Course Syllabus

HISTORY 288 Civil War & Reconstruction

  • Dickinson College / Spring 2016
  • Tue / Thu 130pm
  • Classroom:    Denny 211

“Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history.”

–Abraham Lincoln, December 1, 1862


  • Foner, Eric. A Short History of Reconstruction: 1863-1877. New York: Harper Perennial, 2015.
  • Masur, Louis P. The Civil War: A Concise History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Articles & Essays

  • Arenson, Adam. “Freeing Dred Scott.” Common-Place (April 2008) [WEB]
  • “Disunion,” Opinionator blog series from New York Times (2011-15), with posts by Rick Beard, Carole Emberton, Marc Egnal, Joan Gage, Terry Jones, Lois Leveen, Cate Lineberry, Elizabeth Varon, Andrea Volpe, Thomas Ward, and Ted Widmer
  • Faust, Drew Gilpin. “Altars of Sacrifice: Confederate Women and the Narratives of War.” Journal of American History 76 (March 1990): 1220-1228. [JSTOR]
  • Foner, Eric. “When the South Wasn’t a Fan of States’ Rights,” Politico Magazine (1/23/2015) [WEB]
  • Huebner, Timothy B. “Roger B. Taney and the Slavery Issue: Looking Before –and Beyond—Dred Scott.Journal of American History 97 (June 2010): 17-38 [EBSCO]
  • McPherson, James. “Lincoln as Commander in Chief.” Smithsonian (Jan. 2009) [WEB]
  • Pinsker, Matthew. “Interpreting the Upper-Ground Railroad,” in Max van Balgooy, ed., Interpreting African American History and Culture (2014) [WEB]
  • Pinsker, Matthew. “Did the End of the Civil War Mean the End of Slavery?” What It Means To Be American (Smithsonian / Zocalo), April 2015 [WEB]
  • Ransom, Roger L. “The Economics of the Civil War.” [WEB]
  • Simpson, Brooks. “Lincoln and His Political Generals,” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 21 (Winter 2000), 63-77 [WEB]

Course Policies

For details on all significant course policies, especially including those regarding attendance, participation, accommodations for disabilities, plagiarism and general learning objectives, please consult the course website:

Chronology Exam

On Thursday, February 25, students will take a short answer exam that covers key topics introduced within Louis Masur’s Civil War: A Concise History (2011). Students will receive a series of key terms and events in advance. Selections from that list will then appear on the exam and students will have to arrange them in chronological order, providing short answers that describe the significance of each entry.

Battle Map post

Students are required to create a custom-made Google map that helps document a Civil War battle using first-hand testimony. Students should be able to create at least ten (10) custom placemarks that help explain the main battle narrative. On the left column of the map, the placemarks should be arranged in rough chronological order. On the map itself, these markers should be situated in correct geographical position and should include text and images. Students should use quoted text from participants, found either in primary or secondary sources. All text excerpts should be supported by relevant public domain images. Students must post their maps along with a descriptive blog essay (about 1,000 words) based on properly cited secondary source research and including a clickable bibliography of primary sources by Friday, March 11, 2016 at noon. Late maps will be penalized 5 points per day. Model posts and tutorials on how to create a custom Google map will be available at the course website. Students will be judged by breadth of research effort, quality of prose and effectiveness of map design. The best maps will be published at The Dickinson Survey of American History.

Close Reading Post

Students will be conducting a close reading of a Lincoln document featured at the new Dickinson website, Lincoln’s Writings: The Multi-Media Edition. A close reading offers a careful summary of the text combined with judicious information about context and thoughtful analysis of subtext. The Lincoln’s Writings site offers 150 of Abraham Lincoln’s “most teachable” documents ranked and organized for classroom use. Students are encouraged to find documents on the site that don’t already have close readings associated with them and to try to create a post that might be publishable at the site. However, any of the 150 documents (including the Gettysburg Address) are suitable choices for this assignment. Post are due at the course website by noon on Friday, April 15, 2016. All posts should include footnotes, images, and (where relevant) hypertext links to useful online sources. Students who choose to post a video or podcast version of their close reading can receive up to five extra credit points. Instructions for how to develop a good video or podcast will be available at the course website. Late posts will be penalized five points per day. The best posts and videos will be published at Lincoln’s Writings.

Reconstruction Paper

By Tuesday, May 10, students will submit a12-15 page paper profiling a historical figure from the Reconstruction era, that can help illustrate or challenge some of the insights from Eric Foner’s book, A Short History (2015). Good papers will choose subjects who can provide not only compelling and significant stories, but also can offer easy access to both primary and secondary sources. Students will be evaluated on research effort, historical analysis, and quality of prose. All papers should be typed and double-spaced and should include a descriptive title page and Chicago-style footnotes. Bibliographies and appendixes are encouraged but not required. Late papers will be penalized 5 points per day.

Grade Distribution

Class Participation                   15 percent

Chronology exam                    15 percent

Battle Map post                        20 percent

Close Reading post                  20 percent

Reconstruction Paper               30 percent


Day Date Discussion Topic Reading Assignment
Tuesday 1/26 NO CLASS
Thursday 1/28 Methods & Expectations Discussion: Confederate monuments


Tuesday 2/2 Origins Masur, chap 1 with post
Thursday 2/4 Organizing for War Masur, chapter 2 with post
Tuesday 2/9 Toward Emancipation Masur, chapter 3 with post
Thursday 2/11 NO CLASS
Tuesday 2/16 The Critical Year: 1863 Masur, chapter 4 with post
Thursday 2/18 Lincoln’s Reelection Masur, chapter 5 with post
Tuesday 2/23 End of War Masur, chapter 6 with post and Pinsker essay
Thursday 2/25 Chronology Exam


Tuesday 3/1 Underground Railroad Pinsker and Foner essays with post
Thursday 3/3 Dred Scott Case Huebner and Arenson essays with post
Tuesday 3/8 Lincoln as Commander in Chief McPherson & Simpson articles with post
Thursday 3/10 Gettysburg Video tour
Friday 3/11 Battle map posts due 12pm
Tuesday 3/15 SPRING RECESS
Thursday 3/17 SPRING RECESS
Tuesday 3/22 Soldiers’ Experience Emberton posts
Thursday 3/24 Black Soldiers Jones, Lineberry & Ward posts
Thursday 3/24 Lecture: Eric Foner ATS, 7pm – 830pm
Friday 3/25 Lecture: Jeffrey Rosen Stern Great Room, 12pm-1pm
Tuesday 3/29 Photography and War Gage, Volpe & Widmer posts with discussion
Thursday 3/31 Costs of War Widmer & Egnal posts, Ransom article
Tuesday 4/5 On the Homefront Faust article
Thursday 4/7 Women at War Leveen, Beard, Varon posts


Tuesday 4/12 NO CLASS
Thursday 4/14 From Slavery to Freedom Foner, chaps. 1-4 with exhibit
Friday 4/15 Close Reading posts due 12pm
Tuesday 4/19 Impeachment Foner, chaps. 5-7 with exhibit
Thursday 4/21 Southern Reconstruction Foner, chaps. 8-9 with 1870s
Tuesday 4/26 Industrial Revolution Foner, chaps. 10-11 with 1870s and 1880s
Thursday 4/28 Jim Crow Foner, chap. 12 with 1890s
Tuesday 5/3 Carlisle Civil War Era  Slotten article

[ NOTE: Regular class time]

Thursday 5/5 Lessons & Legacies  
Tuesday 5/10 Reconstruction papers due 5pm