Black Confederate Pensioners After the Civil War Lesson Plan
Gathering data on the services black noncombatants performed for the Confederate army effort has been hampered by the lack of reliable information. Fortunately some Confederate states, including Mississippi, have archived pension applications from Confederate war veterans. Mississippi was the only Confederate state to include the soldiers’ personal servants who were disabled as a result of war wounds in its pension program from the beginning in 1888. The applications are now on file in the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, where they can be viewed on microfilm. Other southern states did not include African Americans in Confederate army pension programs until the 1920s. Confederate pension applications provide a much clearer picture of what black southerners did during the war. In this lesson, students will examine this little-known aspect of the American Civil War.
CONNECTION TO THE CURRICULUM
Mississippi Studies Framework: competencies 1 and 3
Grades 4 (with modification) through 12
MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT
OPENING THE LESSON
Ask students to consider the services rendered to this country by its military veterans, especially those who have served during times of war. Lead them to discuss the compensations and benefits soldiers receive from the government. Looking at the Social Security and the Veterans Today websites could be helpful. (Both sites accessed April 2008.)
Ask students to recall their studies of the Civil War and to speculate on the benefits available to veterans of that conflict. Additionally, encourage students to discuss whether or not African Americans played any role in the Confederate war effort, and if they did, ask if their services entitled them to benefits once the war was over. This lesson will enable them to learn more about the presence and service of African Americans in the Confederate war effort.
DEVELOPING THE LESSON
Before and After
Mark each statement T (True) or F (False)
___ 1. Although African American slaves provided crucial services to the Confederate Army, few accompanied their owners into actual battle zones.
___ 2. By the later years of the war, most black noncombatants had already been sent back home.
___ 3. African American noncombatants were limited in their service to areas along the Mississippi River.
___ 4. After the Civil War, Mississippi provided pensions for disabled or indigent veterans but not for their slaves who accompanied them into military service.
___ 5. The most important source of information regarding the service of African Americans during the Civil War comes from anecdotes, which rarely can be documented.
CONCLUDING THE LESSON
• Several options can be used to ascertain student learning. The teacher may wish to post several pieces of butcher paper around the room.
• As a final activity, have students respond in some way to this quote from the author’s full article published in The Journal of Mississippi History:
ASSESSING THE LESSON
• Participation in small/large group activities and discussion
EXTENDING THE LESSON
Students may wish to explore why Mississippi willingly offered pensions to African Americans. Explore the reasoning behind this action.
Hollandsworth Jr., James G. “Looking for Bob: Black Confederate Pensioners After the Civil War.” The Journal of Mississippi History, Vol. LXVIX, No. 4, Winter 2007.
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