Monday, August 15, 2016

The Era of the Civil War Comes To Port Sanilac

Getting that morning cup of coffee!
I would like to begin with singing the praises of smaller reenactments. These are usually my favorite events, for they are more personal for everyone involved, including the visitors.
That's not to say I do not like larger events - I most certainly do! - but sometimes you can actually do more in a closer-knit setting.
And they can be a whole lot of fun!
For instance, check out what we do at Port Sanilac, because every year we try something a little different here.
In 2015 we put on a pretty authentic county fair after welcoming the boys home from the war. This included pie eating contests and games of skill like ax throwing.
For our Gettysburg scenario we actually set up a town, had our living historians choose one of Gettysburg's citizens to 'become' by studying the biographies of some of the townsfolk, and then recreated scenes we've read about in such books as "Firestorm at Gettysburg."
We've also had realistic medical scenarios with blood-drenched writhing-in-pain soldiers.
And this year visitors witnessed the citizens of 1861 watching an early-war battle - 1st Bull Run/1st Mananas perhaps? - for entertainment purposes (not unlike a public hanging I suppose), only to find themselves in the middle of the gunfire and scurrying off for safety as bullets whizzed past them.
The crowd loved it.
And the patrons got a bit of a history lesson not often told as our narrator explained the situation.
You see, we all had a hand in putting this together and, therefore, were more willing to take part, which not only made it more special, but more accurate as well.
Of course, I was there taking part, but I also had my stealth camera in hand, capturing the events of this particular weekend in all its glory.
Hope you like the photos.
Let's begin with the Military:
At the Union camp...just before the battle.

Though the Port Sanilac event attracts a goodly amount of civilians, the military, for some reason, tend to shy away. Of course, we appreciate very much those who come out.

And the men do a great job during the...
...marching and drilling.

I saw one of the docents of the Sanilac Historical Village Museum standing as the cabin door behind the cannon. And as she stood there, my mind went into the thought of imagining what she may have felt had this been a real situation. We can almost feel the concern as she stands at her cabin door.

During 1st Bull Run/Mananas, the thought of having a battle nearby was very a 19th century way. Don't forget, this was the era where a public hanging would have brought the entire town out to watch.
Members of the 21st Michigan, in our own way, replicated this scenario.
Capt. John Tidball witnessed a “throng of sightseers” approach his battery. “They came in all manner of ways, some in stylish carriages, others in city hacks, and still others in buggies, on horseback and even on foot. Apparently everything in the shape of vehicles in and around Washington had been pressed into service for the occasion. It was Sunday and everybody seemed to have taken a general holiday.

“On the hill beside me there was a crowd of civilians on horseback, and in all sorts of vehicles, with a few of the fairer, if not gentler sex .... The spectators were all excited, and a lady with an opera glass who was near me was quite beside herself when... unusually heavy discharge roused the current of her blood. ‘That is splendid, Oh my! Is not that first rate? I guess we will be in Richmond to-morrow.’"
But it didn't quite happen that way. The Confederate troops got the best of the Union, and ultimately, the curiosity-seekers got caught in a stampede of retreating Union troops.
Zouaves fighting for the southern cause.

Photographer Mathew Brady was caught in the congestion at the Cub Run bridge.
Okay, so it's not really Matthew Brady but, instead, 21st Michigan tin-type photographer/reenactor Robert Beech
He might as well be Mr. Brady - he does excellent work!

Speaking of Mr. Beech's excellent wet-plate photography skills - - - -
I'm certain you know who this is - - - yes, it's our 16th president and his wife, as portrayed by the greatest of the reenacting Lincoln's, Mr. Fred Priebe and his lovely wife Bonnie.
This actual tintype by Mr. Beech takes you right back in time, doesn't it?

~Horsing around >< >< ><
Yes, this is me, Historical Ken, on a horse (again!). Some reenactor friends brought "Little Jack" to the reenactment, and they allowed a few of us to take turns posing on him for photos:
Here we see Mr. Beech preparing the plates for this next photography session.
And the result?
Didn't this tintype turn out great? I am so pleased! It took quite a while to set everything up and take the picture, but "Little Jack" was such a patient horse.

Now for the coolest part:
The father & son ownership team of 'Martin and Marty' (lol) entrusted me to ride "Little Jack" around the camp sites a bit!
Yes, I do know how to ride a horse.

This was definitely a highlight for me, sitting atop "Little Jack" and enjoying our walk up and down the rows of tents.
By the way, that is my lovely wife, Patty, standing there in the patriotic apron
(Thanks to Christa for taking this picture!)

And now onto a few other 21st Michigan members who enjoyed posing on (and with) "Little Jack:"
Just this year Jillian began to portray Michigan's own Annie Etheridge.
Annie Etheridge enlisted as a Daughter of the Regiment - who usually served as nurses - in the 2nd Michigan Infantry and was twice shot out from under her horse as she tried to help the men during battles.
This was a great opportunity for Jillian to get some nice posed pictures to accent her Annie Etheridge role.

To read more about Annie Etheridge, please click HERE.

To my surprise, my daughter wanted to get on the horse! I say "to my surprise" because she really hadn't shown too much of an interest before - at least that I've seen - so I was only too happy to get her up into the saddle.
Of course, my camera was at the ready:
Since she had a hoop on, it was better for her to sit side-saddle.

I would like to take her riding one day, and maybe even have her learn to care for the animal as well. I believe that would teach her quite a bit about responsibility.
She does look very confident sitting there in that saddle, though, doesn't she?

Larissa didn't want to ride "Little Jack," but she still loved him nonetheless. And so does my daughter!

~Fa-fa-fa-fashion - - - 
Our "Clothing With a Purpose" fashion show is a history lesson in itself, for the living historians upon the stage speak not only of their clothing, but the purpose their garments serve in their everyday lives.
For instance...
The farmer.
No, a farmer would not have worn the bluejean bib overalls we are used to seeing them wear on TV or in some of the old photographs. Bib overalls became popular in the 20th century. 
What I have on here is closer along the lines to what you would have seen a mid-19th century farmer wear.

Next we have a farmer's wife's apparel.
Rather than being all-too concerned with fashion, Larissa spoke of how her dress was "sensible" and was more suitable for work rather than high fashion. The apron was just as much a tool as it was protection. 
Photo courtesy of Kerry Dennis

Lorna was portraying a rural woman's life.
Again, since most of the era lived in rural areas, this is the style your average person would have seen more often than not. 
Photo courtesy of Kerry Dennis

Sue, dressing a little fancier, wore her summer shear - much cooler fabric for a hot summer's day.

Carolyn, a woman of some greater means, shows off her more decorated dress. This is good advertising for her mercantile husband's store.

The politician Jacob Howard, as portrayed by Dave Tennies.
Obviously, a man of some wealth here.

The milliner and her son. 
Being that she is a shop owner, her clothing would be much finer than what would be seen in the lower classes. Why would you purchase a new hat or bonnet from one who did not dress finely "to the nines"?

Kristen shows off her everyday cotton dress, as well as...

...some of her under-pinnings (cover your eyes!)
Photo courtesy of Robin Dennis

Vickie tells of two young ladies - one who is about to "come out," and the other who already had her "coming out" (meaning she is ready for courting).

Larissa's children (ages 5 and nearly 2) not only dress period correct, but play with toys of the time as well.
Photo courtesy of Robin Dennis

The military Zouaves explain the history of their uniform.

Mrs. Amelia Bloomer was on hand to tell of of her reform dress, which caused quite a stir when it came out in the 1850s.

A bloomer 'relation' is the 1860s woman's bathing 'costume,' which we see Meg model.

Another 'offshoot' of the bloomer dress, Carrie is dressed as a southern 'vivandiere.'
Vivandieres were women who followed the army to provide support for the troops. Ideally, a vivandiere would have been a young woman—the daughter of an officer or wife of a non-commissioned officer—who wore a uniform and braved battles to provide care for wounded soldiers on the battlefield. 

Annie Etheridge, shows her military fashioned dress and accoutrements as a Daughter of the Regiment.

Jill (Annie) and Carrie - two sides of the same coin.

Clothing With a Purpose fashion show - Day 1

Clothing With a Purpose fashion show - Day 2

Following the fashion show, our 16th president gave a speech about the current events of the early 1860s.
Folks, watching and listening to this man speak is as close as we, here in the 21st century, will ever come to being in the company of President Lincoln himself.

For reasons not known to me, the pastor who gives a period sermon every year at our reenactment could not be there this year. So we, instead, gathered inside the church and sang old hymns, which worked out very well.
The old Christian songs came from old hymnals that the church had on hand.

Mrs. St. John and Mrs. Cummings lead the congregation.

For such a small group, their voices certainly filled the room, making a "joyous noise" (though it wasn't noise at all, but beautiful singing).

Next stop---the Beach!
Now, I realize that not *every* picture you are about to see is historically accurate in some ways - 19th century etiquette be damned! - so there is no need to come at me (or anyone in the photos) with your comments in that manner. 
You see, it's okay because, first of all, we were hot in all our clothes, and the beach was just a short jaunt from our reenactment. The other reason? Well, we just wanted to have fun.
And we did!
Meg and Jillian view beautiful blue Lake Huron from the bluff.

From left we have Larissa, Jillian, Meg, and myself enjoying the view of the lake from the bluff as we would have looked over 150 years ago.

Roll out those lazy-hazy-crazy days of summer! (Maybe a little crazier than most, judging by our clothing)

Meg's mother and Aunt watch very close as she wades in the water.

Jumping over waves is fun for kids...and adults!

No summertime blues here!

The shocked looks on the faces here are real: a wave had just come and splashed the ladies unexpectedly, garnering high-pitched shrieks.

Strike a pose-----!

We were all really enjoying ourselves! The members of the 21st Michigan civilians really are the best!

The present meets the past!

I dream of England....
Okay, so I'm not dreaming of England. And this isn't an ocean, but it might as well be by the looks of it.'s Lake Huron - - it's Pure Michigan!
Wow...I guess my hair is pretty long, eh? 
Picture courtesy of Ian Kushnir 

Back at camp, we're still horsing around...
It's not too often that we see a horse at a reenactment that's not from the cavalry, so it's pretty special one a regular 'riding horse' comes along.

Here we see Martin and Marty with Mrs. Lum and, of course, "Little Jack."

Goings on about town...
Visiting friends - - and not a cell phone or tablet in sight.

The Fleishman Family - 
 Larissa's husband Mike's 1st time coming out as a reenactor!

The owner of the local mercantile is making wooden whistles for the children.

~God shed His Grace on thee~

Do you see the American flag in this picture? 
Look the sky...! 
(There was absolutely no retouching of this photograph whatsoever. This is God's own beauty that I was able to capture with my camera)

When I say I reenact with the best group of people ever, I mean it. And many of us do not only see each other at reenactments, but are friends outside of the the living history world as well.
This hobby has been a saving grace for me, and these pictures, quite plainly, show you why.

Until next time, see you in time!


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