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A Civil War Christmas in Shepherdstown

By Staff | Nov 28, 2014

Next weekend the streets of Shepherdstown will be filled with the spirit of 1864, as this year’s Christmas in Shepherdstown celebration will host a Civil War Christmas event for the first time.

Event organizer and local resident, Marianne Davis called the festivities a “mix of scholarly colloquium and living history in the streets of Shepherdstown.”

A three day event, featuring various opportunities to learn and participate in a 19th century experience, the Civil War Christmas is being presented through a partnership between the Shepherd history department, the Shepherd University foundation and the George Tyler Moore Center for the study of the Civil War.

Davis said she’s thought a long time about the resource Shepherdstown has in the George Tyler Moore Center, though many people are unaware of its work

Davis hopes this event will capture life as it happened in 1864 Shepherdstown, giving residents and visitors an in depth historical experience.

Davis said the though the period between 1861 and 1865 is obviously punctuated by bloody battles, life went on for people during wartime.

“People lived,” she said.

This event will pay special attention to examining how the war affected the everyday Shepherdstown citizen, particularly women.

“Women have faced war in the same way with the same questions for centuries.”

Davis described this effort as a student centered “extension of the classroom.” Public History students from Shepherd will represent various characters from 1864, like a local banker, housewives, street workers, etc.

Davis described these characters as composites backed by real research conducted by the students.

“We are going to be historically sound,” she said.

Davis characterized the event a “handshake,” between the university and the Shepherdstown community.

“Shepherdstown itself is a 21st century town. There’s no question, but it has access to its history,” she said.

“And it’s unique in that it has the university. And the university is lucky that it has the town.”

The event will begin Thursday, Dec. 4 with a lecture by Kevin Pawlack about the battle of Shepherdstown and the Emancipation Proclamation held at the Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church at 5:30 p.m.

Participating bars and restaurants will serve themed dinner entrees and drinks following the discussion event.

At approximately 7:30 p.m. music will be performed by the Village Brass band.

Dr. Matt Foulds will lead a lecture on “state of war in Christmas time,” at 8 p.m. , also held at the Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church.

On Friday Dec 5, at 4 p.m. “union troops” will begin constructing a winter encampment on the lawn in front of McMurran Hall.

At 7 p.m. Dr. Foulds will also give a lecture on “Churches and Slavery,” to be held at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.

Michael Galloway, a senior history and civil war student will lead the construction of the winter encampment with a group of student reenactors.

“During the holiday season they created home in the fields for themselves,” he explained.

“We hope to create a little bit of that.”

Davis said the event is truly meant to reach every participant and passerby in town throughout the weekend. Characters will engage with all members of the public.

“We’re going to try to make sure that someone has contact with every visitor to Shepherdstown.”

Child centered events will include a demonstration of period toys and games at the Little House and a “School of the Soldier,” workshop held by union soldiers at the encampment. Both events will be held during the day Saturday.

On Saturday morning costumed soldiers will walk in the annual Christmas parade as part of the Christmas in Shepherdstown celebration.

Finally, a panel discussion on “Women in Wartime,” lead by Jeremy Priddy will be held at 2 p.m. at the Byrd Center for Legislative studies.

The George Tyler Moore Center will be open for tours Friday, Dec. 5 from 2 to 5 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 6 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“We do want you to learn something you wouldn’t have learned at home,” Davis said.

All events are free and open to the public. Find more info on Facebook at: facebook.com/shepherdstowncivilwarchristmas and at the Shepherd University web page: www.shepherduniversity.edu/.