A Little Civil War Learning Project


I am reading Longstreet’s Autobiography and when I came to Antietam I became so confused I had to go on Google and find all sorts of stuff to start getting an idea about who was doing what and when. Longstreet just starts talking about various Generals and units as if I was supposed to know who they were and which side they were on. After a bit of looking at other sources I am starting to get an idea about that battle and it was a big deal. I have been to Gettysburg a couple of times and I took a tour there and I have a general idea how that worked out and who was where but I never knew how bad and bloody Antietam was for both sides.

I started a project of reading Longstreet and three other accounts of the Civil war concurrently with two Confederate and two Union authors who soldiered through it and I never had any idea how many viewpoints there were and how much finger pointing at the other guys went on I am reading General John Gordon, and Willard Glazier Union and Edward Alexander Confederate and I thought I could get this done in about a week and it has been two weeks and I am only up to Antietam today with Longstreet. I kind of knew it was the bloodiest day in U.S. history.

A hundred and fifty years from now I am sure folks will read about stuff since WWII and be puzzled about how so many people could have so many different viewpoints. If any of you know about any better way to do this Civil War stuff let me know, I have been reading various accounts over the years but I am amazed at how little I know. Anyway, this is a fun project. I know several of you have visited the various battlefields and I am glad now to be a retired old guy with enough time to try to digest some of this history stuff.

I have been to about a half dozen of the battlefields but just standing around looking at some trees and fields does not give a person any idea about all the plans and screw ups that went on at each one. Do any of you know if there is a Civil War Round Table here in San Antonio like the one in Dallas? If you want to give me any advice you might share with all and others might fill in further, I am really beginning to enjoy this stuff.

(Kind of off topic)
I actually taught 8th graders as a substitute teacher for a couple of months in Dallas, teaching them the official Texas text book version and a lot of them had no idea at all who even fought in the Civil War and why. After weeks of teaching I showed the movie Gory and had a hispanic kid ask if it was about the Alamo and I had a black kid that wanted to know which side we were on which was not a totally stupid question since he was a Texan which was the South but black and I explained how the black soldiers went North to fight for the Union. I spent about ten minutes trying to explain that and I doubt if many in the class understood much more than the fact that it was cool to watch people blown up and shot in a war movie.

About the Author

Joe McElyea
I am an original member and founder of the esteemed High Plains Shooting and Dining Society which is dedicated to fellowship of bird hunters and shooters who also enjoy finding great local places to eat large, unhealthy portions of breaded and fried meats and gravies washed down with the appropriate libations. I am also a retired old man who enjoys fishing, shooting and my wonderful family.