The American
A Journey through the life of an American adventurer 1858-1866

By Jeremy A. Hagy

Introduction | Task | Process | Evaluation | Conclusion


The Year is 1858.  Your name is Stuard Burke, a 23 year old, simple American man living in Baltimore Maryland.  Through out your childhood, you have imagined living the life of the American frontiersman.  The adventurers of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett burn in your imagination and your soul
begs to be free in the American wilderness.  Driven by your dreams of salvation and adventure, you decide to make a new life for yourself out west. 
There are many adventures for you in the future as the nation evolves and moves toward war. Without knowing it, the actions of your life will greatly effect this country as it matures.  Like every citizen that has ever lived in the United States, you are a participant in the growth of this nation and YOU make history happen!!

During your adventure, you will find out quickly that America is a young country, burning with the conflicts of expansion and change, and the frontier is a land that no man can tame.  Living  is hard and thousands of factors that are out of your control will shape your life over the next six years.
As you live the life of Stuard Burke, ask yourself these two questions:

Top of Page    

The Task

Prepare yourself to live the life of American adventurer Stuard Burke!  Your task is to document the life of this American from 1859 to 1865, and learn about how this one man's life helped change the nation.  Independently, students will use designated internet resources to follow the fictional life of this American and to direct their learning.  These resources are rich with content and should be carefully examined in order to gain a full understanding about the life of Stuard Burke and how he helps change America.  Students will create a scrapbook of original ideas and content that depicts the events of Stuard Burke's life and their significance.  This scrapbook should contain journal entries, maps, original documents, pictures, and most importantly, your creative ideas!!  Use outside materials such as library books and your text book to construct your entries and get supporting pictures and images.  At the end of the assignment, you will have 15 complete scrapbook entries combined to create the story of this adventurer's life before and during the civil war.  Follow the bulleted instructions carefully before constructing your entries.  They will guide your thoughts and outline what is expected of your entries.  During this task, you will be asked to explain your thoughts about what you are involved in, and in the end how the the country has changed.   Facts from these resources will provide much of the content for the final scrapbook, but creativity is the fun way to make this scrapbook and it is a must!
You must become this man!  Although his life is fictional, the events discussed are not.  Put yourself into his situation.  Think about things the way he would see things.  Make his thoughts your own and let the facts of history guide you.  This is your adventure... 

Stuard Burke 1859-1865

Top of Page    

The Process

April 20, 1859

You have decided to go west!  Since going alone is a very dangerous venture and the odds for survival are small, you have joined a group of explorers from the east who have assembled a party to travel to the Missouri territory.  Two weeks before leaving, each group member is assigned a task to prepare the group for the trip.  Your job is to determine which map you should use as a guide to Missouri.  It is important to chose a map that is modern and accurate.  If the group gets lost it will surely be attacked by the natives and they will never see the wonders of the west.

John Speed
. America, [1626] NYPL, Map Division

America, [1626]
Luckily, a friend of yours collects topographic artifacts (Maps).  His collection is extensive and includes maps of the United States as charted by early explorers of the new world, and the maps of other famous explorers that tracked the American landscape as it was settled.  Explore his gallery of American maps, look at how American maps have changed over time and choose the map that you will use to travel west. 
Explore the Gallery

Explore all 6 sections.  Read all of the provided information and view all of the maps.  Click maps once to enlarge their view.  You can use the 'BACK' button to navigate between the gallery and this WebQuest. When you are finished, create 3 scrapbook entries about finding a map:
Another member of your group is a member of the Baltimore Stagecoach company.  He has decided that it would be in the interest of the group for him to accept a government contract to transport mail into the new territories.  Now the group will receive supplies and security from the United States government to help with the long journey.  To read about the ways that mail was transported west, click here.

June 2, 1958
Finally, your dreams have come true!!  You are heading away from the eastern cities which you have known your whole life and going westward to the land of opportunity!  The trip is long and the wagons that you travel in are very crowded and uncomfortable.  To pass the time, you read the letters that are being transported on your wagon.  This particular sack of letters was picked up along the side of the road by your wagon and was going to be sent back east at your next stop.  You decide that since the mail is so inefficient that you should write your own letter east and drop it off with these letters.  This may be your last chance to send something east before you reach Missouri.

Read all 5 letters from above  You can use the 'BACK' button to navigate between the website and this WebQuest. When you are finished, create 2 scrapbook entries about your trip west :
October 15, 1860 
Two years in Independence, Missouri, and you have established your self as a dependable mail carrier for the Territory.  You are known for your fast delivery to the Kansas and Nebraska territories and your skills on a horse.  The rigid life of a messenger is easy when there is free time to visit a saloon. And on any warm western day, you ride the prairies until sundown.  One day you were restin' yer bones at the Chophouse Saloon in town, when you overheard someone talking about an express mail service out west to San Francisco.   This comes as exciting news to you!  There has been a lot of tension around Independence about the status of slaves being brought from the east by southern farmers who were settling  in Missouri, there has even been talk of war.  You have been looking for an opportunity to get on the move again and so you decide to travel to St. Joseph's, Missouri and talk to William Russell, the man in charge of The Pony Express.  Because of your skill and your reputation, Russell hires you as a Pony Express messenger.  October 25 will be your first delivery, and for the first time you will see the epic city of the west, San Francisco.

Read the story of the Pony Express.  You can use the 'BACK' button to navigate between the website and this WebQuest. When you are finished, create 2 scrapbook entries about the Pony Express.

December 21, 1860

The success of the Pony Express has been greater than anyone could have ever imagined.  Their ability to transport mail from the territories to the west coast has made it one of the most famous services of all time.   But its role is about to change.  Today South Carolina has seceded from the union and there is rumor that more states plan to follow.  Newly elected President, Abraham Lincoln believes that slavery should be abolished in the south and not allowed to spread to the western territories.  Many in the south believe that slavery is apart of their heritage and that they should have the right to settle their slaves out west.  There has been a lot of mail for you lately to carry west and you have a feeling that something major is about to happen.

April 16, 1861
Fort Sumter, South Carolina is attacked by confederate forces, marking the first battle of the American Civil War.  You have accepted  a job back east running mail under a banner of truce from northern to southern states.  There is no doubt that this is your most dangerous adventure, since there is very harsh fighting going on between the two sides.  Carrying the mail is playing a big part in this war.  For the first time, the country has established a working system for communicating by mail.  In many ways, you help connect a country that has been disconnected.  Many soldiers had been away from home and mail was critical for their morale.  Their letters told the story of this war from a first hand perspective. They gave details from the mind of the common man and from the soldier on the front line.  You realize that this event is greatly historic.  These letters that you carry describe the events of a war that will change America for the rest of time. 

 For the next four years, you carry mail into the south an deliver it to soldiers, the wounded, prisoners of war and to the public.  Everyday you follow the events of the war as they are published in the New York Times and struggle through the hardships of this war.

April 10, 1865

General Robert E. Lee of the Confederate forces surrenders to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomatox court house in Virginia. The war that has ravaged the country over the last five years is over, and the Union army has won.  It is time for the country to enter into a new era.  The 13th Amendment has legally freed all of the slaves in the south and the era of reconstruction has begun.  It will be a long road of recovery for the torn country and many more major events will shape this young land.  You have decided to move west again out to San Francisco.  There will be a lot of instability on the east coast as the government reshapes and the south is accepted back into the Union.  Your memories of traveling the western frontier into San Francisco pull you to the west coast just as your dreams of the west pulled you away from Baltimore almost six years ago.  You have experienced an unbelievable adventure since leaving the east, but now the warm climate and gold rich hills of San Francisco call to you.  The stories that you can share about migrating west, riding for the great Pony Express and carrying mail during the civil war will entertain folks out west for years and burn in your memory for a lifetime.  
Top of Page    

The Evaluation

    This project will be graded as a whole, with the final scrapbook as the end result. Students will be graded based upon their effort during the completion of the process and based on the final product.  Grades will be determined according to the following scale:

Student Behavior
(50 points)
  • Student Remains on task at all times
  • Student uses the internet and computer properly throughout the whole exercise
(75 points)
  • Entries are entered in order according to the activity instructions
  • All entries are complete (15 total)
  • Scrapbook shows effort, thought, and time (entries done at the last minute will be noticeable)
  • Scrapbook contains at least  (least means # needed to reach minimum requirements, extra effort will be rewarded) :
      • 5 Pictures
      • 3 maps
      • 5 different styles of entry (collage, newspaper article, historic account, etc.)
      • 2 facts per entry
Personal Journal Entries
(125 points)
  • All entries are complete & follow specific directions given for each (5 total)
  • Use imagination & creativity
  • Use information from resources accurately
  • Discuss changes happening in America
  • Discuss internal changes of the character
  • Follow Journal format
Original Entries
(250 points)
  • All entries are complete & follow specific directions given for each (10 total)
  • Use imagination & creativity
  • Variety of styles used (minimum 5)
  • Use information from resources accurately
  • Illustrate historical significance
  • Are neatly constructed & show effort, thought, and time
Bonus Points
  • Will be given based on extra effort and creativity shown 
(Bonus points will be given by the teacher & can only help your grade. 
No points will be lost for only meeting the minimum requirements, but no bonus points will be gained either.)
Total score:                                                                                                                                      /500

Top of Page

The Conclusion

During this lesson, students have reviewed several historical facts about the growth of America and the role average citizens play in making history happen.  By using the resources provided and completing the final project, several objectives have been met:

      1. Students have learned about how America's landscape has changed since colonization by viewing American maps, and how they have changed as the country expanded.
      2. Students have learned about how the early system of transporting mail grew in America.
      3. Students have gained understanding of what life was like for a western pioneer.
      4. Students have learned the story and importance of the Pony Express.
      5. Students have learned about the Civil war through actual letters and newspaper accounts from 1860-1865.
      6. Students have used their critical thinking and creative abilities to recount the events of an American's life from 1859-1865, and use these abilities to complete a project.
Any student that wishes to expand their knowledge about western expansion, the early American mail system, the Pony Express, the Civil War, or any of the topics covered within this lesson, is encouraged to follow the additional links provided by the above resources.  They will help guide your curiosity toward accurate and useful information about America and its great history!!

Top of Page

Back to Homepage