How should we honor those who gave their lives in battle? Can we properly honor them if we do not honor their cause? This has been a difficult question for many Americans on Memorial Day—particularly so in the aftermath of the Civil War. As Americans sought to rebuild the nation, they faced the question of how to celebrate the holiday (then called Decoration Day), and whether to remember only their … Read more »
May 16, 2013
Looking for a story to have students closely read for Memorial Day? Read and discuss this powerful excerpt from Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels (a Common Core exemplar text!) with the help of our discussion guide and video seminar. Even better, our friends at NEH EDSITEment have adapted the discussion guide for students!
May 15, 2013
Why Memorial Day? This moving letter by Civil War Major Sullivan Ballou (1829–61) to his wife Sarah just a week before he died in the First Battle of Bull Run provides one answer. Read the letter, and consider the following questions: How does Ballou understand and explain the choice he faces? Why does he choose as he does? Imagining yourself as the recipient of this letter, how would you receive … Read more »
April 26, 2013
“The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was written in 1861 as an abolitionist song by Julia Ward Howe (1819–1910), a prominent American abolitionist and social activist. While witnessing a review of Union troops in Washington, D.C., Howe heard the Union army marching song “John Brown’s Body” set to a tune written by William Steffe (1830–90). The stirring tune inspired her to write new lyrics: this poem came to her … Read more »
December 17, 2012
At the Common Core blog, Barbara Davidson reminds that the Common Core State Standards’ emphasis on nonfiction need not mean that teachers excise great literary works from their curricula. Instead, she writes, teachers should use the opportunity to expand their repertoire and use literary nonfiction texts and narratives to engage students. Nonfiction does not have to be informational texts filled with technical language and graphs and charts.
One such … Read more »
November 8, 2012
Today’s selection to help us prepare for Veterans Day is Ambrose Bierce’s short story, “A Son of the Gods.” Bierce (1842–1913 [?]) was an American journalist, critic, and author whose acid wit and dark view of human nature earned him the nickname “Bitter Bierce.” After working as a printer’s apprentice in his youth, he enlisted in the Ninth Indiana Volunteer Infantry at the outset of the Civil War, fighting in … Read more »
November 1, 2012
As a new film about Abraham Lincoln prepares to hit theaters nationwide on November 16, we thought it appropriate to highlight two recent articles about the nation’s 16th president. First, writing in the Wall Street Journal, Allen Guelzo, professor of history and director of the Civil War Era Studies Program at Gettysburg College, discusses Lincoln’s understanding of the Emancipation Proclamation, which the president termed “the central act … Read more »
October 15, 2012
The Library of Congress is about to open up a major new exhibition, “The Civil War in America,” to commemorate the Civil War sesquicentennial. The exhibition, which will be on display from November 12, 2012, through June 1, 2013, at the Jefferson Building of the Library, will feature more than 200 unique items from the Library’s Civil War collection, including diaries, letters, drawings, maps, newspapers, and more.
In prepration for … Read more »
September 21, 2012
Earlier this week, PBS premiered a new documentary film on the Civil War: “Death and the Civil War.” Produced by Ric Burns (the brother of Ken Burns), the documentary explores just how overwhelming the death toll of the Civil War was, in which an estimated 750,000 Americans were killed. Reviewing the film for the New York Times, Neil Genzlinger writes:
“Death and the Civil War” isn’t just a chronicle of … Read more »