The Real Cost of Rubber #4

By watching the presentations of other groups topics, the theme of people, places, and power became more and more evident.

In the case of labor vs big business, it was individual people who had power over the masses. Insanely wealthy businessmen like Rockefeller, JP Morgan, Carnegie, and Pullman monopolized all the money within their corporation; giving just a few people a great deal of power. This power was then used for furthering profits, which meant abusing workers and killing them when they joined together to strike against the corporations.

In the case of Native Americans, people used their power to steal desired land in the west; forcing an entire population of people out of their homes and onto a reservation. People convinced themselves that they were doing the natives a favor by assimilating their culture onto them, when really all they were doing was stripping a group of people of their culture and identity. To make matters worse, the reservations that Native Americans were forced to walk up to 300 miles to get to was held under military control and had infertile soil and no water; proving to be completely unfit to their previous way of life.

In the case of Asian Immigration, people controlled their fellow people by not allowing them easy passage into the country and by not giving them the same oppertunies once they were here. Power was kept over the immigrants through exclusion laws like the Chinese Exclusion Laws–not allowing people the priveledge of striving toward the American Dream.

In the case of European immigration, people came to America to escape persecution when their countries pushed them away. Leaving one place that had too much power over them and coming to another, the immigrants were still controlled by others as they were pressured into Americanization.

In the case of American Imperialism, the power that America held over the countries they fought for in the Spanish-American War is what gave them the opportunity to exploit those places for their natural resources and utilize them as homes for their naval bases. Eager jingoist influence over their people, which stemmed from the use of propagandistic components like Yellow Journalism, used instances like the invasion of Cuba to unite citizens under a common cause as well as to make profit and enforce American culture. Without a people being manipulated, America would not have been able to exert their power over places like Cuba through imperialism.

 

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The Real Cost of Rubber #3

Working with a group of people who each had the opportunity to individually form their own understanding of the topic helped me to personally clarify and expand my own understanding because they brought to light new perspectives that I had never considered. For instance, we, as a group, added the key terms ‘Imperialism’ and ‘The Congo Free State’ to our list of what was the most important, which I had not even considered before because I had been focused more on details and specific stories than on the basic foundation terms. Also, as a group, we came up with a new enduring understanding that I had not considered before I heard others weigh-in on the topic. Realizing the trend that it is generally easier for people to abuse and control those who are in less fortunate places than themselves seems like a very obvious idea, but still it was a lense that I had not consciously thought about until a member of my group mentioned it. Overall, the discussing and sharing of ideas was very helpful for me because, in multiple situations, it got me to expand upon my line of thinking as well as my understanding.

The contextualization portion of the project in process...

The contextualization portion of the project in process…

As we progressed from discussing our topic and agreeing on what we thought was important, we began to create the photo essay. The process of creating the final photo essay for this project evolved a lot over the course of it’s creation. Initially, we wrote 4-sentence paragraphs explaining each image in great detail and linking it back to one of the themes (people, places, or power). Through trial and error, we realized that this would not work with the time limit and were forced to pull out only the most important bits of information. Although doing all of the unnecessary work to create such long explanations then shorten them may have not been the best or most efficient way to go about creating our project, it was helpful in a way because it got us to really consider what was important and why. For group presentations in the future, I will keep in mind this process and try to get my group, as well as myself, to begin by only using the most important information so that we don’t have to waste as much time with trial-and-error because the time we wasted on this extra step did make it so I had to do additional work outside of class to keep up.

To see the final project: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1zyb8RxrS_sJYdLuG98ulUoWx7sCYA9a3tNTfi5EDYAw/edit?usp=sharing

The Real Cost of Rubber #2

Introduction:

This updated version of the project contains primary source evidence to further enrich and focus the main ideas behind my study of the European Imperialization of Africa. Through reading primary source accounts of this event, it was clear what key terms and ideas are more relevant than others and what different perspectives could be taken of the same situation.

 

Key Terms:

Social Darwinism: The belief that natural selection will declare Europeans superior to Africans.

Missionaries: Catholics and protestants that followed explorers to build churches, schools, and medical clinics with the goal to expel the evils of the slave trade and bring religion to an uncivilized group of people.

The Berlin Conference: Although no Africans were invited to the conference, it created the policy that a European power has to have government office in an African country before they can lay claim to it.

King Leopold: A wealthy Belgian King who exploited the people of the Congo for rubber, copper and ivory by using ransoms to force labor under brutal conditions for almost no pay. Despite this, Leopold claimed to be totally ignorant of the cruelties occurring in the Congo and he claimed not to be profiting at all from this new Belgian state.

Ethiopia: One of the few African countries whose king, Menelik II, was able to maintain independence by fighting off the European settlers.

African Resistance: When African people inevitably resisted Europeans scorched farmlands, causing thousands of people to die of starvation.

William Sheppard: A black American missionary who used his skin color to help him establish the first Presbyterian mission far up the Kasai River. Being the first black American missionary, Sheppard paved the way for many other African Americans to embrace the country’s send-them-back policies in order to make a better life for themselves.

The Rubber Boom: After Charles Goodyear’s invention of vulcanized rubber, the Congo was quickly turned into a goldmine. While extracting this resource Europeans, especially Belgians, developed very unethical methods of collecting the rubber since nobody wanted such a physically exhausting job.

The 1897 Brussels World Fair Exhibit: 267 people from the Congo were brought to Europe to act as an exhibit of Belgium’s gift of civilization to the barbaric African people. This was the most popular exhibit at the fair.

Right Hands: Europeans sent to control the rubber-harvesters in the Congo would be instructed to cut off the right hand of any man that they killed to ensure ammunition was not being “wasted” on activities like hunting. The hands were used to intimidate the workers as well as to track the merits of the soldiers.

Heavy Head Tax: A tax making it so that all able-bodied men were forced to move to work areas like plantations, mines, railways, ports, or white residential districts.

Force Publique: The force responsible for looting villages and taking hostages when they didn’t think people were working hard enough.

Leopold’s Secret Trust: After claiming that he did not profit from the exploitation of congo in any way, a secret German bank account was discovered in Leopold’s name containing 1.8 million francs.

 

Enduring Understandings:

1). People’s perceptions of events are largely influenced by the things that those in power choose to tell them instead of the realities that are actually happening.

  • Everyone who went to the world fair to see Belgium’s Congo exhibit was impressed at how they brought civilization to such barbaric people, when in reality all they brought was death, rape, and starvation. (King Leopold’s Ghost, p. 176)
  • People knew nothing of the horrors happening in the Congo–only what their king told them. (King Leopold’s Ghost p.173)
  • People believed Leopold’s claims that the Belgians would not even think of mistreating the blacks because “no state prospers unless the population is happy and increasing.” (Interview with Leopold II, quoted in Publishers’ Press 1906)
  • People believed that Leopold had not invested a single cent in the success of the Congo. (Interview with Leopold II, quoted in Publishers’ Press 1906)

2). When it comes down to extreme situations of hardship or greed, people stop thinking in terms of what is good for their fellow man and instead begin to hyperfocus on themselves or those close to them.

  • People would collect as many hands as possible–meaning that they’d kill as many people as possible– in order to gain merit and opportunity for themselves. (King Leopold’s Ghost, p.164)

    Mutilated Victims Twain 1905: 40

    (Mutilated Victims Twain 1905: 40)

  • Men who were forced to harvest rubber eventually began wars and violent revolts because they could not endure their situations any longer. (king Leopold’s Ghost, P.173)
  • Leopold’s personal greed far outweighed his morality

    (Political cartoon showing King Leopold. Twain 1905: 29)

    (Political cartoon showing King Leopold. Twain 1905: 29)

  • “Leopold was, by any standards, a monster – a man of immense ability, but one who was wholly devoid of principle and prepared to lie, cheat and deceive on a grand scale in order to achieve his ends.” (Ewans 2002: 2)

3). Looking back on situations always yields a different point-of-view than people were able to achieve while an event was occurring around them.

  • It wasn’t until much later that Leopold, who claimed a complete lack of financial interest in Congo, was found to have a bank account containing 1.8 million francs of profit from his investments in the state. (Reader 1998: 542)
  • The people of the Congo would not have been able to understand the world was demanding so much rubber.
    Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 10.31.48 PM
  • The people of the Congo would not have understood why hands were becoming so in-demand that they were cut off of living people and even used as currency. (Gondola 2002: 68)
  • What everyone in Europe believed to be a new Belgian state was more accurately one massive trading company that grossly exploited it’s workers. (Daniels 1908: 893)

 

Reflection:

The overpowering and debilitating hold that Leopold held over the people of the Congo can blatently be seen through this cartoon by the way that the rubber, bearing the head of the kind, is attacking and defeating the helpless man.

The overpowering and debilitating hold that Leopold held over the people of the Congo can blatently be seen through this cartoon by the way that the rubber, bearing the head of the kind, is attacking and defeating the helpless man. (Stifled by Coils of Rubber, Linley Sambourne, in Punch 1906).

To experience the European Imperialization of Africa as a citizen of the Congo would have been terrifying, suffocating, and utterly dehumanizing. After being threatened into working by means of having family members taken as hostages, any able-bodied men would have no choice but to break their backs harvesting enough rubber to meet their quotas (Gondola 2002:68). On average, every twenty days a man worked at this undesirable trade would solely go towards paying the rubber tax required by the newly established Belgian government (Ascherson 1999: 252). With these shocking statistics, it is no surprise that poverty and starvation swept across the Congo, making a bad situation get even worse. (Gondola 2002: 67). But, juggling the endless prospect of hard labor, the separation from and inability to protect loved ones, and the starvation that came shortly after the farmers abandoned their crops for rubber seemed to be the least of people’s concerns when the soldiers were taken into consideration. Whenever a town failed to meet it’s rubber quota, troops were sent to spread terror by killing as many people and burning as many buildings as possible (Russell 1934: 453). People could be beaten, raped, killed, or, not uncommonly, subjected to having their right hands cut off for what could seem like absolutely no reason (Simmons 1963: 12). As time wore on, rubber just got more and more popular across Europe and the United States, leaving no hope for those in the Congo who were desperate to push through these unlivable conditions (Gondola 2002: 66).

 

 

The Real Cost of Rubber #1

Introduction:

Over the course of history, it has been the actions of the people that shape events, the places that they are in that determine these people’s economic opportunities or handicaps, and those economic opportunities or handicaps that determine who gets power and ownership over places, resources, or populations. This project, exploring the connection of people, places, and power specifically within the European Imperialization of Africa, asks how each of these components allowed an entire population to be taken over and manipulated for their resources.

Key Terms:

Social Darwinism: The belief that natural selection will declare Europeans superior to Africans.

Missionaries: Catholics and protestants that followed explorers to build churches, schools, and medical clinics with the goal to expel the evils of the slave trade and bring religion to an uncivilized group of people.

Usman dan Fodio: West African leader who sought to purify Islam. Many Africans were more willing to help European colonists in order to end his power.

The Berlin Conference: Although no Africans were invited to the conference, it created the policy that a European power has to have government office in an African country before they can lay claim to it.

King Leopold: A wealthy Belgian King who exploited the people of the Congo for rubber, copper and ivory by using ransoms to force labor under brutal conditions for almost no pay.

Ethiopia: One of the few African countries whose king, Menelik II, was able to maintain independence by fighting off the European settlers.

African Resistance: When African people inevitably resisted Europeans scorched farmlands, causing thousands of people to die of starvation.

William Sheppard: A black American missionary who used his skin color to help him establish the first Presbyterian mission far up the Kasai River. Being the first black American missionary, Sheppard paved the way for many other African Americans to embrace the country’s send-them-back policies in order to make a better life for themselves.

Kot aMeeky: King of the Kuba Kingdom, aMeeky threatened to decapitate any person who helped Europeans find his empire.

King Bope Mekabe: The identity of whom the Bakuba people claimed Sheppard was a reincarnated spirit.

The Rubber Boom: After Charles Goodyear’s invention of vulcanized rubber, the Congo was quickly turned into a goldmine. While extracting this resource Europeans, especially Belgians, developed very unethical methods of collecting the rubber since nobody wanted such a physically exhausting job.

The 1897 Brussels World Fair Exhibit: 267 people from the Congo were brought to Europe to act as an exhibit of Belgium’s gift of civilization to the barbaric African people. This was the most popular exhibit at the fair.

Right Hands: Europeans sent to control the rubber-harvesters in the Congo would be instructed to cut off the right hand of any man that they killed to ensure ammunition was not being “wasted” on activities like hunting. The hands were used to intimidate the workers as well as to track the merits of the soldiers.

Enduring Understandings:

1). People’s perceptions of events are largely influenced by the things that those in power choose to tell them instead of the realities that are actually happening.

  • Everyone who went to the world fair to see Belgium’s Congo exhibit was impressed at how they brought civilization to such barbaric people, when in reality all they brought was death, rape, and starvation. (King Leopold’s Ghost, p. 176)
  • People knew nothing of the horrors happening in the Congo–only what their king told them. (King Leopold’s Ghost p.173)

2). When it comes down to extreme situations of hardship or greed, people stop thinking in terms of what is good for their fellow man and instead begin to hyperfocus on themselves or those close to them.

  • People would collect as many hands as possible–meaning that they’d kill as many people as possible– in order to gain merit and opportunity for themselves. (King Leopold’s Ghost, p.164)
  • Men who were forced to harvest rubber eventually began wars and violent revolts because they could not endure their situations any longer. (king Leopold’s Ghost, P.173)

 

Reflection:
The European imperialism of Africa can be summarized within the categories of people, places, and power because it was the greed and hardship of the people that was enacted by those in power who targeted certain areas of the world for their much-desired natural resources as well as their incapability to defend themselves. Not only were the African people who were forced to be workers during the rubber boom victims to the power Europeans held over them, but their families were as well (King Leopold’s Ghost, p. 159). Women were raped and starved for the sake of leverage, and it gave the Europeans an unbreakable power over the African villagers (King Leopold’s Ghost, p.162). Contrary to popular belief at the time, it was not the African’s skintone or “barbaric” nature that made them subject to other people’s control, but instead it was merely their location. Living in a place rich with natural resources yet not close enough to Europe to benefit from major inventions and advancements like the Maxim gun, the people of the Congo (as well as the rest of Africa) were made into victims of foreign exploitation (American History: Pathways to the Present, p.322).

The Bystanders

As Elie Wiesel once famously stated, “the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” Since the beginning of time, people across the globe have been doing horrible things to one another– but what if the greatest offence of all was standing by and doing nothing? Yes, the man spreading terror through violence and chaos is far from innocent, but there lies an even greater guilt within the man standing by and letting it happen. This moral dilemma can be found within events, both notable and forgotten, that have occurred time and time again over the progression of history– events including America’s Reconstruction. The Reconstruction, described as the 12 years after the Civil War when efforts were being made to maintain the rights of freedmen, was a time when, in the words of W.E.B. Dubois, “…the slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again towards slavery.” (BE). Essentially, Reconstruction may have began the fight for equality, but it was a fight that was quickly abandoned. In 1876, the Reconstruction was officially brought to an end through an informal and betraying compromise between President Hayes and the former Confederacy (BE). In this Great Betrayal, Hayes agreed to pull all federal troops out of the south in exchange for his term in office; leaving reconstruction completely in the hands of the people (BE). So, it was the apathy of those people in the North that truly ceased all reconstructive efforts, despite the role of southern terror, because of their resulting lack of concern for the rights of freedmen.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 1.24.33 AM

Harper’s Weekly, March 14, 1874.

Northern apathy, being the major cause of Reconstruction’s downfall, was partially derived from people’s own personal prejudices. In the north people may have been against slavery, but that did not necessarily mean that they supported political equality (D). Seeing the blacks as too uncivilized to serve in court, the usually Radical Republican newspaper, Harper’s Weekly, drew the political cartoon shown on the right to emphasise their distinct feelings of superiority (D). Depicting the African American men as wild and ape-like, this drawing says a lot about the northern attitude towards race and equality at the time (D). Surprisingly, considering the northern opinions on slavery, the north was far from seeing the freedmen as equals and thus lost interest fighting with southerners just so the freedmen could maintain their rights.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 1.24.50 AM

Independant Monitor. September 1, 1868. Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

As straight-forward as it may seem, the Northern apathy that killed the reconstruction was still not without contributing factors from the South. Since the start of the reconstruction, southern organisations like the Klu Klux Klan did everything that they could to spread terror as a tool to control the black population (A+B). The cartoon on the left is a prime example of this (A). Drawn as a distinct threat for carpetbaggers and scalawags who supported or tried to help the freedmen, this drawing was published into a Klan newspaper, The Independent Monitor, as an attempt to scare the reconstruction away (A). Going beyond simple cartoons to performing violent intimidations and committing public murders, the Klu Klux Klan did everything in their power to keep freedmen from practicing their rights as citizens (B). This constant threat of terror, while playing a significant role in the downfall of reconstruction, was just another reason to fuel the northern disinterest with the south.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 1.24.40 AM

U.S. ‘In For It.’ I hope I shall get to the bottom soon. Harper’s Weekly, 1876.

On top of all this, reconstruction was dying because the people in the north were too distracted with other problems in their society to focus on the freedmen in the south (C). Growing tired of everything to do with the Reconstruction, northerners began to target their energy towards the Panic of 1873 instead (C). Shown in the Harper’s Weekly cartoon on the right, politicians had an endless barrel of issues in front of them, and they could never quite get to the ones all the way at the bottom of the barrel (C). Acknowledging that no politician could possibly solve every issue in the barrel, the northerners made the decision to probe the Reconstruction to the bottom in order to focus on more national concerns (C). All in all, the northerners stopped caring what happened in the south when bigger issues came into the picture.

More than anything else, the Reconstruction was smothered by the lack of northern interest. Yes, southern terror supplied northerners with enough incentive to keep to themselves, but the northerns’ apathy was more a result of their own prejudices and distractions than of their fear. The north killed reconstruction not through action, but through inaction– and through this inaction, many freedmen’s rights and liberties regressed dramatically along with the Reconstruction.

Sources:

BE: Background Essay, Reconstruction Mini-Q. http://www.edline.net/files/_0TGgz_/cac47280575889fe3745a49013852ec4/Who_Killed_Reconstruction_Student_Packet.pdf

A: Albion Tourgee, Letter on Klu Klux Klan Activities. New York Tribune, May 1870.

image: Independant Monitor. September 1, 1868. Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

B: Abram Colby. Testimony to a joint House and Senate Committee in 1872.

Image:  Of Course He Wants to Vote the Democratic Ticket. Harpers Weekly, 21 October 1876.

C: Gerald Danzer et al., The Americans, McDougal Littell, 1998.

image: U.S. ‘In For It.’ I hope I shall get to the bottom soon. Harper’s Weekly, 1876.

D: Heather Cox Richardson, The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor and Politics in the Post-Civil War North, 1865-1901. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2001.

image: Harper’s Weekly, March 14, 1874.

A Whole New War

The battle of Gettysburg is considered a turning point in the Civil War because for both sides, the outcome of the battle meant either great success or great defeat. Going into battle, the Confederacy knew that a success at Gettysburg would ensure a much-needed boost in southern morale and would also provide their troops with supplies to replace their army’s completely diminished resources. The Union, also having a great stake in the outcome of Gettysburg, knew that for them this success would be an opportunity to change the purpose of the war as a whole, which in turn would alienate the Confederacy from the possibility of gaining any foreign support from countries who already established anti-slave policies. The war proved to be very bloody, killing 3,155 Union soldiers and 2,600-4,500 Confederate soldiers, but it eventually ended in a victory for the Union. Now the Civil War was a war for the emancipation of the slaves.
This map shows how the battles during the Civil War were all fought in the south, which can help in understanding why the Confederacy was so desperate for supplies that they needed from the Battle of Gettysburg

This map shows how the battles during the Civil War were all fought in the south, which can help in understanding why the Confederacy was so desperate for supplies that they needed from the Battle of Gettysburg.                                          Taken from: http://www.edline.net/files/_zGHaC_/af6d0e7ca09b73443745a49013852ec4/Gettysburg_DBQ_-_Student_Version.pdf

After their success at Gettysburg, it was in the best interests of the Union army to end the war as quickly as possible so that they could begin to rebuild their torn-apart country. In the words of Sherman, “war is cruelty, the crueler it is the sooner it will be over.” So, the Union army took this to heart and began a policy of total war against the Confederacy. Now everything was made a target of the war, including civilian property, towns, and farm lands; all in order to crush the morale and diminish the resources of their enemy. But, with that being said, Sherman didn’t take this destruction lightly. He did what he had to in the name of strategy, but held back from destroying absolutely everything if he could; like he did on Christmas for the city of Savanna since there was no use in destroying an already abandoned city. But still, as always with the use of total war, the Union’s actions were seen as only partially justifiable by many because although it did considerably shorten the war, they were not directly killing civilian people and they showed mercy in some situations, they still displaced thousands of people from their homes, leaving them without food or resources in the ruins of everything they had ever worked for.
Sherman's March to Sea: "I could look forty miles in each direction and see smoke rolling up like one great bonfire" -Gen W.T.Sherman (Taken from class notes)

Sherman’s March to Sea: “I could look forty miles in each direction and see smoke rolling up like one great bonfire”        -Gen W.T.Sherman
(Taken from class notes)

The Union army’s policy of total war had it’s desired effect and brought the Civil War to an end with a victory for the north. Upon hearing this, people all over the country reacted to the news in their own way. Union soldiers, for instance, were excited about their victory, but had to quell their celebration for the sake of moving forward. Similarly, the Confederate troops were very mature about the outcome of the battle. They demonstrated this maturity by showing respect for their general rather than anger about their defeat. And when news of the Confederate defeat reached the civilians, the general reaction was relief: relief that the fighting would be over so that they could begin to rebuild their homes as well as their country. Understandably, many confederates were angry about their defeat, but one group of men took their anger too far. John Wilkes Booth and three other conspirators were so angry at the new state of their country that they set out to assassinate important political leaders. Booth was the only one in the group to be successful; killing president Lincoln just days after he was re-elected.
John Wilkes Booth assassinating President Lincoln out of rage from the outcome of the Civil War Taken From: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/alhtml/alrb/stbdsd/00405300/001.jpg

John Wilkes Booth assassinating President Lincoln out of rage from the outcome of the Civil War
Taken From: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/alhtml/alrb/stbdsd/00405300/001.jpg

Beginning at the battle of Gettysburg, the nature of the Civil War changed. The war, now openly about the freeing of slaves, evolved into total war and left a mark on people all across America by it’s end–especially the president.
Additional Sources:
Brian Williams, Military History Online, 2007.
E.B. Long, The Civil War Day by Day, Double Day and Co., Garden City, NY, 1971.
Pathways to the Present. Chapter 11, Sections 3 and 4. PearsonSuccessNet.com. (Accessed April 3, 2014)

 

The Little Known Slave Influence

Contrary to common belief, enslaved African Americans gained their freedom more as a result of their own risks and hard work than from the alleged generosity of the political leaders above them. Through a series of small, rebellious, and self-motivated actions, enslaved African Americans made themselves a nuisance for the Union army in order to gain the attention of high-up government officials. Since the way that slaves gained their freedom from below was by invoking the attention of the people above them, many saw their emancipation as a grand act of compassion opposed to the result of tireless effort.
The photo shown on the left depicts the common misconception that African Americans gained their freedom from the white, wealthy politicians above them. Unlike what this picture tells you, it was not Lincoln’s proclamation that freed the slaves as much as the slave’s actions to evoke Lincoln’s proclamation that inevitably freed themselves.
One prime example of enslaved African Americans taking the initiative to gain freedom for themselves was the situation that General Ambrose E. Burnside and his troops came across on March 21, 1862. Expecting to meet the confederate forces, these men instead found that the small southern town was run by self-emancipated slaves who took over after all the inhabitants fled. The unions troops were completely taken off-guard when they came across this unexpected sight and had no idea what they were supposed to do next. To solve the dilemma, General Ambrose E. Burnside wrote a letter to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton explaining their confusion. By taking over the abandoned town, the previously enslaved African Americans made themselves impossible to ignore until, through Ambrose’s letter, they eventually caught the attention of people above them. So, although it may appear that any liberation these people received after this day came from above, it was actually a result of their actions from below that became impossible to ignore.
Image

Engraving, “Slaves from the plantation of Confederate President Jefferson Davis arrive at Chickasaw Bayou, Mississippi,” 1863 (taken from class notes)

Another case of African Americans taking the initiative to gain freedom for themselves is          shown in the photo on the right.
 This engraving shows a group of slaves from President Jefferson Davis’ plantation that all banded together and walked to a union camp at Chickasaw Bayou, Mississippi. The troops at the camp were completely dumbfounded by the arrival of all of the slaves and inevitably had to ask the secretary of war how they should react. When the slaves left their plantation, they were seizing their freedom from below by making themselves a nuisance until people above them had no choice but to react somehow.
Although wealthy politicians of the time painted a picture of their overwhelming generosity being the driving factor that freed the slaves, African American freedom did not come from above. It was the relentless efforts from below that allowed the slaves to drive themselves into freedom.
(General Ambrose E. Burnside’s letter taken from: Reprinted in Berlin, Ira, Barbara Fields, Steven Miller, Joseph P. Reidy, and Leslie S. Rowland, eds. Free At Last: A Documentary History of Slavery, Freedom and the Civil War. New York: New Press, 1992, pp. 34–35. )

Women at War

Image

During the Civil War, some women chose to act outside the “sphere of domesticity,” while others opted to stay within their traditional gender roles. Whichever they chose, most women took an active role in helping their side for the civil war.

ImageWomen like Alice Chaplin kept their gender roles in order to keep from disappointing those around them. The majority of men, including Chaplin’s husband, were very apposed to having their way of life changed. In their eyes, women could not get jobs, be community leaders, or fight in the war. Chaplin still helped the soldiers as much as she could, helping fire victims and providing medical aid, but she struggled in poverty because of her inability to take an active role in society.
Comparatively, many women, like Rose O’Neal and Claire Barton, took a role in the Civil War that far exceeded their “sphere of domesticity.” Rose O’Neal did this by acting as a spy for the confederate army. She refused to Imagesurrender to the Union forces, and was imprisoned for espionage. Still her patriotism did not fail, and Rose attempted to escape back to the south carrying gold and secrets with her. These actions taken by this amazing woman were far outside of the sphere of domesticity that most women of her time stayed trapped within, and enviably got her recognized as a hero by theImage
Confederates despite her gender. Claire Barton, another civil war women, was also not afraid to step outside of the limitations of her society. Barton was not only a nurse for the Union army, but she founded the American Red Cross and made it expected for the government to bury and identify their dead. Like Rose O’Neal, Claire Barton was well respected by even the men around her, setting her greatly apart from the women who chose to remain within their ‘sphere of domestiity.’

Weather they stayed within society’s classifications of being a ‘lady,’ or boldly broke the limitations placed upon them, women bot in and outside of the sphere of domesticity played active roles in the Civil War. The only difference weather the individual wanted to stay within or outside of their assumed ‘sphere of domesticity.’

ImageImage

 

All images are taken from the Padlet quilt square activity in class where each group had to post a quilt square depicting a prominent women in the Civil War. The padlet can be found at http://padlet.com/wall/bblockcivilwarquilt 

 

To Fight or Not to Fight

Below is a narrative from the perspective of an 18 year old boy who lived in Reading in 1861. He is in the mists of the civil war, and now has to decide whether self preservation or service to one’s country is more important.

Day by day, it keeps getting harder and harder to ignore the war going on around me. I see soldiers come home, walking on their cork limbs, and sharing news of the bloodshed that never ceases to amaze me. They tell of a completely new style of combat. Gone are the days when soldiers would line up to charge at eachother with bayonets flying in the air. Now, battle has little to do with brute force and more to do with strategy and technology.
The confederates soar beyond us in the means of strategy. As we plan to isolate the south through the Anaconda Plan, they are fully aware that they only have to defend themselves in order to successfully secede. But, with that being said, we take the advantage when it comes to technology.

(taken from The Art of Death video)

(taken from The Art of Death video)

Inventors have developed a new weapon called the rifle musket; a gun far more deadly than anything the world has ever seen before. Loaded with Minié Balls, these guns hold the capability to shatter bone from further distances; stealing the lives and limbs of many. Although the confederate army also has this technology, they don’t have the resources to manufacture nearly as many as we can; giving us a clear advantage.
All of these things bounce around in my head as I look at the enlistment forms in front of me. Should I stay and help my country? Or should I save my own life and run? The honor of staying would be great, but the incredibly high risk of war wounds, infections, extreme medical treatments, and death make me second guess myself. As I contemplate my decision, an old conversation with an army doctor begins to play back in my head. I remember him telling me about the bone saw used for amputations and how, even sedated with chlorophorm, people would still cry out in agony as their limbs were being removed. On top if that, survival rates were incredibly unpredictable, so even if you got your limb professionally amputated, you could still lose even more of your body and possibly die from infection.
All of these things were daunting to me, but, in the end, I shocking made the decision to stay. America is my home, and I am willing to fight to keep the union of the country together. Sure, there will be hard times and a great deal of danger, but here in the Union, being a war veteran is honored and respected; as it should be. If I am in fact unlucky enough to get a limb amputated, I know that I will have the access to prosthetics, good medical treatment, and fair compensation that would not be available down in the Confederacy. Plus, I will be forever respected for the service and sacrifice that I made for my beloved homeland.

The Hunt for History

In order to learn about all of the battles of the civil war without having to research each one individually, we were each were assigned one battle to research and create a short summary of.
When we finished researching our topics, we all created a google doc with the information.
The google docs came out looking like this:
Now that we had all of the information about our battle organized into a googledoc, everyone created QR codes with the links. We all then printed out these QR codes and hid them around the school. The codes were organized so that the first QR code had a clue on it’s google doc leading you to the next code, and so on and so on. This formed a sort of scavenger hunt where the class went around the school scanning into google docs to learn about different battles in the Civil War.
When we got back to the room and organized all of information we acquired, the class had a conversation over padlet. Here we answered the essential questions for the lesson by posting what we thought the answer was onto the wall. This was especially helpful because it allowed everyone to contribute and clarify their understanding of each battle’s significance.
The padlets looked like this:
From the scavenger hunt, I learned about which theater each battle was held in and what the outcome was. From this information, I was able to determine the ultimate victor of each theater and why that was the case.
In the Eastern theater, the Union is the unexpected ultimate victor. Initially, it seemed as though the Confederacy would be successful because of their victories in battles such as  Fredricksburg and Chancellorsville, but their successes eventually began to dwindel. Battles, like the Battle of Wilderness, became bloodier with less if a definite victor until the Union slowly conquered the confederacy. The union’s delayed success is most likely the result of their change in leadership, allowing Ulysses Grant to lead then into victory.
Battle of the Wilderness Allison, K. &. (n.d.). “Battle of the Wilderness.” May 6th, 1864      http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3g01748/?co=pga.

Battle of the Wilderness
Allison, K. &. (n.d.). “Battle of the Wilderness.” May 6th, 1864 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3g01748/?co=pga.

In the naval theater, the Union claimed ultimate victory in both the east and the west. The Union won the Battle of Fort Henry and caused considerable damage to the Confederates during the Battle of Hampton Roads, even though it came out to a draw. This was largely because their more advanced naval technology allowed them to inflict severe damage on the Confederate ironclads.
The Battle of Fort Henry "Fort Henry" 1862. CWSAC Battle Summaries. NPS.gov http://www.nps.gov/hps/abpp/battles/tn001.htm Accessed March 6, 2014.

The Battle of Fort Henry
“Fort Henry” 1862. CWSAC Battle Summaries. NPS.gov http://www.nps.gov/hps/abpp/battles/tn001.htm Accessed March 6, 2014.

In the Western theater, the Union was the ultimate victor once again, winning a majority of their battles including the Battle of Shiloh. The Union was able to take on this considerable lead because, having a seize ably larger resource of men, they were able to call for reinforcements.
Each google doc also contained information explaining why certain sides won certain battles. With this information for every battle, it was easy to make out each side’s trends that led to success.
For battles won by the Confederacy, strategy and strong military leaders were usually the secrets to their success. This was the case because it was with stragety that the Confederacy was able to make up for their lack of resources and men, like in The Battle of Chancellorsville when the outnumbered confederate army defeated the Union forces by splitting up their army in order to attack from different sides.
The  Battle of Chancellorville Waud, A. R. The Battle at Chancellorsville. 2863. Sketch. Civil War Harpers Weekly.http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/ civil-war/1863/may/battle-chancellorsville.htm (Accessed March 6, 2014).

The Battle of Chancellorville
Waud, A. R. The Battle at Chancellorsville. 2863. Sketch. Civil War
Harpers Weekly.http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/
civil-war/1863/may/battle-chancellorsville.htm (Accessed March 6, 2014).

The Union also won many of their victories through the skill of their generals and the strageties they used, but they also were able to use their abundance of resources to their advantage. This especially came in the form of soldiers, like in the Battle of Shiloh when the Union won by calling for more reinforcements.