It’s Showtime!

by Matt McKeon on October 2, 2007 · 0 comments

I’m “doing” the battle of Gettysburg with my US History II today. I’ve passed out pictures of Lee, and the kids did a chart of the Eastern Theater battles. A good lesson, but I was little crestfallen when one of the students asked at the end of the lesson, “Lee was on our side, right?” and several of the students were confused by the reference to the Yankees, the deeply hated baseball team(in this part of the country) with the Yankees, deeply hated….oh never mind. I’m going to spend 5 minutes at the start reviewing South North Union Confederate Yankee Rebel Lee Lincoln Free Slave.

Ignoring the last twenty years of scholarship on the military history of the Civil War, I’m making Gettysburg the turning point of the war. It makes dramatic, if not historic sense. I’m building Lee up as invincible, victim of hubris, meeting his nemesis at Gettysburg.

Worse I’m going to show part of the interminable film “Gettysburg” in which thousands of aging overweight men attempt to impersonate civil war soldiers, while 2nd string actors don false beards and gas on and on about heroism and valor etc. Where many are shot, or thrown comically in the air by explosions, but no one bleeds.

Specifically I’m going to show Jeff Daniels convincing the 2nd Mainers to rejoin the fight, then contrast it with the delirium provoked by Lee’s appearance, to drive home the point about morale. Then I’ll show part of the fight for Little Round Top, then part of Pickett’s Charge. The students will have a map to show the movements, and questions to check if they are paying attention.

The goal is giving the students some vague idea how CW armies moved, communicated and fought, as well as the central place of Lee in the Confederate universe.

I hate showing movies in class. It eats up valuable time, mostly the films suck on many levels, and its passive. But I’m going to in about two hours.


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