Battle Narratives

Due Monday, April 6, 2020

Annotated Assignment Guidelines

By Monday, April 6th, students will submit a 6 to 8 page narrative essay that describes a land battle or major naval engagement from the American Civil War.

  • Students don’t need prior approval for their subjects, but they should consult with Prof. Pinsker voluntarily.   Generally, you can find topics by using the Varon book as a starting point, or by exploring the Concise Civil War era map at the course site.  The National Park Service also has a useful database of the 10,000 engagements of the war.
  • Use this handout to help guide your topic decision and the framing of your research question

Each essay should provide background on both sides of the fight and offer a coherent analysis of the confrontation’s larger significance.

  • Explaining context and significance is a critical element of this narrative assignment and will require sophisticated use of secondary sources (like Varon’s Armies of Deliverance) in order to succeed in connecting an individual land battle or naval engagement to larger strategic and political consequences.  
  • Use this handout to help shape your thesis statement

All essays should use a wide-ranging combination of high quality primary and secondary sources.

  • You will only be required to use digitally available sources (since you are now working from home).  This will limit your efforts in some ways, but make sure to consult with Prof. Pinsker to help identify the best possible digital versions of both your primary and secondary sources.
  • Make sure to check out this post to learn how to research in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion (OR), which is the single most valuable primary source on Civil War military engagements

All essays should also be typed and double-spaced as a Word or PDF document while including a title page with descriptive title and Chicago-style footnotes (no bibliography required).

  • Use this handout to help format your footnotes or consult this library guide to see the more variations on Chicago-style footnote format
  • Use this handout to improve the way you use quotations from your sources
  • Use this handout to improve your proofreading skills

In addition to the essay, students should also submit a custom-made TimelineJS or StorymapJS on their chosen battle subject as an appendix.  Well-designed timelines or storymaps can receive up to 5 extra-credit points.


Both essay and timeline link should be submitted by email to Prof. Pinsker by 5pm on the due date.  Student work will be graded on research effort, depth of analysis and prose quality. Late essays may be penalized.  Please communicate in advance of any missed deadlines.