Friday, July 1, 2022

Blogging Through the Alphabet: E is for Engineering During the American Civil War

 A Mom's Quest to Teach logo: Blogging Through the Alphabet: E is for Engineering During the American Civil War; cannon photo in background

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Great feats of engineering took place before and during the American Civil War. According to U.S. General George G. Meade, "The art of bridge building advanced more during 1861-1865 than during the previous one thousand years." Just how did the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers impact the war? 

Who Were the Engineers? 

Only a small portion of those who graduated at the top of their class at West Point would enter the Corps of Engineers. Men like Robert E. Lee, George McClellan, Henry Halleck, Joseph Johnston, George Meade, Gouverneur K. Warren, and P.G.T. Beauregard were all members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prior to the start of the American Civil War. 

Prior to the American Civil War, the engineers would build public buildings and monuments in Washington D.C., and install pipes to transport water, and bridges. They also surveyed land out west, oversaw the construction of lighthouses, maintained harbors, and managed the permanent fortifications to protect the nation. They were a permanent branch of the Army.

A Mom's Quest to Teach: Blogging Through the Alphabet: E is for Engineering During the American Civil War; photo of bridge over James River

What Did They Do During the War? 

The top engineers would guard railroads and bridges and often never saw combat. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mapped areas, aided in the construction of different bridges and forts, destroyed enemy supply lines, and assisted in siege warfare. 

They were vital because they built and fortified important forts, bridges, and locations to such an extent that they survived the war. For example, the bridges at Washington experienced ten times the volume expected during the war, yet they remained unarmed by all the additional traffic. In addition to the bridges around Washington D.C., they also worked on the multi-fort ring of defenses for the capital. By the end of the war, there were sixty-eight forts within a thirty-seven-mile perimeter to defend the capital. This freed up important generals and troops to enter the battlefield rather than needed to stay behind to defend the capital and White House. 

There were also men from the engineers who served on the battlefield by working as carpenters, masons, and other skilled workers. They would also help construct the pontoon bridges and direct the siege warfare during battles. And after a Confederate town or city fell to the Union, engineers would enter and rebuild the infrastructure. They would repair such things as the railroad lines to reconnect the city with the surrounding countryside. 

Herman Haupt, born in Philadelphia, PA, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1835. He would go to work as a railroad engineer and would also spend time as a mathematics and engineering professor at Pennsylvania College.  Prior to the American Civil War, he patented a portable truss technique that bears his name - Haupt Truss. Two of his Haupt truss bridges still stand in Altoona and Ardmore, PA. They were both built in 1854. He would receive the rank of colonel and be put in charge of the US Military Railroad System, but after being named a brigadier in September 1862, he turned in his commission and worked without rank or pay. He did not want any restrictions on his work which the commission brought. His organized trains kept the Union Army well-equipped and supplied. 

There are many locations that feature the engineering work of the men during the American Civil War including:  

  • Washington's Long Bridge across the Potomac River 
  • Trestle bridge near Whiteside, VA
  • Cabin John Bridge 
  • Fort Stevens 

Even with so much destruction, the American Civil War did bring with it advancements in different areas, such as engineering. 

You can read more about Herman Haupt to find out what he did, in addition to the small bit of information I included here. And you might also be interested to know how Gouverneur K. Warren impacted the battle of Gettysburg, too. 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Art in Our Homeschool: A Review of Tiger Crystal Art Card Kit

 A Mom's Quest to Teach logo: Art in Our Homeschool: A Review of Tiger Crystal Art Card Kit; tiger print background

I received a COMPLIMENTARY copy of this Card Kit from Timberdoodle in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Do you have one of those subjects in your homeschool that sometimes gets neglected? For us, it is often art. While our children love arts and crafts, I often save those projects for another day because we run out of time, need to gather materials, etc. Knowing how important the arts are to developing various skills, I was very pleased to review the Tiger Crystal Art Card Kit from Timberdoodle with our two children. The Kit is included in the 2022 Fourth-Grade Curriculum Kit from Timberdoodle which I think is a perfect fit. 

What is the Tiger Crystal Art Card Kit? 

This self-contained art kit includes all the components one needs to create a beautiful work of art. In our case, the card kit depicted a tiger. The company does have other kits available including a lion, kittens, owl, horse, and others. 

In the kit we found: 

  • 1 Card 
  • 1 Envelope 
  • Bags of Crystals 
  • Empty Plastic Resealable Bags 
  • 1 Crystal Pick-Up Pen 
  • Jelly Wax
  • Tray 
The card is covered with a plastic piece as the card itself is sticky so you can place the crystals. The instructions are located on the inside of the kit package and written in English, German, French, and Dutch. So, in addition to incorporating art into your homeschool, you can try out your language skills by comparing the instructions. 

Crystal card kit unopened package, crystals in bags; putting crystals on tiger

How Did We Use the Tiger Crystal Art Card Kit? 

When it first arrived, our daughter was very excited to get started. She loves arts and crafts so this was perfect for her. After opening it, I was apprehensive that she would be able to complete it as she only turned seven and it is included in the Fourth-Grade Curriculum Kit. It looked like it would take great concentration to complete this kit. Would our daughter and our son have the patience to work on it? 

The first day I set aside time to work on the Tiger Crystal Art Card Kit, I let our children pick which color we would complete first. We opened the appropriate bag of crystals, poured them into the tray, put the Jelly Wax near the tray, and started working. I began the process to show our children how to use the Pick Up Pen (or stylus). Our daughter quickly wanted to try it on her own. I held the plastic piece up off the card so she could apply the crystals. 

Between the three of us, we completed that first color over the course of the day. I would work on it for a little bit and then go back to work or homeschool one of our children. Our daughter would work on it for a time while her brother and I were working on spelling or language arts. Our son would then work on it after he completed his other homeschool assignments. We continued this process for several days. I even left it out so they could work on it throughout the whole day and evening. And there were quite a few nights I worked on the Tiger Crystal Art Card Kit on my own as I found it relaxing. 

crystals in tray with pick up pen; working on tiger art picture

How Do You Complete the Picture? 

Choose which area of the card you want to work on and then look at the letter on the card. Find the bag of crystals labelled with that letter and pour them into your tray. Use the Pick Up Pen, after dabbing it into the Jelly Wax, to pick up the crystals. The crystals are attached to the dots labelled with the letter you chose. Don't remove the entire plastic piece until you are completed to protect the sticky parts of the card. 

When you are done with a specific letter, put that in a small plastic resealable bag and label it. You may notice you missed a few spots like we did and need to go back and fill them in later. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo: Art in Our Homeschool: A Review of Tiger Crystal Art Card Kit; tiger art on tiger print background

What Did We Think? 

At first, I was very concerned that our children would not be able to complete the project. It seemed to require great patience and hand-eye coordination. Would this work? I really thought that I would have to complete the entire card on my own but thankfully I was wrong. Our children enjoyed the process and seeing the card transform into a sparkly picture with the crystals. This simple card kit really brought art in our homeschool to life! 

What about the process? Was it easy to transfer the tiny crystals to the sticky card? Yes and no. If the crystals were the right side up, one could easily use the Pick Up Pen to transfer them if you had enough Jelly Wax on the Pen. Sometimes the crystals would fall off during the transfer but that wasn't that often. And we did have to gently shake the tray to flip the crystals over so we could pick them up the right way.  Once you get into a rhythm, it is quite easy to fill the entire card with the color you are working on at that time. 

We did notice that we had some duplicate bags of colors and one letter had two different bags of crystals. This wasn't too confusing and it did not impact our picture at all. 

I really enjoyed working on the Tiger Crystal Art Card Kit. I found it relaxing and enjoyable. While our soon-to-be fourth grade son enjoyed this homeschool art project, our daughter really liked it. So I would definitely recommend it for your daughters who love arts and crafts. If they have good dexterity and patience, then a child as young as seven might be able to complete this with a little help. 

Our daughter shared, "Though hard at first, it was actually easy once you got used to using the pen to grab the crystals and putting them on the card." She said it was a lot of fun. Our son said it was an "epic experience." 

This kit really brought art in our homeschool to life! Both our son and our daughter recommend it for your homeschool. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; completed tiger art picture

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Blogging Through the Alphabet: D is for Disease during the American Civil War

 A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; Blogging Through the Alphabet: D is for Disease during the American Civil War; cannon photograph in background

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Diseases and illnesses were a huge threat to soldiers during the American Civil War. According to The Untold Civil War: Exploring the Human Side of War by James Robertson: "For every soldier who perished in action, two died behind the lines from sickness" (126). What a horrible ratio! And some research even indicates the number of soldiers who died due to disease and sickness could have been even higher. 

What Led to Diseases? 

The causes of diseases in the American Civil War were some of the same ones that impacted our world for hundreds of years. And while there were improvements over the course of the war, most of the conditions were still present in one place or another. 

  • Poor food and inadequate diet 
  • Poor sanitation 
  • Poor camp conditions
  • Poor hygiene 
  • Ill-equipped or ill-trained doctors and nurses  
  • Lack of specific courses of treatment
  • Lack of knowledge regarding some of the diseases and illnesses 
  • Battle wounds 
  • Food poisoning  
  • Bad weather (rain and heat) 
  • Mosquitoes and flies 
  • Filthy drinking water

What were the Typical Diseases? 

In an essay, Disease by Stanley B. Burns, MD, it is stated that there were 5.8 million sick cases during the American Civil War. What exactly impacted the soldiers in such great numbers? 

  • Diarrhea 
  • Dysentery (diarrhea with bloody stool) 
  • Malaria 
  • Typhoid Fever
  • Rubeola - Red Measles 
  • Pneumonia 
The two leading diseases were diarrhea and dysentery. Dr. Burns states that: "57,000 deaths were directly recorded to these most disabling maladies. The total recorded Union cases were 1,528,098." Why were diarrhea and dysentery so dangerous? In drastic conditions, it could lead to dehydration and make the men more susceptible to other illnesses and diseases. If they entered battle while suffering from either of these maladies, the soldier could suffer abdominal pain or have a fever.

Following closely behind these two diseases were malaria and typhoid fever. Many suffered from malaria and while doctors and scientists were unsure as to how it was spread and caused, they did prescribe quine which helped keep the number of deaths down. Unfortunately, the same lack of knowledge as to what caused typhoid fever did not mean that there were treatments or cures. 17,000 Confederate soldiers died over one 18-month period of typhoid fever. In fact, one regiment, the 18th VA regiment, lost more men to typhoid fever than to combat. 

A Mom's Quest to Teach: Blogging Through the Alphabet: D is for Disease during the American Civil War; photograph of civil war medical tent

Final Thoughts 

I can only imagine the fear, worry, and anxiety that the soldiers faced during the American Civil War. They were afraid of seeing the elephant (entering combat for the first time), worrying about getting injured or killed, or their friends getting wounded or killed, and they must have been anxious about what was happening back at home. Was their family safe? Was their home being invaded or destroyed depending upon where they were from in the United States? Then one has to factor in their concern over disease and illnesses. So many worries. I am thankful for the advances they did have in medicine that helped and those men and women (like Clara Barton) who were able to provide medical care, comfort, and relief from diseases, illnesses, and wounds.

Would You Like to Learn More? 

PBS Mercy Street: Disease
Disease and the Civil War: Statistics

Friday, June 17, 2022

Blogging Through the Alphabet: C is for Children and the American Civil War

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; Blogging Through the Alphabet: C is for Children and the American Civil War

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

The American Civil War impacted all aspects of life. When sons signed up to serve in the Union and Confederate armies, parents were often both proud of their sons and worried about the risks. And then, on some occasions, when sons decided to fight for the "other side," parents felt even more concern and sometimes pain and humiliation and betrayal. Families would also be broken up as fathers enlisted, leaving behind wives and children. 

How did the children feel? 

I can only imagine how children felt when they said goodbye to their fathers (and brothers in some cases). Depending on how far the families lived from large cities, they may have had different opinions about the Civil War. Some families were very proud of their fathers and sons as they enlisted. Tied up with pride was a feeling of patriotism. Northerners and Southerners both felt they were serving their nation. Tied up in pride and patriotism were also sadness and worry. The families' lives were changing, and no one really knew for how long. 

What about those children who lived where battles were taking place? Can you imagine the children who would see armed men entering their towns and homes? In Civil War Soldiers by Reid Mitchell, we can read an excerpt from the diary of New York Officer Burrage Rice. On Dec 29, 1864, he wrote: 

"All I pity are the little children. They look up so sad with so much astonishment wondering, I presume, why we are all armed, filling their little hearts with terror, & why they are all so destitute & why Papa is not at home attending to their wants in this bleak cold winter weather. Poor children! They know not they are suffering the curse of treason."

How did the fathers feel? 

Many fathers were worried that their children would forget them. In the letters they sent home, they wrote their wives to remember them to their children. Both sides would share photographs. In some cases, fathers would send home photographs of themselves in their uniforms, while mothers would send snapshots of their children. Children also sent messages to their fathers through their mothers.

There were only a few occasions when fathers wrote letters directly to their children. In general, letters written home were meant to be read by adults, and only parts were shared with the children. Today, this might seem odd as we often send postcards, letters, emails, text messages, etc. to our children but this was not the norm during the American Civil War.

A Mom's Quest to Teach; Blogging Through the Alphabet: C is for Children and the American Civil War

Impact on Families 

The feelings of sadness would be multiplied if the fathers died in battle, in prison, or after being wounded. The numbers could be quite high for each unit. The chaplain of the 30th North Carolina Infantry listed the widows and fatherless children left behind. There were 114 husbands and fathers of the 358 who died. They left 114 widows and 249 fatherless children behind. 

There is one famous photograph of three children who were orphaned after the battle of Gettysburg. Their father was holding the photo of his three children but his body was unidentified. Magazines printed the photo and distributed the likenesses so they could identify the soldier. Eventually, Philanda Hamiston of Portville, NY saw the photo of the children. It was her husband, Sergeant Amos Hamiston of the 154th New York, and her children who had been orphaned. This is but one case of numerous children being orphaned in the American Civil War. 

I can only imagine the impact on the children both during the war and afterward. We are seeing the impact of an unusual couple of years on our own children. There may not have been a civil war, but our children – our nation – was greatly impacted by decisions made over the past several years, and we are only now realizing the toll it has taken on our young ones.

Read More 

If you want to read three letters a father wrote to his children, you can find them at The Blog of Gettysburg National Military Park

PBS: Kids in the Civil War

View "The children of battle field" at the Library of Congress

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Book Club: The Door in the Dragon's Throat

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo: Book Club: The Door in the Dragon's Throat

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Our younger son loves to read! When asked to pick out potential gifts, he circled quite a number of books which made us quite happy. While I love gifting him things like Lego, reading is one hobby that I really want to foster in our son. My husband enjoys books by Frank E. Peretti, so we selected the first in The Cooper Kids Adventures series for him – The Door in the Dragon's Throat. It is a fast-paced Christian adventure book for pre-teens and teens. 

The Story 

"A mystery as old as the desert sands..." 

The Door in the Dragon's Throat starts with a conversation between President Al-Dallam and Gozan discussing the arrival of the archaeologist, Dr. Jake Cooper, his two children, and his small team. Dr. Cooper is there to uncover the truth behind an ancient legend involving a mysterious door hidden in a dark cavern called the Dragon's Throat. 

Danger quickly rears its ugly head in the eyes of a cobra and then a rumbling of the earth a short time later. Dr. Jake Cooper's children, Jay and Lila, explore the mysteries right alongside their father as they take faith in the knowledge that God will protect them. 

Including The Door in the Dragon's Throat Into Your Homeschool Day 

This book offers so many ways you can incorporate it into your homeschool day. From vocabulary to literature lessons, you can also spend time learning about earthquakes, characterization, and the Bible. What activities will you fit into your homeschool lessons? 


Define the following words with your homeschooler: 

  • Primitive 
  • Rampant
  • Magnificent
  • Conveyances
  • Seismometer 
  • Observant 
  • Surrender
  • Undulating 
  • Discernible  
  • Passageways 
  • Reversible 
  • Perilous  
  • Expedition 
  • Inscription 

A Mom's Quest to Teach logo: Book Club: The Door in the Dragon's Throat - book cover

Study History 

While reading The Door in the Dragon's Throat, there are a number of geographical places for your child to study. You can research the ancient civilizations of Babylon and Chaldea, as well as study Nimrod. In addition to studying the civilizations, your child can label a map of the Middle East from the past as well as today.


During the course of the novel, there are a few natural occurrences and locations that you can study with your child. For example, earthquakes play a prominent role in the story. Dr. Cooper and this team bring a Geiger counter to take measurements and they do a visual check for any geophysical indications, cracks, or fissures that the area was different or unsafe. 

What about the animals that show up in the book? Take the time to study cobras, scorpions, and vipers. 


  • Venomous snake 
  • Lives 20 to 30 years 
  • Lays 12 to 60 eggs, depending on the specific breed of cobra 
  • Cobras live in Africa and Asia


  • A variety of species lives in Africa 
  • Member of the arachnid class 


  • A variety of vipers lives in Africa, including the largest one – the Gaboon viper 
  • Most vipers eat small to medium-sized animals 

Language Arts Lessons 

There are many wonderful characters in The Door in the Dragon's Throat. There are a number of activities your child can do to help them describe the characters in Peretti's book. They can create trading cards, a photo album, and more to demonstrate what they know about the characters. 

Characters include: 

  • Jay Cooper 
  • Lila Cooper
  • Dr. Jake Cooper 
  • The Shaman of the Desert 
  • Gozan 
  • President Al-Dellam 
  • Jeff 
  • Bill 
  • Tom 

blank back and front of a trading card; draw your favorite character; what does your character do in the book

Questions to Discuss 

  1. How would you retell the Gospel to someone who has not heard it before and who has no background knowledge of the Bible? 
  2. What Bible verses would you read or recite to calm your fears? 
  3. How is the Door described? 
  4. What was the scariest moment in the story for you? 

Books give us the opportunity to learn more about the world around us. They can be wonderful forms of entertainment and education. Our children can enjoy mysteries, adventure stories, and nonfiction. We only have to find out what they like and the world can be open to them through books. If you are looking for more exciting books for your pre-teen and teen, read my review of Britfield & The Lost Crown.