Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Living History and Reenacting at Charlton Park

I'd like to tell you about a reenactment that I participated in this past weekend. It took place in a tiny open-air historical village nestled in the middle of nowhere in western Michigan called Charlton Park, and the opportunity for progressive living history was as strong as if one actually time-traveled back to the 1860’s. I have reenacted here numerous times before, but this year was different: a scenario was planned that would add realism to the planned battle that one does not see very often at reenactments.

The 1858 Sixberry House - *my* home for a few hours

To begin with, I was able to procure a home in this village that was originally built in 1858 and use it as my own. In doing so, I had visitors - 'cousins' Carrie and Sue. The three of us enjoyed fine conversation, staying as true as we could to the 1st person mode of speaking. Once one begins that manner of speech, it becomes quite easy to continue as such, and ours continued nearly the entire time while inside the home. Of course, we had non-reenacting visitors enter the (to them) historic home, and I played up that this was my home and the three of us were enjoying a fine visit.

Cousins come to call

Instead of speaking historically about the house or of the original family that lived there 150 years ago, we instead spoke of our lives in the 1860's, occasionally interjecting 3rd person with 1st person, which ultimately played out into what I like to call 2nd person. It worked very well and allowed the patron's questions to be answered without breaking the time-travel impression, which they seemed to enjoy very much. The patrons truly seemed to enjoy seeing actual 'period people' inside the home in the manner in which we presented.
We were there in the back parlor enjoying each others company when the cannons began to fire, and true enough the battle had begun in earnest.

As you can see from the window next to the front door, the army was right outside my door - - what to do? Where to go?

What to do or where to go, I did not know. People were running here and there, screaming that the town would be shelled. No one knew where to go or what to do. We decided that we ought not to remain in our vulnerable position, and that it would be better to go to some part of the town farther away from the scene of the conflict. As we scurried across the Village Green, the shells began to fly around quite thick. We soon found ourselves out of harms way and were able to watch the battle from a safe position.

Cousin Carrie nervously eyed the soldiers from the front parlor window as she prepares to skeedaddle before the battle begins

We knew that with every explosion, and the scream of each shell, human beings were hurried, through excruciating pain, into another world, and that many more were torn, and mangled, and lying in torment worse than death, and no one able to extend relief. We know not what the morrow will bring forth, and cannot even tell of the issue of to-day. Indications is that our troops have the advantage so far. Can they keep it? The fear they may not be able causes our anxiety and keeps us in suspense.
(Many thanks to the diary of Sarah Broadhead, for it is from her diary that I stole much of the above description, with some slight modification).

For the battle itself, the Union and the Confederates utilized the village structures to whatever advantage their leaders saw fit, sneaking out from behind one building, ducking back behind another, encircling each other on the village green; it was truly as if one were watching an actual battle unfold before our very eyes.

The battle commenced nearly right outside our front door!

And, yes, we civilians did go running from our homes and stores, the women screaming and the men hurrying them along. It was unlike any I have yet witnessed or taken part in, at least not around these parts! Definitely so much more authentic than the battles that are normally held on what could be along the lines of a football field.
So, that, in a nutshell, is how the reenactment in Charlton Park was for us on July 17th. As good as it gets.
Coming up very soon, by the way, is another event, only this affair will be held at Crossroads Village in Flint, and will be a total 1st person full-immersion presentation of northern civilians welcoming home their 'boys in blue' in a gala not seen since...well...since 1865! No battles, just a period hoopla with political speeches by dignitaries, parades, picnics, and a ball in the evening. I can't wait!



Mrs. G said...

It sounds like a really well thought out scenario, a far cry from the Beer, Battle and Ball events that are mainstream. I'm glad you had such a good time, it makes the effort of preparing and participating more worthwhile.


Historical Ken said...

You are absolutely correct, Mrs G. And I've been lucky enough to have the opportunity to do more and more of these scenario-type of events.

"Beer, Battle, and Ball" - Ha! Never heard it put that way - -

lady Estelle said...

This was well done. I envy you all.
I am still new to reenactment and this would have been a great lesson learned.