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
- Reference materials on the US Civil War
WHAT TO DO
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
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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