As a high school American history teacher for the last ten years I am always searching to present history in a way where students can make an immediate connection and be interested. This usually involves delving into the more personal, intimate aspects of a historical topic that hopefully balances rich primary source detail with fun, anecdotal information. The premise behind this desired balance beyond having students learn about history of course is to show them that I am truly passionate about what I do and encourage them to show passion in their respective lives’ as well.
If there is one area however where I may show more passion than in others, it is the American Civil War. For me, the Civil War is the aquifer that has fed all of American history since. I admit that I have a rather unhealthy hang up about this war, but I do not think that I alone am totally to blame. I believe this war in all its aspects is emblazoned on our American character.
The Civil War never gets too far away from our collective American conscience and for good reason. The war that began in 1861 finally forced Americans to meet at a crossroads; a crossroads of what America was in 1861 and what America would become by 1865: one nation. The American Civil War was our nation’s first common experience. Consequently, the war resonates with such profundity that its fingerprints can still be seen today.
For the next five years this war will once again be center stage with beginning with this year’s sesquicentennial. Numerous remembrances will honor the unique place that this war holds in the great American experiment.