Thursday, April 30, 2015

Gaining Freedom One Way or Another

Freedom from Above or Below

The fourth lesson of the Civil War unit is titled Freedom from Above or Below. As always, we got an essential question that needed to be answered by the end of the lesson. The essential questions are; "Who 'gave' freedom to enslaved Americans? Did freedom come from above or below? To what extent were Abraham Lincoln's actions influenced by the actions of enslaved Americans?". To start off, we looked at an image called Freedom to the Slaves, which is the image on the right. We analyzed it and noticed that it really was not very realistic. The slaves would not be that thankful and Lincoln would be more humble about freeing the slaves. This image is an example of freedom from above. Now, onto 'freedom from above' and 'freedom from below'. The term 'freedom from above' means that people of higher authority and people that are high up on the social pyramid help out slaves and help make a difference. When talking about freedom from below, slaves themselves help each other out and gain freedom by working together and not having to involve people of higher social levels. Next, we got into groups and analyzed the Lincoln Documents that were provided to us. For each document, we needed to find quotes that provided us with information on the goal of the war, Lincoln's position on freeing slaves, and evidence of his personal feelings on slavery. As an example, I will use the excerpt from Lincoln's open letter to Horace Greeley in 1862. The goal of the war was to save the union, and a quote proving that was "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union and is not either to save or to destroy slavery". Lincoln's position on freeing slaves was that he freed the slaves just to save the Union, and it came second to saving the Union. A quote proving that was; "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that." Lastly, evidence of personal beliefs from this open letter. A good quote to represent that was "What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union...I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free." We then watched a Ken Burns Civil War video and had to answer these two questions; 'How did fugitive slaves influence the government’s and Lincoln’s actions on slavery?' and 'What did Lincoln claim that he did not do more for abolition at this point in the war?'. To answer the first question, the fugitive slaves made themselves a nuscence and a problem that needed to be dealt with. It's forcing the government to face facts that the war is about slavery bc the slaves are making themselves an issue. To answer the second question, Lincoln was afraid because the North is not fully pushing for equality - most people didn't want African American neighbors. Lincoln was worried about losing the support of many people fighting with him at the stage of the war. We also were provided with documents X and Y, which both represented freedom from below. Freedom came from both above and below, and Lincoln's actions were influenced by enslaved Americans. 

Freedom from Above

As I said before, freedom from above means that those with more power and those that are higher up on the social pyramid helped enslaved people gain freedom. There were definitely times when President Lincoln stepped in and helped slaves. One example is the document I mentioned previously, the open letter to Horace Greeley. Lincoln clearly says "What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union...I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free." This proves that the main goal for him really is to save the Union, and it is clear that he is responsible for freeing the slaves - a true example of freedom from above. Another example can also be found on the document we received, the Emancipation Proclamation. This was a very clear example of freedom from above, because Lincoln freed the slaves with this Proclamation; "...all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free". Next, the Gettysburg Address in 1863. Lincoln proved that all men are equal when he said; "Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal". This showed proof of Lincoln caring about the slaves and knowing they are equal to everyone else and deserve freedom. He also personally believed that men fought to free slaves; "It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced." Even though there are many examples of freedom from above, freedom from below also existed. 

Freedom from Below

Freedom from below was also a huge part of slavery during the Civil War. Again, freedom from below is when slaves themselves make a difference by working together and not having to include those with higher authority. Documents X and Y are both examples of freedom from below. First, document X, the Letter from General Ambrose E. Burnside to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton on March 21, 1862. "They seemed to be wild with excitement and delight— they are now a source of very great anxiety to us; the city is being overrun with fugitives from surrounding towns and plantations— Two have reported themselves who have been in the swamps for five years..". This quote proves that the slaves did their job of causing a scene to make a difference, and is an example of freedom from below. They are basically forcing people to pay attention to them, which is their goal. Document Y, the photo on the right, is also representing freedom from below. It is an Engraving titled Slaves from the plantation of Confederate President Jefferson Davis arrive at Chickasaw Bayou, Mississippi from 1863. This image is powerful because it shows slaves taking action and trying to make a difference by working together. 

My Opinion + How This Relates to Today

In my opinion, slaves gained freedom mostly because of people with high authority. I truly think freedom from above was more common and a bigger reason for emancipation. However, I also think Lincoln's actions were heavily influenced by enslaved American's actions. Emancipation happened because of both the slaves themselves and Lincoln, but I think Lincoln ended up using his power to make big changes. How does all of this relate to today? Recently, the news has covered the Baltimore Riots a lot. These riots were in response to the death of Freddie Gray, a black male who died in police custody a week after being arrested. Many incidents have happened in the past year that involved police unfairly treating black men in particular. These riots relate to freedom from below because people are joining together to try to make a scene and make a difference. Even though the level of violence involved is not the best strategy to get attention, the rioters have a reason. Let us learn from these riots and treat everyone equally, as it should be. 

Sources used:
  • Excerpt from President Abraham Lincoln’s Reply to an Open Letter from Horace Greeley, New York Tribune, 1862.
  • The Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863 (Excerpts).
  • Gettysburg Address, November 19th 1863.    
  • 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. 
  • Engraving, “Slaves from the plantation of Confederate President Jefferson Davis arrive at Chickasaw Bayou, Mississippi,” 1863. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Domination in the Civil War

Picking Battles

A depicition of the battle I chose; The Battle of Fort Henry.
To start the Battles Scavenger Hunt lesson, the third lesson in our Civil War unit, we first got two essential questions that needed to be answered by the end of the activity. The two questions are; "Who was the ultimate victor in each of the theaters of war: East, West, Naval?" and "What are some commonalities you can identify in the reasons for the results of the battles?". To start off, each student had to choose a battle from this list of battle descriptions. Most battles were assigned to one person, but there were a few pairs of students who worked together on one battle due to the ratio of kids to battles. After submitting our choice for the battle, solely based on the description, we had to research the description to find information on it, and most importantly to find out what the battle was called. We created a document using Google Docs with the Battle name, location, date, victor, theater (east, west, naval) and two bullets explaining the reasons for the results. I got the Battle of Fort Henry, and my Google Doc can be viewed here. After making the documents, we generated a QR code using this generator that linked to the document with the information. On a separate sheet of paper, we placed the QR code with the shortened link (using that students could use if the code did not work. At the top of the new document was the station number that the battle corresponded with. So, what was all of this for? The class organized a scavenger hunt around the school. I am going to use my battle station number as an example. Since I was station 3, I told the student with battle station 2 where I was going to place my QR code. Brian had this battle so he wrote at the bottom of his original Google Doc where to go in the school for my sign. So, someone would go to his sign, scan the code, copy the information into their Evernote app, and look at the bottom of the document to see where to go for my sign. There were twenty battles in all. Katie had station 5, so I wrote where she was putting her sign at the bottom of my document. It may sound confusing, but it worked out and was stress free. The idea of this was to obtain this information in a quicker way, instead of sitting in class listening to a teacher talk about twenty different Civil War battles. I really enjoyed this and thought it was something unique and creative.
The QR code to my Scavenger Hunt Google Doc.

Who Dominated Each Theater?

Since the idea of the scavenger hunt was to find the answers to the questions I previously stated, we all got back together and went on Padlet to help gather ideas as a class. The Padlet my class created is below. We were asked which side, the Union or Confederacy, dominated each theater - the Western, Eastern & Naval Theaters. We all looked back in our notes to find out the answer to the first essential question; Who was the ultimate victor in each of the theaters of war: East, West, Naval?  The class agreed that the Union clearly dominated the Western Theater. Two example battles of this are the Battle of Shiloh and The Siege of Vicksburg. Even though the South had more soldiers in the Battle of Shiloh, the Union came out victorious. At the Siege of Vicksburg, the Union won because the Confederacy ran out of supplies. Next, the Eastern Theater. My take on this theater was that the battles definitely seemed to be more even than the Western ones. The Confederate soldiers won battles like the Battle of Cold Harbor, due to the Union having half the number of soldiers than the South, and having a worse defense line. The Union lacked leadership at the beginning of the Eastern Theater battles, yet they ended up winning more battles as time went along, like Sherman's March to Sea and the Battle of Gettysburg. The Union also seemed to dominate the remaining theater: Naval. They won the Baton Rouge Battle due to having resources and capturing the city New Orleans, which was close to a large naval base. Another battle in the Naval theater was the Battle of Hampton Roads. Even though it was a 'draw', the Confederates were short on ammunition and fled. While running, they actually blew up their own ship so it wouldn't fall into Union hands. I think it can be argued that the Union won this battle, and dominated this theater.

Similarities In the Reasons for Results

The other essential question regards commonalities, or similarities, in the reasons for the results of the battles. A commonality I noticed was concerning the number of soldiers involved in the battles. A few examples of this are the Battle of Fort Sumter, the Surrender of Fort Donelson, the Battle of Shiloh & the Battle of Cold Harbor. A majority of the time, one side didn't have enough soldiers to keep up with the opposing side. Another similarity is supplies. For example, the Confederacy had to surrender in the Siege of Vicksburg because they ran out of supplies, and in the Battle of Fort Sumter the Union troops did not have enough supplies to defend themselves against a siege. It is pretty clear to me that the Union dominated the battles of the Civil War, with a few exceptions.