Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Port Sanilac Event: A Reenacting Repeat of Gettysburg in Pictures

Ghosts of Gettysburg: meet those who were there...sort of...
I know, I know...this year is supposed to represent 1864, so why are we repeating the events of July 1863?
You can blame me.
The wonderful people that took part in our reenactment last year did such a fine job in their roles as Gettysburg citizens I just couldn't let it go. They really took it to heart and it seemed such a waste to just let it go and end it.
It really was spectacular. (Read about it HERE)
It was so good, in fact, that I felt we should do it all over again this year.
And I'm glad we did, because it was even more successful!
What surprises me is how few people realize just what the citizens of battle towns had to go through to survive. All we hear about is the military and the battles, as if nothing and no one else mattered.
And that's why civilian living historians intertwining with military reenactors are so important. In fact, it was at this year's Port Sanilac (which took place the 1st weekend in August) that I received one of the highest compliments one could give:
A family from Fredricksburg, Virginia came up to me and thanked me for "showing that there was more to the Civil War than people shooting at each other." They went on to explain that most of the reenactments they attend in their neck of the woods only tend to show the battles and nothing else, and after seeing a few of them they became bored, especially their pre-teen children. However, after seeing our presentation here their interest - especially the kids - has been renewed. They loved the battle as it included the wounded soldiers, the citizens coming out to help, and even death. They also enjoyed our Citizens of Gettysburg living history presentation.
To have folks who live in the midst of Civil War country tell me this made all the stress of hosting the event easier to handle. made me feel real good.
Tell you what - rather than repeat what I wrote last year, I'm going to let my pictures do most of the talking (with additional help with my attempt-at-being-witty captions):

Meet Doc Turlo, the finest doctor in town. In fact, he was the only doctor in town!

Meet the Wade family: Samuel, Georgia, mother Mary Ann, and Ginnie. The young ladies portraying Georgia and Ginnie really do look eerily like their long dead counter-parts. I've not seen any photos of Samuel or Mary Ann.

Once again, we had the Rebels come through town, and our wonderful reenactors did a great job as frightened citizens scurried hither and thither to hide their belongings and food from the scavengers.

Young Sammy Wade was kidnapped by a Confederate soldier!

"Mama! Mama!" he cried as he was carried off! The look of fright on Ginnie's face just about says it all.

But wait! What's this? Look! Look who is coming down our road!

Thank God for Michigan! Huzzah to all of you!!

The Wade ladies prepare to feed the starving soldiers as they march through town.

"Would you kind sirs like some fresh-baked bread?"

Our civilians certainly got into the spirit of the times!

And the men got to enjoy some fine home-baked food!

Cannon fire: the signal that a battle was about to commence!

Though civilians tend to come out in droves, the military men were not nearly as large. But for those who came, my hat is off and I am honored. You boys (and girls) did a fantastic job!

The Rebels knew that they'd been beat and made a retreat on lightning feat! (I'm a poet and don't know it - I try not to show it).

We did a medical scenario afterward. Doc Turlo's nurse, Miss Jones, had a difficult time keeping up with all the wounded and did her best to encourage the other ladies to help out.

Whether Confederate or Union, all were human - all were cared for.

Wounded men all over the field!

Here's a soldier, writhing in pain as a bullet past through his shoulder, awaiting to have his arm possibly amputated.

Doc Turlo worked night and day on the wounded men. As quick as one soldier was off the operating table, another was put on.

This young zouave's wounds were mortal. All hope was lost for this poor soul.

And he was carried to spend his final moments on this earth under the shade of a maple tree.

All the ladies could do was keep him as comfortable as they could.

And, while resting in the arms of his brother, Pvt. Jody Reynolds went to his Endless Sleep...

I am so proud of the authenticity in which these living historians portray the past.

Ginnie and her mother (in a bit of historical revision) give the Confederate soldiers a "what for" for kidnapping little Sammy.

No, Ginnie Wade was not kneading bread dough out in the field where the men were fighting, but we wanted to show the audience what happened to her. Here she is, very happy to be doing her part to help the fighting Union...

Moments later, after a sniper's bullet pierced her back, killing her instantly, her lifeless body was carried out back (actually, her body was carried to the cellar of the home she was in).

And the rest of the Wade family mourned the loss of their loved one at such a young age - only twenty years old.

Again, I am so proud of our living historians who took their roles so seriously.

The sight of wounded men and arms & legs piled outside the windows of the houses and buildings were ghastly, as was the stench of death beginning to arise from the bloating bodies.

Elizabeth Thorn, great with child, began her duty to bury the dead as soon as she could.

We had another presentation, just as last year, on the Citizens of Gettysburg. Over a dozen of our living historians each became a Gettysburg citizen and gave a little speech in a 1st person manner about how their lives were affected by the great battle that took place in their town.
Also included in this presentation was a bit about the fashions of the time, including mourning.
Here, Miss Schubert explains the etiquette of mourning to the audience. If you are interested in the mourning practices of the mid-19th century, please click HERE.

You've met the members of the Wade family earlier, but there was one member you hadn't met: newborn Louis Kenneth McClellan, infant son of Georgia. Yes, that is a real baby, who was born to one of our close reenactor friends, and this was his first venture into living history. He did great!
As for Ginnie's story: at about 8:30 A.M. while Ginnie stood in the kitchen kneading dough, a Confederate musket ball smashed through a door on the north side of the house, pierced another into the kitchen, and struck Gin in the back beneath her left shoulder blade embedding itself in her corset, killing her instantly. The cries of her sister and mother attracted Federal soldiers who carried her body to the cellar. Later she was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in a coffin some Confederate soldiers had fashioned for an officer. In the early afternoon of July 4, Jennie's mother baked 15 loaves of bread from the dough which Ginnie had kneaded.

Here is Mrs. Hettie Shriver (Jackie Schubert), whose husband, before the battle, had planned to turn their home into a saloon with ten-pin bowling.

For many days the battle literally raged around their heads, and they had to scream to hear each other over the noise of cannons and musket fire. The group spent most of their time trying to help the wounded as best they could, baking bread for them and cleaning their wounds.

Upon returning home afterwards Mrs. Shriver and the three girls found a totally different town than the one they had left. Broken fences, destroyed crops, and the dead and wounded lay everywhere. The Shrivers’ home had been damaged too. In their absence a Confederate snipers nest had been set up in their garret (attic) and holes were knocked into the home’s back wall so that the rebels could shoot Union soldiers on Cemetery Hill.

It was in the garret of this home where it is suspected that a Confederate sharp-shooter may have shot and killed Ginnie Wade, though this has not been proven. But it is the story being told and, thus, until proven otherwise, I will include it here and ask the reader to do further research if they have an interest.
My sincerest apologies to Mrs. Schubert. I thought I had hit the record button on my camera during her portion of the presentation.
I didn't.
So I deeply apologize for this mistake.
And she was SO good, too!

Now we have Tillie Pierce (Samantha Mansfield), who, hoping to find a safe haven, instead found herself right in the thick of things. She was 15 years old when the Battle of Gettysburg was fought in her hometown in July 1863. She watched the Union army march through town. At the urging of her family, Tillie, along with neighbor, Hettie Shriver, fled the village and went to the "safe" farmhouse of Jacob Weikert, located at the base of Little Round Top. During the battle, Tillie provided water and food to the soldiers and assisted the surgeons and nurses caring for the wounded. On July 7, 1863, she journeyed back to her home and on the way was sickened by the sights, sounds and smells of war. She stated, "The whole landscape had been changed and I felt as though we were in a strange and blighted land." She continued to help care for the wounded after the battle. 25 years after the battle, she wrote an account of her experiences during the battle. "At Gettysburg, Or What A Girl Saw And Heard Of The Battle" is still in print today.

Mary McAllister operated a small store at her home with her sister Martha on Chambersburg Street, directly across the street from Christ Lutheran Church.
“Mrs. Weikert lived near us and she said, 'Let's go to the church.  We can be of use there.' Martha had torn up sheets for bandages and I gathered up sheets and water and Mrs. Weikert and I went to the church and we went to work.
They carried the wounded in there as fast as they could. We took the cushions off the seats and some officers came in and said 'Lay them in the aisles.' Then we did all we could for the wounded men.
After a while they carried in an awfully wounded one. He was a fine officer.  They did not know who he was. A doctor said to me 'Go and bring some wine or whiskey or some stimulant!' When I got outside, I thought  of Mr. Guyer near the church.
'Well,' I said, 'Mr. Guyer, can you give me some wine?'  He said, 'The rebels will be in here if you begin to carry that out.'
'I must have it,' I said. 'Give me some.'
I put it under my apron and went over to the church with it. They poured some of it into the officer's mouth. I never knew who he was, but he died.
Well, I went to doing what they told me to do, wetting cloths and putting them on the wounds and helping. Every pew was full; some sitting, some lying, some leaning on others. They cut off the legs and arms and threw them out of the windows.”

Now we have Mrs. Mary Martin (Vickie St. John - center), whose home on Middle Street was where some of the young ladies of town would go to learn the milliner's trade. It was Mrs. martin's home that Nellie Auginbaugh was at when the Rebels first entered town.
Let's let Nellie Auginbaugh (Kristen Mrozek - in peach-colored dress) tell us of her Gettysburg experience in her own words (while learning a milliner’s trade at the home of Mrs. Martin): “June 26 – Mr. Martin excitedly rushed into the work room, exclaiming that the Rebels were coming. ‘They’re at Cashtown now. Send the girls home,’ he told his wife. Several of the girls stopped immediately and left. I was working on a bonnet that Mrs. Martin, who was very particular, had made me rip twice that day and start over again, and I said ‘I’m not going home until I finish this bonnet, not if the whole Rebel army comes to town.’
Once more, Mr. Martin came running in and, hurrying over to me, he grabbed my work from my hands and exclaimed, ‘Go home, girl! The Rebs are at the edge of town.’
I did."

Also joining Nellie here is her mother (Carolyn Paladino - on the left) to help fill in the story: "As I reached the center square, the Rebels were riding into it from the other direction with yells and cheers. I was frightened and ran all the way home. I had to cross the square and go down Carlisle Street. When I reached the house, Mother was standing in the doorway, ringing her hands.
‘My God, Child! Where have you been?’
Never in my life had I ever heard my Mother use the Lord’s name in that way, and I always told her that she frightened me more than the coming of the Rebels because I thought she had suddenly lost her mind.”

Our final Citizens of Gettysburg are Elizabeth Thorn (Larissa Fleishman) and her mother, Mrs Masser (Violet Kyryluk).
At the time of the Battle of Gettysburg Elizabeth was caretaker of Evergreen Cemetery, the job normally performed by her husband Peter who was serving with the 138th Pennsylvania which was at Harpers Ferry and Washington, D.C. during the Gettysburg Campaign. She had her parents and her three sons all living with her in the cemetery gatehouse.
After the battle Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant, dug 105 graves. She did not receive any more compensation than the $13 a month she regularly received as caretaker of the cemetery,
As Elizabeth herself stated: “So you may know it was only excitement that helped me to do all the work, with all that stench. And in three months after I had a dear little baby. But it was not very strong, and from that time on my health failed and for years I was a very sickly woman. In my older days my health has been better, but those hard days have always told on my life.”

Visitors and reenactors, sitting in chairs and upon bales of hay, were enthralled by the stories of the Gettysburg citizens. These are the stories that need to be told as much as the battles, for more than soldiers were affected by the War.

The finest group of living historians anywhere. I was honored to be on the stage and in this picture with them.

President Lincoln (Fred Priebe) was also in our midst and gave a few rousing speeches including his Gettysburg Address.

He also spoke of the upcoming election, hoping to garner more votes from the local men, and maybe even convince the women to guide their men in the voting process.

After his speech, the President inspected the troops.

It wasn't all scenarios at Port Sanilac. Everyone had time to reenact in the more traditional sense and visit with their neighbors. Here, some of the ladies spend the morning hours enjoying each others company.

I love to do poses. Sometimes when ideas just pop into my head, I'll grab a couple of willing participants and off we go in an attempt to recreate that vision. I am interested, however, in what you, the readers of Passion for the Past, see in this photograph. Can you tell me what feeling or story you get from this picture? It doesn't have to be long - a couple of sentences. Or maybe it's up to you. But I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Here is Kristen and Elizabeth - two beautiful young ladies who epitomize the look of the youth of the 1860's.
And this is how they will look to the people over 150 years from when this photograph was taken. is my lovely wife wearing her new shear that was given - yes, given - to her, and that guy she married. Do we look like we're about to become grandparents in two months? Ha! I hope that the first time my grandbaby sees his Papa that I'll be in period clothes!

And, as usual, we do like to have goofy fun and take our own blooper or silly pictures.
I hope you enjoy them!

Ladies, are you buzzing? Here are some of my favorite Queen Bees!

Stop with that period music!!! I said I wanted to hear some Taylor Swift or Violent Femmes!! Or even "In A Gadda Da Vida!!"

Be vewwy, vewwy quiet...I'm hunting webels! They like bwead.

The real home guard - don't mess with these ladies!
Or their fake wood gun.
Or what's left of the sauerkraut that's dangling precariously from the wooden spoon.

I hope you enjoyed this latest time-travel adventure.
It certainly was a great pleasure taking part, that's for sure!
A lot goes into putting on an event. A lot more than many realize. It doesn't just come together over a beer at the bar. There are meetings - in person and over the phone.
And there are e-mails, private messages on Facebook...hours upon hours spent organizing, planning, advertising to reenactors and visitors.
And then time spent at the location lining up the tents, helping others to set up and tear down, carrying the heaviest items for those who can't lift...seriously, I don't stop.
So when I say I am honored for those who participate and for those who will go the extra mile for me and help to make this event the success it has become, I mean that with all my heart.
Thank you.
See you next time in time.

*Some of the depictions in this posting may not be 100% accurate to actual events (such as Ginnie Wade kneading dough in a field). This is a result of it being a reenactment and not a play or a movie.
We do our best with what we have.
Thank you.


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