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High School Lesson Plan




PROBLEM: You see them often: statues, bridges, street names, parks, etc. named for military “heroes”. Is there always justification to be so designated ? Is it service alone? Is it personal courage exemplified on the fields of battle? Is it bringing inspiring leadership that results in great victories, or the loyalty and admiration of those who are led? Is it personal appearance? A bombastic manner of speech that inspires others? A sense of arrogance and self-righteousness? One such controversial figure that could be described by many of the preceding examples would be Robert H. Milroy. Is he a true national hero recognized only locally? Or should he be considered less or more than that?

GRADE LEVEL: High School Junior Honors Class Seminar

OBJECTIVES: Students will come to understand how different definitions of “hero” can be arrived at by examining the complexities of the human personality - both the subject’s and those contemporaries who interpret the value of other’s performances on the field of battle.

NATIONAL HISTORY STANDARDS: # 3… Student engages in historical analysis and interpretation. (Civil War Period)

INDIANA ACADEMIC STANDARDS: # 1… Early National Development … USH 1.3… Civil War & Reconstruction

# 9… Historical Research … USH 9.1 … Locate and analyze primary and secondary sources presenting differing perspectives on events and issues of the past. … USH 9.2 … Locate and use sources found at local and state libraries, archival collections, historic sites and electronic sites.

TIME: … Research 3 days preparation time…Seminar Discussion: 60 –75 minutes

ASSESSMENT: How often did students participate? How well researched were their comments? Was opinion arrived at through extensive research with numerous references to suggested source material? Were arguments supporting point of view able to sway other’s opinions?

BACKGROUND: Robert H. Milroy is a “local hero” in Jasper County, Indiana. His heroic stature is attributed to his service to the United States during the Civil War. However, although he achieved the ranks of Brigadier General and Major General he is most remembered for a devastating defeat at the Second Battle of Winchester and a subsequent court martial…in which he was exonerated. To better comprehend his true stature it is necessary to look into the subject’s background, actions and his thoughts. All of this is possible through an examination of his own letters, comments from his contemporaries and historians assessments of his actions.


Leading questions for teachers:

1. What is your personal definition of a hero? Military hero?

2. Is “eagerness” a necessary part of a heroic persona?

3. Must heroes perform extraordinary acts, or simply attempt to do so?

4. Can one be considered a hero if one disobeys orders from superiors? Even if the act was successful?

5. When in positions of control must heroes be magnanimous or may they be tyrannical?

Robert H. Milroy

Suggested Sources:

I. Personal Appearance

A. "Grey Eagle of the Army" - Dictionary of American Biography

B. "looks like a general"

II. Upbringing & Early Life

A. Indiana

B. Military Academy Education

C. Mexican War

III. Civil War

A. Patriotism of...

B. Organize Indiana Volunteer Unit - Milroy doc. Feb 6, 1861

C. Appt. Major General - Milroy doc. 262, May 18, 1861

D. Actions of

1. criticized - overly zealous - Milroy doc. 168, July 7, 1861

2. disobeyed orders - "My will is absolute law" by Jonathon A. Noyalas (ISBN 0786425083)

E. Personality in battle

1. "flamboyant" - A Stillness at Appomattox by Bruce Catton

2. "Milroy's weary boys"

3. "state of frenzy" - Trial by Fire by Page Smith

F. Winchester

1. Occupation of - My will...

2. 2nd Battle of -

3. disregard of orders? -

4. losses - Milroy doc. Aug. 21, 1863

G. Court Martial

1. General Halleck

2. arrested -

  • Milroy doc. June 30, 1863
  • Milroy doc. June 23, 1863
  • Milroy doc. June 28, 1863

3. Gideon Welles - My Will...

4. Milroy's reactions

a. despair - Milroy doc. June 30, 1863

b. letters - Milroy doc. July 13, 1863

  • Milroy doc. July 5, 1863
  • Milroy doc. Sept. 1, 1863
  • Milroy doc. Sept. 21, 1863
  • Milroy doc. Sept. 23, 1863
  • Milroy doc. Aug. 21, 1863
  • Milroy doc. July 18, 1863

H. Acquittal

1. Hearing ends Oct. 27, 1863

2. Praise for Milroy - Milroy doc. Oct. 13, 1863

3. Awaiting new command - Milroy letter to President Lincoln

4. Begs for command - My Will...

5. Last action = success - My Will...

  • Milroy doc. 074 Dec. 8, 1864
  • Milroy doc. 077 Dec. 27, 1864

I. Aftermath

1. Important posts - Dictionary of American Biography

2. only monument to in Rensselaer IN July 4, 1910 - My Will...


Addendum to resource materials: Primary sources involving Milroy at song of support for Milroy composed and sung by troops

Winchester references by RHM, et al @RHM_uc34Mar-Apr-May 1864

  • 14a
  • 14b Letter from RHM to Abraham Lincoln defending his
  • 15c actions at Winchester.
  • 15d RHM professes his love of country, etc.
  • 16a
  • 16b Letter from President Abraham Lincoln to RhM
  • 16c
  • 17a RHM reply to Lincoln
  • 17b Orders from General Halleck
  • 17d Milroy's passionate plea
  • 18a 
  • 19b RHM's 2nd letter of appeal to President Lincoln
  • 22c
  • 22d RHM contests court martial
  • 23a
  • 24a
  • 24b support for RHM
  • 24c

Doc. 123 Letter from W. H. Ball to J. O. Cravens - "men would like to fight under RHM"

Doc. 199 Letter from RHM to Mary Milroy