Civil War Classes

SAIL Program

  • The following classes were presented in association with the SAIL (Seniors Active in Learning) program at Collin  College in Plano, Texas.

  • SAIL is an educational program operated by and for individuals 55 years of age or better under the sponsorship of Collin College Continuing Education. SAIL is affiliated with Elderhostel Institute Network as a Lifelong Learning Institute, one of more than 250 similar programs nationwide. SAIL offers classes in the spring and fall semesters, a lecture series and discussion groups during the summer, and social activities throughout the year. Anyone who is 55 years of age or older can join, regardless of residence.

  • Adobe pdf copies of the lectures are available for download for a fee 

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The American Civil War

  • Description - The American Civil War (18611865) occurred after eleven Southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America. Led by Jefferson Davis, the Confederacy fought against the United States (the Union), which was supported by all the free states (where slavery had been abolished) and by five slave states that became known as the border states.

  • Developed - Spring 2009

  • Number of Classes - 6

  • Comments: "An excellent, well prepared, and very interesting course.  One of the very best history courses I've taken."  "This was an outstanding course.  Mr. Mesch is very interesting to listen to.  I really appreciate his obvious enthusiasm on the subject."

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Voices of the Civil War

  • Description - Relive the Civil War through speeches, writings and music.

  • Developed - Fall 2010

  • Number of Classes - 5

  • Comments: "Great information, interesting presentation." "Allen did a wonderful job presenting the facts and people. Questions he could not answer were research and answered the next week."

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Civil War Photography

  • Description - The American Civil War created photojournalism through such photographers as Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner and Timothy O'Sullivan.  Nearly every Civil War soldier had his photograph taken by one of the more than 5,000 American photographers.  The documentary photographers took thousands of images on the battlefields and in the army camps to bring the horror of battle to the home front. The class examines the history of photography, and students put on glasses to view a new exhibit of 3D images.

  • Developed - Fall 2010

  • Number of Classes - 2

  • Evaluation: 4 out 4.

  • Comments: "Super research on his part." "Great content - both techniques, history of photography and photographs."

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From West Point to Fort Sumter

  • Description - This class explores the development of future Union (Grant, McClellan, Sherman and Sheridan) and Confederate (Lee, Jackson, Longstreet, and Stuart) generals from plebes at West Point to the beginning of the Civil War.

  • Developed - Spring 2011

  • Number of Classes - 4

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Civil War Turning Points

  • Description - The Civil War witnessed dramatic shifts of military momentum.  For nearly 150 years, scholars and historians have argued about when and where the war turned decisively toward the victory by the Union Armies.  In this presentation, we examine the critical battles and try to determined the turning point in the Civil War.

  • Developed - Summer 2011

  • Number of Classes - 1

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From Springfield to Fort Sumter

  • Description - The class traces the events from Lincoln's election to the Union response to the capture of Fort Sumter.

  • Developed - Summer 2011

  • Number of Classes - 1

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The Armies Clash - First Bull Run and Wilson's Creek

  • Description - The class discusses the battles at Manassas (First Bull Run), VA on July 21, 1861 and Wilson's Creek, MO on August 10, 1861.  

  • Developed - Fall 2011

  • Number of Classes - 2

  • Evaluation: 3.9 out of 4.

  • Comments: "The instructor was well prepared and made excellent use of the media.  I enjoyed his sense of humor." "Allen does an excellent job of teaching.  He knows the Civil War and having visited so many of the sites is able to give one the feeling of having been there."

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Union Victories in the West Turn the Tide

  • Description - The class discusses the battles at Fort Donelson, TN (February 11-16, 1862), New Madrid/Island No. 10, MO (February 28-April 8, 1862), Shiloh, TN (April 6-7, 1862), Hampton Roads (March 8-9, 1862), Glorieta Pass, NM (March 26-28, 1862), Forts Jackson & St. Philip, LA (April 16-28, 1862), and Pea Ridge, AR (March 7-8, 1862). 

  • Developed - Spring 2012

  • Number of Classes - 5

  • Evaluation:  3.5 out of 4. 

  • Comments: "Allen was great as always."  Another great job!  Allen has a real solid interest and knowledge of the Civil War." "The visuals were very well done and easily understood."  

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Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign

  • Description - The class covers Jackson's Shenandoah Valley Campaign from March through May.  The battles discussed will include Kernstown I, Winchester I, Cross Keys, Port Republic, and Front Royal. 

  • Developed - Spring 2012

  • Number of Classes - 2

  • Evaluation:  3.8 out of 4. 

  • Comments: "An excellent use of visual aids and power point." "Great presentation."

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Union Leadership Crises in the East

  • Description - Following the failure of the Peninsular Campaign, the command structure in the Eastern Theater underwent several changes.  The leadership of George McClellan, John Pope and Ambrose Burnside is examined in the battles at Manassas (Second Bull Run) - August 28-30, 1862, Antietam, MD - September 16-18, 1862, and  Fredericksburg, VA - December 11-15, 1862.

  • Developed - Fall 2012

  • Number of Classes - 3

  • Evaluation

  • Comments:

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Gettysburg: Three Days of Glory 

  • Description - This class presents the battle of Gettysburg through the motion picture Gettysburg which is based on the book by Michael Shaara The Killer Angels.

  • Developed - Spring 2013

  • Number of Classes - 4

  • Evaluation: 3.9 out of 4.

  • Comments: "A very good presentation on a very complex subject." "A very knowledgeable instructor who talked to us without notes as though telling a story." "I liked the multi-media presentation which kept the class active and moving."

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April 1865 - The Month that Saved America

  • Description - This class traces the last days of the Civil War using Jay Winik's book, April 1865.  The class will cover each day of the war during that historic month including the collapse of Confederate defenses around Petersburg, the flight of the Confederate government from Richmond, Lee's desperate retreat to and surrender at Appomattox Court House, Lincoln's assassination, and Booth's capture.

  • Developed - Spring 2015

  • Number of Classes - 4

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The Next Fifty Years

  • Description - Explore forecasts of future developments over the next fifty years.  The class will allow us to gaze into the crystal ball with leading futurists and see what we will miss.

  • Developed - Spring 2011

  • Number of Classes - 3

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The War of 1812

  • Description - America's fragile neutrality between the British and French came to an end with the war of 1812.  The war was fought in three major theaters: on the oceans, along the American coast, and on the broad frontier along the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River. The conflict was fueled by America's efforts to gain world respect and expand its borders.  The war broke the confederation of Native Tribes, produced American heroes such as Andrew Jackson, and gave birth to our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner."

  • Developed - Fall 2009

  • Number of Classes - 6

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Revised 03/30/2015