Thursday, June 21, 2018

G is for Gettysburg (Blogging through the Alphabet)

PA Monument at Gettysburg

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In this week's Blogging through the Alphabet, I share information about one of my favorite places: Gettysburg. For the sake of this post, I will be writing a brief history of the battle that occurred there. In future posts, I hope to share information about things to do in and around Gettysburg and maybe even detail one soldier's experiences from his enlistment to his death on July 2, 1863.

Robert E. Lee photograph and statute at GettysburgThe Battle of Gettysburg is often seen as the turning point of the American Civil War. The clash at this small northern town took place after a lengthy campaign in June that led to the Confederate's last invasion on northern soil. Prior to the battle, President Lincoln had named George Gordon Meade the head of the Army of the Potomac on June 27, 1863 – replacing General Joseph Hooker.

The Confederate General Robert E. Lee had selected an area west of Gettysburg as where he wished to meet the Federals on the battlefield and he wanted his entire army back together. As often happens in life, plans would change because part of the Confederate Third Corps ran into Federal Calvary troops under John Buford. A full-scale battle ensued and the Confederate troops were joined by General Richard Ewell's Second Corps while the First Corps and the Eleventh Corps of the Union army faced them.

Buford's troops were armed with breech-loading carbines so they were able to fire 20 shots per minute which helped them till additional Union troops could arrive. General John Reynolds' First Corps helped bring the Confederate assault to standstill.

The Federal troops were driven back through the town to the high ground of the south – Cemetery Hill and East Cemetery Hill. Lee, hearing that more of Meade's men would be arriving, wanted to capture Cemetery Hill and pressed Ewell to capture the Hill. Unfortunately, Ewell and his men were in no position to follow through on Lee's orders. The Confederate troops were disorganized and facing Federal snipers who even hit Ewell's wooden leg (he had lost it at the Second Battle of Manassas).

Even though the Union army had put up a great defense, the First Corps lost half of its number to casualties on July 1, 1863. The Iron Brigade, which was known for their black hats and hard-fighting, lost 1,200 out of their 1,800 men on July 1. Another great loss for the Federals occurred on July 1, when – shortly after arriving on the battlefield – General Reynolds was killed by a sharpshooter.

During the night, Meade arrived on the battlefield. So did Confederate General James Longstreet's troops. The Union had a strong defensive position running from Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill towards Cemetery Ridge. The Confederates were parallel to the Union line extending southward down Seminary Ridge.

Statue of Longstreet at GettysburgLee wanted to make an early attack on the 2nd day but Longstreet did not agree that they should. So, Longstreet delayed putting them in position till late afternoon. He was in favor of a defensive positioning like that at Fredericksburg. Longstreet had wanted to take the whole battle to a new position south of Gettysburg but Lee did not want to do this. (Longstreet would be blamed for the loss of the battle due to his failure to move quickly and his disagreement with Lee.)

Longstreet would not have his men ready to move until 4 pm when they were met with a surprise from two divisions of Union Third Corps commanded by General Daniel Sickles. He had moved his men to a new line (in front of the rest of the Union army) without authorization. They were positioned in a peach orchard, wheat field, and an area of boulders known as "Devil's Den." Longstreet's men were blocked but Sickles' men were in great danger.

After 4 pm on July 2, 1863, the Confederates launched their attack toward's Devil's Den and the two rocky hills – Big Round Top and Little Round Top. Fighting continued hand-to-hand among the boulders and soon 500 Alabamians scaled Big Round Top. They soon turned to take Little Round Top, which was key to the entire Union position. If it was taken, then the Confederates would be able to use artillery on the entire Union line.

General Gouverner K. Warren saw the danger and rushed Union troops to defend Little Round Top. The fighting moved up and down the rocky hill but the Federals pushed the Confederates back at bayonet point, maintaining control of the Little Round Top. This was partly due to Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain who found his men lacking in ammunition, he ordered his men to fix bayonets and charge down the hill. The Alabamians surrendered to the men from the 20th Maine.

Little Round Top; Joshua Chamberlain and 20th Maine

While the defense of Little Round top was occurring, Confederates swept through the Wheatfield and Peach Orchard. General Sickles lost his right leg and was unable to rally his troops. The Federals retreated to Cemetery Ridge.

On the evening of July 2, 1863, Meade met with his commanders and asked their opinion about whether they should withdraw, hold, or attack. They all agreed to stay and fight the Confederates. Meade told General John Gibbon – whose division was in the center of the Union line – to be prepared. From the Confederate headquarters, Lee made the decision to strike at the center of Meade's line.

On July 3, 1863, the major assault took place against the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. 140 Confederate artillery pieces would be moved into position to fire upon the grove of trees that marked the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. At 1:07 pm two cannons fired, followed by the rest of the Confederate guns. The Union returned their own fire and the sides continued this for nearly two hours. The artillery duel of almost 300 guns could be heard as far away as Pittsburgh.

Finally, the Union fire slowed and stopped as General Henry Hunt wanted the gun tubes to cool to prepare for the Rebel attack that he believed was imminent. Unfortunately for the Confederates, they interpreted this as a sign that the Union artillery had withdrawn.

Pickett's Charge - The High Water Mark at Gettysburg

At this lull in cannon fire, General George Pickett asked Longstreet if he should advance. With an affirmative nod, Pickett ordered his men to advance. 12,000 to 14,000 men would advance across the field to face the Union artillery. The guns on top of Cemetery Hill and Little Round Top took out as many as a dozen Confederate soldiers at a time. This ill-fated attack would become known as Pickett's Charge. It was a complete failure with 7,000 Confederate casualties. Most of the Confederate field officers and many of the brigadier generals were casualties. General Pickett returned to Lee with tears saying, "General Lee, I have no division now." In half an hour, the Army of Northern Virginia – the Confederate Army – was crippled.

Both sides wondered if the Federals would counter-attack. There would be no counter-attack by Meade. He had won the defensive battle. He did not want to lose an offensive one. He would be slow to pursue Lee as the Confederate army retreated back into Maryland because the Union suffered their own great number of casualties. (Meade has been criticized for his lack of counter-attack.)

The casualties were immense:
  • Confederate Casualties: 25,000-28,000 
  • Union Casualties: 20,000-23,000
The significance of the Battle of Gettysburg and then the victory at Vicksburg (July 4, 1863) were just as important. These two events were the turning points of the American Civil War. A national cemetery would be dedicated on November 19, 1863 in Gettysburg and President Lincoln would give one of his most famous speeches on the occasion. To this day, the town of Gettysburg continues to draw people who wish to pay their respect to the fallen soldiers of the Civil War as well as those who wish to learn more about America's past.

Resources and References 

Read about General Lewis Armistead at American Battlefield Trust.

Read more about Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain at the American Battlefield Trust and National Park Service.

Gettysburg National Military Park 





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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Reviewing White House Holiday Unit Studies from Silverdale Press LLC

Silverdale Press LLC cover images for Martin Luther King, Jr. and Veterans Day Unit Studies

After doing a little research about the White House Holiday Unit Studies offered by Silverdale Press LLC, I knew that I wanted to review it with our family. As a former high school history teacher, I loved the introduction written by Jill Hummer. I agree wholeheartedly that learning about the history behind the holidays is so important – even for elementary-aged children.

Quote from Jill Hummer


The White House Holiday Unit Studies series "uses the American presidency as a window into the holidays" and provides a great number of primary sources. Your family will be reading and reviewing primary sources like:
  • Speeches (i.e. Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points) 
  • Posters (i.e. Uncle Sam's I Want You poster) 
  • Letters 
  • Photographs (i.e. Korean War Memorial) 
  • Press releases 
There is one set of lessons for grades K-6 and a separate set for grades 7-12 in many of the unit studies. There are some activities that overlap because the lessons work well for a variety of ages. 

Currently there are six White House Holiday Unit Studies: 
  • Labor Day Unit Study
  • Veterans Day Unit Study
  • Thanksgiving Unit Study
  • Christmas Unit Study 
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Unit Study 
  • Valentine's Day Unit Study 

How We Used the White House Holiday Unit Studies 


Our family primarily worked through two of the Unit Studies: Veterans Day Unit Study and Martin Luther King, Jr. Unit Study, while touching upon some of the information in the others. I downloaded the lessons and then uploaded them to our tablet so that I could read and refer to them during our lessons. I also printed out some of the information so that I could more easily share the photographs and information with our children. I read the lessons at lunch or dinnertime while we were all together as a family so we could talk about the information presented. 

Materials to make paper poppy flower pins
The materials needed to create our own Poppy Pins.

Completed paper poppy pins

Food Administration Posters

Veterans Day Unit Study 


The Veterans Day Unit Study has three lessons for each level covering similar topics with age-appropriate information. The materials required are simple – things that most people already have at home. I love that they state: "Our goal is to keep it easy for the parents!" 

Veterans Day Lesson and calendar header for November
We looked at the calendar as we talked about each holiday so we could properly place it during the year.

The lessons that I really enjoyed sharing with our family from this unit study included: 
  • President Woodrow Wilson and the Story of Armistice Day 
  • President Wilson and Food Czar Hoover at War
  • The Story of Dwight Eisenhower and How We Got Veterans Day 
We created a poppy pin, read "In Flanders Field," had a meatless day (where we did not eat any meat during our meals), looked at Food Administration Posters, and talked about how to honor Veterans on Veterans Day. (There is a great list of ideas included in the unit study.) 

Who Veterans are written on a whiteboard.
In addition to writing the poem In Flanders Field on our white board,
I also wrote some key facts from the unit for our children.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Unit Study CoverRosa Parks Craft Martin Luther King, Jr. Unit Study 


There are a total of five lessons with a read aloud portion included in each lesson. The first lesson (title) is divided into Part A (same for grades K-12) and Part B (different for K-6 and 7-12 grades). We started by reading about the home and family of King and learning about discrimination and segregation. The lesson then continued to discuss the life history of King as he attend high school and then college as well touched upon nonviolent resistance, stereotypes, and his marriage to Coretta Scott. 

There are timeline and map activities that can be completed throughout the entire unit study. We focused upon those as well as completing the Rosa Parks Craft to discuss the Montgomery Bus Boycott. We read some of the history presented in the lesson regarding Rosa Parks and talked about why it is not fair to treat people differently just because of the way they look.

What I also like is the inclusion of a video of President Eisenhower speaking about the institution at Little Rock, Arkansas. For grades 7-12, there are also questions included to be answered by your child(ren), as well as a press release from the White House. (Of all the video links – which are from a variety of sources – provided in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Unit Study only three links were 'not found.')

We worked our way through the timeline activity together on the floor. If our children were older, I would have had them write out the the information on the index cards and then create a large timeline on the wall to display while we studied the entire King unit.

Martin Luther King, Jr. timeline Martin Luther King, Jr. Timeline


Labor Day Unit Study 


Labor Day Unit StudyThere are three lessons for K-6 and three for 7-12 grades. I was looking forward to completing Lesson 1: Eleanor Roosevelt and Child Labor with our children so they could learn about how the lives of children have changed over the years. I also love using primary resources. 

There are several photographs with descriptions from the Library of Congress and questions to help guide children to evaluating the primary documents. Unfortunately, it was rather hard for our younger children to understand without the descriptions of the photographs and lots of guiding. As a high school history teacher, I found analyzing photographs was difficult even for my advanced students. The inclusion of this activity is fantastic as having the opportunity to start practicing with younger children will help start their skill-building early. 

What We Like 


We can use these lessons year after year. Each year as our children grow, we will be able to review the information from previous years and eventually move on to the lessons geared towards 7-12 grades with our younger two children. The White House Holiday Unit Studies can grow with our family as our children grow.

What is also great is that you can use these lessons throughout the year as well. We actually studied Veterans Day the weeks prior to Memorial Day. So we were able to discuss how the two holidays were different while still learning about Veterans Day in May. The maps and timeline activities from the Martin Luther King, Jr. unit study are such that you can incorporate the study of the events as they actually occur throughout the year. There is no reason to wait for January, as we worked through the unit in late May and June with little confusion from our children. 

Of the three that we used during the review period, I enjoyed the Veterans Day Unit Study the most (but then again I love studying the world wars and the American Civil War so this comes as no surprise to me). Of the three unit studies that I have read through for future use, I am really looking forward to using the Christmas Unit Study this year with our family!

We Look Forward to Future Lessons 


Valentine's Day Unit Study 


Valentine's Day Unit StudyAs our children get older, I look forward to reading the letters of John and Abigail Adams and Ronald and Nancy Reagan in the Valentine's Day Unit Study. The unit study quotes Nancy Reagan: "I realized how valuable the art and practice of writing letters are..." and I think these are valuable to encourage in our children. Writing letters is something we plan to focus on more this summer. 

As we will be attending a family wedding at the end of June, we will also spend time talking about weddings that were hosted in the White House. I had no idea that there were 17 weddings! Ten for presidential children. What a great opportunity to compare and contrast the various portraits and photographs of White House Weddings.



Thanksgiving Day Unit study Thanksgiving Unit Study 


There are so many great lessons within this unit study – from opportunities to study the history of the Pilgrims to current events (viewing the current pardoning of the turkey by the president) to baking and cooking using Mamie Eisenhower's recipes. I can't wait to try out some of these recipes this year! 




Christmas Unit Study

Christmas Unit Study 

At Christmas time, I am excited to share the history of the Crèche or nativity scene in the White House as we put up our own nativity. Being able to share family traditions is so important to us and these lessons provide one more way to share our own family history as we explore the history of the holidays and the White House. And since our five-year-old has started to bake cookies with me, being able to use a recipe from the White House is a thrilling idea!  


I highly recommend the White House Holiday Unit Studies from Silverdale Press LLC for families who wish to know more about the history and background of holidays in America. We look forward to using these unit studies year after year!


Silverdale Press LLC Logo

To learn more about Silverdale Press LCC, please visit the following:


To read more reviews for the White House Holiday Unit Studies or read reviews about the language arts curriculum Creative Writing and Classical Rhetoric: Practicing the Habits of Great Writers for grades 9-12. 



Monday, June 18, 2018

Book Club: Reviewing Finding the Love of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation



Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in return for my honest opinion. All thoughts and opinions are my own.This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you. 

In Finding the Love of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation by Elyse Fitzpatrick, the reader is taken on a journey through the Bible as Fitzpatrick demonstrates how she believes the entire "Bible is about Jesus and his love for you." I was very excited to review Finding the Love of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation to aid in my Bible studies. I found the book to be well-written as it was clear and concise as to the meaning and thoughts of the author. However, I was disappointed as it seemed to only be geared towards women and personally I do not agree with her assumption that one can find Jesus in every story in the Bible.

After an introduction and two chapters that present Fitzpatrick's idea of how Jesus opened up the eyes of many disciples (spending much time on Cleopas) and how our own eyes can be opened as well, the reader is led through six chapters that specifically address how to find Jesus in different areas of the Bible.

Fitzpatrick explores how the reader can find the love of Jesus:
  • in the book of Moses
  • in Israel's Stories and histories 
  • in His Songs and Sayings (Psalms and Proverbs) 
  • in His Prophets
  • in His Law
  • in the Gospel
Fitzpatrick discusses how "the Bible isn't primarily a collection of stories about heroes we should emulate. It's about the one Hero who draws us to love and worship him" (118-119). Again, I found it hard to agree with some of her assumptions about the purpose behind the stories in the Old Testament. She also takes readers through how they can find Jesus in different circumstances: 
  • Jesus before Bethlehem (before his birth) 
  • Prophetic words
  • Types of the Son and Gospel Story 
The reader is also given instruction as to how one can read the Bible from its two purposes according to Fitzpatrick:
  1. what God expects of us – "the law" 
  2. what God has done for us – "the Gospel"
At the end of each chapter, there are questions (Open Bible, Open Heart) to help you review what you have read and questions for further study to take you beyond the book. There is space to write your answers within the book if you wish. I appreciate that space is included but I think that perhaps just space instead of lines could be provided for those of us who write bigger. 
Fitzpatrick provides examples of how she has found Jesus throughout the entire Bible using Bible quotes and scriptural references. I think individuals interested in learning more on their journey may enjoy Finding the Love of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation. So while I personally did not enjoy the book as much as I thought I was going to, I still think it is worth a read to further your education. As I disagreed with many of points, I did find myself talking about the book and the ideas contained within so it is a conversation starter in that respect. I do recommend you take time to read other reviews as my experience may be different from other reviewers. 


Thursday, June 14, 2018

F is for Fredericksburg (Blogging through the Alphabet)

Battle of Fredericksburg


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

In December of 1862, a battle raged around the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Just a month prior, General George McClellan was leading the Army of the Potomac until President Lincoln replaced him with Ambrose Burnside. As it had been the goal of other Union commanders, Burnside's mission was to capture Richmond – the capital of the Confederacy.

Fredericksburg was chosen as Burnside's destination for a number of reasons:
  • The Union Army would need to eventually cross the Rappahannock River and it was navigable below the city 
  • It was the largest city between Washington, D.C. and Richmond
  • It featured a railroad crossing site
  • It was home to an intersection of roads on which supplies traveled throughout Virginia 
Because part of the complaint against McClellan was his lack of movement towards attacking Lee and the Confederate army, Burnside did not want to squander the resources available to him. He did not want to wait until spring to move the Union Army. However, there was a problem for the Union Army: Burnside would need to supply his own bridges to cross the Rappahannock River because the bridges had been burned a long time prior by Lee's army.

The pontoon bridges took over ten days to arrive during which time Burnside's men sat idly and the element of surprise quickly vanished. General Lee was moving his army into position to meet Burnside's army. General Longstreet's corps had moved to the hills west of town and General Jackson was on his way as well. The territory surrounding Fredericksburg gave Lee and the Confederate Army the advantage in position. 

Early on December 11, 1862, the engineers began building the pontoon bridges. Unfortunately, for the Union engineers and carpenters, there were Mississippians in the town. They fired upon the Union men as they attempted to build the bridges. The Union artillery fired upon the town to force out the Confederate men and eventually Burnside approved Federal troops to cross in boats to flush out the remaining Mississippians. 

The Federal army crossed on the five pontoon bridges on December 12 to occupy the town. Even though they were in Fredericksburg, they would have to wait another day to set up positions and move through the town that was destroyed by the Federal artillery barrage the day before. 

Quote: "many a fellow lay down in his grave...to get up was certain death or bad wound"On December 13, 1862, Major General William Franklin's men attacked Jackson's lines but he ordered only one division – that commanded by General George Gordon Meade – to attack the Confederates. Meade pushed through the one point left open by Jackson – an area A.P. Hill thought was impassable by troops. Meade pushed forward but Jackson's Confederate reinforcements forced Meade to retreat. Franklin had never ordered more divisions to join Meade's attack. Perhaps if Meade had his own reinforcements, the results of Fredericksburg might have been different.

In the early afternoon, Union Major General Edwin Sumner was ordered to attack Lee's position on the hills – Marye's Heights. The Confederate army defended Marye's Heights behind a stone wall and a sunken road. To make it to the wall, Federal troops had to cross a half-mile wide open field. The Federals marched forward and tried assaulting the stone wall. Brigade after brigade – fourteen total – would try to move upwards to take Marye's Heights under Confederate fire and an artillery barrage. The field piled up with dead, dying, and wounded Federal troops. The men continued to advance line after line across the slopping field. Two-thirds of the casualties of Burnside's army had fallen in front of the stone wall by the end of the day.

While observing the Federal advance and attempts to take Marye's Heights, Lee observed to his officers:

"It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should become too fond of it." 


Burnside's Quote "for the failure in the attack I am responsible"After December 14, Burnside moved the army back across the Rappahannock River to reorganize even though he had thought about resuming the attack. A consultation with his top commanders changed his mind and he decided it would be best to end the campaign. There was no benefit in holding the city of Fredericksburg. 

The night of December 15, 1862 would bring an unusual phenomenon for the skies of Virginia. Both sides – the Confederates and the Federal troops – were treated to seeing the Aurora Borealis. 

There were nearly 13,000 Federal casualties and only 5,000 Confederate casualties from the Battle of Fredericksburg. 

Resources and References 

Image used for the title and that of Burnside are from WPclipart and are in public domain.

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park 




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