For Educators

The CSS Neuse State Historic Site tells the unique story of a Confederate ironclad gunboat and the men who built and served aboard her. The small town of Kinston, North Carolina, where the gunboat presently resides, found itself on the frontlines of the Civil War for most of the conflict. A few miles east, New Bern fell to Union forces early in the war and was never recaptured by Confederate forces, despite several attempts. The Confederate Navy constructed the Neuse, a shallow-draft gunboat with iron plating on its sides, for the primary purpose of assisting in the assault on Union forces occupying New Bern. This unit will explore this fascinating part of the North Carolina Civil War Experience in greater detail.

This education program, designed for 8th grade students, is one in a series that provides comprehensive, site-based learning experiences concerning the state's Civil War history. The program is a stand-alone unit, but its value is multiplied when combined with one or more additional units. Each program contains at least one supplemental lesson plan. These plans work best in support of the on-site activities, but can also be used if a site visit is not possible.

Program Goals

The story of the CSS Neuse is a component for meeting the following NCSCS Goals for 8th Grade Social Studies:

  • 4.02 Describe the political and military developments of the Civil War and analyze their effect on the outcome of the war.
  • 4.03 Assess North Carolina's role in the Civil War and analyze the social and economic impact of the war on the state.
  • 4.04 Evaluate the importance of the roles played by individuals at the state and national levels during the Civil War and Reconstruction Period.

The story of the CSS Neuse is a component for meeting the following National Standard for the Social Sciences:

  • Standard 2: The course and character of the Civil War and its effects on the American people.
  • 2A: The student understands how the resources of the Union and Confederacy affected the course of the war.
  • 2B: The student understands the social experience of the war on the battlefield and homefront.

Program Objectives

  1. Students should understand the importance of the CSS Neuse and how its story fits into the overall story of the Civil War in eastern North Carolina.
  2. Students should understand the importance of the technological advancements of the mid-nineteenth century in regards to the advent of rifled artillery and ironclad development.
  3. Students should have a basic understanding of shipbuilding practices and the efforts it took to build the CSS Neuse.
  4. Students should have a clear understanding of what life was like in Kinston, North Carolina during the Civil War for the soldiers and sailors stationed there, as well as for the civilians living in this area.

Pre-Visit Activities

  1. Students should read the Site Narrative prior to visiting the site in order to gain background information on the history of the gunboat.
  2. In order to make the most effective use of the time your students have on-site, teachers should make arrangements to have their class view the CSS Neuse orientation program prior to their arrival. This will not only give your students important historical information ahead of their visit but will also allow time for more hands-on experience at the site. The video is available on the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources YouTube channel.
  3. Teachers may use the Supplemental Lesson Plan: Life Onboard an Ironclad as a pre-visit activity or as a stand-alone classroom lesson. Classes preparing for a field trip to the site should familiarize themselves with the two diagrams of the ship found in this lesson and the Glossary of Terms prior to their visit.

On-Site Activities

All classes will take the tour of the remains of the CSS Neuse. Teachers may select two or three of the remaining educational programming activities depending on the amount of time they have to spend at the site. Please allow time for bathroom breaks, gift shop sales and transition from station to station in your planning. Every effort will be made to satisfy your requests. However, staff reserves the right to alter planned programming due to inclement weather or unanticipated staff shortages.

The core on-site program lasts an hour and 15 minutes, and consists of four components:

  1. CSS Neuse Orientation Film – This film is 12 minutes and gives an overview of the history of the CSS Neuse from design and construction through the recovery in the 1960s.
  2. Tour of the remains of the CSS Neuse and Temporary Exhibits– Students will delve further into the history of the ship by learning about the crew who served onboard, seeing the artifacts recovered from the remains, and hearing about its role in the war. (Approximate length: 20 minutes).
  3. 19th Century Weapons and Uniform Talk – A staff member dressed in historically accurate naval clothing will discuss the uniform and weapons of a typical Confederate sailor. The talk culminates in the firing of an Enfield rifle or a naval musketoon. (Approximate length: 20 minutes)
  4. Rope Making Demonstration – While the sailors on the CSS Neuse most likely did not have to make the ropes for the ship, the blockade may have caused a shortage of such items. The crew needed to know how to splice and repair rope, as well as fundamental knot-tying. This demonstration gives the students the basics of how rope is made and how it was used onboard a gunboat. (Approximate length: 20 minutes)

If the group has additional time for its visit, they may wish to utilize one or both of these supplemental program components:

  1. Quoits Demonstration – In one of Lt. Richard Bacot's letters to his sister, he describes some of the activities the crew of the CSS Neuse engaged in to alleviate the boredom of drill, drill, drill. One of these activities was the game of Quoits, which is similar to horseshoes. Students will learn about crew activities and be able to play a shortened version of the game. (Approximate length: 30 minutes)
  2. Shipbuilding Activities – Students will learn some of the basics of ship building and the construction techniques used in building the CSS Neuse. Students will see a cross-cut sawing demonstration with an opportunity to try their hand at sawing and drilling holes with a hand auger. (Approximate length: 30 minutes)

Post-Visit Activities

The Supplemental Lesson Plan: Life Onboard an Ironclad can be used as a post-visit activity.
Have students take the Post-Visit Quiz to assess their comprehension of the information shared at the site.