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Union Soldiers on Ship Island During the Civil War lesson plan

OVERVIEW

For many, a visit to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, especially during the summer months, will include an excursion to Ship Island. Well known for its expanses of white sandy beaches and for the huge Civil War-era fortress located there, Ship Island has become a popular tourist destination. This Mississippi History Now article and lesson will encourage students in a deeper exploration of the island and the somewhat somber history of its Fort Massachusetts. In their investigation, they will also find examples of the environmental impact of the human sojourn on the island.

CURRICULAR CONNECTIONS

Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 3, and 4.

TEACHING LEVELS

Grade 4 (with modifications) through 12.

MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT

Mississippi History Now article

Unlined paper, colored pencils, markers

OBJECTIVES

Students will:

discover the strategic importance of Ship Island to the North during the Civil War;

determine how Ship Island was used by the North during the war;

relate the geographic theme of human-environment interaction to events on Ship Island during the war.

OPENING THE LESSON

Allow students to share any knowledge they have of Ship Island and Fort Massachusetts. Ask students to guess when and why the fort was constructed. Using a large wall map of the United States, indicate the location of Ship Island and ask students to consider the importance of its location during the time of the Civil War. Divide the class into “NORTHERN” and “SOUTHERN” groups and ask them to discuss how Ship Island and its fort would be advantageous to their “side.” Tell students that, long before it became a popular tourist attraction, the area was actively involved in the Civil War in a way that might surprise them.

DEVELOPING THE LESSON

1.

Give each student a piece of unlined paper for them to sketch their impression of Ship Island BEFORE the construction of Fort Massachusetts. Let them refer to a map in order to get an idea of its size and shape, even though that has changed since the time period. Have them place the sketch in their LEARNING LOG.

2.

Divide the class into small groups with the following questions to answer after reading the Mississippi History Now article. After ample time has been allotted for question a to be discussed quietly in groups, ask an oral question of the class and have each write an answer in their LEARNING LOG . Have them then work on question b and follow the same technique with the remaining questions.

a.

The relative location of Ship Island made its occupation very important to the North. Where is it located in relation to Mobile, Alabama, New Orleans, Louisiana, and the state of Texas? Why was this location essential to the North’s military strategy?

b.

In addition to using the fort as a base from which to attack the surrounding area, Ship Island served several other functions for the North. What were they?

c.

What was the peak Union strength on the island?

d.

Identify the 2nd Louisiana Native Guards.

3.

Ask students to turn in their answers to the oral questions for a grade.

4.

Lead a class discussion of the first two objectives to determine student mastery.

5.

Tell students that geographers often talk about the theme or concept of human-environment interaction. Whenever humans and their environment interact, there will be a reaction or consequence, either positive or negative. As an example, ask students how they interact with the very hot, humid climate of a Mississippi summer. How would that reaction differ in the Alaskan wintertime? Tell students that humans depend on, modify, or adapt to their environments. (NOTE: Additional information on the five themes of geography, including human-environment interaction, can be found on the National Geographic Website.

6.

Ask students to make a chart in their LEARNING LOG. Headings to include:
HUMAN ACTIVITY; ENVIRONMENTAL ASPECT AFFECTED; RESULT/CONSEQUENCE OF INTERACTION. (The teacher may prefer other headings such as DEPENDING, MODIFYING, ADAPTING and CONSEQUENCES.) Students will search the article for the numerous ways soldiers interacted with the environment of the Gulf Coast during the Civil War time period. Teacher may wish to allow group work for this activity.

7.

A class discussion will enable students to add to their charts.

CONCLUDING THE LESSON

Distribute a second piece of unlined paper to the students. Ask them to sketch a picture of Ship Island after the Civil War occupation and to include specific examples of human-environment interaction. A brief paragraph detailing differences in their first and second drawings would constitute a final evaluation.

ASSESSING STUDENT LEARNING

1.

Participation in class activities, discussions, group work

2.

LEARNING LOGS

3.

Sketches and paragraph

EXTENDING THE LESSON

1.

Someone may have pictures of Ship Island and the fort to share with the class.

2.

Students could write a play, using the first-person accounts in the article. This could be presented to the class.

3.

Students could investigate how Civil War activities caused environmental changes in places such as Vicksburg, Shiloh, etc. They may wish to think about this geographic theme in relation to more recent wars in which the United States has been involved.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

1.

National Geographic’s MAP MACHINE—Civil War Edition at http://java.nationalgeographic.com/
maps/civilwar

2.

Teacher may wish to borrow the 30-minute video, “Rebuilding the Legend: Ship Island Lighthouse,” to show to class. The video is available to Mississippi schools through the Mississippi History on Loan program, Mississippi Department of Archives & History. Fax order to 601-354-6043. Telephone order to 601-961-4724. Hurricane Katrina (2005) destroyed the lighthouse and washed it out to sea.

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