Eighth-graders at Shippensburg Area Middle School spent Thursday dancing and playing games like Shut the Box and “base ball.”
It was all part of the school’s 15th annual Living History Civil War Day, a program designed to enhance the eighth-grade curriculum of the War Between the States through hands-on activities and presentations by Civil War reenactors.
Civil War Day was started by middle School teacher Bob Yocum in 2001. James Richardson, eighth-grade U.S. history teacher, became the coordinator when Yocum retired.
According to Richardson, the idea is to “bring the Civil War to life.”
He said students were able to hear about the war from people like Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln. They were also able to get a glimpse of civilian life during the 1860s.
Alena Heath, of Shippensburg, brought a display of Civil War-era games that were purchased in Williamsburg, Va., and Gettysburg. She has attended Civil War Day at the middle school for 11 of the 15 years she has been a reenactor.
“It’s a lot of fun to be able to teach kids about the Civil War,” she said of the local event. “They get to use their creativity and learn new things. It makes them think outside the normal box.”
In particular, they learned to play games without using modern technology.
Among the toys and games were checkers, table bowling, Pick-Up-Sticks, dolls and yo-yos.
Eighth-grader Evan Day found a collection of dice with different letters on each of the six sides. The object was to toss the dice and spell words. He compared it to Scrabble.
He also enjoyed playing a game called Shut the Box. The player rolls the dice and, using the total number of dots, closes the tile marked with that number. When all of the tiles are closed, he can shut the box and win the game.
“It’s kind of fun,” he said.
“I think the games are fun to play,” said eighth-grader Tessa Moore.
“The games require you to think a lot more than technology because it’s more than just buttons to push and a screen to look at.”
Eighth-grader Brooke Gavlik said she enjoys playing board games.
“I get bored with technology,” she said. “This forces you to get off your phone and spend more time with your family.”
Eighth-grade teacher Brad Horgos said students also enjoyed learning about Civil War baseball, which is actually quite different than the modern version of the game.
“It’s good living history,” he said. “It’s much different than what they’ve come to believe.”
For example, Horgos said players may have used a stick as a bat and a ball made of old rags, and they didn’t have gloves.
“They didn’t need fancy equipment,” reenactor Dean Auchenbaugh said.
Auchenbaugh said batters were called strikers, and pitchers were called hurlers.
“It was a gentleman’s game,” he said. “The object was to let the striker hit the ball and put it into play.
“There were no balls or strikes. There was a referee, not an umpire, who was dressed in a suit and sat in a chair on the third base line. He basically kept score.”
Auchenbaugh said that even the name of the game was different in the 1860s. Back then, it was spelled “base ball” or “base-ball.”
He also told students that the credit for founding baseball, which is given to Abner Doubleday, is actually shared by Alexander Cartright and Daniel “Doc” Adams, who played for the New York Knickerbockers in the 1840s.
Eighth-grader Eric Baker said the program really brings history to life.
“The bugler did a good job,” he said. “Honestly, I didn’t know what a bugler was and how important their job was until today.”
Other re-enactors included Donna Jayne, who talked about nursing, dresses and clothing; Kayla Russell, history of Gettysburg; Suzanna Snook, mourning impression; Frank Orlando, Robert E. Lee; Bonnie Orlando, Mary Randolph Custis Lee; Barry Meadows, Ulysses S. Grant; James Hayney, Abraham Lincoln; Steven Turkel, artillery; David Shuey, Confederate cavalry scout; Linda Secrist, history of John Brown; and John Buchheister, Civil War sutler.
Contest winners are:
Civil War Research: Harmony Hall, Team Zion; Arron Shoemaker, Team Sequoia; and Natalie Crawford, Team Glacier.
Gen. Robert E. Lee Research: Ayden Reed, Team Zion; Jaden Golden, Team Sequoia; and Jeremy Telesky, Team Glacier.
U.S. Grant Research: Ayden Reed, Team Zion; Makenna Morris, Team Sequoia; and Lauren Atherton, Team Glacier.
Ask Abe: DeNay Timmons, Team Zion; Kendra Kent, Team Sequoia; and Ady Miller, Team Glacier.
Also participating in the program were the middle school wind ensemble, under the direction of Jen Enders, and the seventh- and eighth-grade choir, under the direction of John Piper.