HIS 300: The Civil War and Reconstruction

Course Description

This course will focus on significant events, issues, and ideas during the pre-Civil War period (1848-1860), the years of warfare (1861-1865), and the Reconstruction period (1865-1877). Themes include slavery and the territories, the nature of modern warfare, ideological and economic conflict, the Lincoln legacy, the experience of bi-racial democracy during Reconstruction, and the influence and meaning of the Civil War/Reconstruction period for the 21st century.

This course is an approved survey course in United States History for teacher certification in Connecticut.


  • ENG 101: English Composition 1
  • ENG 102: English Composition 2

Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:

  1. Describe in depth the historical content and principal issues of the Civil War and Reconstruction period.
  2. Analyze the changes in America wrought by the Civil War and Reconstruction.
  3. Conduct effective research on a substantial issue or topic in the Civil War / Reconstruction period, using primary and secondary sources.
  4. Distinguish 19th-century attitudes and ideas about the Civil War and Reconstruction from those of the 21st century.

General Education Outcomes (GEOs)

Please check the applicable GEOs for this course, if any, by outcomes at GEO Category Search, or by subject area at GEO Discipline Search.

Course Activities and Grading


Midterm Written Exam (Final Draft - Week 4)


Research Paper (Draft - Week 5 & Final Draft - Week 6)


Weekly Posted Commentaries (Weeks 1-7)


Final Examination (Final Draft - Week 8)




Required Textbooks

Available through Charter Oak's online bookstore

  • Freehling, William. The Road to Disunion, Vol. II: Secessionists Triumphant. Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN-10: 019537018X. ISBN-13: 978-0195370188.
  • Cawardine, Richard. Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power. Vintage, 2007. ISBN-10: 1400096022. ISBN-13: 978-1400096022.
  • Epps, Garrett. Democracy Reborn: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post-Civil War America. Holt, 2007. ISBN-10: 0805086633. ISBN-13: 978-0805086638.
  • Lemann, Nicholas. Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007. ISBN-10: 0374530696. ISBN-13: 978-0374530693.

Recommended Text(s)

  • McPherson, James, and James Hogue. Ordeal By Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction. McGraw-Hill, 2000. ISBN-10: 0072317361. ISBN-13: 978-0072317367.
  • Smith, Page. Trial by Fire: A People's History of the Civil War and Reconstruction Period. Penguin, 1990. ISBN-10: 0140122613. ISBN-13: 978-0140122619.

Additional Resources

  • Occasionally, the instructor will identify and post (or provide a link) to a scholarly article or a primary document not covered by the assigned reading. These will be generally initiated by the discussions in which students are engaged; sometimes students request materials about issues in which they are interested.
  • Students tend to use internet sources, thus opening a world of research materials. Internet sources are also somewhat problematic, however, because of the potential for plagiarism, whether intentional or unintentional. Thus, except for such links as OYEZ, or identifiable newspaper sources, or addresses with .edu or .gov, internet sources are discouraged. Interlibrary loan is, however, encouraged.

Course Schedule



Readings and Exercises




Topic: Part 1: Slavery Part 2: The "Age of Boundlessness"

  • Read:
    • Carwardine, Chapter 1
    • Freehling, Parts I and II
  • Review Syllabus
  • Read assigned chapters
  • Read lecture
  • Post self-introduction
  • Respond to questions in the discussion board



Topic: Slavery in the Territories

  • Read:
    • Carwardine, Chapters 2 and 3
    • Freehling, Parts III, IV and V
  • Read assigned chapters
  • Read lecture
  • Respond to questions in the discussion board
  • Submit topic for research paper (due Week 6)



Topics: The Election of 1860; Southern Secession & The Confederacy in Theory and Practice

  • Read:
    • Carwardine, Chapters 4 and 5
  • Distribute Midterm Exam 1
  • Read assigned chapters
  • Read lecture
  • Respond to questions in the discussion board
  • Submit draft of research paper (due Week 6 - not graded)



Topic: Why did the United States win the Civil War?

  • Read:
    • Carwardine, Chapters 6 and 7
    • Epps, Prologue, Chapters 1-4
  • Midterm Exam Due
  • Read assigned chapters
  • Read lecture
  • Respond to questions in the discussion board
  • Submit Midterm Exam



Topic: The Union Wins the Civil War: Abraham Lincoln and Emancipation

  • Read:
    • Epps, Chapters 5-8
  • Read assigned chapters
  • Read lecture
  • Respond to questions in the discussion board
  • Submit draft of research paper (due Week 6)



Topic: Struggling with Reconstruction

  • Read:
    • Epps, Chapters 9-11 and Afterward
    • Lemann, Prologue, Chapters 1 & 2
  • Read assigned chapters
  • Read lecture
  • Respond to questions in the discussion board
  • Submit Final Draft of Research Paper



Topic: The Dilema of Reconstruction

  • Read:
    • Lemann, Chapters 3, 4 and 5
  • Research papers resubmitted
  • Final exams due Week 8
  • Read assigned chapters
  • Read lecture
  • Respond to questions in the discussion board
  • Post draft of Final Exam (due Week 8 - not graded)
  • Resubmit research paper (optional)



Topic: The Demise of Reconstruction

  • No reading assignment
  • Final Exam due
  • Submit Final Exam
  • Complete Course Evaluation

COSC Accessibility Statement

Charter Oak State College encourages students with disabilities, including non-visible disabilities such as chronic diseases, learning disabilities, head injury, attention deficit/hyperactive disorder, or psychiatric disabilities, to discuss appropriate accommodations with the Office of Accessibility Services at OAS@charteroak.edu.

COSC Policies, Course Policies, Academic Support Services and Resources

Students are responsible for knowing all Charter Oak State College (COSC) institutional policies, course-specific policies, procedures, and available academic support services and resources. Please see COSC Policies for COSC institutional policies, and see also specific policies related to this course. See COSC Resources for information regarding available academic support services and resources.