Each spring, Civil War re-enactors gather at Shippensburg Area Middle School for Living History Civil War Day, portraying people who lived through the war and sharing their knowledge about that time in U.S. history.
It’s an event that many of the re-enactors have attended regularly since it was first held 17 years ago. But one of those re-enactors, David Shuey, will be missing from this year’s list of participants.
Shuey, 63, died Sept. 17 after a long battle with cancer, according to his obituary on the Hoffman Funeral Home and Crematory website.
A memorial service and Celebration of Life will be held at 11 a.m. Oct. 20 at the First Presbyterian Church on the Square in Carlisle, the website states.
“I was shocked,” said James Richardson, social studies teacher at Shippensburg Middle School and organizer of Civil War Day, as he recalled hearing of Shuey’s death. “He’s been coming here since 2010. He was planning to be here this year. … There will sure be some big shoes to fill.”
At Civil War Day, Shuey portrayed Gen. John McCausland.
“McCausland was a brigadier general in charge of the Confederate cavalry forces that invaded Chambersburg in 1864, and was responsible for the burning of Chambersburg,” Richardson said. “He was just 28 years old when he raided Chambersburg. He died in 1927.”
“He (Shuey) did a really good job. He helped the kids connect. He told them what he (McCausland) did in Chambersburg and the story behind it. He told them what the Chambersburg citizens did to hide their valuables, what buildings were burned, what buildings were not. He had a real deep history.”
Of course, as a cavalry officer, Shuey was always accompanied by his horse, and Richardson recalled how Shuey always tried to make learning fun.
“He always wanted to be there (at Civil War Day),” he said. “He really loved history, and he took that role seriously. He shared with kids the real history, but he made it interesting at their level. And he always brought his horse.”
Middle school social studies teacher Nancy Bender agreed.
“David’s greatest gift when he came to Civil War Day was that he understood how to communicate with the kids; he could share his passion for history without overloading them with a bunch of facts and figures,” she said. “He also knew that for many of the kids, the biggest star was his horse, Aura Lee.”
On other occasions, Shuey portrayed Lt. Frank Haskell, a Union officer, at Civil War Day.
“Haskell recorded the history of Gettysburg,” Richardson said. “He fought in Gettysburg and was killed at the Battle of Cold Harbor in 1864.”
In addition, Shuey participated in Civil War re-enactments in Chambersburg and Carlisle, and more recently, he portrayed U.S. Army Gen. John “Blackjack” Pershing, who was, Richardson said, “one of the most accomplished generals in World War I.”
Richardson said Shuey traveled to re-enactments around the United States, but despite his busy schedule, always made time for Civil War Day.
“He was very passionate about whoever he portrayed, and made sure it was historically correct,” Richardson said. “He would weave a picture for the kids to understand that person.
“He was an amazing guy, a man of many talents. He will certainly be missed.”
John Buchheister, owner of the Maryland Sutler in Gettysburg, a store that specializes in selling supplies to re-enacters, said he and Shuey also served on the March to Destiny board, a group that organized a Civil War re-enactment in downtown Shippensburg.
“He really portrayed the part,” Buchheister said of Shuey’s re-enactments. “An historian, he was. He definitely did his homework. He’ll be a lost legend.”