Monday, September 14, 2015

Leadership during the Civil War: The Common Civil War Officer

One of the most interesting programs I give is based around the role and experiences of a junior officer. Lieutenants and captains played a major role in the daily life of a Civil War soldier. Here is the break down of some of the things I discuss with student scholars. 

Leadership during the Civil War: The Common Civil War Officer
4th – 8th Grades (Running Time: 30 minutes)
By John A. Miller

The students will obtain a better understanding of role line officers had on their men during battle and campaign by interacting with a Civil War Living Historian. The Civil War Living Historian will show students many items using museum quality reproductions consisting of uniforms, accouterments and personal items.

1. Using reproduction items and firsthand accounts, students will be able to learn what officers from the Civil War era would have worn, carried, and used on a daily basis. They will also learn how their leadership affected their men.

Materials Used:
1.      For the living historian, he would display one Union or Confederate officers’ uniform. He would also display one set of accouterments showing the students what the average Civil War officer would have carried into combat as well as on the march. The living historian would be required to leave any black power at home.
2.      An unloaded revolver could be shown to the students to discuss weapon policies and basic training of the Civil War officer such as “Manual of Arms”.
3.      A haversack containing food rations of the average Civil War officer can be shown and passed around for the students to hold.
4.      An officer’s haversack will be displayed revealing all of the necessary items that would be require such as pencils, paper and ect…
5.      The knapsack which is where extra items were stored can be unpacked for students to see blankets, personal items such as tooth brushes, razor for shaving, comb and other little things such as playing cards and different games. The knapsack also is where some of the cooking utensils were located at such as a tin plate, dipper (cup) and frying pan.

1.      The Civil War Living Historian would bring period correct items as part of his display, and display those items in such a way to make them visible to the students.
2.      The Living Historian will give a basic overview of officers, soldiers, camps, and actions that occurred in their area, encouraging student participation.
3.      The Living Historian will explain all items, unpacking contents for the students to see.
4.      The Living Historian will go through the accouterments and then explain the uniform.

Topics to Highlight:

  1. Introduction
    1. What is a Civil War Living Historian and what does he do?
  1. Military Encampments and the Battle of Monterey Pass
    1. Talk briefly about the battle of Monterey Pass and the conditions the battle was fought in.
    2. Ask students what they think soldiers would have done between battles.
  1. Explain the Common Civil War Officer
    1. Introduction
                                                              i.      Explain the differences between a Northern Soldier and a Southern Soldier
                                                            ii.      Explain how officers were picked to lead companies vs. regiments
                                                          iii.      How did officers learn to lead men
                                                          iv.      Ask students what they think soldiers officers into battle.
    1. Knapsack
                                                              i.      Explain the knapsack and why soldiers and officers carried these
                                                            ii.      Open the knapsack and begin to showcase the contents
    1. Haversack and Canteen
                                                              i.      Ask the students what they think soldiers and officers ate during the Civil War. 
                                                            ii.      Discuss types of food soldiers and officers typically ate, including hard tack, salt pork, beans, coffee, etc.
                                                          iii.      Discuss cooking ingredients and procedures
    1. The Accouterments
                                                              i.      The holster and saber belt
                                                            ii.      Explain what each of the items was used for
                                                          iii.      Explain the purpose of a saber
                                                          iv.      Show the small arm that an officer carried including a dummy round
    1. The Uniform
                                                              i.      Explain what officers on both sides would have worn
                                                            ii.      Explain how officers had to privately buy their uniforms and how officers had better choices to uniform
                                                          iii.      Explain briefly the ranking system in both armies
    1. On Campaign
                                                              i.      Explain how junior officers and senior officers lived on campaign
                                                            ii.      Explain the duties of each in camp
                                                          iii.      Explain the how they led in battle and how they often led men against certain death

  1. Make sure that students are given an opportunity to ask any further questions they may have after the presentation

Closure: Ask the students what they think of a soldier’s life and could they have done what soldiers needed to do?  Do you think it was easy or hard?

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