Thursday, May 31, 2012

Decoration Day at Greenfield Village 2012 - Memorial Weekend Civil War Remembrance

How does one begin to explain just how wonderfully awesome this Civil War reenactment was?
Well, I suppose the best way would be to include lots of pictures.
And have captions under each.
So, that's what I decided to do for this posting.
And to see the photo larger, just click on it.
You've been warned....

This, folks, is only a part of the line up of reenactors to get into Greenfield Village for the Friday Night Land Grab.

One of the scenes played out was the Union Army requisitioning a plantation house in Maryland. The men here did a fine job in an actual plantation house from the Tidewater region of Maryland.

Michigan's own Senator Jacob Howard (portrayed by 21st Michigan member Dave Tennies), who helped President Lincoln write the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, sits back and catches up on the latest news from Harper's Weekly

I am flanked by my wife and daughter at the 1860's fashion show. The hostess wanted a typical family of the Civil War era. I guess we were it. Here, my wife shows off the dress and bonnet that she made.
A closer look at my daughter during the 1860's fashion show

Yes, even I walked the runwa---er, platform

Lovely Ladies of the 1860's

The young guy in the middle of this photo is my eldest son. It's great to have a hobby where your kids don't mind hangin' with the parents.

The young man in the middle of this photo (carrying the flag) is my second oldest son. It's a family affair, you know.

One of my wife Patty's favorite period crafts is to spin wool into yarn. At times she'll even do it on our front porch (dressed in modern clothing, of course!) So naturally she brings her wheel to reenactments

When my wife pulled out her spinning wheel, a few visitors showed up to watch.

It didn't take long before she had quite a crowd surrounding her. They asked many questions and she enjoyed answering  them.

The ladies of the Michigan Soldiers Aid Society spent Saturday afternoon making something called 'penny rugs.'

This is how penny rugs look when completed

Saturday evening saw many of us dining at the Eagle Tavern, an actual tavern built in Clinton, Michigan in 1832

Um...I'd like to take a family photo here in front of the tavern, guys. Guys...? HEY!!!

That's better...Yes, here is my wife & I and our four offspring in a photo taken on May 26, 1862

Here is a group photo of most of us who ate at the Eagle Tavern. Doesn't this look so...American? I love it!

One of the laundresses from the 21st Michigan earns extra money by washing clothes for others.

We also have a Temperance Society in our unit.
A few of us enjoyed strolling about the Village, taking in everything. You would think that three days would be enough time. It isn't. There is just so much to do and see. What a fine time we had!
I also belong to the Michigan Soldiers Aid Society, and a couple of the other male members and I took an occupational tour of Greenfield Village to learn more about the jobs men would have had in the 1860's, including running a gristmill, working at a carriage shop where they made and repaired carriages (among other things), and a weaver. Here we are at the Smiths Creek Depot where we learned about the many jobs of the station master.

While the men were out learning of 1860's occupations, the ladies of the Michigan Soldiers Aid Society enjoyed an afternoon of tea.

As I strolled along the lane, I came across this lovely lady near the Ackley Covered Bridge and the pond it crossed. I could not pass this photo opp up.

These folks did not leave hungry! The reflector oven you see here, by the way, was made by the owner. Yes, the cookies were good!

On Sunday afternoon, this young man got down on one knee and asked the young lady if she would marry him. She said yes. And here is their engagement photo! Yup - it's all true! We also had another young couple announce their betrothal later that evening. in the 1860's...

This very serene photo was taken shortly before leaving for Sunday night's ball at beautiful Lovett Hall.
So much for Victorian lady-like behavior. Or maybe they were just extremely excited about going to the ball. (photo taken by 21st Mi member Beth Cutcher)
The dancers had a ball at the ball!!
Me and my good friend, Fred, who works at the Village as a presenter. He also portrays which American president? (hint: it's not Woodrow Wilson) Hey! You guessed it - - Abraham Lincoln!
Poor Larissa was working so hard inside the Susquehanna plantation house, making pound biscuits for the Union soldiers who requisitioned her home (see way up near the top of this post for another photo of this situation). A fiddler and I thought we would 'help' her buy providing stirring patriotic music while she pounded down the dough. Sort of like an 1860's version of a kitchen radio.
I play guitar, and once in a while, the drums, but rarely play the banjo. I really didn't do half bad. The fiddler was able to play along!
Here are a couple of old-timers who went to California back in '49 to look for gold. They didn't strike it rich, if you hadn't noticed. On the left, here, is Charlie the Reb, perhaps one of the finest (and nicest) reenactors I've ever met. He very rarely comes out of 1st person and calls everyone his cousin, sister, or brother. Oh yeah, he'll also "borrow" whatever he can get his hands on - he likes to sneak around the camp sites seeing what he can claim as his own.

I took this picture of the Union military as they rested before the Memorial Day presentation.
A few of us civilians (and even another soldier) waited near Doc Howard's Office for the Memorial Day ceremony to begin

One of the most stirring moments of the Memorial Day presentation was when the announcer called all those who served previously or are currently serving in the United States military. What an honor to be amongst these truly brave men and women.

As women, some dressed in mourning clothing, walked slowly up to the front to place a memorial wreath and flowers in honor of all who fought and died, a history of Memorial Day/Decoration Day was said,  and a beautiful poem from 1872, written by J. Wesley Benedict called "The Last camp" was read: 
"How ready and willing when the nation was calling, They put on the armor, the union to save,
Through the storm clouds of fire, that round them were raging, They fought, bled, and died, neath our flag that still waves.
Their deeds so heroic, in effulgence are shining, To their names all immortal, pure homage we bring,
In tokens of honor, we have gathered together, To strew o'er their graves the flowers of the Spring." (Stanzas 2-3)

I'm not sure how many, but I believe there were at least twenty period-dressed women who placed flowers on or near the memorial wreath while the poem was read.

A fife and drum corp as well as a brass band played stirring patriotic music, and then the reenactors - both Union and Confederate - fired their muskets in honor of all who served, both living and dead.
Here is a photo of the post-Memorial Day ceremony march. This is only a small percent of the hundreds of reenactors - and literally thousands of visitors - who were at Greenfield Village

And this is an image of a few of the 21st Michigan military members. A fine looking group, eh?

Here is a photograph of my good friend, Kim Parr, and I. Kim is well-known for her knowledge about the mourning customs of the 19th century and does talks all over as well as presents the tradition of mourning at Greenfield Village's Adams House over this weekend. Oh yes, Kim also sings in our period vocal group, Simply Dickens. (Photo by Greenfield Village Model T driver Lee Cagle)
Just before the battle mother, I'll be thinking most of you...Yes, there was a battle presentation each of the three days. The throngs of visitors loved it!

And here is a photo I took during one of the battles.

The Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village is one of the finest and, truthfully, one of the most anticipated and exciting events of the season for so many of us. It's a sort of 'gathering of the tribes' so to speak...a large family reunion after spending the long winter and spring months holding up in our cabins.
But more than that, CWR has brought out the true meaning of Memorial Day; that the reason for this day has been lost by the general populace due, in no small part, to the idea that all holidays should be celebrated by spending large amounts of money on food and drink and parties. To me it is a slap in the face to all of our military men and women.
Don't get me wrong, I believe that having barbecues and enjoying the long weekend is something we all need and deserve. However, taking some of our precious time (even if it's only a few private minutes) on Memorial Day itself to honor those who served and still serve in our military - and especially remembering those military personal who are no longer with us - should become more of a priority. I know a few who do this. But I know so many more who don't.
Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed the photos. I enjoyed taking them. In fact, I took over 300 of 'em!! Believe me, it's very difficult to hide a modern camera, sneak it out to take a picture, then quickly hide it again before being seen by modern visitors!
I think of it as more of a challenge...
Thanks for stopping in. Have a great week!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Calm Before the Storm

I thought I'd present some photos and descriptions here from two small events I participated in recently.
The first was a middle school presentation (East Hills Middle School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan).
I really enjoy doing school events - most of the kids are very well behaved and respectful and truly seem interested.

The military men of the 21st Michigan gave a fine presentation to the 8th graders, who sat on a set of bleachers while they listened.

There was a deaf interpreter for one of the classes that had a few hard-of-hearing children

The firing of the muskets was, perhaps, the biggest thrill of all

There was a dog tent set up and the kids enjoyed crawling through to to get a feel for how little room there actually was for the soldier in camp

Dressing up students in military uniforms is always a fun part of the presentation. In this way the kids can actually feel just how heavy everything was for the soldier to carry

I began the civilian presentation by speaking to the kids about the devastation of war upon battlefield towns such as Gettysburg and Antietam. I asked questions such as, "In a village set up for 3400 people, where did 150,000 men and 70,000 horses go to the bathroom?" I wanted them to understand not only the stench of the rotting flesh of the dead and wounded, but of the more 'natural' odors many do not think about

I also allowed time for questions

One of our members (and her son) brought an actual period telegraph machine. The kids and teachers were fascinated with this contraption. So was I!

The 1860's version of texting: the kids were allowed to tap the telegraph machine to get a feel for what it was like to be a telegraph operator.

Another 21st Michigan member explained the true story of what it was like to be living in Shilo in 1862 as a family with northern sympathies. She based her story on the life of her great great grandmother.

Her stories brought to life what so many people went through during that awful time. The 8th graders were enthralled.

They all took turns holding a parasol.

And then there was Larissa as well as my daughter who explained of everyday farm life in 1860's Michigan.
Both spoke of all the daily chores they had to do, including emptying the chamber pot, milking the cows, gathering eggs, feeding the animals, preparing and cooking breakfast, dinner, and supper...the kids got a well-rounded course of what their lives would have been like had they been living in the 1860's
Of course, some students were not prepared for the surprise firing of the muskets!

The civilian participants of the 21st Michigan for the school presentation

The military participants of the 21st Michigan (and friends) of the school presentation
A day after the school presentation a few of us helped out in a Victorian Day event in Romeo, Michigan. The Village of Romeo is listed both on the National and State Register of Historic Places & Sights. That's because nearly every structure standing in this village is at least one hundred years old, and most are older.
With all the history surrounding us it's unfortunate that we would be situated near a parking lot. Oh well. We still made the best of the situation and spoke to many interested and appreciated townsfolk.
I hope you enjoy these photos:

Members of our military love to show the visitors the muskets from 150 years ago

And, just like in the school presentations, it's always fun to dress the kids (and sometimes adults) up in uniform

My son Rob played his fife to entertain not only the visitors but us reenactors as well

Some of the ladies had a sewing circle going
As you can see it was a pretty laid back event. No stress, no muss, no fuss. This is a great event for members to interact on a friendly basis. Here you see a mixture of newer members and those who have been doing it for a while, all enjoying each others company.
The girls enjoyed jumping rope in their Civil War era dresses

Wait - what's that?? This ghostly figure kept following me around the Bancroft House Museum!

But the ghost could not go beyond the front door...whew!!!

Here ate most of the participants for Romeo in a group photograph
um...This is what I have to put up with when they don't think the camera is taking their picture! What an uncouth bunch!
I saw some future people there as well. These kind folks were from the 1880's.
One doesn't have to attend a major reenactment to enjoy reenacting. Sometimes events such as the two here can be just as much fun, but without the stress.
That's what I like about the 21st Michigan - we do more than just the big reenactments; we feel doing some of the smaller, more localized events can be just as fun and just as rewarding, especially when they take place at a school.
Next up, Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village.
Stay Tuned...