The origins of chess date all the way back to the 6th century; however, the modern rules for chess, and its pieces, are due to European influences in the 15th century. During the Civil War chess provided soldiers, both Union and Confederate, an opportunity to fill their time at camp. As an example, Lt. Oliver Willcox Norton wrote frequently to his sister, often mentioning chess. Below is an excerpt of his first mention of playing the game:

Jacksonville, Fla.,


March 27, 1864

Dear Sister L

Do you want to know how I spend my time here? Well, in the first place I am a member of a court-martial that meets every morning at 10 o’clock. If there is business enough we sit till 3 or 4 p. m., and then adjourn, but usually we get through much earlier. Then I come back to camp, and after dinner I read or write or play chess. I play a great deal lately and the more I learn the more I like it. It is a noble game and I am determined to be no mean player. I have already beaten the best player I can find in the regiment, and I mean to get so I can do it every time. Last winter I used to play “euchre” or “old sledge,” but it never improved me much. Chess on the contrary is a never ending study. Dr. Franklin called it the “King of Games.”
The chessboard is 7-3/4″ in length and width. The pieces are made of wood and are approximately 1″ in height and are stored within the chess box.