Taken from the fall 2006 course catalog of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at George Mason University in Virginia. The leader of this course, Ron Beaver, is a re-enactor and amateur military historian, board director of a local railroad museum, frequent speaker at area Civil War round tables, historical societies, living history events, local schools and museums. He serves as a tour guide to various Civil War and railroad sites in Northern Virginia and is a member of numerous preservation organizations.

Gettysburg, Appomattox and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation are well known Civil War events. Yet other factors, including legal rulings, logistics and transportation nets, played little-appreciated but highly important roles in the War’s direction and outcome. To explore these factors the class will use period photos, diaries, letters and maps to illustrate the significance of these rarely discussed topics.

September 18 – Legal and Political Aspects of the Civil War
Was the Constitution ignored in the prosecution of the War? Articles and Sections of the Constitution, as well as the more well-known documents and rulings, will be examined and parallels to current events drawn.

September 25 – Importance of Railroads in the conduct of the War
The “Iron Horse” was a technological marvel that transformed mid-nineteenth century warfare. Topics discussed will include the state of the railroad industry prior to 1861, gauge differences, connectivity, ownership rights and various railroad acts.

October 2 – Logistics and Its Significance
The Confederacy had certain natural advantages that it lost as the War progressed because of mismanagement, lack of central control and an absence of central planning. The Union, however, skillfully mastered the art of logistics and the application of newly emerging technologies, thereby enhancing its military capabilities.

October 9 – Local Civilian Struggles Against Occupation
The Civil War was more than battles and generals. The home front, particularly one occupied by the “enemy,” (in this case, Alexandria by Union forces) will be relived as ordinary people describe their experiences, using letters, diaries and photos from that time.




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