War of 1812 simulation shoots for improved historical awareness

The History Club is bringing the students of Saginaw Valley back in time, but only to empower them to go forward.

Presided over by Jeremy Killion, the History Club provides resources and opportunities to students looking to advance their professional and academic careers in the discipline of history.

The club collaborates with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute to host the Saginaw Valley Student Speaker Series. This lecture series allows students to present historical research on any topic they wish. It takes place in a professional and academic setting that allows for constructive feedback.

It will also soon publish the first issue of the Saginaw Valley Journal of History, a student-run publication of undergraduate historical research. Students will have the chance to go through the writing, submission, and editing process that is so important in a history-based career.

The History Club also provides learning opportunities for the whole student body. It recently hosted a simulation of the War of 1812, open to Saginaw Valley students of any major and geared towards stimulating a general interest in significant events in history.

“(The War of 1812 is) sometimes referred to as the Second War of Independence, but also as a forgotten war,” Killion said.  “The implications for this conflict were rather large, but popular memory does not really reflect that.”

There were two main implications of the War of 1812. First, it united political factions in the United States that were bitterly divided. Second, it offered Canada a chance to form a stronger sense of national unity as the country had to come together to resist American invasions.

Those significant implications are often forgotten. As this year marked the 200-year anniversary of the war’s resolution, Killion and the History Club invited any student to learn about the battle in an interesting and entertaining way.

The simulation was akin to the game of Risk. Participants divided themselves into two teams, either the United States or the United Kingdom. They then each chose an individual role as one of five historical figures.

“The idea here is to help people step into the shoes of these historic figures, and also walk away from the simulation with a little more understanding about someone they may have known little about before,” Killion said.

After choosing roles, the teams were separated into two rooms, each with a map of the Eastern United States and Canada. They decided where to initially place their troops and, in order to advance or revise their strategy, wrote up directives. At the end of each turn, the outcomes of the battles were determined and the maps were updated.

“(Looking) at the military aspect of the simulation, it is only a little different from the game of Risk,” Killion said. “But there are other elements that come into play, such as foreign relations, international events, and domestic policies. These can all be shaped by the participants.”

At the end of the simulation, both teams came together to negotiate a peace treaty to end the war.

“It’s interesting to see the differences in the treaties the students came up with compared to the real historical ones,” Killion said.

The History Club’s next simulation will be much larger, planned to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the outbreak of the World War I next year.

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