FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Combatants of varying ages and skills were slated to fight in a latter-day Civil War battle at the 13th annual Civil War Quiz Bowl.
Instead of muskets and sabers, contestants wield facts and maybe guesses. And the wounds that eliminate them from the fray could still be painful — to the ego.
"We just want to be smarter than a third-grader, or whatever that show is," said Wayne Strickland with a laugh.
Strickland and pal Carson Phipps are among more than a dozen people who have signed up for the competition at 6:30 tonight in Yarborough Auditorium at Methodist University's Clark Hall. Up to 20 people can compete, and as long as spots are available, entrants are accepted until the competition starts.
All ages are welcome. And none should be taken lightly.
Phipps, who's heading into this third competition, knows that all too well.
"Here's what I didn't want to happen," Phipps said. "I just didn't want to get beat out by a 12-year-old. And that almost happened."
The first year, he said, he entered because he'd read about the quiz bowl in the newspaper and thought it sounded interesting. And the questions listed with the newspaper story were easy.
Then he got to the competition and found the questions were a little different. He was ousted in the second round.
It only whetted his determination to return and do better. He consulted Strickland, whom he thought of as a civil war buff. Strickland lent him some books, and Phipps started studying. At last year's quiz bowl, he finished sixth. Strickland, who got sucked in along the way, finished fifth.
It's fun, said Strickland, who's the chief appraiser at Cape Fear Farm Credit in Fayetteville.
"I just think it's cool," said Phipps, a coordinator in the Cumberland County school system's Career and Technical Education Department.
There's no fee to enter the contest, which is sponsored by the Museum of the Cape Fear and Methodist University, but there are prizes. The top adult and the top 16 and under competitors each get $50 gift cards for Barnes & Noble Booksellers. That way, they can buy more books about the Civil War if they want, said Leisa Greathouse of the Museum of the Cape Fear.
David Bourhenne of St. Pauls, who has been a Civil War re-enactor since 2004, has won several of those gift cards over the years.
"I think this is my seventh year competing," he said. "I think I've won it three or four times."
Bourhenne is 18 and is a home-schooled high school senior. He became fascinated with the military life of Civil War soldiers and has steeped himself in the subject. That, of course, helps him in the quiz bowl, though he says only in certain categories.
"Since I do re-enacting, I know a lot about gear and equipment," he said. "That seems to be pretty easy."
He's less sure of himself when the subject moves beyond major battles.
"I wouldn't be too familiar with some of those things," he said. "I haven't gotten around to it."
When he was younger, Bourhenne laid waste to the quiz bowl's junior category. Instead, his younger brother Daniel won that category last year while David now battles for the adult winner's gift card. David said Daniel hasn't decided whether to try to compete tonight. .
Greathouse, whose husband Jim started the quiz bowl and hosts it, said questions fall in several categories. "Generally Speaking," for example, has to do with the, well, generals. "T is for Tar Heel" touches on battles particular to this state.
Competitors aren't ousted until they've missed three answers. Each one's effort is applauded, and the museum revels in the interest in history that's both expressed and, ideally, created.
Phipps said he has started researching a great-great grandfather who fought in the Confederate army and was a prisoner of war for about two years following the battle of Gettysburg.
The quiz bowl helped inspire his interest.
"I realized how little I knew," he said.