Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Living in Colonial Times at Historic Fort Wayne

Historic Fort Wayne, built in Detroit in the 1840s, is a very active place throughout the year for those who love history. And the good folks at the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition like to keep the Fort alive with historic activity, so in any given year one may attend a Civil War reenactment, an 1860s Christmas celebration, vintage baseball games, a 1940s USO show, a medieval romp, and a Revolutionary War excursion.
Being that it was built in the 1840s, you may be thinking "a medieval romp? A Revolutionary War excursion?"
And it works very well, too!
Any opportunity that we can show history - make it come alive - and teach folks old and young about history as well as America's great heritage AND help to continue to restore the past (proceeds going for the continuing restoration of this fort and the surrounding buildings) is a fantastic thing.
And recently my wife and daughter and I found ourselves in 1770s clothing here with other colonial/RevWar living historians.
Once again we day-tripped it and, unfortunately, for the second year in a row, the day we came was filled with off and on rain showers. There was also the possibility of severe weather on the horizon, so many of the reenactors packed it up early and left.
Now, there's nothing we can do about the weather, but by realizing and accepting that, yes, it rained in the 1770s, too, a few of us made the best of it and remained, settling ourselves inside the barracks until we had to leave. My crew happened to stay until a window of opportunity opened (read: it stopped raining for a few minutes).
I hated to leave, especially since there are so few colonial/RevWar events in these parts, so I was, needless to say, pretty bummed out. Hopefully the weather will be brighter and dryer for the 4th of July, when we plan to visit the time period once again, only at a different location.
In the meantime, I was able to take a few pictures, which I will present here. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade, right? That's what we tried to do on this rainy day at Historic Fort Wayne.
Historic Fort Wayne Barracks.
Built in the early 1840s, this housed nearly every southeastern lower Michigan soldier that was drafted or joined the army from the Civil War through Viet Nam, including my father, who was in WWII. Now it's a historic site being preserved in great part through reenactments such as the Colonial Days event you see here.
(photograph by Tony Gerring - 1st Pennsylvania Regiment)

A scene right out of the past: I believe this was taken during a renewal of the vows for a couple who were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary
~I wasn’t there on the day this was taken~
(photograph by The Highland Rangers)

My wife enjoyed the relaxing time spent here and made herself another neckerchief. This photograph gives us away as Patriots - - can you guess how? (hint - check out the pamphlet!)

During the time of the Revolutionary War and well up into the 19th century, the best place for a local to get information and news was the tavern, for this was where out-of-town travellers would spend the night before catching the morning stage to their next destination, and they would gladly tell of the news and events of other villages and towns from which they had come. And if you were lucky, a politician or a soldier might happen by with news from the front. Now, I'm not really standing in front of an actual tavern, but it does have that sort of feel, don't you think?
By the way, dig the new threads! Okay, so that wasn’t very 18th century of me to put it that way, but I wanted to show off my new coat bought at the Kalamazoo Living History Show last March. Many thanks must go to my friend, Beckie, for taking it in a bit - the fit was rather large but the price was right and I could not pass it up. And now... - - - ...perfect! You like?

Here is a picture of Civil War reenactor Kristen (left) and my daughter Rosalia. This was Kris's first time out as a colonist, and she was thrilled to take part. An accomplished seamstress, she makes her own clothing, including this ensemble.
Here, I’ll let her tell you in her own words a little about her fashion (taken from her 'Victorian Needle' blog):
Ken Giorlando, over from 'Passion for the Past,' has been nudging me towards 18th century reenacting for a few years. It has been a slow process-first the stays, then the shoes and fabric as Christmas presents, and then I used the JP Ryan pattern for the bodice, with little modification. The petticoat came together quite easily. Finally, I slapped some silk on that bergère hat and called it a day. Wait no...I made an apron too. In the car. After a family camping trip that involved marshmallows, mud, and a head injury. Hooray!
Welcome to the 18th century Kristen! So glad to have you join us, and we look forward to even more events with you!

Kristen also bought her shoes from Fugawees located in Florida. Kristen loves to have Rosalia around - she's sort of like a little sister to do her 'menial' tasks for her, such as tying the ribbons on her shoes.

Ah...here they are, for anyone interested in her shoes.

What would a trip to the 1770s be without a military presence?
Let's see a few of soldiers from both sides of the pond who fought during the American Revolution:
Marching and drilling...

~All the King's Men~
Here is a combination of differing units: those in kilts and red coats are the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment, the guy in the white pants with a red coat is part of the 1st Foot Guard Grenadier Company, and the guys in the green are the Queen's Rangers Highland Company. Trying to keep the colonials down...

American allies Barletta French Marines

What I like most about this picture of the Barletta French Marines is how I captured the puff of smoke at the flashpan just before the gun itself fired the lead ball out of the barrel. Well...if there actually was a lead ball; not to give away any secrets or anything, but they really don't fire anything out of their muskets. But don't tell anyone.

Because so many reenactors left due to incoming inclement weather, Sunday's battle was more like a small skirmish. No matter - the soldiers enjoyed blowing off black powder, and the few visitors that braved the conditions enjoyed watching it as well.

The 1st Pennsylvania Regiment marches past a home nearly destroyed by the destruction of war.
Photograph by Tony Gerring - 1st Pennsylvania Regiment

And now let's head back to the (mostly) citizen side of life:
I am working on a posting about an occurrence that took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1775, and I needed a few “models” to pose for me to illustrate a historical scene. So I used Kristen and my daughter as well as a couple of soldiers. You’ll have to check out the post once it's up some time in July to see the pictures I took. I think you'll like 'em.

Here are the other "models" that helped me with a few photographs. They are with the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment; Grants Co.; Blackwatch

These two girls are always willing to get photographed! I thought this picture had a unique touch to it as they stood by the bright light of the window.

Members of the 21st Michigan Civil War unit who have also begun to travel back to the 1770s. I'm sure you would recognize us better if we were wearing our more modern 1860s clothing. I've had some folks tell me I look like I "belong" in the 18th century. Hmmm...I think we all do!

Here is the President of Campeau Company and his wife. Wonderful people who have taken us in under their wing.

Mike & Ruth Church are long-time RevWar-era reenactors and have guided us in our 18th century journey. There are more differences between Civil War reenacting and RevWar reenacting than I would have thought, but I'll find a way to blend the two and mesh them together.

Kristen's first time out was pretty successful, don't you think? By the way, she also made the jewelry you see her wearing in this picture.

My tankard on the window sill: outside the drenching rain was falling in bucketfuls - you can barely make out the canon. I thought this made for an interesting picture.

The lovely ladies of Campeau. Yes, it was darker in the natural light of a storm-filled sky.

Because there are so few colonial/RevWar reenactments in these parts, I get frustrated when the weather turns on us. I suppose that's why I do the "Night at the Museum" events as Paul Revere at the Plymouth Historical Museum and try and get other colonial reenactors to dress 18th century for the 4th of July and head over to Greenfield Village.
And I just may see if I can come up with another event with one of the smaller open-air museums around here. With this year of 2015 marking the 240th anniversary of the beginning of the Revolutionary War - and the 250th only a decade away - I am looking for more opportunities to teach about this so-very-important time in our country's history.

Until next time, see you in time...

To learn more about every day life during colonial times, click HERE


1 comment:

An Historical Lady said...

Lovely post! Glad you had a great time. I have a suggestion in the interest of authenticity only, (knowing how we all feel about the 'farbies'!).
We (in New England notice that when midwesterners portray the 18thc., they are somewhat not familiar with accurate costumes of the period. (There are a few catalog sutlers from the area who only add to the 'cringeworthy' aspect of so-called colonial clothing by offering items (especially for women) that are well, FAR from what was actually worn.
Probably the most common mistake we see in new reenactors, or those outside of New England where 18thc. is not the norm, is that many women don't wear 'stays'. NO period clothing will fit properly without this garment, and one can spot the lack of one easily. Yes, I know they are not easily found or cheap, but they should be the FIRST item of period attire a woman should invest in, followed by a shift, and then the outer garments. IF 'period clothing' is crafted without being fitted over stays IT IS NEVER AUTHENTIC. 99% of the catalog '18thc. women's clothing' out there is a fantasy, and not in the least proper or authentic.
If a reenactor can sew, she's ahead of the game, but if she makes her clothing without having properly fitted stays, she has wasted her time.
There are historic patterns out there that are good, but many reenactors have an ensemble fitted directly to their body while wearing shift and stays, creating the pattern from linen while pinned to the ladies body, and that then becomes the lining for the gown, sleeved waistcoat, pet en l'air, etc.