Provided by the City of Manassas
City of Manassas, VA . . . They may not have worn uniforms or marched with the troops, but children were deeply affected by the tragedies of the Civil War. A new Manassas Museum guest exhibit, Partisans Among Playmates: American Childhood and the Civil War, brings to life the experiences of children living in both the North and South during the conflict. The exhibit, opening onAug. 7 and running though Nov. 15, is free to the public.
The exhibit explores common childhood experiences of the era, and wartime experiences that varied dramatically depending on where children lived. “The Yankees behaved very rudely,” wrote an eight-year-old girl living in Fredericksburg to her cousin. “They broke open the meat house and took all the meat but four pieces; they killed two of the cattle right before our eyes.” A ten-year-old boy in New York did not see soldiers at his home, but he was nonetheless annoyed by the War’s consequences. “Peanuts were rare and wormy, and sticks of candy were reduced to the size of pipe stems,” he later wrote.
The exhibit also examines the portrayal of the Civil War to children in juvenile literature and entertainment during the wartime era, Reconstruction, the Civil Rights period, and the present.
The guest exhibit was designed by Chesney Rhoades, a recent Marymount University graduate, as part of a project for an independent research project. Chesney majored in history and secondary education and began the history club at Marymount. This summer she is working as a costumed interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg, and she looks forward to teaching social studies.
“After participating in an inspiring course in children’s literature, I became very interested in the history of children’s literature and how it can be used as a means to send political and social messages to its audiences,” Chesney says. “To explore this interest, I collaborated with Marymount’s resident children’s literature expert, Dr. Robert Otten, to combine my historical interest in the Civil War and his expertise in children’s literature. Together we researched the representation of the Civil War in the past 150 years of children’s literature.”
“The presentation of this exhibit would not have been possible without the tutelage of Dr. Mark Benbow, professor of public history at Marymount and Board member of the Arlington Historical Society,” Chesney says. “His guidance through an independent study course helped me to condense 150 years of literature and many months research into a navigable and entertaining exhibit.”
The Arlington Historical Society and the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center both lent objects for the exhibit, which was funded by Marymount’s DISCOVER Undergraduate Research Program.