Teaching the Stories of the Civil War

I recently had the good fortune of helping an 8th grader study for a test on the Civil War. Now I have spent many hours reading about the “actors” of the Civil War.  I guess I would call myself an amateur historian although I am more interested in learning about the people involved than war tactics.  This time in our history has always fascinated me.  How did we get there?  How were decisions made?  Why did our ancestors decide the only way out was war against ourselves.  I dive into personal journals, biographies, and autobiography trying to uncover an inkling of insight.  Of course, I have been accused of romanticizing history and I suppose I do, but I love to let my imagination follow the stories.

When asked by my student if I knew anything about the civil war, I of course beamed with excitement.  I love talking about Gettysburg even though it was a horrific three days.  Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain led a famous bayonet charge and took Confederate prisoners with no ammunition.  James Longstreet argued relentlessly with General Lee claiming there was no way that their soldiers could march a mile on open ground without being slaughtered.  Lee did not listen.  Then there was Pickett’s charge across the cornfield.  I’ve read that General George Pickett never recovered from losing all his men.  These are the stories I love to tell and think about.

When I finally ended my heroic storytelling, I noticed that my i-hate-history-student was listening intently.  On my cell phone, I pulled up a video clip of the movie Gettysbury so she could witness an reenactment of Little Round Top and the final march. She was captured just as I was.