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Putting It All Together


Following the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, Greene marched south and regained control of South Carolina from the British. In April, Cornwallis set out to conquer Virginia. This fateful campaign ended with his defeat at Yorktown on October 19, 1781. Although peace was not official until 1783, the outcome of the war was determined when Cornwallis surrendered. The following activities will encourage students to consider validating different historical sources and understand why monuments are erected.

Activity 1: Eyewitness Accounts
Eyewitness testimony, such as that provided by General Greene and Lord Cornwallis, is an important type of evidence. Have students consider if there are people in their community who have witnessed significant events such as battles of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, or natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes, or earthquakes. Invite one or more such eyewitnesses to speak to the class and give their perspectives on what happened. Have students compare what they learned with what they can read in history texts or in newspaper articles. Then hold a general classroom discussion based on these questions: How do the eyewitness accounts differ from textbook coverage? Do they provide the "big" picture or only one part of the story? Do the textbook accounts or the eyewitness stories engage your emotions the most? Why do you think historians depend so much on eyewitness accounts? Why would they feel it necessary to check such accounts for accuracy?

Activity 2: Hold a Debate
Hold an informal classroom debate in which one side supports the contention that the British won the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, and the other maintains that the British lost (or the Americans won) at Guilford Courthouse. Have students use the readings for information on which to base their arguments. They may also wish to check U.S. history textbooks and books about the Revolutionary War that may be in the school library.

Activity 3: War and Public Opinion
The quotation from the Annual Register for 1781 in Reading 3 suggests that British public opinion turned against the war because of costly battles like Guilford Courthouse. Do students think that public opinion was considered as important in 18th-century Great Britain as it is in modern United States? Ask them to justify their answer. Do they think we determine public opinion in the same way now? Have them use newspapers and magazines, as well as general history books, to find information about the impact of public opinion on wars. As they conduct their research, have them take into account that newspapers may voice a minority opinion, and opinion polls can be skewed just as battle statistics can. Can they think of any methods that might be used to determine what the public really thinks about a particular issue? Ask them to write an essay explaining their point of view on this question.

Activity 4: Monuments to War
If there is a Revolutionary site in the local community or region, ask students to visit it and then compare its role in the outcome of the Revolution with that of Guilford Courthouse. Now divide students into small groups and have them try to find monuments in their community that commemorate the Revolutionary War or any of the wars in which Americans have fought. Have each group complete the following exercises for the monument they choose. Take photos of the monument and copy the inscriptions. Analyze the type of language that is used on monuments. What is the monument designed to represent? Does it commemorate a specific battle? Did citizens of your community or region participate in that battle? Why was the monument erected in that particular spot? Now choose any battle of any war and make a sketch of a monument that memorializes the event in a proper manner. Finally, develop a fitting inscription for the monument. After the groups have completed the activity, have them arrange the works for a display on a bulletin board or a hallway showcase. Wrap up the activity by holding a classroom discussion on why monuments are erected and what they mean to the students.

 

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