The Art of War


It started as a friendly class debate but ended in war.

US History teacher David Riddick posed a question to the students in his Civil War seminar: What elements were necessary to win the American Civil War? For MSA senior Nate Burton, this question and the lively class debate that followed sparked a year-long adventure researching war strategy. After poring through primary sources and history books in MSA’s library, in addition to spending hours discussing his ideas with Mr. Riddick, Nate developed his own theory.


Mr. Riddick explained: “Nate developed what he called the Triangle Theory of War. The side which controlled Men, Weapons, and Time would eventually be victorious. By 1864, the Union had control of all three, and Lt. General Grant brought them together in the Overland Campaign which led to the defeat of General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia by April 9, 1865.”


MSA’s senior seminars allow dynamic interactions between teachers and students to flourish into projects like Nate’s. After developing the Triangle Theory of War, Nate applied it to other world conflicts. His senior thesis and capstone presentation put his theory to the test.

Mr. Riddick commented: “Nate took his ideas about the American Civil War and carefully developed a thesis that connected his Triangle Theory to technological advancements in weapons brought on by the Industrial Revolution.”


Nate was encouraged to take his ideas seriously and to utilize the MSA library to find evidence to support his claims. This type of student-initiated research is a hallmark of MSA’s academic program and senior seminars.

Take a moment to read a Q & A with Nate:

Tell us about the Senior Seminar and your Capstone project.

The Senior Capstone is an experience unlike any other I have had in school. The course epitomizes freedom. I had freedom to be myself and develop a relationship with Mr. Riddick. I loved spending my senior year in class with him, in a small environment, learning about such an important topic in United States history.

How did this experience help you as a student?

I have become more open with asking questions, researching, writing, and speaking in front of people about my ideas. I was able to have discussions with my teacher and classmates in order to learn their opinions on what the War means to them.


Your senior capstone and presentation was remarkable. Tell us about it.

For my Senior Capstone research paper I developed my own theory on what it took for the Union to win the American Civil War and applied it to other historical world conflicts. The Capstone presentation was a culmination of public speaking confidence I had gained while being at Miller.

How do you think this experience will help you next year in college?

I know that going into college next year, I will be prepared to research and write at a distinguished level as well as present in front of different groups of people. This will help me significantly because I desire to major in business marketing. The Capstone courses at Miller are challenging, but learning about yourself and a topic you are passionate about make it a fun process. I am so happy I got this experience.