HST501 American Civil War


There are two parts to the essay assignment:  the outline and the essay.

Part 1:  An Outline (10%)

The outline should consist of one double-spaced page with a description of your proposed essay, an argument if you have one and/or your approach to the subject and its significance to the course if not immediately evident.  (Approximately 250 words.)

A one or two page annotated bibliography  of six sources at least should accompany the essay description. This should consist of the author, title, publisher, city, and year of publication of the book, journal article, or other source and a short commentary ("annotation") on what the source offers to your essay.  Outlines submitted with no annotations to the bibliography will be penalized.

Sources should be current academic monographs or academic journal articles -- not popular works like Time-Life Books, Complete Idiot’s or Dummies Guides, Colliers Children’s Encyclopedia, Encarta, Wikipedia, Historyplace.com, etc. Journalistic works with citations are acceptable. In general, if your source does not provide detailed references in the form of footnotes, endnotes or specific page references, it is unsuitable as a source.  This especially applies to websites.  If you intend to include websites, provide their URLs in the proposal for approval.  No essay may be based entirely on websites.  ("Websites" does not mean internet journal databases like Muse or JSTOR.)

You will be assessed on the uniqueness of your topic and on the depth, currency and academic quality of your sources.  The use of academic journal articles, many of which are available online through the Ryerson Library is highly encouraged.  If you are not familiar with academic article databases like JSTOR and Project Muse, go (run!) immediately to a librarian at the Ryerson Library and ask them to show you how to use these databases.  You can access them from home and many (but not all) articles are available for downloading in full text. A link on the course website also provides you an introduction as to how to enter the online journal interface.

You may at any time after submitting a proposal, change your approach, your sources, and even completely change your essay topic without submitting a new proposal but I strongly suggest to check with me first on topic changes.

Part 2:  The Essay (30%)

Essays should be 2,500 words in length (approximately 10-12 pages not including your title page and bibliography and appendix if any.
  Standard 12 pt font, cursive or non-cursive, double spaced text, standard 2.5 cm margins, 11” X 8 ½” paper.  Pages must be stapled (no binders or paperclips), paginated, and submitted with a cover page containing no art or decorative elements.  The cover page must have:  your name, student number, course number, section number and essay title.  Essays not conforming to these standards will not be accepted and late penalties will be imposed until the essay is resubmitted in the required format.

Essays must be based on a minimum of six sources (not including course texts but seminar readings are acceptable), and should not include, encyclopedias, textbooks, or general or popular histories, or unapproved websites, (2 marks deducted for every Wikipedia or like citation) etc., as described above in Part 1.     

Paragraphs are to be indented without any additional spaces between paragraphs, unlike in this course outline, for example.  Any relevant images, maps, graphs included in the essay are to be placed into an Appendix at the back. 

The essay should have a single descriptive title or a creative title with a descriptive subtitle.  For example:  Generals in Blue:  Lives of the Union Commanders or The Architect of Genocide:  Himmler and the Final Solution, etc.   “History Essay” is not a title.  Marks will be deducted for essays submitted without a title and/or title page. 

Any paper not conforming to the above standards will be heavily penalized.

Seminar readings are good examples for required style and format of your essay and citations.


A history essay is like a courtroom argument—it is based on the presentation of evidence conforming to rules of evidence in an expositive argument.  The way hearsay is not admissible in court, Wikipedia for example, is likewise not admissible as evidence in historical discourse.  Just as court evidence is presented in a disciplined system: Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C, etc, in the historical argument, the Chicago Style footnoted citation is used to lead and guide the reader through the evidence behind the persuasive discourse of the text above.

Some of the journal readings for seminars will have been pointed out to you as appropriate models for the citation style required for your essay.

Essays must have a bibliography and have footnoted citations in the Chicago style (at the bottom of the page).  Parenthetic in-text or inline style citations are unacceptable for a history essay.   A well researched essay integrating multiple sources into its argument contains on average five to six citations per page -- approximately 50 to 70 citations per essay.

As a general rule, references should be given for direct quotations, summaries or your own paraphrases of other people's work or points of view, and for material that is factual, statistical, controversial, assertive or obscure.  You must cite more than just direct quotes.  WHEN IN DOUBT, IT IS BETTER TO PROVIDE A REFERENCE.  You do not need to cite items of general knowledge like, for example:  the sun rises in the east or Elizabeth II is the Queen of England.  

Essays that do not provide specific page references in each citation will be automatically failed without an opportunity to resubmit.  Go to these links for a guide to the required citation format:



Why Chicago Style Footnotes?


This is an example of the basic required style for citations which are to be inserted at the bottom of each page:
1 Jane Doe, The ABC's of History (Toronto: Ontario Publishers, 1997), pp. 20-21
2 Jane Doe, p. 23

It is not necessary to use archaic terms like ibid or op cit. and their use is even discouraged as word processing drag or cut-and-paste editing can easily displace the logic of these citation terms.   An author’s surname and page number is acceptable for subsequent citations once you have introduced all the relevant reference information in the first citation to that particular source. If you are citing more than one work by the same author, then include the title as well.  Titles are to be put into italics or underlined.  See the above webpages for further details and formats as to how to cite journals, multiple authors, collections, etc. or search “Chicago style footnotes” on Google.

To create numerically sequential footnotes in MS WORD 2007 go to the "References" ribbon and select [Insert Footnote]; in earlier version of MS WORD, go to the "Insert" menu and then select [Footnote] item.

Footnotes may optionally on occasion contain additional relevant short comments on the cited source but in general this practice is discouraged.


Essays MUST provide alphabetically ordered by author’s surname, bibliographies of all works consulted, whether or not they have been quoted directly. An adequate bibliography for this assignment will contain no less than six books or journal articles related to the topic.  General books, dictionaries, atlases, textbooks and/or encyclopedias DO NOT count towards this minimum number of sources, and their inclusion in citations will NOT be considered as constituting research.  Seminar readings are acceptable as citable sources.

An example of a bibliographic entry is as follows:

Smith, John.  History of Canada  (Toronto: Ontario Publishers, 1997).

Submission of Essays

Essays are to be submitted to the instructor on the due date in lecture in hardcopy with the pages stapled as per instructions.

Electronic Submission of Essays

If you find it necessary to submit an essay by e-mail, the following file naming protocol is to be used:

"Last Name_First Name_CourseNumber_SectionNumber_Title"

Any attached file not using this exact naming protocol will not be accepted.

Only MS Word files (preferred) in .doc or .docx format or PDF files will be accepted. 

The submission of files by e-mail will usually be acknowledged within two days. A hard copy of the essay is to be submitted at the next opportunity.  Indicate on the front of the hardcopy the date you had e-mailed the essay to me previously.  The e-mailed essay will secure your submission date.  Obviously the hard copy is to be exactly identical with the e-mailed copy.  Hard copies of previously e-mailed essays not indicating the e-mail date on the cover will be assigned the date of the submission of the hard copy with no appeal accepted.

Hardcopy Submission of Essays

Do not slip essays under my door or into my mail-box.  Hard copies may be submitted to the Essay Drop Off Box in the Ryerson History Department (JOR500).  Do not deliver essays to the Chang School.

I will guarantee essay returns with comments by the day of the exam only to those essays submitted to me on the due date, in hard copy, in required format, in lecture.  All other essays will be marked after the exam and arrangements may be made to get your essay mark by e-mail after the final marks have been submitted.

Late Penalties and Extensions

Extensions may be granted on medical or compassionate grounds but will be automatically penalized three (3) marks regardless. Students requesting an extension should submit an e-mailed request to me before the deadline specifying precisely the date to which they are requesting the extension.  After the due date, students need to provide appropriate documentation relating to the extension request (i.e. doctor’s note, death certificate of relative, police report on their stolen laptop, repair bills for their crashed hard disc, veterinary reports on the contents of Fluffy ’s stomach, etc).  Essays submitted under an extension must have my written response to the extension request attached to the front of the essay.  E-mailed submissions are to be attached as a ‘reply’ to my earlier response to the extension request.  Submissions without my extension approval attached to their front will be penalized as late with no opportunity of appeal afterward. No late work will be accepted after the last day of lecture or extensions granted beyond the last lecture day.  

Two (2) marks per/day are deducted from your essay mark for late submissions, weekends included, until the day the essay is submitted to me.  If I do not acknowledge the receipt of your e-mailed essay within a few days, it is your responsibility to ensure I have received it.  Keep copies of all work, including marked assignments returned to you and e-mails of your submissions until your final course mark is released.  Re-submissions of earlier e-mailed essays "lost" in transmission, should such an unlikely scenario occur, will only be accepted in the form of a forwarded copy of the original e-mail.  There are no exceptions to this.  Outstanding assignments will not be accepted after the last day of lecture.

Earning Marks

The evaluation of your research, content, evidence, originality and argumentation is of primary concern in marking as is the quality of your sources as described above. Equally important is the syntax, style and structure of your work. Marks will be deducted from work containing excessive grammatical/spelling mistakes, typographical errors, work that is excessively long or inadequately short, or which fails to provide properly formatted footnoting/bibliography. Essays that consist of frequent long quoted passages or sentences, even if footnoted, will be severely penalized.  Be selective in direct quotations.  Ask yourself, “can this be said in my own words and then cited?” Is there a stylistic or argumentative reason for quoting the source directly? Be sure to edit and check your work carefully. Do not simply rely on your computer’s spelling or grammar checker.

Grounds for Assignment Failure

Essays which do not supply proper and adequate references and bibliographies as described above or submitted after the final day of lecture will be failed. Essays based substantially on websites without the instructors permission will be failed.  Any written work that quotes directly from other material without attribution, or which paraphrases extensive tracts from the works of others, is plagiarized will be failed with no opportunity to submit and will result in additional severe academic consequences. Please consult the Ryerson academic calendar for further information on plagiarism. If you have any questions or doubts about how to cite material, please feel free to contact me.

Suggested Essay Themes

Here are a few ideas and themes describing some possible topics for an essay.

1. A biography of a lesser known Union or Confederate military figure, politician, business figure, writer, journalist, or civilian, male or female, Black or White, American-Indian, who might have made a contribution to the history of the American Civil War.

 2. An exploration of a particular theme, policy, crucial moment or aspect in the biography of a more prominent figure.  For example, Lincoln’s presidential nomination; Robert E. Lee’s decision to join the Confederacy; the assassination attempt on William Seward, the relationship between Generals Sherman and Grant, Grant's drinking, Nathan Bedford Forrest's atrocities, etc.   Do not attempt to write a complete biography of a major figure—pick a decisive moment in their life or a particular theme.  Remember—you only have 10 pages!

3.  A particular battle or campaign, significant to the outcome of the war or to military tactics or technologies.  Explore the historical debates about a battle and the elements attributed to its outcome.

4.  An exploration of a military technology and/or the individual designer behind it, a development in military management—logistics, medical care, prisoner-of-war policy, recruitment, transport, espionage, aerial surveillance, naval issues.

5.  A look at a particular social, business, or political institution and its relationship to the American Civil War—either before, during, or after the war:  the Catholic Church, the Quakers, the Supreme Court, Congress, slavery, the press, photography, advertising, the financial markets, real-estate, abolitionist movement, temperance, nativism, freedom of speech, the Habeas Corpus act, the draft, monetary policy.

6.  The effect of the Civil War on a foreign policy issue or foreign relations with a particular country and the US or the Confederacy – or even between them – how did the Union and Confederacy communicate with each other during the war?  Could the war have been halted earlier?

7.   A look at cultural institutions of the period—music, art, theatre, literature, photography.  Perhaps a comparison of one of these between the South and the North.

8.  A look at a service or institution in the period and its relationship to the Civil War:  nursing, hospitals, orphanages, social policy, policing, health care, telegraph communications, railways, banks.  How did they impact the conduct of the war?  What effect did the war have on them?

9.  The role of professionals in the Civil War:  doctors, lawyers, journalists, scientists.

10.  An exploration of one of the historiographical themes of the Civil War -- "cracker culture" -- "ethno cultural divide" -- "economic determinism".

11.  The direct effects of the Civil War on American culture or politics today.

12.  A topic of your own suggestion.