Did the boys play cribbage, chess, checkers, &c in camp?

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oldreb

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For the historian who has studied camp life, did the Confederate (or Union if you must) boys play any of the games I noted above in camp? I know gambling was the rage, but cribbage, chess, checkers, backgammon, all were around in the 1600-1800s so the boys had to know them.
Is there record of these games being played in camp?
Thanks,
 

hoosier

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I visited the Pamplin Park museum near Petersburg a couple years ago (I recommend it to anyone who hasn't been there). Part of the museum is a recreation of a Civil War camp site, with a couple people portraying Confederate soldiers to describe camp life.

They did show us a couple of games. One I remember was called "Chuck-o'-luck." They had a hand-carved die and a little flat piece of wood rudely divided into six sections. A player would be allowed to pick two numbers before rolling the die. He would place markers on those two sections of the piece of wood and then roll the die. If one of his numbers came up, he won two of whatever they were playing for; if neither of his numbers came up, he lost one. The odds were such that, over the long run, the player could expect to break even, but a hot or cold streak could put the player well ahead or well behind.

That was the sort of game they showed us - very rudimentary, using handmade gaming pieces that could be fashioned after they got to camp. If they had chess sets or checkerboards, they didn't tell us about them.

My guess is that probably many of the soldiers knew how to play the games you mentioned, but probably very few common soldiers actually had them on hand. Such gaming implements would have been too much of an encumbrance for soldiers on the move.
 

blue_zouave

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Board games were probably more common in winter quarters. I've seen pictures of officers playing chess in camp, but not of enlisted men.

Interesting trivia... Milton Bradley made his fortune by selling a little 8-in-1 board game set to families of soldiers, to send to their boys. It included the original version of The Game of Life!

Zou
 
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