History 412

Spring 2016

The Civil War and Reconstruction


Professor Jennifer L. Weber

3633 Wescoe




Office hours: 10-11 Tu & Th and 2:15-3 Tu




The Civil War is the most cataclysmic event in American History. By conservative estimates, 620,000 men died of wounds and disease between 1861 and 1865 - and this figure does not count the men who died at home after being declared unfit for duty or after the war ended. The toll was enormous. But as many observers, including President Abraham Lincoln, noted, it may have been the price the nation had to pay for slavery. "If God wills that [the war] continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether,'" Lincoln said in his Second Inaugural Address, delivered a month and a half before the war ended.

The war determined whether the United States would continue as one nation or divide in two. It settled the question of whether states could secede from the Union - a question the Constitution did not provide for. The war propelled the nation into the industrial age. And most importantly, it wiped chattel slavery, and institution that had arrived in the early days of colonization, from the land.

But in a political system designed to force compromise, how did the country wind up settling its differences at the business end of a gun? What were the issues that brought the nation to that point? Was civil war inevitable? Those questions will frame the first part of the course.

In the second portion of the course we will be talking about the Civil War itself: How it was fought, why young men were willing to die by the scores of thousands, and the political issues swirling around the White Houses in Washington and Richmond. In this part of the class, you should be thinking about how the war unfolded and the sometimes complementary and sometimes competing demands of political and military necessity. Why did Lincoln, Davis, and the generals on both sides make the decisions they did? How could the war have turned out differently, and at what points? Be particularly cognizant of the role African-Americans played in the war and the pressures they put on both governments through their actions.

            We'll be dealing with these questions in lecture and in discussions, which will take place online and in the classroom, but thinking about them on your own will help you get the most out of your reading. The questions give you a sense for the big picture and the issues at stake, and should help you as you prepare for the midterm and the final exams.



The assigned texts are available at Jayhawk Bookstore:

James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom

Salomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave

Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels



Weekly papers - 120 (15 pts. each)

Final paper 45

Discussion - 35


            Students should arrive for class on time and conduct themselves in a manner conducive for creating an environment suitable for learning. To create the best learning environment possible, no computers, phones or other electronic devices may be used in class unless you have extenuating circumstances. Discussion is an integral part of this course. I'll be using a team reading approach in our discussion sections (see p. 6 of the syllabus) so that you can be sure to get the most out of the reading. This work requires that you comes to discussion prepared; if you don't, you'll be hurting your whole reading group. Please be courteous toward your fellow students. You are welcome to disagree, but not be disagreeable. If you fail to attend four or more sections, you will receive an automatic F for this part of the course. If I believe that students are not keeping up with the reading, I reserve the right to administer pop quizzes and factor those into the discussion grade.



 Weekly papers should be a short (500- to 750-word, with a 10% fudge factor) argument based on primary sources, the readings, and the lectures. I will post the primary sources on Blackboard, but as we move deeper into the semester you'll be learning how to find primary sources for your own papers. Your final paper will be longer, 1500-2000 words, on a topic of your choice. Each paper should be footnoted according to the Chicago Manual of Style. Please put a word count at the bottom of each paper.

Submit your written work through SafeAssign, which you'll find on the class Blackboard site. I will not accept papers by email, under my door, in my mailbox, or to a department secretary. Late papers will be penalized one full grade per day, including each weekend day.

You'll find helpful hints on writing a good history paper and grading rubrics at the end of this syllabus. If any of this is unclear, please let me know.

Academic Misconduct

This is the unhappy portion of the syllabus. Academic misconduct includes disruptive behavior, plagiarism, cheating, behavioral problems, and forgery of, among other things, another student's work or a professor's signature (for a full definition, see https://documents.ku.edu/policies/governance/
). Students who run afoul of KU's rules in any of these areas will automatically and immediately fail the class, and the case will be referred to the department and Strong Hall, where it can be placed in your permanent record.

Students who have problems in many of these areas often cite stress, putting off projects, illness or being jammed up with multiple assignments due in the same week. None of these is a legitimate excuse. Plan your semester carefully from the beginning and arrange your schedule of work so you can avoid such situations. The Office of Student Success offers free workshops on how to manage time. If you cannot submit original work on time, it is your responsibility to notify me or the TA.

Plagiarism is theft, and the academic community treats it accordingly. Incidents of plagiarism are subject to severe sanctions and you should avoid jeopardizing your future. Basically, plagiarism is using another person's words or ideas without giving them credit for this. You should submit only original work. A complete copy of the University policy on plagiarism, including definitions and methods of avoidance, is available at:      www.writing.ku.edu/instructors/docs/ku_handbook.html and             http://www.writing.ku.edu/students/docs/integrity.shtml

If you have more questions, the Writing Assistance Center site offers suggestions on how to avoid plagiarism.

            The History Department's policy and procedures regarding academic misconduct are available at: http://www.history.ku.edu/undergraduate/.



Readings & Due Dates

Week of 1/19: Slavery and the Antebellum world


- Battle Cry, ch. 1

- Twelve Years a Slave, intro

- Confederates in the Attic, ch. 1 (Bb)


1/26: Masters and abolitionists

- Twelve Years a Slave, chaps. 1-11


2/2: The coming of the war

Paper due


- Battle Cry, chaps 7-9

- Twelve Years a Slave, chaps 12-15

2/9-2/18: No class


3/1: National and military strategy

Paper due


- Battle Cry, chaps. 10-12


3/8: You're in the army now

Paper due


- Battle Cry, chaps. 13-15


3/15-17: Spring Break


3/22: The first turning point

Paper due


- Battle Cry, chaps. 16-18

- James M. McPherson, "Who Freed the Slaves?," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 139 (March 1995): 1-10.

- Ira Berlin, "Who Freed the Slaves? Emancipation and Its Meaning," from Major Problems in the Civil War and Reconstruction, 1997, 288-297


3/29: Dissent

Paper due


- Battle Cry, chaps. 19-20


4/5: The second turning point

Paper due


- Battle Cry, chap. 21

4/12: The revolutionary war

Paper due


- Battle Cry, chap. 22

4/19: The Confederate paradox

Paper due


- Battle Cry, chap. 23

- Stephanie McCurry, Confederate Reckoning (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010), chap. 6

4/26: Summer of '64


- Battle Cry, chaps. 25-26

5/3: Victory and defeat        


- Battle Cry, chap. 27-28


5/5: Final paper due


Team Reading: Overview of Roles

Discussion Director: Your role is to identify the important aspects of your assigned reading, and develop questions your team will want to discuss. Focus on major themes or "big ideas" in the text and your reaction to those ideas. What interests you the most will most likely interest those in your team. You are also responsible for facilitating your team's discussion.

Sample Questions:

What did the reading make you think about?

What do you think the reading was about?

What one question would you ask the author if you go the chance? Why?

What are the most important ideas in this reading?

Illuminator: Your role is to find important passages that the team should hear read aloud. These passages should be memorable, interesting, puzzling, funny, or important. Your notes should include the quotations but also why you chose them. You will read these passages aloud as part of your team's discussion.

Sample Questions:

What is this passage saying?

Why is it important?

What other passages come to mind as you read it?


Connector: Your role is to connect what you are reading with other topics in the class, what you are studying in other classes, or with the world outside of school. You can connect the reading to events in your own life, other classes you've taken, news events, political events, or popular trends. You can also connect the reading to other things you have read. The connections should be meaningful to you and your team.

Sample Questions:

What connections can you make to your own life?

What other books or articles might you compare this to?

How does this essay relate to other topics in the class?

Word Watcher: Your role is to watch out for words worth knowing while you are reading. These words might be interesting, new, important, or used in unusual ways. It is important to indicate the specific location of the words so that your team can discuss the words in context. You may need to look up these words in a dictionary to include the definition in your notes.

Sample Questions:

Which words are used frequently?

Which words are used in unusual ways?

What words seem to have special meaning to the author?

What new words do you find in this section?

What does this word mean?

Summarizer: Your role is to prepare a brief summary of the day's reading. Use the questions to the right to help you decide what to include. If it helps you to organize the information, consider making a numbered list or an outline.

Sample Questions:

What are the most important ideas or events in this reading?

What makes them so important?

What effect do they have on the reader?

What might be a good essay topic for this reading?

Grading Guidelines


Discussion Sections


You will be assessed according to:

- the quality of your contribution to your reading team discussion

- the extent to which you keep up with your responsibilities to your reading team

- the quality of your ideas in your Team Reading notes

- the quality of your team's discussion

Your team must:

- hold each member accountable for work, contributions to discussion, and respectful participation.

- rotate the assigned roles so that someone has a different responsibility for each reading; when you complete one cycle through the team, begin again as you think appropriate.



Grading Rubic








Quality of thesis and argumentation



Clearly states a creative, arguable thesis. Each paragraph clearly and logically supports the argument.

Has an arguable and creative claim, though it may not be clear. Most paragraphs support the thesis and are clearly written, but may overlook important elements to make a persuasive case.

No argument. 1 or 2 weak claims. Some irrelevant or confusing statements. Does not contain enough facts, statistics, or quotations to make a convincing case.

No argument. A number of irrelevant or confusing statements. Uses a few facts, statistics or quotations, but may not use them appropriately or may not understand them.

No argument. Many irrelevant or confusing statements. Few or no facts, statistics or quotations, or those that appear are used inappropriately or misunderstood.

Use of facts and evidence



Each paragraph includes relevant facts, statistics, quotations or paraphrasing. Strong historical context.

1 or 2 paragraphs are missing facts, statistics, quotations or paraphrasing that could help support the argument. Good historical context.

Several paragraphs are missing facts, statistics, quotations or paraphrasing that could help support the argument. Some sense of historical context.

Few paragraphs contain facts, statistics, quotations or paraphrasing that could help support the argument. Little sense of historical context.

Paper contains so few facts, statistics, quotations or paraphrasing that the argument is not plausible. No sense of historical context.

Use of primary sources



Each paragraph other than intro and conclusion has at least 1 primary source supporting the claim; when appropriate, each draws on several sources.

Most paragraphs in the body of the essay have at least 1 primary source. Many contain more than 1 when appropriate.

Many paragraphs in the body of the essay have at least 1 primary source. A few contain more than 1 source.

A few paragraphs in the body of the essay cite at least 1 primary source.

Few or no

paragraphs in the body of
the essay cite

primary sources.





All supporting facts and quotations appear accurately.

Almost all supporting facts and quotations appear accurately.

Most supporting facts and quotations appear accurately.

Many supporting facts and quotations are inaccurate.

Most supporting facts and quotations are inaccurate.




Compelling introduction, informative middle and strong conclusion.

Clear introduction, middle and end, but could be more compelling.

Organized but sometimes gets off topic.

Writing disorganized; reader has to work to understand what the writer is saying.

Writing is very disorganized; reader has a hard time understanding the ideas the writer is trying to say.

Grammar, spelling, punctuation, usage


No errors.

1 or 2 errors.

A few errors that interrupt flow.

Writer makes enough errors to distract the reader.

Writer makes so many errors that the work is difficult to read.




Every paragraph has sentences that vary in length. Sentences always make the point in as few words as possible. Writer uses vivid language with accurate wording.

Almost all paragraphs have sentences that vary in length. Vivid language, but occasionally words are used inaccurately or seem overdone. Mostly concise.

Some sentences vary in length. Writer uses words that communicate clearly, but writing lacks variety, punch or flair. Some use of jargon or cliches. Often wordy.

A few sentences vary in length. Limited vocabulary that does not communicate strongly or accurately. Uses jargon or cliches. Very wordy and/or sometimes goes on tangents.

Sentences do not vary in length. Writer frequently uses words incorrectly, overuses jargon or cliches. Extremely wordy and/or often goes on tangents.

Documentation and formatting



Flawless documentation and formatting in quotations, citations, and pagination.

Fewer than 3 errors in formatting quotations, citations, or pagination.

Several errors in formatting, quotations, citations, or pagination.

Many errors in formatting, quotations, citations, or pagination.

Excessive errors in formatting, quotations, citations, or pagination.