Overview

• The perspective of the common soldier offers a way to get beyond the huge numbers of dead and wounded in order to personalize the past and make it powerful to students.

• Examining topics such as what motivated men to enlist and keep fighting, how they understood war and combat, and the relationship between their civilian identities and their military service connect individual experiences with larger questions of the origins and impact of the Civil War.

• A focus on individual soldiers also offers a way of exploring the new concern to name and treat equally the dead that emerged in the Civil War as part of transformed conceptions of citizenship and the obligations of the state.

• Tracing the postwar lives of soldiers, their struggles to win recognition and pensions from the government, and what place Civil War veterans occupied in American society highlights the longer-term impact of the conflict. Understanding and teaching the Civil War in these terms is particularly important at this moment in our nation’s history when there are many newly returned veterans of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan in American communities.

As well as writing tens of thousands of letters, diaries, and memoirs, soldiers used charcoal, pencils, and knives to leave their mark on the walls of buildings. Although fragmentary and limited in comparison with letters and diaries, graffiti offers a view of the war different from what soldiers committed to paper. Unlike letter writing, graffiti was a social act, a public expression, and a violation of appropriate behavior. Graffiti promoted camaraderie, provoked responses, and changed the atmosphere of a space, staking a claim to what were often places previously occupied by the enemy and evocatively connecting individuals with wartime landmarks.
5oYLslJFhVjV61C5lWNGGx6WqQehnW0x2ek4NvVlhZfEc8ApzUn6u6G3EfM6VIydDIoBuElNdYxR7mnS89HeyxBx9PGzxebg3xZXX1pyjAwFpDbmJ9ThoU1pGb5CvC5mI66ixMj1YIuBwRTcPhQUMnk=s16383Historic Blenheim in Fairfax is a farmhouse built in 1859. Union soldiers from at least twenty-three different regiments covered Blenheim in graffiti featuring names, regiments, and drawings of ships, cannons, five-and eight-pointed stars, and a balloon. (Most of the graffiti is in the attic, only accessible by stairs)

 
3I8X5Gn3Xj8dEvdRDkQsjd-5rIoz5ZzsF7PqVYdlATpRmlWw4jmthyJFibemJPBK2Lo1PxWktA2Y_yXqeAJk2mbzTrFn6Hao54SWiAAdPjjVSnkP7LHXhXrpZoqBtwWq5Mv29Nb-NpNb_cqoUA=s16383The Graffiti House at Brandy Station was a general store and residence for the local postmaster. Unlike Blenheim, it features graffiti by both Union and Confederate soldiers. The two hundred items include signatures, drawings and commentary on the life of a soldier. (The graffiti is on the first floor, only accessible by stairs)

 
mmyiC7HmIu7-VaiPZExWsRq3ok0DT58lTP9FCPf7mdt4yI-RUB-XhXoqS79IGUTZmoWFYbgLIfHnwjEKvW1p83uj1VqXAGbvKUX3BlW7mTZ02r8-43ekdTBtF9liLKe5-Jq25f3BwhwQ5bXLaS7-bwqZW3hnQvX0XCS5hxKDBXQ4Chumyg=s16383The Ben Lomond Historic Site is a farmhouse, which is set up as a Civil War field hospital, and features graffiti left by Union soldiers who ransacked it. Additionally, an original slave quarter on site, one of a handful in the region, offers an opportunity to consider Union soldiers’ individual encounters with slavery

 

Gettysburg_national_cemetery_img_4164Gettysburg National Military Park features the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, the site of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and more than 1200 battlefield markers and monuments. Both sets of memorials connect the names of individual soldiers to the landscape in a way that provides a context for understanding soldiers’ graffiti. In addition, touring a battlefield offers teachers an on-the-ground perspective of the battle that augments traditional military histories that explore battle strategies and the roles of commanders. (This site visit will involve a significant amount of walking)

• Develop skills in historical research and work with primary sources – service records and pension files — different from those typically used to teach the Civil War. These records are available for almost all the men who served, providing an opportunity for teachers to incorporate soldiers from their communities into their teaching.

omeka-small_logoExperience “doing history” in the digital age and develop skills in digital photography, digital mapping, and online exhibit building using free online tools: Google Maps, Voyant, and Omeka. You don’t need technical skills for this workshop – we’ll provide training in using these tools, and each group will have a graduate student from GMU working with them throughout the process of building their online exhibit.

• The online exhibit will be both a resource participants could use in their classroom teaching and a model for the project-based learning that teachers are being asked to implement that can be applied to other investigations beyond the Civil War.