Monday, June 10, 2019

Spending Time in the 18th Century With The Voyageurs

If you look under the title of my Passion for the Past header, you will note the general description of this blog:  "Thoughts and Social History for the Living Historian."
Yes, what I write here almost always has its base in living history and reenacting.  My hope is that my posts can be used to help accent the good folks who reenact, at least to some degree, common life, which is why most subjects center on what is considered the everyday, mostly mundane occurrences of the past rather than the  'greatest hits of history,'  such as politics and war, that tend to dominate school curriculum.  Yes, politics and war find their way into my postings here and there, but I attempt to show how it may have affected the populace, such as the civilians who fought in the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775, or how the townsfolk of Gettysburg dealt with 150,000 soldiers invading their little town, rather than focus strictly on the military or political leaders of the time.
The Lac Ste. Claire Voyageurs
on Lac Ste. Claire a few years back.
So with that being said, since my last posting, which was about our three day adventures at the Civil War reenactment at Greenfield Village, I have attended two more events:  one colonial and another Civil War (look for the Civil War posting to be coming up soon).
A week after the Greenfield Village reenactment, I visited the Lac Ste. Claire Voyageurs as they set up camp in the mini-historical village of the Chesterfield Historical Society, located in northern Macomb County (about 14 miles north of Detroit).  The Voyageurs have been doing this wonderful event for a few years now and it just continually gets better and better, for the members are an amazing living history group;  they portray the early settlers, mostly of French origin, who lived pretty much in the general area where most of their reenactments take place - in and around the Great Lakes region.  In other words, they are reenacting on the same ground where the original Voyageurs actually lived!  For a region like Michigan, this is pretty cool, especially considering it is depicting the 17th and 18th centuries.
So why do I usually portray an easterner when I reenact this period?
Well, that's my area and era of preference.  However, when I present as a farmer, I can still be a local living here in what is now Michigan.
A 1755 map showing what would become the states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin (and the Canadian province of Ontario).
At this time this area was known as New France (as the map here states), 
as well as the Northwest Territory.
~(Thanks to my Voyageur friends for helping me out with what 
this area was called at the time)~
For a quick overview of the folks who were unique to this old northwest region (including what is now Ontario, Canada), the Ste. Claire Voyageurs were Great Lakes fur traders, missionaries, and explorers that came to the area in the early 1600's.  They were of French origin, though they did not come directly from France.  Rather, they came from the large French settlements in Montreal and Quebec.  From the 1670's until the 1800's, French fur traders and homesteaders started settling in the Macomb County area of Michigan, north of what is now Detroit.  I find this very interesting since Macomb is the county in which I have lived nearly my entire life.
The reenactors who portray this group do an outstanding job in their presentations, and I made certain to grab a few photos to show some of their ways:
Creating an earthen oven.

Unfortunately I was not around to taste the pie, but
it certainly looked good going in!

And the makeshift wood cover to keep the hot hot.

A home away from home, so to speak.  
I always enjoy seeing some of the items others bring along to their camps.  And this family looks like they could stay put for the summer season, for what they brought with them; they have a little bit of everything to show & tell the visiting public, including the art of churning butter.
The Voyageurs were known for buying, selling and trading animal fur and pelts. They adapted the Indian-style canoes and bateaux (a small, flat-bottomed rowboat used on rivers) to move their furs, as well as using sailboats.
Micki and Jerry have been Voyageurs since 1767.
Okay...a little far-fetched, but they have been replicating
this part of history for a lot longer than most.
Such great people!

Not all tents were wall or A-frame. Here is a lean-to used for some protection but mostly display.

Many original axes that were found in the area were on display.

Weaving...

Rope-making...
...and the final result.

One sometimes wishes that the history of our early medicine could have been written by the patients rather than the physicians.  Those who were ill in colonial times underwent stern experiences.
Tom Bertrand explains medical procedures and medicinal cures to the visiting public
The methods and materials used by colonial doctors were based on European texts.  The English and Scottish professional pharmacy books that were used by doctors in the colonies include chemicals, plants, and other products from around the world.
While some North American plants were listed, overall the theories and practices in the professional practice of medicine remained firmly rooted in European tradition.
The Greek physician Galen (A.D. 129–199) is credited with organizing and promoting the humoral theory of illness.  During Galen's time, and for centuries after his death, it was believed that the human body had four humors: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile.
Disease was attributed to an imbalance of the humors, and treatment involved restoring the humors to their proper balance.
Anatomical discoveries by Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564), William Harvey (1568–1657), and others, as well as the budding sciences of chemistry and physics in the seventeenth century, refuted many aspects of the humoral theory.

The modern tools of the 18th century medical profession.
Of course, bloodletting is, perhaps, the most famous of 18th century medical practices.
You can say this about bloodletting: the practice of bleeding the ill patient to get his or her  "humors"  back in balance had a long and somewhat respected history.  Dating back to at least fifth century B.C. and in practice across many cultures, bad blood was blamed for just about every ill, so bleeding became a universal treatment and served as a foundation stone of Western medicine.  The practice of bloodletting came to America with the Europeans and persisted into the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Unfortunately, you can also say this about bloodletting: It was at best a useless practice and at worse a dangerous one, causing more deaths than it could ever claim to save. Today, the idea seems barbaric, maybe equivalent to torture, as I found out during an illness that befell me:
When a large cut was needed, the fleam would be used.  
A fleam was a kind of lancet, used for opening veins.
(A Richard Reaume pic)

The fleam was a handheld instrument specifically used for bloodletting 

It was hoped that the fleam was sharpened well when they were used.

The brass bowl might have contained elegant images of birds, palm trees 
and women, belying the fact that its purpose was to collect large 
amounts of blood.
The one I held here was simple and plain. 
Well, now I can scratch that  experience off my bucket list!
Next!

I am sure I will surprise most of you here, but until this day, I had never shot a gun outside of one from the later 20th century.
It's true.
Not Civil War and not Rev War.
Until now:
The smoke from my first time firing a flint-lock, belonging to Dave Pierce.
And now that I have my own gun, I plan to fire it more often.  No, I do not plan on necessarily doing military, but if needed I can maybe do some militia here and there.
(Richard Reaume Photo)

Dave Pierce is a collector of period musketry and usually will set up a display of his arms at reenactments. He did so at the Patriot's Day event in April and it was a very popular attraction.
He did so here at the Voyageur encampment as well.
(Picture taken by Richard Reaume)
And speaking of guns, this was a time-line event, so guess who else was there?
There were a few WWI and II reenactors here, 
and they gave the public a little history of firepower 
through the years
(photo by Richard Reaume)

I have fair knowledge of WWII itself, but little knowledge of the soldiers.  It is unfortunate that my father, who was in that War, passed away when I was only 20 years old and had not yet formed too much of an 'adult bond' with him, otherwise I would had been a bit more well-versed due to his passing on his own stories.
(photo by Richard Reaume)

Their camps and firepower did look cool, though.
(photo by Richard Reaume)

The guests were very interested in the procedures of loading and firing the flint-locks.

The entire process can take 30 seconds or longer.

Many in the crowd never saw (or heard live) a real flint-lock being fired.  And that's what we, as reenactors, are all about: allowing the public to see, feel, hear...experience...the past in ways that TV cannot do.
There were no reenactors depicting the 19th century (i.e. Civil War soldiers), so it jumped from the 18th century to the 20th century and WWI.

Well, now, with this being Michigan in the spring of 2019, it rained.
Hard.
Then stopped.
Then rained again, even harder.
Looking at the blacksmith's shop from the fly I was under.

In this picture it was raining so hard I was able to capture the rain drops falling from the sky, which is something my camera usually doesn't do.

And this little girl completed the day, for it brought many of us great joy to watch her walk with her grandmother and splash in the puddles.   I mentioned that if only we all had the mind to do this same joyful childhood ritual, but as adults, then maybe we would be less stressed.
Nope...I didn't do it, as much as I wanted to.
And neither did anyone else.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: the Lac Ste. Claire Voyageurs are an amazing reenacting group, and if you live in our area, you would do yourself well to venture out to one of their reenactments.  You will learn about a different history not often told in schools.
Not even if it's local history.
And that's why we have reenactors.

With that, until next time, see you in time.


For more information about the Voyageurs, please click HERE
For life on a colonial farm, click HERE

Information on bloodletting came from HERE and HERE.




















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Sunday, June 2, 2019

Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village 2019: Every Picture Tells a Story

Civil War Remembrance is, perhaps, the most anticipated event of the Civil War reenacting season in this part of the country by most reenactors here in Michigan.  To have such an opportunity to reenact inside an internationally known historic open-air museum is an honor and a pleasure.  And to be with so many good friends makes this reenactment pert-near perfect.
As I took a myriad of photographs, and since pictures are worth a thousand word, I will let them tell the story...with a little help from my sometimes snarky, sometimes silly, and sometimes informative comments 'neath the pics! But...always a little bit o'history as well.
And, yes, I did use a few photos from others who took pretty amazing pictures.  Many thanks to those wonderful photographers!
So we'll begin with a sort of yearning for a time past - - in a sort of nostalgic photograph taken by Gary Thomas, member of the Facebook page  "Friends of Greenfield Village"  with pertinent lyrics by 1970s musician Cat Stevens:
Well I think it's fine, building jumbo planes
Or taking a ride on a cosmic train
Switch on summer from a slot machine
Yes, get what you want to if you want
Cause you can get anything
I know we've come a long way
We're changing day to day
But tell me, where do the children play?
Well you roll on roads over fresh green grass
For your lorry loads pumping petrol gas
And you make them long, and you make them tough
But they just go on and on, and it seems that you can't get off
Oh, I know we've come a long way
We're changing day to day
But tell me, where do the children play?
Well you've cracked the sky, scrapers fill the air
But will you keep on building higher
'Til there's no more room up there?
Will you make us laugh, will you make us cry?
Will you tell us when to live, will you tell us when to die?
I know we've come a long way
We're changing day to day
But tell me, where do the children play?
(above photo taken by Gary Thomas)

Welcome to Civil War Remembrance 2019.
Meet the fine reenactors of the 21st Michigan:
The annual 21st Michigan group photo, this year taken at the 
Smiths Creek Depot.
Every year at Greenfield Village we take a "family picture," though it is unfortunate we can never seem to get everyone to make it. 

Yes, unfortunately, we are missing a number of our membership yet again!
Next year we'll give it another try...
Here we are, hanging around the Smiths Creek Depot, originally built around 1858-59 in Port Huron, Michigan.  This depot is very popular around Thomas Edison aficionados, for it was while the young Master Edison was working on the Grand Trunk Railroad, which traveled between Port Huron and Detroit - and included a stop at this station - that an angry conductor threw young Tom off the train at this Smiths Creek depot when the boy accidentally set the baggage car on fire while conducting a chemical experiment using phosphorus.
This occurred in 1863 - right in the middle of the Civil War - so the fashions you see us wearing here fit perfectly for the depot and time presented.
After our group pic, many of us decided to stick around to chat, making it seem as if it were the busy place it may have been back in the day.

I love pictures of this sort, for nothing is posed, just the naturalness of folks from another time.

I can just imagine how it must've been over a hundred and fifty years ago, when this station once stood in Smiths Creek, Michigan, 
near the city of Port Huron...
In our modern times, the ride by automobile from Smiths Creek to Detroit easily takes less than an hour.  But in the 1860s, it could have taken a full day.  Trains did not go nearly as fast as they do today, and they stopped at each depot along the way.
A few of us decided to recreate our own depot scenario in photographs:
The train to take you to Detroit will be coming soon. 

The ladies got their tickets to Detroit

And they a-waited for the train to enter the station.
Many steam locomotives of this era could claim a top speed of 60 to 70 mph.  However, the average speed was much slower - in the range of 15 to 20 mph.  This may sound slow to people in the 21st century but to put things into perspective and and note the estimated average speeds of contemporary transportation modes of the day:
Pony Express -- 7 to 10 mph
Stage coach -- 3 to 5 mph
Horse & wagon (long distance) 2 to 4 mph (this was the preferred mode for the gold rush because it was so much faster than ox teams)
Ox team & wagon -- 1 to 2 mph ( this was the preferred mode for most western pioneers as they could walk comfortably along side the wagon and load more freight in the wagon)
Walking -- 2 to 3 mph
River boat (downstream) -- 5 to 10 mph
River boat (upstream) -- 1 to 5 mph
So I would suppose that 20 miles per hour wouldn't be quite so bad in comparison, now would it?
We here in southern Michigan may not have too much 18th century history, but we certainly have the Victorian era covered, with thousands of 19th century structures throughout our state.
Coming up in the not-too-distant future, look for a blog posting here on Passion for the Past about the train depots that Thomas Edison would have been familiar with as a young boy.
I'm still working on it so stay tuned.
I very much appreciate my friends here - Larissa, Beckie, Sue, Jillian, and Michelle - for their wonderful poses to help 1860s history come to life in living color.


~The Civilian Battlefield Observers scenario~ 
A few of the ladies of the 21st Michigan were chosen to do a couple of scenarios in the spirit of the picnickers at Manassas
Now, please understand, they are not necessarily reenacting that first battle of the Civil War;  they are, instead, giving an impression of  "curiosity-seeking"  citizens, perhaps looking for a bit of Victorian entertainment, not fully understanding the danger of it all.
Carolyn and Jackie did a marvelous job for the morning scenario, speaking to the public in a 1st person manner, though able to easily transfer and answer any comments or questions of  "future occurrences"  very satisfactory to the visitor's queries.
The military engagement of 1st Bull Run/Manassas earned the nickname the  “picnic battle”  because spectators showed up with sandwiches and opera glasses.
As part of their presentation, the two ladies spoke to the public about what it was like to witness the excitement of battle by enjoying an innocent picnic near where the men in blue had chosen to fight those wearing gray.
It was thought the war, if it could be called that, would be a short one, easily squelched by the powerful Union Army, so this just might be the only chance to see such an event.
Both Carolyn and Jackie are well-suited for this sort of interaction, for the two have been well-versed in 1st person 19th century vernacular for years.
The public seemed to enjoy being drawn into their world.

As you may know, I have a photo program that allows me to create a faux tintype image from regular photographs, which is fun to do.  However, having an actual tintype taken is the ultimate time-travel photography experience.  And that's what you see in this picture here: a real tintype of Carolyn and Jackie taken with an antique period camera.
Nothing can beat the real deal.
But Carolyn and Jackie were not the only women recreating the past in such a way.  In fact, a few others from the 21st Michigan, as well as two ladies from another unit, also came out to do a similar scenario, but they were to do it during an actual battle reenactment later in the day.
News reports from 1861 tells of the civilians, including men, women, and, yes, even children, and political-types who came from far and wide, traveling for a half day by buggy or carriage, carrying with them food to sustain them for their trip to witness the first major battle of the North and South:
Here we see a few of the ladies boarding the buggy.

Greenfield Village supplied a driver, Curtis, who has been an employee for quite some time and knows well how to handle horses. 

The buggy and travelers rode past the boys in blue, enhancing their anticipation for the excitement of 1860s entertainment.

The pleasantry of this scene hides the horror of what was about to happen, though the cannons might give a hint.

I apologize but I have little information on the buggy
itself, whether it is an original or a modern replication.

Let off at the perfect spot, the ladies find a place to have their picnic.

Spotted across the way, three more friends decide to join the others.

Our boys in blue coming through... 
Yielding to political pressure, Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell led his unseasoned Union Army across Bull Run against the equally inexperienced Confederate Army of Brig. Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard camped near Manassas Junction.  McDowell's ambitious plan for a surprise flank attack on the Confederate left was poorly executed by his officers and men; nevertheless, the Confederates, who had been planning to attack the Union left flank, found themselves at an initial disadvantage.

The Union army marched onto the field of battle, just yards away from our picnicking ladies.

The ladies giggled with excitement and waved their handkerchiefs at the young men, who were confused as to why they were there.

Confederate reinforcements under Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston arrived from the Shenandoah Valley by railroad, and the course of the battle quickly changed.
A brigade of Virginians under the relatively unknown brigadier general from the Virginia Military Institute, Thomas J. Jackson, stood its ground, which resulted in Jackson receiving his famous nickname, "Stonewall".
The Confederates Army.

The the firing of musketry began in earnest- - - 

The Confederates launched a strong counterattack, and as the Union troops began withdrawing under fire, many panicked and the retreat turned into a rout.  McDowell's men frantically ran without order in the direction of Washington, D.C.
"Those spectators who found themselves too near the combat eventually found themselves overtaken by the retreating men."
The Worst Picnic in History Was Interrupted by a War.
The battle that day resulted in a bloody defeat for the Union and sent the picnickers scrambling to safety.
At the time, nobody realized that the battle fought at Bull Run on July 21, 1861, was going to be remembered as the first gory conflict in a long and bloody war.
As an on-looker off to the sidelines, I must admit seeing this buggy whip around the corner of the road and scurry up the slight incline was truly a sight to see.  

And once it reached safety far from the scene of battle, the horse was brought to a slow trot.

But the horror of what was witnessed remained.
Both armies were sobered by the fierce fighting and many casualties, and realized that the war was going to be much longer and bloodier than either had anticipated.  1st Bull Run, the first land battle of the Civil War, was fought at a time when many Americans believed the conflict would be short and relatively bloodless, writes the Senate Historical Office.  That's part of the reason why civilians did go out to watch it.  And yes, many did bring food.
Kudos to all who played a part in this scenario.  I enjoy the fact that Greenfield Villages adds and changes things up a bit from year to year.

One of the very cool pluses for us who reenact the Civil War era is the fact that not only can we recreate the era itself (as best as we can), but recreate the historic images of the period in an authentic manner - by way of having our likenesses taken with an original tin type camera.
From what I understand, this camera is from the 1870s - not too long after the Civil War had ended.

A few of the ladies (and young Zane) who participated in the Manassas scenario have their likeness taken by "W.C. Badgley".

With an over-cast sky, the lighting was perfect.

This is what the image looked like upon development.

Another image was taken of two of the men of the 21st Michigan, including my son (holding the stars and stripes).

Yes, the images are reversed when developed.

And the ladies got in on having their likeness taken as well:
Beckie & Larissa emulating an original picture from the era

There was more than one photographer at the Village,
and this man is Robert Beech, who studied the
art of period photography in Gettysburg, is well

known in the circle of wet-plate photography.

This is one of Mr. Beech's photographs.  It is of
my son's girlfriend, Heather, who had never had her
likeness taken in this manner before.

Robbie with Heather (a Robert Beech tintype)

Now...just what the heck is this?
There was a brand new addition to Civil War Remembrance this year: a coffee wagon, which was pulled throughout the Village by a horse, offering a free cup of coffee to reenactors and patrons alike. Yes, this was very popular! 
This is a 7/8 size replication modeled after an 1863 original.  This one was built by the Chase and Sunburn Coffee Company in 1970.
The idea for a coffee wagon came in 1861 when delegates of the northern YMCA  (Young Men's Christian Association)  came up with the idea to help out with the soldier's spiritual and temporal needs of the Union Army as well as to help alleviate some of the suffering from wounds and illness.
In March of 1863, Jacob Dunton of Philadelphia built and presented to the US Christian Commission a wagon made from an artillery caisson that could brew 108 gallons of coffee, hot tea, or cocoa an hour.
No records have been found to show how many of these coffee wagons had been built, but documentation shows there was one at the Appomattox Courthouse in April of 1865.
And now we have one at Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village.  History coming to life... 

Plenty of period music was heard throughout the Village, inside the camps or on the stage:
The Masciale's kept passersby entertained as they
performed the fine music popular during the Civil
War.  In fact, they even played on the stage:

In our own 21st Michigan civilian camp:
The Alexanders performed many hits of the day,
along with a few of the popular spirituals.
Their vocals were simply beautiful.
And also in our camp:
Pearl Jones had song lyric books ready and waiting for guests to sing along to  "Goober Peas"  and other numbers of the 1860s still known today by many.

Memorial Day Monday is a very special day here at Civil War Remembrance inside the boundaries of Greenfield Village, for this is when a very special ceremony takes place: the Memorial Day Commemoration, where  "honoring the sacrifices and achievements of all those who bravely fought and continue to fight in defense of the American spirit"  takes place on the Village Green with the placing of the wreaths and laying of the flowers in front of the Martha Mary Chapel.
The ladies who participate in this solemn occasion are lined up in a chosen order for the service.

Lorna Paul, the woman walking along the front, oversees this part of the ceremony.
I am proud to say that the 21st Michigan civilians also take part among the other women of different units, as you will see in the following photographs:
Walking slowly to the front to set the wreath near the Garden of the Leaven Heart.

Heather, who you met in one of the tintypes earlier in this posting, was asked to participate.  What an honor, especially with it being her first time out as a Civil War reenactor (she usually does Revolutionary War).

Two more 21st Michigan civilians, Larissa and Beckie, also took part, among ladies from various units.
Greenfield Village does one of the most touching of all Memorial Day services, and I never cease to shed a tear in thinking of all those who did give - or were/are willing to give - their last full measure of devotion, including my own father in World War II.
Yes, it may sound corny, but I am honored to play a (very) small role in such a ceremony as a reenactor on the sidelines.  Those who chose/choose to serve their country are true heroes in my book.
Yes they are.
And God bless them.

So, how's the weather been for you?
Yeah, for the most part, the weather during this weekend was fair to good, especially on Memorial Day Monday, but for about a half hour late Saturday afternoon we had a pretty intense storm come through, with high winds whipping the rain around, which, at times, was falling sideways.  It seemed that our entire camp membership was holding down the fort, so to speak:
Including me, as you can see by this picture.  There I
am, standing on a chair, retying the fly to the front of
my tent while my daughter and her friend Elizabeth held
the poles to ensure stability.

While our next door neighbors bore the brunt of the
whipping wind;  a side pole gave way, allowing the
wind to knock over a shelf inside the tent, precious 

pieces crashing to the ground.  It's unfortunate that they
lost a wash basin, an oil lamp, and some lamp oil
spilled onto a bonnet, soaking the ribbons and straw.
But we had our own 1860s Captain Marvel - - -
Jackie just stood there, hands on hips, daring the
storm to cross her path, which it certainly did not.
I swear---the storm clouds split in two 
when it 
came upon her tent and went on either side.
Don't mess with her!

Activities in camp:
Some of the young ladies decided to write letters to the boys in blue, something we really haven't done too much lately as a group, but the interest seems to be growing again. 

My son, Miles, enjoys a good game of cribbage with Mr. Wayne.  Cribbage has been around since the early 17th century and remains popular to this day.

"No! I won't leave! Three days is
not enough time! This is such a fun event!"
Yep---I think my friend Jennifer's expression 

epitomizes all of our feelings when 5:00 comes 
on the Monday of Memorial Day Weekend 
and we all need to tear down and go home.
Then again...maybe she is ready...

So another successful Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village has come and gone.
Folks, I have reenacted there when night time temperatures have fallen into the 30s and daytime temps have reached to nearly a hundred.  I have spent this weekend with rain, tornadoes, swirling winds, perfect 70 degree and sunny days - pretty much through all kinds of weather.  And I never cease to enjoy myself immensely.  To me, anytime I can wear period clothing and hang out with like-minded friends is a good day.  But to do it in such a place as Greenfield Village makes it that much more special.
So no matter the weather, this event is always top-notch in my book.

Until next time, see you in time.


Some of the train information came from THIS site





















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