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!)