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Georgia author shares stories of in-between-battle skits
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Celebrate the printed page: Dahlonega's literary festival is this weekend

Remember Bob Hope's USO tours, when entertainers went overseas to cheer up soldiers during World War II?

Many performers still make the trip to perform for American troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but you've probably never thought of the entertainers who worked to boost the morale of Civil War soldiers.

Enter author Philip Lee Williams of Watkinsville.

Williams' latest book delves into how Civil War soldiers kept their minds off fighting in the lulls between battles.

Called "The Campfire Boys," Williams' book focuses on three soldiers, "the Blackshear boys," who were entertainers as children and put their talents to use when they went to war.

"Soldiers, when they are not fighting, they alternate between moments of sheer terror and either moments of boredom or marching," Williams said. "They had to find something to spend their time doing."

So Williams said they entertained themselves, commandeering local auditoriums for Shakespeare performances, playing musical instruments, dancing and putting on skits.

"A lot of people don't know it, but there were very few battles during the winter in the Civil War, because the wagons that had to follow the troops with provisions couldn't move, because the roads were all mud everywhere, North and South," Williams said.

He said the soldiers set up "winter camps" until the cold weather passed.

"So in these long winter days and nights they had to find something to do besides just drill," he said. "Entertaining themselves is one of the things they did, so that's sort of what this book talks about, is how they spent their time. And it's very much tied to the USO (in) World War II."

Philips, who grew up in Madison, also is assistant dean of public information at the University of Georgia.

A published author since 1984, Williams will share his experience at this weekend's Dahlonega Literary Festival.

"‘Campfire Boys' is my 14th published book, so there's a lot there to talk about over the years in terms of publishing," Williams said. "I'm going to be there to talk about ‘The Campfire Boys,' but also to talk about writing in general and to answer any questions anybody there at the conference is going to have for me about writing and the whole process."

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