Starks & Mercer


The earliest War Games were fought between the towns of Starks and Mercer, several miles North of Great Pond and separated by the Sandy River.  The very first War Game seems to have been a reconnaissance exercise, but the next year the Blue and Gray armies attacked and defended simultaneously instead of alternating as they do today.

Each Army had to find a way across the Sandy River in order to mount any sort of attack.   The easiest way was the small Davis ferry, but while Mr. Davis was supposed to serve all customers equally, he could be persuaded to favor only one army if plied with the proper amount of whiskey.  Whichever General was able to provide him with the greatest supply gained control of the ferry and had a decisive advantage.

Pedestrian traffic continued along the same roads used for the War Game, so play was periodically suspended to allow non-combatants to pass through.  Since traffic was light (and slow) in these days, there was no significant danger...but there was opportunity.  One counselor wearing a dress and bonnet was able to push a baby carriage holding a small camper directly into an unsuspecting enemy gate and score two points for his army.

The entire camp hiked to these earliest War Games, relying on the charity of local people to provide shelter during the trip.  After the War Game the counselors would usually put on a show of some sort as an expression of gratitude (with all proceeds given back to the town) but sometimes things did not go as planned.





Sandy River

One particular act performed at Starks involved a counselor who claimed to be a great marksman – he would fire his pistol at a variety of plates, bottles and cups hanging in front of a backdrop, and without fail he obliterated each and every one from increasingly difficult angles.  He shot with his left hand, he shot using a mirror, and yet he never missed.  The audience was impressed.  Finally, he was blindfolded and shooting over his shoulder when the gun misfired, but the target exploded anyway.  The gun had been loaded with blanks, and another counselor had been smashing each target with a hammer from behind the backdrop.  The townspeople of Starks immediately realized they had been deceived; perhaps this is why the War Game was played only at Mercer for many years until 1939, when (depending on who you ask) either WWII rationing made the long trip impractical for the camp or Jamie “Gizz Gizz” Davenport put a fish in the local well, after which the town withdrew its invitation.

The Davis Ferry

A steam launch picks up departing armies from Pine Island

On the hike to Mercer

Starks & Mercer