By Janice Hayes-Williams

A little birdie told me that right about now, the Anne Arundel County Public School Pacing Guide puts all eight-graders in the midst of the "Irrepressible Conflict." If any of my readers happen to be parents of 4th-graders, I suggest you keep a copy of this article for your child’s study of Maryland history, spring 2007.

OK, back to the eighth-graders: Let me test your understanding. What was the irrepressible conflict? The answer is: another term for the "American Civil War." The word irrepressible describes the conflict between the North and the South that could not be contained, even by President Abraham Lincoln. The war was inevitable.

That’s right! I bet that answer will score with your teachers. OK, let’s try another. Define "secession" and its impact on the American Civil War. The answer: Secession is the act of withdrawing from an organization, union or political group because of strong differences over major issues. The American Civil War was the direct result of 11 Southern states seceding from the Federal Union, and creating Confederate states based on their strong differences in the economics surrounding slavery versus freedom.

Do you really understand the Civil War and how we got there? Some of your teachers are not sure if you really get what the Civil War was all about. I think we can prove them wrong. First let’s go back and look at ideals, policy and people who are affecting the up and coming War of Rebellion.

Review your information on Quakers, Anti-Slavery Society, Vigilance Committees and the Underground Railroad. Have you talked about Levi Coffin, Quaker and president of the Underground? What about Robert Purvis and the Vigilance Committee of Philadelphia? How about Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, Dred Scott, Harriet Tubman, William Lloyd Garrison and the Fugitive Slave Laws? If you haven’t, take time to read about each of them. If you use my notes to study the Civil War now and over the Christmas break, I promise that you will have a few surprises for everybody. I will also give you a little information that is not in your textbook.

Lets start with a vocabulary. Define these words in the context of the Civil War: Slavery, Emancipation, Manumission, Contraband, Abolitionist, Copperhead, Confederate, Fugitive, Union, Yankee, Rebel, and Ratify. By the way, if you really want to learn more about the words that you read, be sure to include the Latin origin of the word. This will help you with the SAT’s when you get to high school, there is no need to wait!

OK, moving along: Get to know the people who made significant contributions during the Civil War. For example; Who was General George G. Meade? Answer: Gen. Meade was commander of the Army of the Potomac appointed by President Lincoln, June 28, 1863. Where is the Army installation named in his honor? Answer: It is located in Western Anne Arundel County, at Fort Meade.

Know your generals, both Union and Confederate: Robert E. Lee, William T. Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, George B. McClellan, Pierre Beauregard, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Ambrose E. Burnside, Joseph "Fighting" Hooker, William Rosecrans, Joesph E. Johnson, Braxton Bragg and Edwin Stanton for whom the Stanton School in Annapolis was named, after the Civil War.

Get familiar with others who made significant contributions during the War like Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, William Seward, Col. Robert G. Shaw, President Jefferson Davis, the Massachusetts 54th Infantry Regiment, the United States Colored Troops (USCT), formed as a result of lobbying efforts by Frederick Douglass, and, please don’t forget Sergeant Major Christian Fleetwood, USCT.

Here’s another bonus for you. Provide your teacher a bit of history. Try this: "Did you know that Lewis and Charles Douglass, both sons of Frederick Douglass, served with the Massachusetts 54th Regiment Infantry? The older son Lewis served as 1st Sergeant Major and miraculously returned from Fort Wagner, S.C., unharmed. Did you know that Douglass’ son Charles founded Highland Beach?

Here’s your last bonus on local history and the Civil War. Did you know that the midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy left their Annapolis quarters and were shipped to Newport, R.I., during the Civil War? Did you know that black Navy men at Rhode Island formed the first African-American Masonic organization in Annapolis Universal Lodge 14 of the Free and Accepted Masons? They received their charter when they returned in November 1865.

Also familiarize yourself with a few of the battlegrounds like: Fort Pillow, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Bull Run, Fort Wagner, Cold Harbor, and Fort Sumter where the war began. Most importantly, read or visit Maryland’s, Antietam Battleground near Hagerstown. Sept. 17, 1862 lives in infamy as the "bloodiest day" in U.S. military history. About 26,000 soldiers died during the Antietam battle.

Last but not least, Annapolis was home to a prisoner of war camp called "Camp Parole." The Army hospital was housed at St. John’s College.

Good luck with the Civil War. Reconstruction is interesting too. All you have to do is read and explore. History is all around you!

Columnist’s Note: Please visit the Veterans Cemetery at the West Gate Circle where numerous soldiers who served during the Civil War were laid to rest, both black and white. President Lincoln’s "Gettysburg Address" is also displayed in bronze on the left of the road as soon as you enter the gates. For more on the Civil War and local history, please visit the Anne Arundel County Public Library and the Maryland State Archives.

Copyright © 2006 The Capital

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