Lesson Two: “Just Another Confederate Prisoner”: From Stories of the Confederate South

Opening Epigraph by Oscar Wilde: This epigraph is from Wilde’s poem, “Ballad of Reading Gaol” (pronounced “redding jail”). What tone does this epigraph set for the story and what truth does it teach us?

“The vilest deeds like poison weeds
Bloom well in prison air;
It is only what is good in Man
That wastes and withers there;
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
And the Warder is despair.”

Background of the Story: Since its beginning, West Monroe High School’s mascot has been Johnny Reb. They are a 5A school with high academic standards with a nationally known football team, The West Monroe Rebels. The school’s website is here: Several efforts have been made to force them to change their mascot and the use of the Confederate Battle Flag. These efforts have been resisted by school officials, students, and alumni. The Supreme Court refused to make the school change the mascot. For more similar society and school related issues, go this site and do some research: http://www.dixieoutfitters.com/heritage/news2.shtml.

1. avatar – an incarnation of a god in human form.
2. Deo Vindici – The official motto of the Confederacy, meaning, “God will vindicate us.”
3) Gestapo – Hitler’s secret police before and during WWII.
4) Reconstruction – the period in the South after the war ended.


Writing: TLW create an original essay or a speech and visual presentation of one of these topics:

1). Using this story as a starting point, discuss how the war in the Middle East affects American families.
2) Joseph has the words to “I’m a Good Ole Rebel” on a tee shirt. Research the origin of the song, the movies the song has been in, and the tone and meaning of the lyrics.
3) Research the treatment of Confederate prisoners in northern prisons, (POW), and identify the philosophy of Federal treatment of prisoners. There are many Internet sites related to Civil War prisons and the History Channel produced one of Camp Douglas called 80 Acres of Hell. How does Joseph’s new knowledge of the soldiers’ lives in Rock Island Prison affect him? How do his new insights relate to the theme(s) of the story?
4) Joseph and his father were members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. (SCV). Research and report on the Sons of Confederate Veterans organization. Be sure and communicate basic facts about them: Membership requirements, purpose and work of the organization, their work with cemeteries and memorials, historical work, and prominent writers.
5) Write or discuss the symbols scattered through the story and how the story addresses the stereotypical thinking of people.
6) Create a detailed and accurate model of Rock Island Prison.
7) This story is set in modern America. What does the story’s conflict reveal about the issues, then and now?

One thought on “

  1. I just recently (probably within the last two weeks) watched the History Channel’s Eighty Acres of Hell. It was an extremely powerful and truthful depiction of an often ignored part of Civil War history. I must admit I had to turn away or leave the room during several of the scenes describing the atrocities and torture that took place at Camp Douglas…just another example of how history has been rewritten, sometimes just by omision of certain facts.

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