-course: The American Civil War. I am very pleased to announce that the launch date is May 14, 2016. The course includes nearly forty video lectures and other projects covering military, social, political, and economic aspects of the conflict.
I am most excited to offer this course to my founding web-students for a 50% discount off the already reasonable price. You won’t find this deal anywhere but through this site – and the offer goes away on launch day. So you had better get on the stick. Here’s what you need to do:
ONE – be a current student or enroll now in either my Gettysburg or Reconstruction Era web-course for the regular discounted price available only from Keith Harris History.
TWO – sign up to be part of the Keith Harris History CREW so I can be sure to get you the info you need.
Get that all squared away and on launch day you will receive your discount code via email. And that’s it. Easy right?
Who has the unfortunate distinction of being the first officer killed in the Civil war – none other than Elmer E. Ellsworth.
Ellsworth was a New Yorker and an attorney in civilian life, he raised and commanded the 11th New York Volunteer Infantry (the Fire Zouaves) at the beginning of the war, and he was a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln.
Here’s how it all went down. On May 24th 1861 – the day after Virginia’s voters ratified their state’s secession, President Lincoln noticed a huge Rebel flag flying over the Marshall House Inn in Alexandria Virginia…just across the Potomac from Washington City.
Ellsworth, who had worked at Lincoln’s law firm, helped in his presidential campaign, and who had accompanied the new president to Washington, offered to go over and take care of business – which he then proceeded to do.
He led the 11th into Alexandria, deployed his men in various places around town, and took four soldiers to the inn to remove the heinous banner. Things went south (so to speak) rather quickly from this point. When he came down the inn’s stairs with flag in hand, innkeeper and vehement Rebel James W. Jackson unloaded a shotgun into Elsworth’s chest – killing him on the spot. A Union corporal – Francis Brownell – in turn killed Jackson. (For this act, he was later awarded the Medal of Honor).
Lincoln, extremely saddened by the death of his friend, ordered an honor guard to carry him to the White House – where he lay in state in the East Room before returning to New York – where thousands came to visit his body at New York City’ s City Hall. He is buried in Mechanicville, New York.