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Shepherd University students celebrate history with Civil War Christmas

By Staff | Dec 7, 2018

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Shepherd University’s Living History Club helped Shepherdstown celebrate an 1864 Civil War Christmas at the George Tyler Moore Center this weekend, with a Union military encampment, workshops and musical performances.

The event began with set up of the military encampment and speeches from representatives of the event in the garden of the George Tyler Moore Center, along with a demonstration volley of arms by student reenactors.

“I’ve only recently gotten into the Living History Club, so this is my first time reenacting,” said Shepherd University Sophomore Erik Minyard, whose musket misfired during the demonstration.

Minyard said he plans on participating in more events like the encampment in the future.

“I’ve been reenacting for five years in the infantry — this is a demonstration of the technology of the time,” said Shepherd University Senior Harry McNally. “My major is history with a concentration in Civil War studies, so this event lets me bring more information to the public on the history of the Civil War.

According to McNally, many of his fellow students in the Living History Club plan to have careers in sharing history through similar living history events as members of the National Park service. This, along with other events the club participates in, helps the students prepare for their future careers, by developing their abilities to talk about and portray history in front of an audience.

As the first day of the encampment approached evening, one of the student reenactors remained outside of the center in the cold weather, to keep the encampment’s fire going.

“As a rule, we have to keep one person here tending to the fire, so it doesn’t die,” said Christopher Walton, who said this was his third year participating in the event. “To me, it’s a very exciting time. We set up to live the day as Civil War soldiers. We get the chance to bring in people and inform them about the life of an American soldier during the Civil War.”

One event Walton said he was looking forward to over the weekend, was the arrests of Confederate soldiers — students from other clubs who agreed to help with the event.

According to George Tyler Moore Center Program Assistant Jennifer Alarcon, the event has grown over the years.

“It’s something people look forward to year after year, and it’s our way of partnering with Christmas in Shepherdstown and giving back to the community that supports us, year after year,” Alarcon said. “It’s great the program has gotten built up over the years, and is starting to get recognition outside of the Eastern Panhandle.”

Some of Friday’s event attendees came from several states away, to enjoy the event and check out Antietam Battlefield over the weekend.

“I thought it was informative, and a nice precursor to going to the battlefield,” said Sarah Lane, of Connecticut, who said she and her friend, Virginia Marr, were planning to visit the battlefield after Shepherdstown’s Christmas Parade Saturday morning.

“We knew there were Christmas events happening this weekend, and saw this was first and came here. We’re big fans of Gettysburg, but we decided to see something different and visit here instead,” Marr said.