“Hurry up and wait!”
You may have heard the phrase applied to Army life, and while the phrase traces its origins to World War II, it is no less appropriate to describe a Civil War soldier’s life.
Urgent training drills, frantic marches (sometimes hundreds of miles long in rain or snow), and deprivations almost beyond human endurance were common place. All of this often culminated in seemingly endless waits in crowded, dreary camps for battle to begin once again.
But life at camp had advantages that active campaigning couldn’t match (aside from the obvious ‘relative safety’ factor.) After the drills of the day were complete, inventive soldiers on both sides of the great conflict filled their days with every conceivable activity, from heavy athletics, to games of skill and chance.
Games of skill or chance – some considered “not done” to downright immoral – were a cornerstone of camp life. Played for fun, but often for money, soldiers bet their meager wages on the roll of the dice or the draw of a card. Gaming pieces like dice, dominoes, chips, marbles and cards fit easily in a knapsack and could be played almost anywhere under any conditions.
Gaming pieces are found throughout Civil War activity areas, from Georgia to Gettysburg. The pieces that weren’t lost or discarded in the camps at wars’ end wound up stashed in forgotten trunks stored in old sheds, barns, attics and basements. Many of the pieces in our collection represent the diligent efforts of one family who started collecting these coveted pieces over 40 years ago. To build the collection, they hunted throughout the Appomattox, Virginia area.