Civil War games were common on both sides during the war. Games did a lot to keep the troops entertained and ease the constant boredom of soldier life. While in camp soldiers wanted to socialize with each other, there is no better way to socialize then to play games, especially if you are living in a Civil War tent with one or more men for a long period of time.
Types Civil War Games
Soldiers played all kinds of Civil War card games, they made distinctive chess pieces, played checkers, backgammon, dominoes, they read newspapers, books and played horseshoes.
They also played whole team sports such as baseball and a very early often-brutal version of football. Holidays in camp were cause for large celebrations. There were foot races, feasts, horse races, music shows, and all types of different contests that were put on by the troops.
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What Else Did a Civil War Soldier Do?
Both Union soldiers and Confederate soldiers did anything they could to stop the boredom they often had to endure living in camp.
Some soldiers chose not to participate in Civil War games, these were often the less educated and illiterate men. Instead of playing games they preferred to socialize, smoke or watch others play games.
Then there were the small number of soldiers who did nothing at all. They did not play games, they did not socialize. These were the loners. They kept to themselves, cooked their own meals and ate alone. They even camped alone while on the march. They would often walk off if other men were getting to loud and rowdy around them.
These men just preferred solitude or believed that soldiers should only act in a strict and disciplined manner, and did not approve of playing games or socializing while in camp. These soldiers liked guard duty since it gave them a lot of time to be alone.
Of course all of these activities could never take place when an army was on an active campaign, during a campaign leisure time was relegated to basically writing letters, sleeping and keeping your equipment in working order.