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How to
Use the Activities


Inquiry Question

Historical Context




Table of

Putting It All Together

The growth of the railroads and the introduction of new types of weapons made the Civil War in many ways the first modern war. The following activities will help students apply what they have learned about the effect of these new technologies on warfare. They will also have a chance to investigate how changes in transportation affected the history of their own community.

Activity 1: How to Fight a Battle
American officers entered the Civil War with two conflicting military doctrines. One followed Napoleon, who saw mobility, surprise, and attack as key to victory. The other emphasized control of strategic positions and favored entrenched defenses. For General Halleck, an adherent of the second position, the Union victory at the Siege of Corinth demonstrated the effectiveness of entrenchments and the importance of controlling important transportation centers. He saw the siege as a major victory, gaining an important objective without risking his army in battle.

But the Confederate army escaped intact and the war continued for three more long years. General Grant, committed to a war of mobility, saw the siege as pointless. Many years later, he described it as:

of strategic importance, but . . . barren in every other particular. It was nearly bloodless. It is a question whether the morale of the Confederate troops . . . was not improved by the immunity with which they were permitted to . . . withdraw themselves. On our side I know officers and men . . . were disappointed at the result. They could not see how the mere occupation of places was to close the war while large and effective rebel armies existed."9

Hold a class discussion asking students to imagine that they are advisors to General Van Dorn as he moves towards Corinth. Would they advise an attack based on mobility and surprise? If so, why? Would they recommend the same kind of siege that was so effective for General Halleck? If so, why? Based on what they have learned in this lesson, what advantages might each course have? What disadvantages?

Activity 2: Eyewitness to History
Divide the class into four groups. Ask one group to assume the roles of soldiers in the Union army at the Siege of Corinth; the second Confederate troops defending Corinth during the Siege; the third, Confederate troops attacking in the Battle of Corinth, and the fourth, Union defenders. Have them write letters to family or friends or write articles for their hometown newspapers describing their experiences. They should use resource material available in the school or public library or consult the supplementary resources in this lesson to make certain their accounts are historically accurate. When the writing assignment is completed, have spokespeople from each group make presentations about the experience of their group. Then hold a general classroom debate about which assignment they would have preferred to have and why.

Activity 3: Transportation in the Local Community
Most cities and towns in the United States were settled because they represented a good place for a water, rail, or road "port," or because they were at some kind of a crossroad. Divide the class into small groups and ask them to research the following questions: What transportation routes have played a role in their community's history? How important are transportation routes today? How do the local routes fit into larger transportation systems--water, rail, airways, or highways? Are these the same systems that were historically important? How have they changed? Are there still places in the community that represent historic transportation patterns? As a class, create a local transportation history display to donate to the local library or historical society, or to display in their school.

9 Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant, Vol. l (New York: Charles L. Webster and Co., 1885), 381.



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