Teaching Resource Catalog

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The Civil War

President-Elect Lincoln and the Secession Winter of 1860-61

Lecture Themes:

This lecture examines the period from Abraham Lincoln’s election in November 1860 to his inauguration in March 1861, during which seven states from the Deep South seceded from the Union.  Topics to cover include the South Carolina Secession Convention as well as the actions of other southern states, efforts to strike a political compromise in Washington, DC, the creation of the Confederate States of America (and selection of Jefferson Davis as its president), and the last days of the Buchanan administration.

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President Lincoln, Fort Sumter, and the Border States

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This lecture looks at the crucial early months of the Lincoln administration when the new president struggled to hold the Union together as well as assert federal authority.  Lecturers should discuss Lincoln’s first inaugural address, the crisis over Fort Sumter and Lincoln’s call for three-month volunteers, the secession of the upper South, and the president’s successful efforts to keep the border states of Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri from leaving the Union.

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Bull Run and the Opening Stages of the Military Conflict

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Starting with the battle of Bull Run in July 1861, this lecture looks at the initial year of the military conflict.  Topics to explore include the unpreparedness of both the North and South at the war’s outset, the shock among leaders and the public at the high casualties in combat, how and why both sides steeled themselves for a much longer conflict, and the complex and expensive process of raising great armies.

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Slavery, “Contraband”, and Emancipation

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This lecture explores how a war to “preserve the Union” or win “southern independence” inexorably evolved into a conflict to end American slavery.  Issues to discuss include the initially-stated war goals of the Federal and Confederate governments, the insistence of African Americans that the Civil War was really about slavery, black runaways into Federal lines and the US Army’s “contraband” policy, and Lincoln’s shifting positions about slavery, which ultimately led him to emancipation.

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The Hard Hand of War: the Military Conflict in 1862-64

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This lecture examines the middle years of the Civil War when the conflict’s largest and bloodiest battles were fought.  In addition to discussing the most important campaigns, a lecturer should explain the military technology of the mid-nineteenth century (thus providing reasons for the high level of battlefield casualties), the generals’ strategies and tactics, camp-life and the common soldiers’ experiences, and the impact of the war upon civilians in path of destructive armies.

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Home Fronts: How the War Forever Changed the North and the South

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This lecture explains how northern and southern societies were both profoundly changed while armies fought at the military fronts.  Important topics to discuss include early expectations of a short and bloodless war, the internal political struggles both Lincoln and Davis confronted, women’s experiences, economic changes brought about by the war, and Lincoln’s reelection in 1864.

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Endgame:  African-American Military Service, Sherman’s and Grant’s Triumphs, and Lincoln’s Assassination

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This lecture covers the last year of the Civil War.  Important topics to explore are the debate over the employment of black troops in Union armies, the increasingly important use of these troops in the later campaigns, the siege and fall of Richmond, Sherman’s Atlanta campaign and “march to the seas,” the unraveling of the Confederate war effort, Lincoln’s vision of post-Civil War society, and his assassination.

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