Friday, June 9, 2017

This Is Not the Memorial Day of My Youth: Civil War Remembrance 2017 at Greenfield Village

Wet plate photographer Robert Beech
Civil War Remembrance at historic Greenfield Village is a celebration of mid-Victorian Americana. It is an opportunity to not only teach of American life in the 1860s, but, more important, of what Memorial Day is really all about. Too many today feel that this very-American holiday is simply the signal that summer is here; it’s a time for opening up cottages, barbecuing burgers and dogs, and, for kids, the end of the school year.
I must admit, I was no different. We had a family cottage with beautiful Lake Huron nearly at our door step (about fifty yards away), had bonfires at night, ate burgers & dogs, fried chicken, and homemade bread, and saw our “summer friends.”
"We honor our fallen"
Photograph by Bob Jacobs
To be honest, Memorial Day as it was meant to be – a solemn day of remembrance – never crossed my mind. And sadly, it took me clearly to 2005 before I understood this when I witnessed the ceremony dedicated to those who have fallen from American wars, as well as to those who survived, and even to those who are now serving in the military.
For the first time, at my initial Greenfield Village Civil War Remembrance, I shed tears for the men & women who gave, were willing to give, and are now willing to give their lives for the United States – for their country.
Call me corny. Call me a faux patriot. Call me a war monger. Call me whatever you want. But what I felt and still feel is true, and I am filled with honor and pride.
And each year I do participate, I still shed tears.
Now, does this mean we can’t have any fun?
Does it mean we can’t have the great barbecue foods, swimming, and hang out with our friends?
Absolutely not.
However, we should take a moment – just a moment, mind you – to think about all of those who have given, or are willing to give, their last true measure of devotion for our country.
As I take part in historical reenactments and research deeper the original meaning of our holidays, I find that I become more thoughtful about our Nation's history, and my pride grows ever larger and stronger.
I hope the pictures herein reveal some of that Memorial Day/Decoration Day pride.
Most of the photos you are about to see of Civil War Remembrance 2017 were taken by me, though there are a few that were taken by another photographer. Won't you take a journey to the past with me and witness a variety of living historians bringing the 1860s to life?
Here you see a few of the men (and young lady) from the 21st Michigan shortly before the Memorial Day ceremony.

Yes, our 21st Michigan members are right up front in this picture, but numerous other regiments took part, including the Sally Port Mess 
and the 4th and 17th Michigan.

Preparing to march into the ceremony.
The 35-Star Flag: This Flag became the Official United States Flag on July 4th, 1863. 
A star was added for the admission of West Virginia (June 20th, 1863).

Lining up between a doctor's office and the courthouse where Abraham Lincoln 
once practiced law seems appropriate, don't you think?

And while the military was preparing for the ceremony, the ladies of whom would lay the wreaths were also getting ready for their role.
Since I was a part of the parade and ceremony, it was nearly impossible for me to take pictures without it being awkward to be seen with a modern camera. Fortunately for me, Bob Jacobs, a member of my Greenfield Village facebook page (Friends of Greenfield Village), took some great, great photos and graciously allowed me to use them here (except one taken by another wonderful photographer, Mary Marshall).
First the Union Army marched onto the Village Green...
Photograph by Bob Jacobs

...then the Union Cavalry came...
Photograph by Bob Jacobs

...followed by the Confederate Army.
Photograph by Bob Jacobs

Civilians of both sides marched behind the military.
(Yes, that is me you see escorting my reenacting sister) 
(Photo by Mary Marshall)

The line up of man and beast was a sight to behold.
Photograph by Bob Jacobs

The Union and Confederates faced each other during the ceremony, though not as foes...but as friends.
Photograph by Bob Jacobs

 The Dodworth Saxhorn Band played period patriotic music.
Photograph by Bob Jacobs

The color guard.
Photograph by Bob Jacobs

All of the men & women who have served, or are serving, in the American military were asked to come to the center of the Green.
This is what brings tears to my eyes every time: all actual military personal past & present are asked to fall in on the colors. Some who served or are still serving are now reenactors, while others came from the audience - paid visitors, mind you - to a loud and rousing applause, giving thanks to those who are/were willing to give their last full measure of devotion... 
Photograph by Bob Jacobs

The ladies who would place wreaths upon the memorial for the military men & women who have died awaited their time to take the long, slow journey up to the front near the church.
Photograph by Bob Jacobs

Two women dressed in 1860s mourning clothing brought the memorial 
wreath up to the front.
Photograph by Bob Jacobs

Then, two by two, the others followed, carrying memorial wreaths of their own to place as well.
Photograph by Bob Jacobs

It is such a wonderful moment to watch and be a part of.
Photograph by Bob Jacobs

This is why I celebrate Memorial Day differently than I used to in my younger days.
Photograph by Bob Jacobs

Ceremony ended, the civilians took the walk out of the Village Green area.
Photograph by Bob Jacobs

The women who took part in the wreath laying ceremony.
Photograph by Bob Jacobs

I did not get to watch the battle scenario this year, for I had quite a few visitors of my own at my camp, though I did manage to get a couple of pictures of the men lining up in preparation.
21st Michigan men with their pards from other units.

The Confederates bringing the cannon to the battlefield

A hundred months have passed, Lorena,
Since last I held thy hand in mine;
And felt the pulse beat fast, Lorena,
Though mine beat faster far than thine;
A hundred months,'twas flowery May,
When up the hilly slope we climbed,
To watch the dying of the day,
And hear the distant church bells chime.

The camp of the 21st Michigan.

The camp of the Sally Port Mess

Confederate Camp.

I believe this is the camp of the 4th Texas.

Confederate Artillery.

Wow---to be buried in one of those new metallic 
coffins instead of the old-fashioned wooden ones!
My body could last forever!!

I found a few soldiers off relaxing under the shade of some trees near a pond.

Beckie was a part of the Memorial Service and added a veil to her bonnet.

The 102nd United States Colored Troops/Black History Group was founded in 1986 in response to the Michigan Sesquicentennial Celebration. The group has since participated in a number of reenactments, parades, and ceremonies in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, and Canada. Members are from across Michigan and membership is open to women as well. Women play the part of the auxiliary and as educators in school and church scenarios.
The original regiment was created in July 1863 after an extensive editorial and letter writing campaign by Henry Barns who was then editor of the Detroit Advertiser and Tribune. The regiment was initially called the 1st Michigan Colored Regiment and retained that name until officially mustered into federal service. At the time the regiment was designated the 102nd United States Colored Troop (USCT). For his efforts Henry Barns was commissioned the regiment's first Colonel, a post he retained until voluntarily stepped down in favor of a regular army officer.
The regiment drew recruits not only from the Detroit and southern Michigan area, but also from Ontario, Canada. Men who had escaped slavery through the underground railroad and settled in Canada returned to Michigan to join up when word came that the 102nd was forming. Many desired to fight for the freedom of family members still held in slavery.
The 102nd trained at Camp Ward, located in southeastern Detroit, which is the location of Duffield Elementary school today. The regiment left Michigan for federal service in March 1864 and assigned to the Department of The South. Its base of operations was Beaufort, South Carolina. The 102nd saw action throughout South Carolina, Eastern Georgia, and Florida. The regiment's first test under fire occurred at Baldwin, Florida where it turned back a confederate cavalry charge with a bayonet charge of their own. They also participated and made a significant contribution to the Battle of Honey Hill, South Carolina. It was during this battle that Lieutenant Orson Bennett won the Congressional Medal of Honor for taking 30 men from the regiment and preventing a battery of cannon from being captured by rebel forces.
The 102nd USCT was mustered out of federal service on September 30, 1865 and returned to Detroit to be disbanded on October 17, 1865.
(information taken from THIS page)
The USCT played such a vital role in the Civil War, one that is rarely shown, 
and I so very much appreciate what they do.

Now, that is a frying pan that is a frying pan! 
Look at the size of that thing!

My beautiful wife and I in front of Firestone Farm. 
She shows her patriotism well.

Here is a picture of my son Robert and I. 
Robert is the Military Commander of the 21st Michigan.

Now we have a couple of pictures of my son Miles and I. 
Miles just has that "farm look" down pat!

Miles and I on the front porch of Firestone Farm.

My beautiful daughter and I in front of our tent.
I have reenacting daughters and then I have my very special actual daughter.
This dad is proud of all of his children.

From senator to druggist: When Dave Tennies decides on an impression, he certainly gives it his all, and he is doing just that as an 1860s druggist.

He went out and found period-acceptable bottles and printed out the labels for each. Dave researched the historic "medicines" in each bottle; no, he is not a 'snake oil salesman,' so prominent at the time. Instead he peddles what was thought to be 
tried and true medication...some of which have had staying power clear into the 
21st century! 

Of course, the best medicine for kids is homemade ice cream!

Dave may look like he's sleeping, but he is really engulfed in one of his medical science books. 
Aww! Who am I fooling---he really is sleeping!

Larissa gets her family involved - the two young ones 
are her two sons. 
Now we need to get her husband involved...

So often folks will see me photographed with women 
other than my wife. So now, it's Patty's turn: 
here she is with Dave Walker, just before going 
on stage together for the period fashion show.

1860s fashionistas!

Clothing historian and hostess Beth spoke quite bit about Patty's patriotic apron. 
I had a friend make it for her as a Christmas gift a number of years ago and she receives high compliments every time she wears it.

Poor Felicia! 
Also part of the 1860s fashion show, 
Miss Konrad was asked to show off winter-wear...
on an 80 degree day! 
Quite the trooper (and avid reenactor), she happily 
agreed to do so!

A personal highlight for me this weekend was seeing 
Jay Ungar and his wife Molly Mason perform at 
Greenfield Village Saturday evening.
You do realize that Jay Unger wrote and 
recorded "Ashokan Farewell," right?

Top notch musicians, the two performed some of the great tunes of the 
1860s/Civil War era, including...

...Battle Cry of Freedom, Hard Times Come Again No More, Cumberland Gap, Lorena, and...Ashokan Farewell. Now, Ashokan Farewell is technically not a Civil War era song, but it can be considered a Civil War song nonetheless. In fact, the Ken Burns PBS series, "The Civil War" would not be the same without it as its haunting theme song.

It was an honor and a privilege to meet and 
be photographed with Mr. Ungar, 
especially while I was wearing my Civil War clothing.

But Jay and Molly were not the only musicians among us: we have very talented musician in our reenacting community, including fiddle players...

...hammered dulcimer players...

...and even lap (or mountain) dulcimer players. 
All making beautiful period music.

Every year I like to have a group picture taken of the members of our unit. Unfortunately, we can never seem to get everyone together at the same time. Believe me, I try (I do try) but it never fails that I either forget to tell someone or there is something else going on or any number of reasons why I can't get everyone to show up.
I can only do what I can...
Anyhow, in previous years we've had group pictures taken at the Eagle Tavern, the Susquehanna Plantation, the Logan County Courthouse, and the birthplace of Henry Ford.
This year I chose the Firestone Farm - - -
We were quite the sight, trudging along the dirt road path to the farm.

We garnered a lot of attention as we strolled along,
and about a dozen modern visitors followed us.

"Good afternoon, Mrs. Firestone. 
May we have the privilege of having our image 
taken in front of your home? 
It would make a lovely backdrop for our friends and family."

Here you are! Some of the members of the 21st Michigan soldier and civilian as the future sees us. want to see us as we saw ourselves?

Here you go!

How about a close up?

After the picture was taken, some of us lingered around and chatted for a bit. To be in period clothing while at a house of or near the period represented simply makes the past come to life that much more. I mean, yes, tents are great, but nothing like being aound a period house.
I wish there were more actual photographs of folks of the 1860s just being themselves and not posing for the camera. I really believe our perspective of them would change greatly.

Of course (and I'm not being cheeky here, just truthful), 
I don't believe we'd see the varying classes all hanging 
out and visiting each other as seen here. 
But I really don't care because these are my friends, 
and portraying a variety of different people is what the 
21st Michigan civilian group does best.

Greenfield Village has so many wonderful photographic opportunities, and I try to take advantage of them as often as I can,
One of the most beautiful parts of the Village is around the 1831 Ackley Covered Bridge - my gateway to the past.
Stepping through the time-travel link to the past.

The landscape surrounding the bridge kind of has a southern flavor to it.

Jillian portrays Michigan Civil War "Daughter of the Regiment" Annie Etheridge, and she & I took a walk one morning to take a few picturesque photos.

The Ackley Covered Bridge spans the man-made pond in Greenfield Village.

Later that afternoon, Beckie and I also ventured out for some scenic shots.

We also spent time at the 1830s Susquehanna house. I suppose we do have a bit of 
a southern flare to our 'look,' but fear not - we are tried and true northerners!

"Hello? Is anybody home? 
I have a chocolate pie made by my maid. 

The man I am standing with here is Tony. 
He is one of the actors that Greenfield Village 
has hired to do wonderful historic scenarios during 
the summer months. Tony also tells Christmas tales 
during Holiday Nights in December. 
He is top notch all around.

Here I am with Ian, the young man who oversees the hired hands on my farm. 
Oh, he can be a bit of a curmudgeon, but he is a fair man.

Young farm girls had a chance to play together with 
their homespun dolls and some fabric...

...while their older brothers were immersed in a game of checkers.

Off to dye aprons.

Here is Patty with Dave the Druggist.

Here are just a few of the lovely ladies of the 21st Michigan.

Young Miss Morgan, from the 
Michigan Soldiers Aid Society.

My reenacting daughter, Kristen, and her quality period-correct jewelry sutlery, 
The Victorian Needle
The best part is that she can document nearly every piece 
she makes to an original period piece.

You know, initially they called for rain for a good part of the weekend, and then as Friday approached, the weather news got brighter and brighter. We ended up with sunshine all three days with a bit of rain on Sunday evening and then again on Monday toward the end of tear down.
With over 30,000 visitors coming to see us, there are no complaints from this time-traveler!

Until next time, see you in time.

~   ~   ~

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