Curriculum Guide to the Siege of Abigail Beson

The Siege of Abigail Beson is historical fiction aimed at young adults. The story takes place in rural Virginia the summer of 1865 and includes a variety of historical references which provide anchors for discussion and further exploration into the history of the American Civil War. This page provides a guide for instructors using the book as part of their curriculum.

Part One: The Siege of Abigail Beson

Vocabulary Words

  • Avarice (Page 3)
  • Antagonist (Page 23)
  • Robber Barron (Page 33)
  • Trepidation (Page 40)

Points for Further Exploration

  • Conclusion of the American Civil War (Page 1)
  • Quantrill's Raiders (Page 9)
  • Mexican-American War (Page 12)
  • Civil War era weaponry (Page 32)
  • Living conditions and mortality rates in army camps during the American Civil War (Page 50)

Suggested Activities

Decode the hidden messages in these maps (click for large view):

Review Questions with Suggested Answers (Warning: Spoilers)

1. Who is the protagonist in this story? How do you know? 
A. The protagonist is Abby Beson. The story is told from her perspective and focuses on events as they happen to her. 

2. Who is the antagonist in this story? How do you know? Who did you think was the antagonist?
A. Vera is the antagonist. At the end of the story we discover that she has been stealing from banks and she threatens the family in order to make her escape. At the beginning of the story I thought the "bandits" in the woods were the antagonists.

3. Why does Vera say people are pursuing her? What do we learn about her story?
A. Vera says that there were rumors her husband had taken gold from a bank and that criminals wanted to steal it. We learn that Vera actually stole the gold and that the militia was pursuing her. 

4. Which part of the Beson house would you want to live in? Why?
A. Student should identify the eastern (used) and western (unused) portions of the house and provide a rationale for one or the other.

5. Why was it difficult for Abby's family to call for help? How would the story have been different if it happened today?
A. In the 1860s telephones had not yet been invented and most families did not have access to a telegraph. A family today would have been able to call for help with a cell phone. 

Part Two: The Excursion of Abigail Beson

Vocabulary Words

  • Cooper (Page 60)
  • Jovial (Page 62)
  • Stoic (Page 63)
  • Cache (Page 110)

Points for Further Exploration

Suggested Activities

Review Questions with Suggested Answers (Warning: Spoilers)

1. Why might mail have been slow to arrive shortly after the end of the American Civil War?
A. The Civil War put a major strain on infrastructure, especially in the Confederate South. Many men were away from their homes and jobs due to fighting.

2. Who is injured in the forest? How is he or she injured?
A. Abby's brother Emery is injured. A tree falls on his leg during a storm. 

3. Abby's brothers Jackson and Benjamin both fought in the war. How does each brother feel about the war and its conclusion?
A. Jackson feels angry that the Confederates lost the war. Benjamin feels indifferent about the war and is happy to see his family. 

4. Who does Abby encounter in the forest? Why is she surprised at who she meets?
A. Abby meets a group of Union soldiers. She is surprised because the soldiers do not know that the war has ended. 

5. Who is Kingsley? Who does Abby think he is when they first meet?
Kingsley is a Union soldier who rode the horse Abby meets in the forest. His name is on the horse's saddle, so Abby initially thinks the horse's name is Kingsley. 

Recommended Non-Fiction Reading

  • Reflections on the Civil War by Bruce Catton

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