Reflection Papers

Everyone is expected to submit ten reflection papers during the term. These papers should be about two pages in length and double-spaced. Reflection papers should briefly summarize the author’s primary argument(s) and tell me what you liked (or didn’t like) about the book. Based on what you read, I also want you to pose a couple of questions that you think would be good for class discussion.

Reflection papers should be submitted to me at least eleven hours the class meets. Please let me know if you are not going to submit a reflection paper for any particular week. I will read your papers before class and return them to you at the beginning of each session. I will then introduce the session with some general comments / observations about that week’s reading list and then call upon class members to interject their thoughts / ideas drawn from their particular reading for the week as a way of continuing and extending the discussion. We’ll use a “round table” format, with a different person being called upon each week to follow upon my opening comments and continue the discussion by moving in sequence around the table. If you did not contribute a reflection paper that week, you are free to “pass” upon being called upon or participate as you see fit.

Final Paper

You are also required to submit a ten to twelve page “end-of-term paper” that pulls together all the readings you have done and asks “what does all this reading mean,” “what are the take home points that I found instructive / interesting and / or satisfying / unsatisfying about the materials I read.” Some members may want to reflect on some of the larger questions that interest them, but that is not required. A sampling of those questions are:

  1. Why did the Confederacy lose the war? Or, conversely, why did the North win?
  2. What role did technological factors play in determining who won or lost the war?
    Technological factors include such things as the manufacture of arms and equipment, food production and distribution, hygiene and medical care, transportation, and communication. Who held the advantage in each of these areas and why? Did manpower and material resources make a difference?
  3. What role did leadership (political, military, economic, social) play in determining the outcome of the war?
  4. What about morale on both sides? It is often said that the South “lacked the will” to win. What does that mean? Is there any truth to it?
  5. What about diplomacy and foreign affairs?
  6. What about politics? Fiscal policies? What role did they play in winning or losing the war?
  7. Finally, it is often said that the Civil War was “the first modern war.” What does that mean? What are the earmarks of modernity? What role did the war play in defining those earmarks? For example, did the war school young soldiers to the workings of large organizations (the army being the largest organization in the western world by 1865)? What lessons, for example, did Andrew Carnegie learn from his wartime experiences? What about others like Clara Barton? General Grenville Dodge? General Pierre Beauregard? Did they emerge from the war thinking differently about how organizations worked and how they were going to earn a living.
  8. What larger impacts did the war have on the American economy? American politics? American society?

These are obviously all big questions. You can address any one or all of them, or you can choose your own theme / s to pursue. The main thing is to think freshly about the war and its larger implications. The more perceptive the thoughts, the better the grade.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2015
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments