History 95: The American Civil War Era

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Fort Sumter
[Office/Hours] [Overview] [Books] [Schedule/Assignments] [Academic Honesty]
[Review Essays] [Writing Tips] [Exams] [Discussion Groups] [Resources]

Instructor: Lloyd Benson

Office Hours:
Furman Hall 213-A (next to the elevator)
1:30-4:45 Tuesday through Thursday
other times by appointment
PHONE: 294-3492
e-mail: Lloyd.Benson@Furman.edu


A Critical Era

The Civil War represents something of a paradox. Most ordinary Americans consider this to be one of the crucial moments in the nation's history. Yet many American historians claim that the war did little to change the basic facts of American society. Even more remarkably, many of those who study western civilization and recent world history treat this episode as too insignificant to warrant mention in their texts. Through exploration of the dramatic stories and objective assessments connected with the era it will be the purpose of this course to address the interests raised by both constituencies. Finding the happy median will be an interesting challenge for us. Jefferson Davis expressed the wish in 1881 that some future historian of the war era, "when the passions and prejudices of the day shall have given place to reason and sober thought," might, in his words, "better than a contemporary, investigate the causes, conduct, and results of the war." Although many of the passions and prejudices he feared have grown rather than abated in the years since he wrote, the result has been a fortunate outpouring of scholarship. We know far more about the war era now than did any single participant in the conflict.

Our investigation will have its foundations in the era's political and military history. Since these happened within a larger economic and social context we will devote considerable attention to these aspects of the war era. We will give special attention to the formation of identities and loyalties at the local, partisan, and regional levels, and to the process of community disruption and restoration. Finally we will examine the uses of the war by subsequent generations, including our own. Everyone agrees that the Civil War resonates with us in ways that other conflicts of equal importance (the Mexican War and the First World War, and perhaps even the revolution), do not. No prior knowledge of the period is assumed, but there will also be topics of special relevance to Civil War buffs.

Required Books

The books listed below are required reading for this course. They are available for purchase at the Furman University Bookstore. You will need to purchase all books by the end of the second week of class or they will be returned to the publisher to make space for next term's orders.


See the attached schedule and assignment Page (located at <http://facweb.furman.edu/~bensonlloyd/h95schedulesu03.htm>) for schedule and assignment information.


The academic community only works when all members freely exchange their ideas without taking credit for someone else's work. Academic honesty creates the trust that makes learning possible. When students complete their work with integrity, teachers do not have to adopt elaborate procedures that clog the educational mechanism. When all students in a class are honest, instructors can judge their work fairly and equally. And when all members of the institution strive to work honestly, the value of the diploma and the reputation of the school are enhanced. Most importantly, academic integrity ensures that special opportunities such as jobs, scholarships, and awards go to those who earned them. It is therefore in the interest of every student to promote the integrity of all students in the classroom.

You must include full citations for any original ideas or products of others in all written or compiled work in this class, including all online postings. If you consulted a resource it must be listed in a footnote or in a works cited section.

As a general rule, papers in this class should follow the documentation standards outlined in the pamphlet Plagiarism And Academic Integrity At Furman University. Note: any images, sound, or video that you did not create yourself must be properly documented and in the public domain or you will be considered in violation of the plagiarism policy and all other applicable regulations.

When in doubt, you should consult with me. Facts learned from class lectures and discussions should be confirmed and documented on your own using a standard reference source. Textbooks are derivative compilations and do not count as authoritative scholarly sources. You should discuss course material at every opportunity, but must not reveal test answers. When using study guides to prepare for in-class exams, students are not allowed to divide up topics or share their prepared answers. Copying of lecture notes falls into a gray area of academic honesty. To avoid problems, you should not copy another person's notes without prior permission from me. Because unreported academic dishonesty affects the grading scale and classroom atmosphere severely, you should report any questionable incidents to the instructor immediately.

Because it is so easy to cite your sources, and because claiming someone else's work so seriously corrupts the academic environment, the instructor reserves the right to punish infractions severely. At a minimum you will fail the specific assignment. Flagrant plagiarism or any repeated offense will result in dismissal from the course with an overall course grade of F. The associate academic dean or other administrative officials may impose additional penalties. The instructor reserves the right to modify this policy.

Review Essays

Essay Requirements

The first required essay will be a thought-piece review on the "slave power conspiracy" and the coming of the civil war. Your paper will need to incorporate the most important arguments from the Richards book. Other assigned materials from the first week of class may be included as you find appropriate.

The second essay will be a review of the Ash book. Here too you may take advantage of other assigned resources when writing your review essay.

You are encouraged to write the review essays in your word processor and then post it to the discussion board. Note that the discussion board will not preserve any formatting such as italics, superscript, or subscript. Consult the help feature of the discussion board for information on how to include these formats in your final submission. Write as much or as little as you think is necessary to respond to the book. As an approximate rule of thumb you might want to shoot for around 800 to 1200 words (3-4 printed pages) in length. (Most word processing programs have a word count function. In MS-WORD and in Open Office this is located in the EDIT>PROPERTIES menu.)

Essays should be properly footnoted using standard historical format. Use square brackets [1] to mark your notes. See the Richardson or Ash books for examples, as well as the the footnoting section below. Parenthetical notes will NOT be acceptable. Footnotes that refer to a book's themes can be consolidated at the end of each relevant paragraph. All direct quotes should be cited immediately following the quote. Be sure to review thephrasing guidelines and "What to write about" section below before writing your paper.

What to Write About

You should seek to develop your own concise scholarly assessment of the "slave power conspiracy" on secession (for the Richards book) and of the impact of occupation (for the Ash book) using the assigned materials as evidence. Strive for analysis and synthesis rather than summary. Papers that merely summarize his argument and evidence, or that merely string together quotes from his work will not not be considered college level work and will be graded down accordingly.

Above all, have your own original thesis. (For tips on developing a good thesis, take a look at Dr. Chris Blackwell's concise, funny, and pointed writing tips page.) You will need to find an intelligent balance between summary and interpretation.

Phrasing Suggestions

Before writing you may find it helpful to take a look at Strunk's Elements of Style. Closer to home, and with a good sense of humor, is Dr. Chris Blackwell's Writing Tips Page. I strongly recommend that you review his section on "How to make sure you have written a good paper." You may find other useful suggestions by looking for "online writing centers" on the web and consulting their writing tips pages. Do not hesitate to take advantage of the services of Furman's CCLC as well.

Below I have listed a few of my personal peccadilloes about style and grammar. Using your word processor's search function it should take no more than thirty minutes to check and correct any problems.

  1. A clear thesis and logical organization are essential.
  2. Write concisely.
  3. Avoid passive constructions such as "it was," and "it has been." You must tell who is doing the thing you describe.
  4. Like strong seasonings, quotations should be used sparingly.
  5. Do not use "I" in formal writing. Declarative sentences are more effective. Everyone already knows from the essay format that this is your own viewpoint. Within the genre of historical writing, indiscriminate use of "I" is at once a sign of vanity and of poor confidence.
  6. Sentences that combine commentary with descriptive information are a plus. (For example: "The author effectively describes Grant's poor judgment at Cold Harbor" is better than "The Grant part was good.")
  7. Strive for gender-neutral phrasing.
  8. Do not start sentences with the word "however."
  9. The following words or expressions are powerless and inaccurate. Do not use them:
    1. obviously
    2. in terms of
    3. certain, certainly
    4. basically
    5. "on a ____ basis"
    6. feels, felt
    7. in-depth
    8. deals with, dealt with
    9. Succession, when you mean secession
    10. dominate (adjective), when you mean dominant
  10. Avoid qualifiers. Words such as "somewhat," "literally," and "definitely." are right out.
  11. Centuries ("the 1700s") are plural, not possessive. Do not use an apostrophe.
  12. Always use the past tense when describing events in the past.
  13. "Northerners," when you mean Lincoln, the war leadership, or abolitionists.
  14. "Southerners," when you mean the Confederate leadership or Southern whites.
  15. Tips for In-Class Examinations


    Students in this class will take two mid-term examinations and a comprehensive final. Tests will include short answer ids and at least one long essay question. You will generally be given a choice of questions to answer on some or all of the sections. You will be expected to show a solid grasp of names, dates, and details. Responses to paragraph ID questions will typically be four to six sentences long. They will need to include at minimum an explanation of causes and effects, along with a summary chronological description of the item itself. Longer essays will need to be proportionate in length to the time allotted them. Essay grammar and spelling will not affect scoring, but clear, concise expression and reasonably neat handwriting are always a plus.

    A good in-class essay will have a clear thesis paragraph stating your overall ideas about the topic. The remainder of the essay should have a logical organization, extensive details such as names, dates, and events, and a convincing conclusion. Longer essays should strive for a good sense of chronological development (including a carefully itemized sequence of events with dates) and should address the essay topic from as many different angles and approaches as possible. Time permitting, most students find it helpful to outline the essay briefly before writing. You will be expected to include examples and arguments from the readings on reserve. Finally, students should feel free to either agree or disagree with the essay question, but should make an effort to explicitly answer arguments that might be made by someone on the other side.

    Other Study Suggestions

    You are responsible for integrating lectures, class activities and readings together into a single seamless analysis, so it is wise to work topic by topic, rather than studying the textbooks first and then the notes. Begin by looking at the major topics (as listed in the syllabus and in textbook chapters) that will be included on the test. For each of these main topics you should be able to give an itemized list of major causes, a brief chronology of the most important historical turning points (look for at least four or five of these), an accounting of the major individuals, organizations, or intellectual traditions most directly involved, and a list of the most important results. Many of the main topics (the election of 1860, for example) will be divided into subordinate topics. Apply the same rules of causes, chronology and character, and consequences, to each of these. It goes almost without saying that such systematic study cannot be done well if you start the day before the test. These are questions and organizing frameworks that you should work on every day between the major assignments. I strongly encourage you to develop outline summaries of each of the main reading assignments as you read them the first time.


    Follow this link to go to on-line discussions

    I have established a web-based on-line message system for this course.

    In the first posting I would like you to write a paragraph introducing yourself and providing some response to the assigned readings listed for the first day. All other days where you are required to post are marked with the word POST in the schedule, or have a specific posting requirement listed in the topic description. You may post your day's required message as early as a couple of days in advance if you want, but not later unless I give you explicit permission. Every student in the class should be reading these messages every day. You are encouraged to chime in with a posting whenever you want, even if it is not your assigned day or if there is no assigned posting due. In the event of technical problems you will need to notify me -- before class if possible. Postings are due even on days when class is cancelled or when you have other assignments in the class.

    Strive for sophistication in your postings. Your initial message about each topic should be at least a paragraph in length. Think before you submit. Once a message is sent it will take heavy supplication to the message-master (me) to fix any mistakes or improprieties. Normally your message will need to have the following components, though not necessarily in this order:

    1. Comments and reactions to the day's assigned topic or primary source.
    2. At least one specific, analytical, and critical comment evaluating the opinions stated by another participant in the discussion.
    3. A comment on how the document or topic relates to issues or events covered elsewhere in the course, or to the overall course themes.

    On-line Manners

    Do not steer away from controversy. These topics have been selected in part because they raise difficult questions with strong emotional implications. If we did not care about them they would be scarcely worth talking about. Being able to argue a passionate point intellectually and analytically is one of the most important skills you can learn at Furman. The only ground rule is that messages should follow the rules of civilized academic discussion. Never submit anything you would not want me, the department chair, or Dr. Shi to read (whether it is fit for your parents I'll leave for you to decide). You may attack any flawed idea but never the person who uttered the statement. Likewise, it is okay to say that you are bothered or offended by something that someone says in a message, but direct your responses to the substance of the comment rather than to the admittedly flawed character of the author. Be alert that irony, sarcasm, and role-playing don't translate well into messages. In short, tact and discretion are essential. So are vigorous dissent and wise verbal defense.

    Disclaimer and Technical Advice

    This is network software whose reliability is not 100 percent guaranteed. Be patient. The system may take a minute or two to respond to your submissions, depending on how many previous messages there are and how busy the Furman network is. We have tried to work out as many bugs as possible. Let me know if you have problems. Some people have found it helpful to write up their message in a word processor (with spell check) and paste their words into the message system.

    Style Guide for Footnotes or Endnotes

    Improperly documented projects will be remanded to their authors for revision, along with a dirty look from the instructor. You may use either footnotes or endnotes. Notes are to be numbered sequentially in arabic numbers from the beginning to the end of the document. You are encouraged to combine multiple references into a single note at the end of a paragraph, except when citing a direct quote. For other examples of proper footnoting, look at the Journal of Southern History, the Journal of American History, or the American Historical Review.

    Sample Footnoted Paragraph

    Example excerpted and heavily adapted from Peter S. Onuf and Drew R. Cayton, The Midwest and the Nation, (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1990), 7-14.

    Clustered settlements would be more easily defended against external enemies and internal disorder, and the rapid development of churches, schools, courts, and other local institutions would facilitate the passage to self-government.[1]

    Assuming this process of social development, the authors of the Northwest Ordinance provided for the gradual substitution of home rule for government by appointed officials.[2]

    [...]Berkhofer agrees that the western ordinances reflect a policy consensus but is more influenced by the emerging "republican synthesis" in early American historiography in his reconstruction of their premises. Berkhofer's seminal essay on Jefferson and the 1784 ordinance delineates the western problem in now familiar republican terms, showing that concerns about sustaining public virtue... shaped the evolution of policy.[3]

    [...]Peter Onuf concludes that "The resulting uncertainty jeopardized territorial rights... If boundaries were not fixed in advance, the other compact promises would be meaningless: Congress could change a territories boundaries whenever it threatened to grow large enough to claim membership in the Union."[4] Confusion about State boundaries in the Northwest reflected the geographical ignorance of the Ordinance's authors. [...] Michigan's application for admission in 1835 was rejected because the new state claimed the Ordinance line for its southern boundary. Ohio, meanwhile, sought to establish its jurisdiction north of that line in the region around Toledo.[5]

    Sample Footnotes (With comments. Do not include these comments in your own notes.)

    Footnote Comments
    [1]Peter S. Onuf, Statehood and Union: A History of the Northwest Ordinance, (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1987), 2-6. Single book, first citation, note at paragraph end.
    [2]Ibid., 7-12. Same source, cited in the very next footnote.
    [3]Robert F. Berkhofer, "Jefferson, the Ordinance of 1784, and the Origins of the American Territorial System," William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., XXIX (1972), 231-62. A single journal article.
    [4]Onuf, Statehood and Union, 108. Direct quote cited in middle of paragraph; also a subsequent but non- sequential reference to a previously-cited book, using a shortened version of the title.
    [5]Todd B. Galloway, "The Ohio-Michigan Boundary Line Dispute," Ohio Archeological and Historical Quarterly IV (Spring 1895), 473-84; Carl Wittke, "The Ohio-Michigan Boundary Dispute Re-Examined, Ohio Historical Quarterly XLV (June 1936), 299-319; Onuf, Statehood and Union, 94-108. Multiple book and article references in a single citation, separated by semi-colons.
    [6]Inventory of Smith Estate, Greenville County, Will Book A (1786-1833), 76. Reference to public document, including relevant dates and page numbers.


    In addition to the items listed below you will want to consult the

    History 95 resources page that the reference department has developed for us.

    Note: The instructor reserves the right to change any provisions, due dates, grading percentages, and all other items associated with this course without prior notice. This document was last updated on 7/22/2003.