TwHP Lessons

These Honored Dead:
The Battle of Rivers Bridge
and Civil War Combat Casualties

[Photo] Earthworks at Rivers Bridge Battlefield.
(South Carolina State Park Service)

Again at the hospital I see the horrid results of every battle. Men mutilated in every shape conceivable, groaning, begging for assistance and gasping in death. Many of our wounded will have to lie all night in that horrid swamp, it being impossible to find them and carry them out on the narrow foot bridge that has been made. Many have had their heads propped up out of the water where they lay to keep them from drowning.

Lt. Col. Oscar L. Jackson, 63rd Ohio Infantry,
after the Battle of Rivers Bridge, February 2-3, 1865¹

The Civil War is usually studied through major campaigns and battles presented as the maneuvers and clashes of large armies. Lost in this approach is the human element, the effect of the war on the individuals who fought it. Encountering the Civil War on a smaller, human scale makes the conflict more approachable, vivid, and real. Rivers Bridge State Historic Site offers a glimpse of the Civil War on such a scale: Its small area allows one to comprehend the entire battlefield, its tactics, and to see how veteran troops near the end of the war sought to avoid high casualties. The relatively few casualties--most of whom have been identified through historical research--are people, not numbers, and they convey the true human tragedy of this battle and all Civil War battles. Rivers Bridge also serves as an example of how one community remembered its combat casualties after the war--it was through the act of remembering the Confederate dead from the fight that the Rivers Bridge battlefield was preserved.

¹ Oscar L. Jackson, The Colonel's Diary: Journals kept before and during the Civil War by the late Oscar L. Jackson of New Castle, Pennsylvania, sometime Commander of the 63rd Regiment O. V. I. (Sharon, Penn,: N.p., 1922), pp. 177-178.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. The Battlefield at Rivers Bridge

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. Surviving on the Battlefield, 1865
 2. The Official Reports
 3. The Soldiers' Accounts

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. "Sherman's March through South Carolina"
 2. The Rivers Bridge battlefield
 3. Pvt. Edgar W. Cherry, 1865
 4. Edgar W. Cherry, c. 1890
 5. The Confederate monument (front)
 6. The Confederate monument (rear)

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Your Account of a Civil War Battle
 2. Following the Local Boys Through the War
 3. Memories of War
 4. Monuments

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This lesson is based on the Rivers Bridge State Historic Site, among the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.



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