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‘The Winter’s War’: Civil War soldier experience discussed by The Tattooed Historian

By Iyee Jagne - For the Chronicle | Feb 5, 2021

The George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War has been holding its events virtually throughout the pandemic. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — On Jan. 28, The Tattooed Historian, John Heckman, went on Facebook Live, to moderate a discussion on the experiences of Civil War soldiers during the winter. He was joined by four other guests, George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War Director James Broonmall, Shenandoah University’s McCormick Civil War Institute Director Jonathan Noyalas, Loudoun Museum Executive Director Joseph Rizzo and McKendree University History Professor Lauren Thompson.

The discussion started with Thompson exploring what she thinks winter was like for the soldiers.

“The emotional state of the men might have been the hardest part of the war for the men,” Thompson said, mentioning this was because they had seen so much death, and could not, on top of that, spend the holidays with their families.

According to Noyalas, Thompson was “right about the soldier’s mental state, but what people didn’t talk about enough is the way the war effected the civilians.” One example of the Civil War’s impact on civilians, was when the Confederate Army burned down an African American church.

After sharing and explaining some pictures from the war, the speakers brought up the soldiers’ difficult living conditions. Four-to-eight men would stay in a 12′ x 10′ hut-like wood space. Sanitation and health was always a concern when living in such close quarters.

According to Noyalas, there was a smallpox outbreak during the war. It was compared to the current COVID-19 Pandemic, and how hard it must have been for the sick soldiers to self-isolate in such cramped conditions. The lack of good sanitation would also not have helped their conditions.

The Facebook Live event had over a hundred viewers from around the country, who were able to ask questions throughout the hour.

The George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War is located at 136 West German Street. It is open, Thursday and Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. All guests must wear a mask and keep six feet of social distance. More information can be found on its Facebook page.

Although established in 1993, all operations of the center relocated to its current location at the Shindler House in April 1996. In honor of the founder’s father, who was the great-great-grandson of the original owner, the center was renamed the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War.