The American Civil War (Teacher Symposium)

The American Civil War


This course examines the era of the American Civil War, with emphasis on its origins, scope, and consequences.


Lead Scholar: Gary Gallagher, University of Virginia
Master Teacher: Gena Oppenheim


Image Source: Civil War recruitment poster depicting a Union soldier holding a US flag with a banner declaring “Freedom to the Slave,” 1863 (The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC04198)

Civil War recruitment poster showing soldier waving a flag and banner saying "Freedom to the Slave"
  • Up To 21 PD Hours

Course Description

This course examines the era of the American Civil War, with emphasis on its origins, scope, and consequences. Through lectures, class discussion, examination of historical texts, and walking tours, the instructors and participants will examine the central role of slavery, the ways in which military and civilian affairs intersected and influenced one another, the question of what the war left unresolved, and how Americans have remembered the conflict. In many ways, the issues that divided the nation during the Civil War era continue to resonate today. This course will seek to make those issues clear, while at the same time providing a sense of the drama and tragedy of this tumultuous period.

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Optional Book Talk: If you are interested in Professor Gallagher’s scholarship but want to take a different course at the Teacher Symposium, he will speak on his book Civil War Places: Seeing the Conflict through the Eyes of Its Leading Historians at the opening session. 

Recommended Course Readings (Optional)

Benjamin Franklin by David Martin, oil on canvas, 1767 (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts)

Photograph of Captain George Preble by T. R. Burnham, ca. 1861–1865 (The Gilder Lehrman Institute, GLC04187.16)

  • Gary W. Gallagher and Joan Waugh. The American War: A History of the Civil War Era. 3rd ed. State College, PA: Flip Learning, 2023.

Course Leaders

Headshot of Gary Gallagher

Gary Gallagher, Lead Scholar

Gary W. Gallagher is the John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War Emeritus at the University of Virginia. He is the author or editor of more than forty-five books, including Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War (University of North Carolina Press, 2008), The Union War (Harvard University Press, 2011), and The Enduring Civil War: Reflections on the Great American Crisis (Louisiana State University Press, 2020). Gallagher has participated in more than five dozen television projects in the field of Civil War history. Active in the field of historic preservation, he was the first president of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites and twice served as a member of the Board of the Civil War Trust (now the American Battlefield Trust).

Photograph of Gena Oppenheim

Gena Oppenheim, Master Teacher

Gena Oppenheim is a theater, film, and interdisciplinary studies teacher at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn, NY. A graduate of Barnard College and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, she currently serves as the senior education fellow for the Hamilton Education Program at the Gilder Lehrman Institute.