The Military Experience

The Military Experience: Strategy, Tactics, Technology, and Humanity

NPS Primary Theme: The outcome of the war was the cumulative result of political, economic, and social policies that affected (and were affected by) military operations and battles waged across a front spanning 2,000 miles.

  • NPS Subtheme: The battles and campaigns of 1861-65 ultimately demonstrated that the simple application of massive military force and materiel by armies on a battlefield was insufficient to resolve a conflict between two sections mobilized against one another politically, socially, philosophically, economically, and emotionally.

NPS Secondary Theme: Leaders on both sides improvised, innovated, and gambled in an attempt to achieve a decisive, concluding battlefield victory.

NPS Secondary Theme: The application of new technologies forced changes in tactics that marked significant steps in the evolving method of warfare and that transformed the experience of soldiers in the field and navies on the waters.

NPS Secondary Theme: The worsening ordeal of prisoners on both sides was closely related to the evolution of the war, militarily, politically, and economically. The Union’s 1864 suspension of exchanges-intended to deny manpower to the Confederacy- contributed to conditions within prisons that cost thousands of lives and engendered bitterness that would continue for many years.

NOTE: Please use the comments section below to chronicle your progress with this theme throughout the remaining weeks of the course. Begin by outlining how your group decided to work with the theme (e.g., assigning one theme to one person or dividing themes up between team members) and then outline in detail, at least once each week, the work that you have done toward crafting your three podcast proposals.


9 Responses to The Military Experience

  1. Makenzie Moore says:

    This week I talked to Shiloh National Battlefield who told me about their substantial archive of letters written by men who participated on both sides of the battle. I also heard back from Manassas who suggested a large list of tangibles from which I’ve been able to draw, including soldiers uniforms, original field maps, and battle flags. I have also collected images for each site and have continually been working on piecing together the final product by tweaking my thematic statements and locating other primary and secondary sources of value. My working thematic statements are:

    Manassas National Battlefield
    The existing structure strategy of both armies proved insufficient at the outset of the war as the chaos and destruction experienced at Battle of First Manassas caused both sides to re-evaluate everything from strategy and training tactics to uniforms and battle flags in an attempt to compete in the transforming military experience.

    Though often overshadowed by the fighting in the east, the letters and artwork of those who fought at the Battle of Shiloh reveal the significance and reality of the war in the Western Theater which adapted itself to its unique geography and left a lasting impression on the land and in the minds of the people who participated and lived in its legacy.

    The elaborate trenches dug around the town of Petersburg showcased what the Civil War had become in its final stages: a long, drawn out battle for survival which featured evolving technology and techniques, forever changing the experience of everyone involved.

  2. Makenzie Moore says:

    This week I heard back from Petersburg National Battlefield. They directed me to an already existent podcast the park has produced on the Crater which led me to this website:

    I don’t want to just repeat what’s all ready been said, though overlap is inevitable. I think in this case presentation will be especially important. This podcast was meant to accompany a walking tour which makes it rich in content, if, perhaps, not as audibly aesthetic as it might otherwise be. My contact also noted several locations were photographs might be obtained.

    I’m still waiting to hear back from Manassas and Shiloh, but I’m moving forward in trying to locate tangibles on my own. I found some old National Parks Service “historical handbooks” for these parks. While they may not have the most up to date interpretations of the park, they do provide some engaging photographs and maps which make it easier to identify important landmarks.

  3. Makenzie Moore says:

    So far I have been in contact with Ray Brown at Manassas and Tracy Chernault at Petersburg. Both sites have offered their help and I am expecting a list of tangible resources from Manassas in the next couple days. I’m still waiting to hear back from Shiloh but hopefully that will come through soon. I’ve also been moving forward with my podcasting outlines and am trying for solidify a narrative arch for each that places each battle within the larger context while providing focus on the site in question.

  4. Makenzie Moore says:

    This week I attempted to contact the parks for this theme and am awaiting their response. I plan on making follow up phone calls early next week. In the meantime I have continued researching the battles and sites in question. I have begun putting together general outlines for each of the podcasts, highlighting the important people and order of events of the sites in question while trying to connect them to the larger scope of the war. Hopefully these outlines will provide me with a base that can be molded to fit the information I receive from the sites themselves.

  5. Makenzie Moore says:

    This week I attempted to contact the parks for this theme and am awaiting their response. I plan on making follow up phone calls early next week. In the meantime I have begun putting together general outlines for each of the podcasts, highlighting the important people and order of events of the sites in question while trying to connect them to the larger scope of the war. Hopefully these outlines will provide me with a base that can be molded to fit the information I receive from the sites themselves.

  6. Makenzie Moore says:

    Admittedly, most of my research this week focused on my other theme. Over the weekend I reviewed sites that would work well for this theme and ultimately decided to go with the three I had already selected. My work on these sites mostly consisted of researching the battles and events that transpired to gain an understanding of the major movements and issues faced in each battle. I looked extensively at the NPS websites for the parks I had chosen and a short booklet loaned to me by someone in the class, National Geographic’s Guide to the Civil War National Battlefield Parks which contained step by step break downs for each battle along with some key statistics and helpful maps. This research made me think that visual components, particularly the use of maps, will be especially helpful in capturing some of the more technical aspects of this theme.

  7. Makenzie Moore says:

    I’m still pretty comfortable with using Manassas, Shiloh, and Petersburg to illustrate the breadth of the military experience during the War.

    The Battle of First Manassas was the first major battle of the war and was a wakeup call for both sides. Out of the disaster of First Manassas both sides standardized and organized their forces, drilling them on tactics and fundamentals. Manassas National Battlefield Park is also interested in that it was the sight of another battle a year later. The Battle of Second Manassas potentially lends itself nicely to an examination in the changes in leadership, strategy, tactics and technology over the course of a year, showcasing how the experience changed, even when the location did not.

    Shiloh National Military Park would be used to talk about the western theater of the Civil War. In addition the use of steamboats at Pittsburg Landing might be used to discuss the growing use of ships and waterways in the war effort.

    I choose Petersburg National Battlefield for my third site for a couple of reasons. When Grant took over the Union Army in 1864 the tone and strategy of the Union war plan changed from capturing geographical targets to the destruction of the Confederate Army. Some of the effects of this new strategy on both sides, along with new emphasis on tactics such as earthworks and artillery, are seen in the Siege of and battles surrounding Petersburg. Also, Petersburg was the site of some pretty interesting, if doomed and deadly, military innovation as seen in the Battle of the Crater.

  8. Pingback: Parks to Illustrate CW150 Themes: A Preliminary List | Interpreting the American Civil War

  9. Makenzie Moore says:

    In exploring the military experience in the civil war I first read the corresponding section of the handbook. Carol Reardon’s description of the War East of the Mississippi was largely chronological noting the strategies, goals, and tactics favored by different generals in different locations and the resulting conditions faced by soldiers on both sides. From this reading and a brief perusal of James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom I tried to find some way to organize this incredibly long and varied event, dividing the experience up both by location and strategic philosophies. I have a long way to go before I can cull down the entirety of the military experience in to three podcasts, but it’s a start.

    After I read my section of the hand book I wrote down my immediate impression of universal themes found in this description of the war. My initial list include: Death, pain, fatigue, sickness, destruction, fear, shock, desperation, inspiration, innovation, discipline, and loyalty. I imagine many of these will be reoccurring ideas and I’ll end up taking some out and putting others in, but I wanted to capture the first ways in which I connected to the stories I read.

    From there I set out looking into the sites listed after my article along with others I had come across in the reading. I feel as though there is an abundance of potential sites to feature for this theme. Really, just about any of the battle fields could work. My task will be trying to find sites that will best translate to the goals of “Holding the High Ground.” One of the sites that really intrigued me was Harper’s Ferry. I’ve always associated Harper’s Ferry with John Brown but the site’s association with the Civil War extends beyond the abolitionists failed uprising. Due to its strategic location the town got a front row seat to the turbulent conflict, changing hands a total of eight times over the course of the war. I think the fact that this site stretches across the entire duration of the War and experienced repeated occupation by both sides opens it up to some interesting interpretations, if not for my theme, then for some other theme.

    Moving forward I hope to better identify some specific archives and tangibles while defining the three distinct narratives for each pod cast.

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