Teach PA History
Explore PA History
Related Markers
To Be or Not to Be: A Marriage of Civil War Descendants
Equipment & Supplies
  • video recorder (optional) props for wedding play (optional)

Day One
1. Write the following quote on the board:

"War is a game at which the two contending parties can play, and any retaliatory or cruel policy inaugurated [started] by the one is invariably followed by a similar policy by the other. It need not seem strange, then, that the first opportunity the Confederates had of retaliating upon their enemies, they improved. They could scarcely have been expected to do otherwise."

2. Discuss this quote. Follow up questions would include:
What does this quote mean?
[It means in war "an eye for an eye" policy is in effect. Because Union soldiers had burned land in the South, Confederates were able to burn land in the North.]
Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
[Answers will vary.]
Who do you think wrote it? Under what circumstances?
[While students may guess someone with a Southern perspective or some historian years after the Civil War, this is not the case. It was actually written by Jacob Hoke, a Northerner who personally experienced the burning of Chambersburg by Confederate soldiers.]
When was this written (best guess)?
[Clue word "Confederate" is associated with the Civil War. It was published in 1887, but the burning took place on July 30th, 1864. ]
For whom is it written?
[Speculate. Maybe it was written by and for someone trying to understand the reason Confederates burned Chambersburg.]

3. Explain to your class some background information regarding the Burning of Chambersburg in context with the overall events of the Civil War. The following points can be made:
Chambersburg was burned by Confederate soldiers on July 30th, 1864. This is near the end of the Civil War which was approximately four years long.
The Battle of Gettysburg, considered by historians as the turning point of the war, took place over a year before the Burning of Chambersburg. Although the Union had met "success" in Georgia and Virginia, they currently seemed to be stalemated by Confederates.
Confederate soldiers had invaded Chambersburg twice before during the war, each time leaving the town in relative peace. (Jeb Stuart's Raid in 1862 and again in 1863)
Much of the war had taken place in the South where the land and the people who lived there saw great destruction.
Most recently General Hunter (a Union soldier) led his troops through the Shenandoah Valley burning Virginia Military Institute, ex-Governor Letcher's residence in Lexington, and areas of Newtown. (Hunter's troops had been previously defeated by Early's regiment in the Shenandoah Valley.)
J. A. Early was the Confederate general who ordered the Burning of Chambersburg in retaliation for Hunter's burnings.

4. Pass out Student Handout 1: Description of the Burning of Chambersburg. Explain that this was written by the same person who wrote the quote, Jacob Hoke. Have the class read this description out loud.

5. To set up their next activity, tell students it is now 150 years later. The great grand-daughter of Jacob Hoke and the great grandson of J. Early (the Confederate general who ordered the burning of Chambersburg) are to be married. Tell the class that most of them will play the role of the pastor. Guests begin to speak up as the pastor asks "If anyone has any objections as to why this couple should not be married, let them speak now or forever hold their peace." As the pastor, your students will need to decide if they will marry these two persons or not. They will record the reasons given for each side. Then, as a homework assignment students will write if they will marry the couple or not and substantiate their decision with three reasons. The only people who are exempt from this assignment are those who will be characters in the play (as they will be assessing primary sources).

6. Hand out Student Handout 2: Characters of Wedding and assign/distribute parts.

7. Disseminate primary sources and related worksheets to each character.

Character: Stephen Benjamin Schneck
Claim of B.S. Schneck
Worksheet 1-Questions for Stephen B Schneck

Character: Marie Wilson
marker Fannie Wilson letter
Worksheet 2-Questions for Marie Wilson

Character: Richard Shryock
Chambersburg after the Burning
Richard Shryock's comments about photo
Worksheet 3-Questions for Richard Shryock

Character: Helen Keller
marker Benjamin Schneck letter to Margaretta Keller
Worksheet 4-Questions for Helen Keller

Character: Sidney Marlin, III
marker Sidney Marlin letter to wife
Photo of VMI burned
Worksheet 5-Questions for Sidney Marlin, III

Character: David Early
marker J. A. Early letter to Jacob Hoke
Worksheet 6-Questions for David Early

Character: Sarah Hoke
marker Summer of 1864: The Great Invasion by Jacob Hoke (excerpt)
Worksheet 7-Questions for Sarah Hoke

8. Direct the students chosen for characters to examine their primary sources and complete the related worksheet. For the remaining class, assign them to read Student Handout 3-The Burning of Chambersburg Marker Page. After reading this background information, ask them to write a 50-word historical marker text to summarize the event.

Day Two
1. Ask students to share a few of their summary marker texts.

2. Remind students that they are going to enact a play set 150 years after the Burning of Chambersburg. Disseminate the Student Handout 4-The Early/Hoke Wedding and ask characters to read over their parts silently. As they read, remind students to think about how they will read their part. What tone of voice is appropriate for their words?
3. The remainder of the class will be recording the perspectives of the characters. Pass out Student Worksheet 8- Recording of Play Perspectives for them to complete as they listen to the play.
4. After students have had a chance to rehearse their parts, prepare the room for the play. David and Sarah should stand in front of the room facing the class, with the pastor in the middle. Other characters can remain in their seats, as they will be "guests" at the wedding. Remind students to listen carefully and record perspectives expressed in the play.
5. Begin the play. Encourage characters to be expressive. Additional props may be added if desired. You may wish to record the performance for your students as well.
6. After the play is complete, direct characters to hand in their worksheets on which they will be graded, and focus students to begin their outline for their writing assignment.
7. As indicated in the closing of the play, students are to imagine they are the pastor who needs to decide if he/she will marry the couple. They are to state their decision and include three reasons with specific examples that make use of the primary sources.
8. The following day, when this homework is collected, you can count the decisions and announce if the wedding will take place or not.
Back to Top