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By looking at “Comfortable Camps?” Archeology of the Confederate Guard Camp at the Florence Stockade, students can more easily understand the workings of a Civil War prison camp, including not only prisoners’ living conditions, but also that of the guards. The following activities will provide students with an opportunity to better comprehend the Civil War prison experience and the toll it took in lives, and also understand ways in which archeological investigations help us learn more about the past.

Activity 1: Design a Campground
Divide the class into smaller working groups. Each group will decide whether to design a campground for the guards or the prisoners. Ask students to create the designs with drawings and then use the drawings to build dioramas. Students should consider many factors in designing their campgrounds. For example, the Florence Stockade was in operation from September 1864 until March 1865. The weather conditions were hot and humid at first, but became cold and wet through the winter.

For the guard’s camp, the students should consider that by this point in the Civil War, manufactured goods were difficult to obtain. For example, a battalion of troops might only have access to one ax and one shovel for the entire group. Nails and sawn lumber were also difficult to get. Remember that they had access to large numbers of trees and were able to ask for help from the citizens of Florence. The students should consider placement of their camp on the landscape relative to elevation and access to drinking water. Each camp must include shelter for the troops, an area for the disposal of trash, toilet facilities and an area for the storage of food. The students can add whatever other types of facilities that they think would have helped the soldiers in camp. They should draw on what they have learned from this lesson so far and can supplement their knowledge by doing more research on other Civil War period camps.

The prison camp should be designed from the perspective of the prisoners. Most of the prisoners at Florence arrived there with the clothing that they wore and little else. Some had managed to keep a blanket or part of a tent. No building materials were supplied by the Confederates for the prisoners to construct shelters. The only available materials were the branches from pine trees that were cleared during the construction of the stockade. Based on what they have learned about the way the Florence Stockade was constructed, the students should design a shelter. They can choose to design a shelter for just themselves or for a group, remembering that a group might have more tools, such as a canteen or a pocket knife. They can also choose where within the stockade to place their camp, but must explain why. They also should design their camp on paper, and then present it as a diorama. The students should draw on information provided in this lesson and should do additional research on other Civil War prisons, such as the one at Andersonville, Georgia.

Have each group present their design and diorama to the class and explain why they created their camp the way they did. You might also consider arranging to have the dioramas displayed in the school library or auditorium where the students can explain their work to other classes.

Activity 2: Archeology of Your Room
Archeologists rely on the things that they excavate from the ground to tell them about the culture, history, and technology of the people who lived in the past. This information, along with historical records, allows them to form a reasonably accurate picture of what life was like in the past. To demonstrate this lesson, instruct each student to examine the contents of their room at home and think about what items would survive if buried in the ground for a long time and which would not. If archeologists excavated the spot where their room once stood in 200 years, what would they find? What could the archeologists determine about the culture and technology of the early 21st century from these items? Have each student write an essay describing what they think would be found and why, as well as how they think it would be interpreted. They should include details, like what their clothing would leave behind or the things on their desk or shelves. Have several students either read their papers or at least summarize the conclusions that archeologists would make about life in the United States in the early 21st century. How are the students’ “artifacts” and conclusions alike? How are they different? The class would then discuss how the things found at the site of their room would differ from the things recovered at the Florence Stockade and how they are the same.

Activity 3: Learning about war veterans buried in your Community
Find out if there is a national cemetery nearby. The National Cemetery Administration’s website (www.cem.va.gov) has a list of them with maps and driving directions. You can also find out more about these cemeteries in the National Park Service's "Civil War Era National Cemeteries: Honoring those who Served." If you do not have a national cemetery nearby then visit a local cemetery or ask a representative from the cemetery to come speak to the class. Have the students talk to the staff and look at the markers. If it is a local cemetery inquire about Civil War veterans who may be buried there. In the case of the national cemetery, the students will conduct additional research on the chosen National Cemetery to learn about the history of the facility. The students should present their findings in an essay, PowerPoint or website. Their research should focus on answering the following questions:

  • When was the cemetery opened and what is the earliest burial there?
  • Why was the cemetery located there?
  • What lead to the founding of the cemetery?
  • Are people still being buried in the cemetery? If not, when was the latest burial?
  • Who is allowed to be buried there and has that changed over time?
  • In what wars did the veterans buried there serve?

In the case of the local cemetery students should focus on the Civil War veterans buried there and focus on answering the following questions:

  • Who was this person?
  • Where did he serve?
  • Why are they buried in this cemetery?
  • What does their headstone indicate about this person?

If you have a national cemetery in your vicinity find out if there are certain days of year (Veterans Day/ Memorial Day) when the graves are decorated with flags and have your students participate in the commemorative program. If the local cemetery is in need of upkeep organize a clean-up day or conduct needed research on the Civil War veterans buried there.

Activity 4: Women in the Civil War
One of the more unusual stories related to the Florence Stockade is that of Florena Budwin. Her husband was a Union soldier and she could not bear to see him leave for the war. She disguised herself as a man and followed him through the war until they were captured and sent to Florence. Her husband died while at Florence. Her true gender was discovered by a doctor while she was in prison and legend says that she actually gave birth there. She continued to remain in the prison and acted as a nurse until she died of sickness. She is buried in the national cemetery with her own marker.
Have the students research the roles of women during the Civil War and compare them with women in the military today. This can be accomplished by interviewing women in the local community who served in the military. Your local VFW or American Legion Post can help students identify veterans in the community. Have the students write essays or develop interpretative exhibits about the person that can be exhibited in school. This would make for a good Women’s History month activity in your school or as a National History Day project if the theme was applicable.



 

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