Sunday, June 28, 2009

Self-Hypnosis + Authenticity + 1st person = Time-Travel

I was sick on Sunday last...very sick. My 'cousin' thought I had scarlet fever, but my 'wife' felt I had the summer fever instead. Either way, I had a fever and was put into what is normally the dining room day bed, where, as a healthy soul, I usually try to take a quick nap after a hearty dinner, before venturing out to continue the afternoon work at the mill. Unfortunately, since I was feeling rather poorly this Sabbath day, the day bed was used as the sick bed so I could be nursed back to health. The dining room location was chosen so family members could watch me closer to ensure I was well taken care of instead of being in an upstairs bedroom, so far away from everyone. It was also a very airy area on this warm summer's day, allowing the breeze to flow throughout, which helped to keep me comfortable. While in the sick bed, I was given medicine - feverfew mixed with lemon and water - and since I could not lift my head very high, an invalid cup was used so the medicine would not drool out of my mouth.

Yes, that's me lying on the sick bed with my 'wife' nursing me back to good health!

The local preacher, as well as a friend, stopped by for a visit - I was concerned when I first saw the preacher at my bedside for it made me feel my time was nigh. Thankfully, it was just a visit to make sure I was on the mend.
Another visitor suggested that I may have had too fine a time the evening before, but I most assuredly let him know that my 'wife' would certainly not have been caring for me in the kind way she was if I had taken on an evening filled with the kind of spirits that could affect the mind and body in drunken ways. And, as my family and friends know, I belong to a temperance society and do not partake in the devil's water!
I was so well taken care of by the ladies of the house that by the end of the day I was up and about, almost back to my normal self. Luckily for me, my 'wife' was correct - it was the summer fever and not scarlet fever as my 'cousin' suggested.

Thus was my day at Waterloo Farms in Waterloo, Michigan on Sunday June 28. The above is most certainly true. Well...except for the the fever part - I had no fever. And I was not given feverfew with lemon and water to cure my illness; it was, instead, simple hand-squeezed lemonade. However, I did take the pretend medicine by way of an antique medicine bottle, which was then poured into an invalid cup, and then finally given to me by my 'wife.'
Oh the way...neither of the two ladies in the room with me were my cousin or my wife - they are both members of a civilian Civil War era living history organization I belong to, the Michigan Soldiers Aid Society (MSAS). The MSAS are a wonderfully authentic period group of social historians who take pride on accuracy in presenting the everyday life of folks living in the early 1860's. Last year, we in the MSAS presented a mourning scenario throughout the reenacting season at numerous locations.
This year our project is home remedies.

We take this sort of living social history very seriously...more serious than many other reenacting organizations I have seen. We strive to place ourselves right there - in the past - a virtual form of time-travel. For instance, at the above event I portrayed a feverish man-of-the-house - - - I did this while in an actual period house (built in the mid-19th century) lying on a real day/sick bed, in the company of women and men fashioned in the early 1860's clothing styles, surrounded by period-correct antiques and decor. And, for the most part, we all maintained a 1st person persona throughout. This was definitely more progressive than most events I usually participate in. And, because of our want for this kind of period-correctness, the MSAS membership is allowed to use, a number of times a year, actual 19th century structures in various locations while practicing period correct presentations.
Lying on this day/sick bed for nearly five hours, all that I could see was my life as it might have been had I lived in the early 1860's - there was not a person nor an object within my site that was not of the era...that is until we took some time to pose for pictures using our pocket tintypes.
It just doesn't get any better!
It's this sort of living history that I strive to attain at each event I attend. I mean, I felt that I was there. Crazy? Perhaps. Was I actually there? Naw...I know better than that...but, mentally, I was there! Kinda like in Jack Finney's time-travel story, Time and Again, I used a sort of self-hypnotism.
And it worked - - -
Unfortunately, it does not happen as often as I would like. But, when it does happen, it keeps me wanting more and more. It's these smaller living history events that so many reenactors feel aren't worth going to that end up being the best. I'm glad they stay away, to be honest. Those that do attend, such as the MSAS - as well as 21st Michigan members - take our form of time-travel seriously and do not want it ruined by others who choose to complain.

~~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~ ~~ ~~~

Another exciting 'time-travel' excursion occurred recently. Well, not really time travel...but a neat historical experience with a few 'moments.'
A little over a week ago, my wife and daughter and I took part in a movie shoot about the town of Corinth, Mississippi in 1862, which is just outside of Shiloh, Tennessee. We were just extra's - background townsfolk walking the wood-plank sidewalks of the streets of the town. It was filmed at Crossroads Village in Flint, Michigan - an open-air museum not unlike Greenfield Village (Crossroads Village) - only more authentic looking, with it's dirt roads and above-mentioned wood-plank sidewalks. It was perfect for what the director needed to replicate Corinth 1862. The docu-drama is to be shown at the Shiloh Battlefield once the film is completed early next year.

At the film shoot at Crossroads Village

I bring this up because this was also an I was there moment. Movie cameras and all. But, it was what I was surrounded with - period-correctness at its finest: the structures, the grounds, and the people who were being filmed - that made it seem like I stepped into the past. You see, in the wardrobe department were ladies who are sticklers for accuracy...stitch counters (I use that term lovingly here!). I am proud to say that no additions or suggestions to our clothing were made for me and my family. We were "spot on," as the one woman said. And we were chosen to participate in three different background scenes! We were thrilled!
As you know, I work hard on our authenticity and study social history on nearly a daily basis, so I am very proud and happy that we were selected to play a part, although a very small non-speaking background part (for we are not actors). It helps me to feel accomplishment, I guess.

- Image of me taken with an 1860's camera by Marty Butera - April 2009 -
Would you know this was taken in the 21st century if I didn't tell you?

Anyhow, I tell you this because if that certain 'time-travel' experience is what you hope to attain while at a reenactment, try some of the smaller events. They can be some of the best places to work toward meeting this goal. And work with your group for authenticity as well as 1st person.
Self-hypnosis can truly complete the picture.
I cannot tell you how rewarding the outcome can be.
Believe me when I say that you will come as close as any sane person can to time-travel.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Blog Worth Repeating

This time of year folks are planning summer (and even autumn) vacations.
Last November I wrote a blog entitled "If You Seek History, Look About You," pointing out all of the wonderful history that we have in southern lower Michigan.
I'd like to repeat it here in case a blog follower or two might have missed it when first printed and may be interested in visiting a state that is much more than cars and industry:

"A Night to Remember" Bed & Breakfast in Lexington, Michigan

If You Seek History, Look About You
What people never seem to consider when they think of Detroit or southern lower Michigan is history.
Well, what most folks don't realize is that we have plenty of history all around this area. More than you may know.
In fact, I would put our collection of historical institutions against most other states - well, except maybe for the east coast. They seem to have the corner on pre-20th century American history. But, for the north central region of the U.S. (sorry - I don't consider us the 'midwest' - north central is more accurate), I don't believe you will find another area with more history.
First off is Greenfield Village the open-air museum in Dearborn. It's probably the most famous in the U.S. - right up there with Colonial Williamsburg. I have written plenty about GFV so, if you are interested, please see my blog dedicated to to the museum at

Connected to Greenfield Village is the Henry Ford Museum, second only to the Smithsonian for historical artifacts, including the actual chair Abraham Lincoln sat in when he was shot by Booth at the Ford's Theater. It also has hundreds of old-time cars, a few full size locomotive trains, many carriages, period guns, furniture from long ago, wood stoves, a 1940's diner, camping gear once belonging to George Washington...

...there's so much to see - it's a full day's visit or more to just visit the museum! I will eventually have a blog on the Henry Ford Museum. (for more on the Henry Ford Museum, please click here The Henry Ford Museum)

About an hour and a half north of Detroit, in Flint, is Crossroads Village. Crossroads is another open air museum, although on a much smaller scale, but, in many ways, more accurately depicted than Greenfield. It has dirt streets rather than cement paved streets, wood-plank sidewalks rather than cement paved sidewalks, and is more accurate in its portrayal of mid-19th century life in that it has a very rural, small-town atmosphere. It has a 'downtown' area, numerous Victorian houses, a working gristmill, an icehouse, a carriage barn, church, school, a working blacksmith shop, and a 45 minute train ride.
An immersion experience for sure - - -

- - - - Crossroads Village is truly a worthy trip back to the 1880's. Here's my site in progress dedicated to Crossroads

A little closer to Detroit - Mt. Clemens - has the Crocker House Museum. Run by Kim Parr, this shining example of Victoriana at its best is a very busy place indeed. Ms. Parr, historian extraordinaire, keeps this beautiful and authentically furnished 1869 house hopping throughout the year as numerous activities, including Wallow and Wassail at Christmas time, a mourning presentation in the late summer/early fall, teas, home tours, and a number of other events take place that bring the past to life.

Folks in period clothing help to keep the atmosphere correct at many of these events here at the Crocker House. Kim has a passion for history and it shows.

Historic Fort Wayne, in downtown Detroit, is a true gem in the heart of the city that very few folks think about, much less visit. Built in the 1840's, this actual fort never saw any battles; however, it was the place that most soldiers in lower Michigan, from the Civil War era through Vietnam, were mustered into service. Imagine being able to visit a place right here in Michigan that has a major Civil War connection! The officer quarters, the barracks, sallyport, guard house - all are still there as they stood in the old days, ready for visitors to take a walk through. The sallyport is my particular favorite part.

Some restoration is still needed but many local historians and preservationists have donated their time and money - and continue to do so - to keep this true historic gem alive. You, too, can donate to keep this part of Detroit history alive.
By the way, during the summer (this year July 11th and 12th), a Civil War muster takes place.
Here is a link to visit the Fort Wayne site:

Traveling about an hour and a half west of Detroit, another small collection of historic buildings are waiting to be visited by the public, Waterloo Farms. A log house, a bake house, an icehouse, a granary, and a mid-19th century farmhouse (among a few other buildings) help to show what farm life was like in Michigan 150 years ago. Throughout the year the group that runs Waterloo Farms holds various events, including one for the American Indian, a pioneer days, and a Christmas gathering.

Near Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum is the Dearborn Historical Society collection of buildings, including the Commandent's Building, restored to its 1833 - 1875 appearance as well as the Gardner House, built in 1831 and is the oldest structure built in Dearborn that is still standing. It is furnished to a mid-19th century appearance.

To visit these buildings will cost you nothing but donations are accepted. It is worth the trip to see these few original Dearborn landmarks - my wife and I did and the tours of each building together totaled about two hours. The historical society has done a fine job in the restoration of these beautiful old structures.
Here is another link where more information can be found:

Traveling two and a half to three hours outside of the metro-Detroit area is another historic village called Charlton Park, and this is located in rural Hastings, Michigan. Similar to but smaller than Crossroads Village, Charlton Park is home to mid-19th century Michigan structures, including a 19th century few houses with period furnishings, a barber shop, a general store, a church, bank, school, a cooper shop, a blacksmith shop, and a small mainstreet collection.

As I have only visited the Charlton Park during Civil War reenactments, I don't know if the docents are in period clothing or not, but don't let that stop you from visiting this place. The (mostly) 19th century homes and buildings are well worth the scenic drive.
Check out there informative site:

If you enjoy driving, taking a ride on US 12 from Detroit to Chicago - heck, even Dearborn to Jackson - is well worth your time and gas. Traveling through authentic 19th century towns where many original structures still stand gives one the opportunity to see this stage coach road as it once a way. It is a modern street now, with modern autos zooming by. But, while driving along, stop and visit some of the Victorian towns along the way. One of the best restored buildings on the trip is Walker Tavern, at the junction US 12 and M 50. This restored 1836 tavern, still in its original location, is open for walk throughs telling the story of all taverns and stage coach stops along US 12 - well worth it. It is a part of the Cambridge Junction Historical Society collection of farm buildings as well as the Inn itself.
US 12 has other historic stopping points as well. And if you love antiques, these small towns have plenty of antique shops. Visit the site dedicated to this "Chicago Road."
Traveling about two and a half to three hours north along the very scenic shoreline of Lake Huron, near the tip of the thumb, you will find another small but authentic historic village called Huron City, where most of the original late 19th and early 20th century buildings are still there as they stood a hundred plus years ago, including the seven gables house, a general store, a log cabin, a church, and the nearby Point Aux Barque lighthouse, among other structures.
Tours are given during the summer season. I have never taken the tour, but I have walked around the buildings and, I believe, the next time I am out that way I will take the official tour.
Their official website is:
By the way, on your ride up to the tip of the thumb, please visit the Victorian Villages that dot the shoreline: Lexington, Croswell, Port Sanilac, Forester, etc.

Now, I know that throughout the local communities there are many historic structures - train depots (Holly and Mt. Clemens have two beautifully restored depots), schoolhouses (my hometown here in Eastpointe has a restored schoolhouse from 1872), log cabins, and other pieces of history - that belong to (or are cared for by) the various historical societies, and they are very happy to give tours. And, many of the smaller towns and cities throughout the area, such as Romeo, Mt. Clemens, Port Huron, Saline, Holly (the list could go on), all have beautiful original historic structures (Wolcott Mill in northern Macomb County comes to mind ), Victorian homes and even mansions still standing and restored.

One town, Marshall, Michigan near Battle Creek, even has a yearly historic home tour. I have never taken the tour myself but friends who have say it's excellent! Here's a site in case you want to get more information

I realize I haven't even touched on the northern towns and villages of Michigan, such as Mackinac Island and the town of Mackinaw at the tip of the mitt. I haven't been there in many years, but I am centering today's blog on places I have personally visited within the last few years. When I do travel that far up north, however, I will give a full report.

I also know there are many historical places in the area that I have missed, and I apologize if I missed your site (especially if I've been there!).
I hope this has helped some locals to visit their local history and may entice out-of-town history lovers to come to Michigan for a historical visit. Or even seek out historical sites in their area.
No, I don't work for a travel agency - I just like to pass along historic info and places to visit for those interested.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Living The Victorian Life - A Healthier Life

I love it when I find information to back my personal beliefs that people of the past generally lived healthier (in many ways) than we do here in the 21st century. For instance is the food we eat today - a teacher in the school district where I work tells his students that they just might be the first generation in centuries to not live as long as their parents' generation. The youth of today eat more junk food than any before - think of all the processed food, the fast food, the horrible cafeteria (processed again) food, the snacks, the breakfast cereals...
Oh, yes, I, too, am guilty of eating my fair share of junk food. It's just so doggone good! But, in recent years I have made an effort to cut down dramatically the garbage food compared to what I used to eat and have come to eat the more natural and healthy foods instead. Maybe one day I will cut it all out completely.
Continuing with the children: after sitting all day in class, the children then go home and play their video games, watch TV, sit at the computer, play games and text on their phones, are driven in a car three blocks to their friend's house - - - need I go on? All the natural energy they have with no thought of how to get it all out. Instead, they are diagnosed with ADHD or ADD because of their "nervous energy" and given pills to calm them down UNNATURALLY instead of riding their bikes, playing sports, running, etc.
The youth of the Victorian times, when not working, played. PLAYED! They also walked everywhere. Or rode a horse. And, as I said, worked. Or, should I say, worked HARD!
And didn't complain.
Well, maybe they complained a little.
But, they found ways to relieve themselves of all that natural energy.

Something else where there is a difference between 21st century folk and our Victorian ancestors is how we wear our clothing. No, I'm not necessarily speaking of styles of clothing. I mean protection from the sun. For example, while the Victorians completely covered themselves from head to toe, we in the 21st century can't seem to show enough skin. As a youth while at the beach, I was told constantly to "take your shirt off!" I hated taking my shirt off - even when I was swimming. I hated the feel of the sun on my skin. I knew I would get sunburned - I never tanned.
"Oh, you'll burn once then you'll get a tan from then on," friends and family would say.
Nope - not me. I'm too fair skinned. I continued to burn. I guess the English and German side of the family reigned prominent in my genes over the Sicilian side.
Well, now we hear constantly of how skin cancer is at an all-time high due mainly to cooking one's self by laying out in the summer sun, not wearing a head covering, wearing tank tops and short shorts, and, worse, yet, roasting themselves in a tanning salon.
How sick is that?
I have noticed something else lately: I get headaches from lights, especially bright fluorescent lights. But, any lights that are way too bright hurt my eyes and my head. At work we have a rule now to save energy - turning on only half of the lights in the school, whether it be in the hallways or the classrooms. The kids can still see fine (if they can't then maybe they need glasses) and work can still get done. The one bank of electric lighting and the natural daylight coming in through the windows gives off plenty of lighting.
In his book, 'Diary of an Early American Boy,' author Eric Sloane writes, "Many present-day scientists insist that the early countryman had extraordinary eyesight, keener than the average eyesight of today. Farmers frequently did their haying at night, using the moon or the stars for illumination, and taking advantage of the coolness of the summer night."
I grew up with my mother burning candles nightly, and I can still hear her sigh of disgust when someone would turn on the electric light, ruining the ambiance she had set.
I carry on her tradition by also burning candles frequently, although more in the fall through spring time of the year. She lives with me and my wife & kids and enjoys it immensely when we eat supper by candlelight.
Well, just like junk food and "tanning," the electric light is proving to be a health hazard as well. I am going to quote here an article from the May 2009 Reader's Digest:
"Night falls, so you flick on your lights. But a shocking theory has been gaining support in the past few years that artificial light at night may contribute to breast and prostate cancers, perhaps because it turns down production of the hormone melatonin. Now two studies add weight to that idea.
One analyzed satellite measurements of nighttime light and cancer rates in 164 countries. The most brightly lit had the highest rates of prostate cancer, more than double those in the dimmest nations."
In the same article, Harvard researchers report that more than 18,000 postmenopausal women were tracked and it was found that those with the lowest nighttime levels of melatonin were about 60% more likely to develop breast cancer.
What is suggested is to sleep in as dark a room as possible so to not let in the light from outside streetlamps, keep a night light in the bathroom for midnight visits instead of the overhead lamp. Even brief exposure to bright lights can suppress melatonin.
Well, whattaya know - the Victorians weren't so dumb. Instead, this tells me that even without realizing it, our Victorian ancestors, by living a more natural life, were in all actuality, healthier than we are today.
And, I believe, much happier.
Yup, I plan to burn even more candles, oil lamps, and set the dimmer switch on low a lot more often.
And I envy you readers who live a very traditional lifestyle. I hope to join you eventually.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Civil War Days in Lexington, Michigan

This past weekend we participated at another Civil War event, held in the tiny Village of Lexington, Michigan located along the shoreline of Lake Huron in the "thumb" part of our state. It was the 2nd year for this event and it has grown to almost double in participants since last year's debut. New for 2009 was the inclusion of a Rebel army, the 8th Arkansas, allowing the two "enemies" to fight a skirmish in the streets of town, which pleased the townsfolk - many of which had not seen a reenactment before. Although the size of both armies were very small in comparison to most reenactments, it was still a thrill for all of us to watch the men march through the streets, drill, fire the cannon, and the eventual battle.

There was also a fashion show held on the lawn of The Carrol Home Bed & Breakfast, a beautiful Victorian brick structure built around 1869. Our own Jennifer Schmidt was the hostess for the event (although, I must admit I also spoke quite a bit - what can I say? I'm a talker!). For the women's clothing, Mrs. Schmidt explained virtually every aspect of the styles of the 1860's, (including the undergarments!) as well as children's clothing, headwear, mourning practices, and social activities of the day. For the men - an infantry soldier, a military chaplain, and myself - she allowed us to speak for ourselves. My son represented the infantryman and explained each article of his uniform, his accruetements, and even a bit about his musket and bayonet. Our Chaplain (and 21st Michigan President), Mike Gillett, spoke about his uniform as well and his job as a man of God in the military, and I spoke of what an average middle class man would have worn, including my undergarments (Is there no shame?!?).
At the end of the fashion show, questions from the audience were taken - some very good questions at that! - as well as comments. One comment that came from a woman in the audience was perhaps the best I have ever received in my 6 years participating in living history. She said, "I want to thank all of you. I came here expecting to see a few ladies in pretty dresses. What I got was a fascinating history lesson of things I never knew about! Thank you!" And a round of applause ensued.
Talk about feeling on top of the world! Isn't this what it's all about? Isn't this why we do this?
OK, yes - we also do it for ourselves, but when we can receive such a compliment from one who has never been to a period fashion show, one cannot help but feel a strong sense of satisfaction like I've not ever felt before in reenacting.

We sat in our camps and spoke to many visitors, answering their questions and hearing their stories. Everyone seemed truly excited that we were there.
We were excited as well. We taught the folks that there is much more to the Civil War era than what was shown in "Gone With the Wind" (I made sure to explain that this movie, although a fine movie and all, is commonly referred to as "Gone With the Farb" in reenacting circles. Yes, I ex[plained to them what FARB meant).

The guys in the military, the civilian contingency - all made this weekend a well-rounded living history study that one cannot receive out of a book. It was history come to life and I was very proud to be a part.

A number of members from our unit did not want to attend initially, but now that they did (after much pleading from me) they are looking forward to next year's.
And so am I!

Thanks to Anita Ruffini, who coordinated this event two years running now, for everything she has done. She made us all feel very much at home.
Anita - my hat is off to you!

(The following is a link to the Port Huron paper, which printed an article about this event - enjoy!)


Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Civil War Battle of a Different Kind

There's been a bit of a controversy a-brewing in the reenacting circles:
just what is the role of a Civilian/Citizen reenactor in the world of Living History?
By far and large, I have found the greater percentage of the reenacting military believe the civilians play a major role in living history/reenacting. But, to some, the role of the civilian is to do nothing but support the military. To be in the background. To be seen and not heard.
Of course, there are military men who can reenact on the weekends only if there wives and kids come along as well. So the spouses are placed in tents to cook dinner over a campfire. That is their sole purpose for being there.

And then there are a very few who feel that there is no place for civilian reenactors at all.
"This is about the Civil War," they say. "People don't come to look at civilians. Civilians had no role in the Civil War!"
Yes, I've heard and continue to hear comments such as this. Fortunately less and less frequently.

I suppose that's how it was in reenacting years past - like twenty years ago plus. But, since I have been attending reenactments - about 15 years years or so - and taking part in reenactments (this is my 6th year) - I have seen a decently large (and growing) civilian contingency. And, these civilians were not just sitting at camps cooking for their men, but they were taking it that extra step - showing other aspects of life once lived, showing a bit of everyday life on the homefront of the 1860's: Christian Aid Societies, laundresses, period crafts, even a midwife.

And the patrons were interested and asked questions.
Eventually, the amount of patrons that visited reenactments grew.
And so did the civilian contingency.
Through it all, something else began to (here I am!) began to join the civilian end of reenacting. They played roles on the homefront: politicians, farmers, tinsmiths, reporters, postmasters, etc.

And the patron's interest continued to grow.
What patrons now see when they visit a reenactment is a more well-rounded peek into the past. What they now see is a civilian contingency that, by showing everyday life of the 1860's, actually supports the military and the battles. What the patrons now experience is a sort of all-around time-travel.
As stated above, most in the military enjoy this active civilian addition to their 'hobby,' and use this full-circle time-travel experience in the way it was meant to be, and love the stepping-into-the-past experience it gives to both patrons and participants.

But, still, there are those ever-shrinking few that simply do not want civilians in their midst.
"They didn't have civilians living in tents near the battlefields or near the military camps."
Yup - they're right on this statement...can't argue this point. What I actually tell a visitor is that since we cannot build houses or use historical houses (depending on the location of the reenactment), they should think of our wall rents as frame houses, and that we have built a sort of community with roads, etc.
"OK," I've been told by nay-sayers, "A frame house? Ha! Now you are pretending!"
Yes. I guess we are. But, aren't we all??
I do, by the way, have a response (what? You think I could let such an insipid comment such as this go without a response?): When I look at the military at most reenactments, I see a median age of men - many pleasantly plump - being about 50 years old. (Hmmm...check this out...The Average Soldier was a white, native-born, single, protestant, male farmer between 18 and 39 years of age. He stood about 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed about 145 pounds. The average age of a Civil War soldier was 25. In the Union Army it is estimated that 100,000 soldiers were less than 15 years old. These soldiers had to lie about their age to get into the army as the minimum age was 18. )
Speaking of pretending, the military shoot blanks at each other! They're just pretending to get shot!
How about those who are "shot" that sit up on their elbows to watch the rest of the battle, speaking with other "wounded" or "killed" comrades?
You want to talk pretending??? Ha! When all is said and done, the civilians are probably more authentic and accurate than many in the military!

Now, hear me here - this is by no means a diatribe against the military end of reenacting. By far, the greater majority of the military reenactors do an excellent job at this 'hobby.' All that I am pointing out is the fact that this is all just pretending - military and civilian. We're all just playing a game - not unlike what we did as children when we played army or frontier people.
We do not actually time-travel - - - - (although many of us do are darnedest to get as close as possible, don't we?)
So to have one group point out the inaccuracies of the other is just plain redundant then, is it not?

Here in the 21st century, the civilian role at reenactments - not just Civil War, but Revolutionary War, WWI, and WWII - has grown dramatically, and adds to the over-all experience for not just the patron, but to the reenacting world as a whole. When I hear those few folks that want little or nothing to do with civilians, I have to wonder "why?" Reenacting is not a 'he-man woman hater's club' - especially now since so many men have joined the civilian ranks. In fact, I have found that, because so many in the civilian contingency now portray their impression in 1st person, the military members in the differing units have also taken their reenacting a bit more seriously. Instead of sitting on their rumps and talking about the latest movie they saw, the size the breasts of the woman walking by, or how much they hate their jobs or obama, they have taken to living the life of a military Civil War soldier. They have taken an active role to speak to the public about their Civil War military lives. And, they have even begun to create scenarios: disciplining a drunken soldier,

mail call, and learning 1st person period vernacular. We have doctors, nurses, watergirls, chaplains - all playing major roles in this wonderful 'hobby' (I hate that word for what we do, but until I can find another suitable term, it'll have to do).
Both sides compliment each other greatly. Both sides help each other. Both sides need each other to accurately show the visitor the whole history of the Civil War.
Let's work together to make this passion that we all have a more enjoyable one for all involved.


Monday, June 1, 2009

As Promised - Pictures from the Memorial Day Event at Greenfield Village

Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village is what I believe may be the most anticipated Civil War reenactment of the year for most of us in Michigan. And it has come and gone so quickly that I scarcely remember all that I did those three days. Fortunately, I had taken loads of images from my (as my daughter calls it) "pocket tintype" and I'd like to share some of those images with you. It is mainly of the membership from one unit that I belong to, the 21st Michigan Volunteer Infantry Co. H, a family oriented unit that has a large military and civilian contingency.
(I also belong to the Michigan Soldiers Aid Society and I will present a blog on them in the upcoming months.)

The following pictures are in no particular order (except for a certain few) but I have included an explanation beneath each.
I hope you enjoy them!

One of the nicest things about the three day Greenfield Village event is that it is the first of the season for most of the area's reenactors and the chance to visit members not seen since last year make it all the more special.

Some of the children in our reenacting unit (including my young daughter on the right) wrote letters with pen & ink to the soldiers, using period correct stationary.

My wife (on the right) and her very good friend, the Preacher's wife. In the sun, my pocket tintype has 'played' with the colors of my wife's half-mourning dress that she made this spring, so the purple-ish color does not show as correctly as it should. She also made her bonnet as well.

Our laundress and her helper did a fine job performing their duties for the public. They actually did laundry for our members over the weekend using lye soap - if our ancestors did it that way back then, we can do it that way now!

Your blog host and his wife! Patty's half-mourning dress and bonnet shows the colors much better in this image. This photo was taken inside the The Eagle Tavern.

The President (and chaplain) of the 21st Michigan standing with the Military Commander's daughter.

Michigan Senator Jacob Howard (portrayed by 21st member Dave Tennies) speaks with a patron. We love to interact with the public, sometimes in 1st person, other times in third person. But, either way, we hope that when they walk away from us, that we have taught them about history in a fun and interesting way.

Evening, after the public leaves, can be the best time for us reenactors. Here my son performs Civil War era songs such as "Wayfaring Stranger," "Shady Grove," "Just Before the Battle Mother," and "Lorena." Notice that we all remain in our period clothing, even when the public is not there. That's dedication - that's passion.

Our resident insurance salesman, who is an insurance salesman in his 21st century life as well, researched and found a very interesting history of the business and portrays it in a fun historical way. Who would think insurance could be interesting? Mr. Jones shows that it can be!

My son and his date just before leaving for the ball. Don't they look great?

Here are a number of the 21st Michigan Co. H military. Capt. Schroeder, having the respect of his men, does a fine job leading the troops into battle.

Members of the 21st, as well as other units that participated at the Greenfield Village reenactment, march off to war.

Yup - another image of my two sons as they march down the road to battle.

My eldest son received a letter from his close friend back home. I do the post mastering and have many from the differing units write letters to each other. It's made us more like a community. My rules are simple: Civilians must come to my post office to get their mail. I deliver to the respective Captains of the different units, including Confederate units.

We like to have fun in our camps, too. Here, while her husband is off fighting, a young wife is gambling at a card game while smoking a stogy with the local men folk...on the Sabbath!

Of course, the Preacher's wife is shocked and none too happy about this occurence...

...and she brings out her bible to point out the error of her ways!

But, through all of our fun, we do not forget our reason for being there on this Memorial Day Weekend, and, just as women did soon after the Civil War ended, the ladies of the different units layed wreaths and flowers upon the graves of those who had fallen. Since there are no actual graves (anymore) at the Village, they lay wreaths at the garden in front of the church. Then, men and women who served in the actual military are called out to the Village Green so honor can be paid to them. Veterans from WWII, Korea, VietNam, and the numerous wars after walk out to the center. Very solemn and very touching, a dry eye could not be found. Much better, say, than a parade down main street with clowns, politicians waving from convertables, and kids decorating their bikes.

This is truly one reenactment that pays the homage and respect in the way that it should be.
And I am honored to play a small role.