Thinking Outside the Sphere

The Civil War witnessed many women stepping outside of gender roles in order to contribute to the war effort in any way they could, while other women chose to remain inside the sphere of domesticity and stay behind the scenes. Seeing as how violent the War was, it is not surprising that some women left the sphere of domesticity; the Civil War prompted both genders to aid no matter the circumstances. For example, after her husband died, Martha Coston picked up where he left off, inventing a new and improved flare for the US Navy to use. At first, people were weary of a woman trying to advertise her own, new idea, but upon realizing how good the Coston flares were, they came to reason, and bought over 1 million flares. The flares were used to help rescuers save people, and were the go-to flare for the US military until the 1930s. 

Others, such as Dorothea Dix, decided to stay within the sphere of domesticity. Although Dix was a high-ranking nurse in the Civil War who assumed authority over many male doctors, she still promoted traditional feminine vaules of the time, ordering the nurses under her to not seek out attention and be completely unrevealing in their dress – she believed that having anything otherwise would distract from the only purpose of the nurses – to help the injuries of the soldiers. But either way, it is without a doubt that many women had a significant impact during the Civil War.



Service vs Self -To enlist or not to enlist

During a time of war, many people face the tough decision of whether or not to join in the armed forces. Whether or not to join the fight, to give back to your country, or save yourself from likely injury and possible death. This question was at the forefront of society for teenage boys during the Civil War, a time that pit brother against brother in what turned out to be the bloodiest conflict in American history. When all is said and done, I would much rather preserve myself than risk death.

A big factor that would come into my decision of not joining the army would be the fear of new technology. New weapons, such as the rifled musket which was accurate at 250 yards (5 times the usual) were being designed quite often. In 1862 alone, 240 patents for military weapons alone. The weapons themselves were not necessarily the issue, however. War tactics had not caught up with the technology that was being produced at that point, causing an influx of causalities due to the ignorance of what these weapons were truly capable of. For example, traditional, Napoleonic war tactics caused many deaths due to the sudden power and accuracy of the newly designed military technologies.

Another reason why I would, as a teenager living in 1861, be deterred from fighting is because of the overall strategies employed to try to win the war. The South had to hold their ground and fend off the North, while the North aimed to “constrict” the South and block off all resources. It would not be difficult to infer that the war was going to be a bloodbath when both sides were going straight at each other. The North could afford to lose many troops, meaning that it was going to be a test of endurance just as much as one of tactics.
Possibly the most influential reason of choosing self-preservation is the treatment of injuries sustained on the battlefield. Due to the lack of modern medicinal technology, many wounds were treated via amputation of the affected limb. Also, since it was rather difficult to shoot accurately at the head or chest, most injuries were taken to the extremities, increasing the need for amputation. The way they put them under during operation was not ideal, either. Without modern anesthetics, surgeons had to resort to using alcohol or chloroform to numb their patients.

Aside from the stastical aspect, there exists also the philosophical one. I had no part in creating the mess that the country found itself in at the time, so why should the responsibility to help clean it up be placed on me? How come it’s the people who come up with the plans to go to war that are able to send people out to fight? Why don’t they, themselves, fight? If I was a teenager during 1861, chances are that I would not be informed enough to have a strong opinion on either side of the issue, and would therefore not be willing to potentially sacrifice myself to an idea unknown to me.


Fredricks, Charles D. “Sergeant Alfred A. Stratton of Co. G, 147th New York Infantry Regiment, with Amputated Arms.” Library of Congress. March 17, 2014. Accessed March 17, 2014.

The Great Civil War Scavenger Hunt of RMHS

The way in which we did the scavenger hunt was fun, and barely felt like much work at all. Every person was assigned one battle. Each person then had to create a Google Doc that contained the main points of the battle. Using QR codes, a QR sign was then generated. Each group/person hid their QR code throughout the school, with each Google Doc from the QR code containing a hint as to where the next one was located.(this is my Google Doc: We talked to the person who had the battle after ours and the one before ours to organize the hints. When we carried out the scavenger hunt, everyone started at a different sign as to not make it too chaotic.  After the scavenger hunt, we created two Padlets that helped to answer the two essential questions. The two padlets are located at and

In the Naval and Western theaters of the Civil War, the Union was the clear victor. Every battle other than the Battle of Chickamauga, and the only reason the Confederacy was able to win was because of miscommunications within the Union. In one of the most violent battles of the war, the Battle of Shiloh, the Union was able to be victorious due to reinforcements. All of the other battles in the West were won by the union without too stiff of a resistance. As for the Naval theatre. Although the battle of Hampton roads was overall inconclusive, the Union was able to dish out major damage onto the Confederacy’s ironclad ship. In Baton Rouge, the Union stopped the Confederates from taking over the city again and severely damaged the Arkansas.

Things in the Eastern theater, however, were not as clear cut. In fact, for the first couple of years, it appeared as though the Confederacy held the upper hand. They won some major battles such as Fredericksburg and the battle of Chancellorsville, not to mention the First and Second Battles of Bull Run. However, things turned brighter for the Union once Ulysses Grant was called to be the leader of the Eastern troops. Having the West pretty much on lockdown, Lincoln saw it fit to have him help out in the Eastern theater, and his idea worked. Grant launched his overland campaign and, although many battles in the theater were ultimately a draw, like the Battle of the Wilderness, the Union was able to replenish their resources, unlike the South, and eventually succeeded in their advancement into Confederate territory.

A big reason why the Union was able to win the battles it did was because of their sheer size. The North had more resources than the South, meaning they could afford to lose more troops than the Confederates. For example, the North lost about 7,000 more troops than the Confederates in the Battle of the Wilderness, but the Union lost a smaller overall percentage of troops, meaning that they were able to wear down the Confederacy while they could more easily receive more troops and resources to fight with. As for Confederate victories, they relied less on brute force and more on tact. For example, Robert E Lee employed an aggressive strategy that involved catching the Union off guard and unprepared for a battle. Defensive tactics also helped greatly, like at the Battle of Fredericksburg where the Confederacy maintained the high ground on the Union and was able to emerge victorious.


Currier & Ives. “Battle of Fredericksburg, Va. Dec 13th 1862.” Library of Congress. March 17, 2014. Accessed March 17, 2014.


Going into the Civil War, the Union thought shutting down the Confederacy would be a breeze, and that the rebels would surrender just as quickly as they seceded. This, obviously, was not the case. Both sides had advantages and disadvantages that contributed to the ultimate outcome of the war. One of the biggest things the North had going for them was the amount of industrialization in their economy compared to the South. Having 84% of all factories in the country meant that resources such as guns and ammunition were more abundant and easy to obtain. Also, the North had almost three times the population as the South, meaning more firepower. The amount of railroads the North had boosted transportation and mobility capabilities drastically. On the Confederate side of things, one advantage was that, because of the locations of military academies, the majority of generals and other military leaders were in the South, giving the Confederacy a tactical “one-up” on the North. Another advantage was that the Confederacy did not have to do anything other than stand their ground and defend against the North, while the North had to stomp the rebellion. The Confederacy did not take into account, however, the sheer number of troops that the Union possessed because of the population difference, and were unable to keep the Union at bay.

Over the course of the past few months, the class has been given a research project to complete. Each group was assigned an event that led up to the Civil War, with a theme of conflict versus compromise. These events span from the Missouri Compromise in 1820 to the Secession of the South. The completed project was to be in the form of a sort of online scrapbook. Our group was assigned the secession of the South. First, we did some background research about the topic, giving us an idea as to what relevent information was going to be included, as well as  which events had the greatest influence on the secession. We then made a list of questions relating to conflict and compromise that were answered in the form of an introduction essay. The next task was to find twelve primary sources that pertained to the topic – six images and six excerpts from speeches, letters, newspapers, etc. Next we wrote captions for each source explaining it and its relevance to the topic. After citing each source, we put it all together in the form of a weebly page. You can view it here: 


The EdCafe

The EdCafe model, overall, was very enjoyable for me. One of the main things I liked about it was because of the smaller groups, it was much less intimidating and easier to contribute. Another thing that was cool about EdCafe was being able to choose what discussions you wanted to attend. If you were not interested in one topic, you were free to go to another one that you found more exciting. This also played into contributing to the discussions because people were overall more engaged in the topic. However the execution of the EdCafe model was not flawless. One hiccup that came up was overlapping topics. Many of the later discussions were not nearly as lively as some of the earlier ones, because the ideas presented and talked about had already been used. The topics next time should have some more variety to ensure that each discussion is different.

I think I did a pretty good job while presenting. I was able to keep the conversation going if their was a lull or an awkward silence, although there were few. Me and my partner asked some follow-up questions that ignited further discussion within the groups and even some arguments. For example, one question debated at length was whether a slave was more likely to be loyal to a harsh, punishing owner, or a kind and benevolent one. If I had to do this again, I would definitely add more media to the presentation. Although our group met at an area without access to the Smartboard or whiteboards, mobile devices could have been utilized to more easily display concepts.

As an attendee, I did fairly well. In the first discussion I took part in, I was the only one other then the two leaders. This meant that I had to talk a lot more than I would have if the group was the average size of about 5-6 people. It helped that their topic was pretty much the same as mine, but even so I felt the conversation went better than I had expected. During the second discussion I contributed a good bit to the conversation. My notes are an ok representation of what I learned. Taking notes during a live conversation and taking part in that same conversation is difficult for me, so I did not take as many notes as I would have liked to.

The North needs to get off their high-horse

Everyone knows the South’s deep involvement with and dependence on the institution of slavery. However, if one wished to get the full picture on the issue, they would have to make sure to get the North in there. Their hands were not at all clean when it came to slavery. In fact, the antebellum North, in many ways, relied on the system of slavery for economic purposes, which in turn led to many extremely poor moral decisions.

One of the main influences on the North’s involvement when it came to slavery was due to the cotton industry. Cotton was a crop that, in the US, was exclusively grown in the South. Conveniently, this meant that large quantities of the crop could be harvested with minimal costs, due to the cheapness of slave labor. This helped out the factory runners in places like Lowell, Massachusetts, who benefited from the low-cost cotton. This resulted in large profits for the owners of the factories as well as their approval of slavery for economic gains. Completing the cycle, slave-owners would often buy the cotton clothing made in the mills and use it to cloth their slaves. The image at the right shows how the North and South were both economically dependent on the institution of slavery.

It makes sense that people in the North saw slavery as an economic plus – because, objectively, it was. What about morally, though? Did people in the North see slavery as an immoral practice? Well, even if they did, many were willing to look the opposite direction. For instance, one of the largest importers of slaves, the DeWolfe family, were based in Rhode Island. Imagine how difficult it would be to hide this involvement in the slave trade from the government. Well, they didn’t hide it. Thomas Jefferson turned a blind eye to their activities, simply because the family supported his presidential campaign. Another example that points to the North’s complacent attitude towards slavery is a town meeting held in Lowell on the issue of abolition. The consensus those attending came to was that they did not wish to impede on the rights of the plantation owners, although they were opposed to “southern mobs” and “lynching” because of the violence involved. Ironically enough, they failed to realize that slavery itself is founded in violence.

It is rather fitting that you do not hear much about the north and slavery. Not because they were not involved with it, but because they were not strongly opposed to it. They stayed in the shadows by attempting to take the most pacifying stance.