Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Civil War Comes to Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit 2015

Good day.
My name is Ken.
Well, Historical Ken 
to some. 
I’ll be your tour 
guide to the past.
Are you ready? 
Here we go…
There's something special about having a Civil War event on grounds where actual Civil War soldiers once stood. Yeah, I all you reenactors who live in the south this is no big deal. But to us northerners here in Michigan, it really is something special, especially since no actual battle was fought here during that time.
But we do have an original fort and barracks built in 1843 known as Fort Wayne located in Downtown Detroit along the Detroit River where the men from Michigan who did serve their country during the Civil War were inducted into the military. They marched and drilled and drilled and marched on the very ground that we stood upon.
And for us living history nerds, that's pretty cool.
I have covered the history of this fort previously (click HERE) so, rather than repeat what I've already written, what I'd like to do instead is to take you on another of my photographic journeys to the past (via modern technology and some of the finest reenactors and living historians around) and draw you into our world of the oil lamp, candles, top hats and bonnets...welcome to a cool September weekend in 1865.
I hope you enjoy the trip:

This is my wife, Patty. She rarely goes to a reenactment without her spinning wheel.

We were in a very upscale home - the kind of home where a spinning wheel would have been out of place. But the visitors, especially the children, were pretty interested in this ancient craft and my wife was happy to explain the procedure. Yeah, she could have sat on the front porch to spin instead of being inside this fancy home, but it was rather nippy outside on this day, with the wind blowing brisk, so inside she stayed.

Jackie took this opportunity to work on her bonnet. She often portrays my older sister, and since her sense of humor and, yes, even her personality is similar to mine, she could almost be!

This is my daughter. My real daughter (you're used to seeing my reenacting daughter, aren't you?). She made this bonnet, and did a fine job at that. She looked so beautiful all dressed in period clothing and wearing her bonnet. She's growing up.

Should we go outside for a walk? Hmmm...yes, it is rather chili for this time of year, but it might be nice to take a stroll along the walk way.

Well, now, here is my real life family (though our three boys were not around for the picture). I love when my wife and kids reenact with me, even if they don't care for doing 1st person. At least they do enjoy reenacting.
This was such a picturesque setting for such a photograph, don't you think? 
Very period.
Just wait...
Mother and daughter. Not like you couldn't tell, right?

No first person for us at this event. Nope - not on this day. We were just regular reenactors, spending time with the others and being in the company with so many fine people. Sometimes you got to have events for that purpose alone, you know? At least I think so.

Are you aware that Kristen makes and sells period-correct jewelry in her shop, The Victorian Needle? Are you also aware that she has historical documentation for nearly everything she makes? And are you aware that she made the earrings that Jackie is wearing? If not, you are now!

I asked a few of my reenacting friends if they would like to take part in a photo shoot I had in mind. What I was hoping to recreate was a city street scene in which folks were out and about, going hither and thither upon their merry way in 1860s Detroit.
And they did!
I so appreciate them for taking time out of their day to placate me in my attempts to recreate a scene from the past.
I don't think it turned out too bad for a first try, do you?
I may attempt this again in some future-past date. Maybe during Christmas at the Fort.
Hmmm...we'll have to wait and see...
In the mean time, I hope you like my first attempt:
Even though it was a cool day for being so early in September, it seemed like many of our neighbors and friends had the same idea as we did and decided to take a stroll along the boardwalk.
Do you see that white house there? Yes, that's "our" house anytime we visit the fort. It was actually the Commander's home back in the 19th century. By the way, while I was checking out the second floor, I saw a shadow - a thin shadow like a wisp - move past me. I believe it was what I thought it was, I just don't know who it may had been.
Many times the folks from the past would move about the streets to meet and greet with neighbors and acquaintances, while others were satisfied to sit upon their porches and stoops, admiring the spectacle of the throngs of passersby, for "not a street or alley was there, but what was in a state of commotion."

The children of the 1860s are always a delight, and grandmother enjoys taking them out to show them off to the neighbors.

Mrs. St. John's children certainly are growing into fine young ladies indeed!
Okay everyone! Back to one!

"Mrs. Lum! How are you on such a fine day?"
"I am very well, Miss Schubert. And how are you?"

It was quite the windy day, and it looked and felt like fall.

And here are the participants for my little photo shoot. 
Thank you everyone!

I am going to call this next section "See my beard!"
There are some fine looking beards out there and I thought these were some of the better ones I've seen.
Me? Naw...I won't grow one - - I tried a while back, but it made my face feel as if it had velcro on it. Didn't like it at all.
But these next few guys, well, they have pretty awesome looking facial hair:
A Union Sharpshooter

Big Jim, the President of the 21st Michigan.

A portrayal of Frederick Douglass

Michigan Senator Jacob Howard

Now let's visit the military men. I really don't take too many pictures of battle scenes, for they usually don't turn out very well for me. But I have a few of the guys relaxing in the barracks, sick bay, or in formation:
A Confederate soldier...

Inside the Confederate hospital.

Another hospital room.

A couple of northern soldiers a-waiting their orders.

Senator Howard prepares to address the men who were about to go to battle.

Inside the Yankee barracks.

One final picture:
A few of us walked down to the Detroit River to watch for any steamboats passing by. But, alas, not a single one did.
However, the river was sparkling beautifully in the late summer sunshine.
Say what you want about Detroit, but there is still quite a few beautiful spots left. And the beauty is growing.
And there you have the 2015 Historic Fort Wayne Civil War Muster event.
Whether a reenactment is big or small, it's up to the participants to make it special. And this certainly was a fine one.
My thanks to everyone who helped to put this on, from the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition to the volunteers to the living historians, and to reenactors & living historians, and even to the visitors who braved the early fall weather.
What a fine time we all had!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~Wait! There's more!~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Besides our chores and tools, we also spoke about 
our clothing. Larissa explained that as a farm wife, 
she had little use for such an article as a 
cage crinoline. Her corded petticoat was 
much more functional.
Photo courtesy of The Plymouth Historical Museum
Before I close, I'd like to show you a couple of pictures of a presentation I did recently with my good friend, Larissa, which took place only a few days before Fort Wayne, of which I am very proud. Larissa and I formed this little two-person presentation partnership a few years back called "Our Own Snug Fireside" (yes, after one of my favorite books!), and we have presented at museums, schools, libraries...wherever we are asked, teaching every day life of a mid-19th century farm family. But we do it in a unique way - we have a living history story behind us: you see, my older sister, who had married well, offered to send our eldest daughter to a school for girls in the big city of Detroit. The problem is, can we manage the farm without her? I mean, we only have two daughters - no sons - and they are needed to help us. Jill helps her mother in the household duties while Christine - the young girl in question - helps me out in the fields.
In our presentation we speak about our daily activities and chores as they would have been carried out during each season of the year, and as we discuss the situation, we come to realize how necessary Christine is to our livelihood.
So what do we do - send her to the girls seminary school or keep her home on the farm with us?
Well, during our most recent excursion (at the Plymouth Historical Society) we let the audience decide for us after they heard our story/presentation, and they thought it best that, much to her chagrin, Christine should stay home on the farm and not go away.
We have done this Farm Life/City Life presentation at least a half dozen times before, and it has always gone over very well.
And this one in Plymouth was no different, though (for some reason) I had butterflies in the stomach.
But all went very well and, once again, we were a success! 
Don’t we look like a couple of mid-19th century farmers?
Note the historical accessories behind us that we include in our presentations. Yeah…no power-point for us!
Like I said, I am very proud of our presentations and how well-received we have been.
Now we're expanding into colonial...
Living history...I'm lovin' it!



Heather said...

Great post, Ken! Love seeing your wife with her spinning wheel! That's just what I'd do too! :D Love seeing all the ladies knitwear, and all the clothes and reenactors. So cool to see so many history lovers together!

Gina @ VictorianWannaBe said...

Oh how fun! The photos are all so wonderful, as is your period clothing! Just wonderful! I always enjoy seeing the period furnishings as well, love that hall tree!
Thanks so much for the wonderful read and have a great week!