The Civil War unit I belong to - the 21st Michigan - is the host unit of an event that takes place in Port Sanilac, Michigan. Port Sanilac is a small tourist town located on the eastern edge of the thumb along the Lake Huron coastline (hold your right hand up with your palm facing you and point about halfway up your thumb; that's your own personal map of Michigan). It's a beautiful area in its own right, but there is a tiny, tucked-out-of-the-way historical village just on the outskirts of town which holds around 17 historic structures, including a church, schoolhouse, general store, house, train depot, and more historic old buildings that surround what could be a town green.
|(This photo taken by Larissa Fleishman)|
It's a perfect spot for a reenactment!
And we've been reenacting there for, I believe, five years and each year has been better than the last. This year, however, we took a giant leap forward, for we did something I've yet to see around here: we became the town of Gettysburg, and many of the participants at this reenactment became actual townsfolk from that most famous of battle towns.
Let's take a step back to late last year (2012) when the head of the museum village and I got together to plan for this year's (2013) event. See, the thing about Port Sanilac is that we control it; we come up with what we want and how we want to do it. And by "we" I mean the reenactors and not a committee. But for this year I told man in charge that I wanted to do a Gettysburg scenario. I've been reading about the plans for the big 150th anniversary of this major battle, and I wanted to bring a teeny-tiny bit of it here for those who were not able to attend the national event. The thing is, I wanted to do something different from any other reenactment. I wanted to bring the town and citizens of 1863 Gettysburg back to life.
I sent notice out to most of the local units and independents citing my plans.
And many responded.
So, as we pulled together in Port Sanilac and proceeded to show (in a very condensed version) how the Confederates came into town and took control while the citizens showed fear and concern.
That was followed by the Union army entering and driving the Confederates to the outskirts, and then our citizens were elated and showed their appreciation in seeing the men in blue come to their rescue.
Because of the few amount of military that attended, we really couldn't have a full-fledged battle, but we did show some of the skirmishes that took place in the town itself (very well depicted in first-hand accounts in the book "Firestorm at Gettysburg").
The soldiers here did a fantastic job in a realistic depiction of the town skirmishes.
Of course, I was there with camera in hand, snapping away as best I could to try to cover the whole scenario, and, well, I hope you like them. Descriptions of the actions taking place (most from original first-hand accounts) are included with each photo:
|ANNA GARLACH’s (speaking of her Grandmother: “Some of the (Rebels) asked her what she thought the Rebels were like (before they came to town), whether they had horns. And she replied she was frightened at first, but found them like our own men.”|
|"Soon the town was filled with infantry, and then the searching and ransacking began in earnest. |
They wanted horses, clothing, anything and almost everything they could conveniently carry away."
|The Union were given a heroes welcome from the townsfolk upon entering the town as they drove the Confederates back.|
|SALLIE MEYERS: “June 30 - How they dashed by! Along the street we stood – all the girls and women of the town."|
|SALLIE MEYERS: “The eyes of the soldiers blazed, they smiled and some joined in the song. It was the last song many of those brave men ever heard, and the bite we gave was the last many ever ate.”|
|MICHAEL JACOBS June 30: I could see men walking, attending to camp chores - all the activities of an army held in leash. The tide of war was, for the hour, halted under my very eyes."|
|HARRIET BAYLY: “June 30 – The whole air seemed charge with conditions which go before a storm; everybody anxious, neighbor asking neighbor what was going to happen and what will we do if the worst should happen?”|
|SARAH BROADHEAD June 30: "It begins to look as though we will see a battle soon, and we are in great fear."|
|SARAH BARRETT KING July 1: "I heard two (infantrymen) talking that morning and one of them said, 'Well, the ball is about to open.'"|
|CHARLES MCCURDY, July 1: "There was heavy cannonading and the musket fire was continuous, making a rattling sound like heavy wagons being rapidly driven along a stormy pike, or like hail falling on a tin roof."|
|SARAH BROADHEAD, July 1: "As we past up the street we saw wounded men coming in from the field. Though our enemies, I pitied them. For a time we forgot our fears and our danger. All was bustle and confusion."|
|NELLIE AUGINBAUGH: "We passed many killed in the act of getting over a fence. A few had no heads. Sometimes a head would be sticking between the rails of a fence with no body."|
|TILLIE PIERCE: "As soon as possible, we endeavored to make ourselves useful by rendering assistance in this heartbreaking state of affairs."|
|TILLIE PIERCE: "Some of the soldiers fairly begged to be taken next, so great was their suffering, and so anxious were they to obtain relief."|
|"...but the effect in some instances was not produced, for I saw the wounded throwing themselves wildly about, and shrieking with pain while the operation was going on."|
|SARAH BROADHEAD: "Shall we - for I was not alone - endure the spectacle of hundreds of men wounded in every conceivable manner, some in the head and limbs, here an arm off and there a leg, and just inside a poor fellow with both legs shot away!"|
|SARAH BROADHEAD: "I am becoming more used to sights of misery. We do not know until tried what we are capable of."|
|DANIEL SKELLY: "Emergency hospitals were set up on the field. Surgeons were busily at work with the restricted equipment at their command, performing the necessary amputations among the severely wounded men."|
|SARAH BROADHEAD: "Who is victorious, or with whom the advantage rests, no one here can tell. It would ease the horror if we knew our arms were successful."|
~ ~ ~
Many reenactments have period fashion shows, and Port Sanilac is no different. This year, however, we put together something a little bit different. We decided to have a "Citizens of Gettysburg" fashion show. It's this presentation that I am probably most proud, for the ladies really studied their characters and presented themselves in a 1st person manner as they spoke to the audience.
|The Citizens of Gettysburg fashion show began with Mrs. Sandy Root, clothing historian. She explained to the audience about the clothing styles that the ladies of Gettysburg wore...|
|...including the underpinnings. The people in the audience were fascinated by nearly every aspect of what women wore during the early 1860's. Mrs. Root called up a little girl to be her helper.|
|Because death was so prominent during the war, mourning fashions were also discussed. Here, Mrs. Kerstens shows later mourning wear.|
Finally, since this is the only time we plan to present a Gettysburg scenario in this manner for the foreseeable future, we felt it would only be proper to have our 16th President give not only his most famous of speeches, but to tell how he came about to write it.
Mr. Lincoln (Fred Priebe) had the audience in the palm of his hand. It sent chills to everyone who watched and listened.
And there you have it.
It was a lot of fun and as historically accurate as we could keep it, though there were some liberties taken for varying reasons. All 'n' all, however, I am very pleased and proud of everyone who participated, from our Gettysburg citizens to the moaning, groaning wounded men of battle.
I hope you enjoyed the photos and the stories that went along with them.
See you next time!
Thanks to the various members of the following units for joining us in the 21st Michigan in helping to make the past come to life:
2nd Michigan Artillery
and a few independents.