The Reunion

Language Arts and Social Studies Activity

Students dramatize a postwar reunion between people who held opposing views during the US Civil War.

WHAT YOU NEED

WHAT TO DO

  1. Explain to students that after the Civil War, there were reunions that welcomed veterans of both sides. Often men who fought on different sides in the same battle met each other after the war. Sometimes they discussed the bloodiest battles, such as Pickett's Charge, and realized how close they had come to encountering each other.

  2. Tell students that they are to dramatize similar reunions and write what they think each person might have said. Point out that the dialogues can also include people who were not soldiers. An example might be a woman resident of Savannah and a veteran of Sherman's army. Another might have two widows, one from each side, realizing that their husbands lost their lives during the same battle.

  3. Have students work as partners. After they have chosen the kind of characters they wish to portray and researched the events they might have taken part in, have them role-play the reunion. Encourage them to deal with the larger concepts such a reunion might bring up, such as forgiveness and reconciliation. When partners are satisfied with their dialogue, have them prepare a script.

  4. You may wish to present the dialogues over a period of several days, doing three or four at a time. Keep the staging simple: two people talking, perhaps over a meal or a mug of coffee. If possible, add authentic costumes and video tape the performances.

TEACHING OPTIONS

After the enactments or after playing a videotape of the performances, have students describe their own emotional reactions to the reunions. Encourage them to suggest other reunions that might have taken place after later conflicts, such as veterans of both sides in the Vietnam War. Have students speculate on how such reunions would be similar or different.

Suggest that students find references to the actual reunions in books and other sources, including films such as Ken Burns's series on the Civil War. Have students share what they learned with the class, then discuss how close the dramatizations came to the actual events. Students may also be able to locate and explore Web sites set up by Civil War buffs.

You may be able to locate films or videos with reenactments of Civil War battles. Have each student focus his or her attention on one character in the film, then write a narrative about that person's experience.


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