The following list of competency questions have been generated to assist Arlington County elementary teachers develop their own Civil War lesson plans that focus on local history. The goal is to make the Civil War more relevant to Arlington’s students.
1) What are some of the unique geographical features of Arlington County that made it so strategic during the war? (Arlington Heights, hills, valleys, Potomac river).
2) Compare and contrast a modern map with one from 1861. What roads existed then? What bridges existed then? What about transportation like canals or railroads? How long did it take people to travel a mile compared to today?
3) What cities or towns existed back then? What was Arlington’s relationship with Georgetown, Alexandria or Falls Church?
4) When was the Alexandria, Loudon, and Hampshire railroad built and why was it so important during the war? What battle took place on the railroad early in the war (Battle of Vienna)?
1) What was the Retrocession of 1846 and what were the root causes? What was slavery’s role in the return of Alexandria to Virginia? What impact did the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation have on Arlington?
2) Who were the radical republicans and why were so many people living in Arlington at the time considered Unionists?
3) Why did President Abraham Lincoln wait until May 24, 1861 until sending Union troops into Northern Virginia?
4) What did the Virginia vote on May 23, 1861 (Referendum on the Ratification of Succession) decide?
1) What were some of the strategic objectives of the Union Army in occupying Arlington? (Construction of forts, protecting bridges, establishing camps)
2)Identify some of the fort and camp locations from early 1861, what is located there today?
3) What is the closest camp or fort to where you live in Arlington?
4) Who were some of the famous Civil War personalities that spent time in or around Arlington during the early war? (Robert E. Lee, President Lincoln, George B. McClellan, James Longstreet, Jeb Stuart, and Irvin McDowell?
5) What military technology innovations were first tested in Arlington? (the use of gas filled balloons for aerial observations, the use of rubberized telegraph wire to link fortifications)
Impact of the war on Arlington
1) What was life like for the 2,000 people living in Arlington during the war?
2) How did all of the camps and fortifications impact the countryside? (destruction of Arlington forests)
3) Where there any military engagements that took place in Arlington? (Arlington Mill Skirmish, Ball’s Crossroads Skirmish)
4) Where did the Union soldiers come from? Which northern states sent the most troops? What did they say about Arlington and their experiences while staying there?
5) How did soldiers drill and live in camp?
6) What are some of the types of Civil War artifacts that have been found in Arlington?
7) What was the Army of the Potomac and why was it important in the ultimate Union victory?