A lifetime...at thirty years old I was married with one child and another on the way. Thirty years ago my oldest child was not even born yet and now he's going to be a father himself.
That's how long the Jackson Civil War Muster in Michigan has been going on for.
Thirty (30) years!
There aren't too many Civil War reenactors in this part of the Midwest (the north-central region) that don't have at least one memory of attending Jackson.
This year was my 11th as a participant.
My second oldest child, at age 23, says this year at Jackson was, in his opinion, the best one yet.
A reenactor friend (who we'll call Mr. P) said the same thing.
So what was it that made this year's Jackson up and above the ones previous?
I believe it was...attitude!
I'm asked (quite often, in fact) how I can continue to get so excited for events that I've been doing now for over a decade.
Well...what's not to get excited about? I get to wear period clothing for an entire weekend doing cool historical stuff with my like-minded friends and family. Isn't that why we do it in the first place?
For me, it's a taste of heaven. It really is.
Now, do I agree with my son and Mr. P that this was the best Jackson ever?
Hmmm...I'm not sure if it's the best Jackson I've ever attended, for I try not to compare one year to another because each one is unique in its own right, but it certainly was a good one, and definitely one of the funnest!
So, as I've done a few times before, I'll let my pictures do most of the talking for my Jackson review, for every picture tells a story:
Day One: the day begins...
|Early morning at the edge of the battlefield. A slight mist hovered over the ground, though the sun shone bright.
|The men of the Union were drilling. I pity those who went to the Emerald Peacock Saloon the night before and had to get up at the break of dawn to drill. Wait---no I don't (heh heh)
|Here are a few of the boys from the unit I belong to, the 21st Michigan. I like to have them pose in a similar manner as the original photographs I've seen.
One of the really great things about the Jackson event is, similar to Charlton Park and Port Sanilac, the host unit coordinators (7th Michigan) like to use the civilians in scenarios. In fact, they like us civilians so much that they actually built us false fronts! Yes, it's true. They did this a number of years ago and it really gives our special impressions area a small rural town appeal.
On this first day we portrayed a southern town - anytown in the south. As a northern unit, we are proud Yankee supporters, though it's always fun to become the opposition once in a while, even if it isn't politically correct.
(And just when have I ever been politically correct?)
|Proud townsfolk in our southren town!
|My cousin Charlie always stops in for a visit whenever he gets a chance or when his stomach growls loud enough.
On this day the Yankees came in and began pillaging our homes and businesses. But, what they didn't know was that our Confederate heroes were just on the outskirts and showed up in time to have a small skirmish.
|Right outside my window I witnessed the men shooting at each other. The townsfolk were in a frenzy, with many hiding in their cellars.
|Oh! This guy got it right in the gut and down he went, never more to witness joyous times, for who knows what God has planned for his afterlife!
|The Yankees continued in their attempt to overtake the Confederates, but they knew they themselves would be overtaken...
|...for here come the Confederates to save our town! The Yankees skeedaddled out of there as fast as a greased pig! (Please pay no attention to the distant background - that's only a figment of your 21st century imagination)
Now, set up directly next to us were a few women who were running a very questionable used items business. Questionable by way of how they acquired the items to sell.
|This poor man's body was still warm as the women began to, shall we say, pilfer items that only moments ago were his own possessions:
|...a shirt, too?
Ahhh...such is life in a small town.
One of the other things that makes the Jackson event so popular is the amount of sutlers that set up to sell their wares. This year, the 21st Michigan's own Kristen (you know her from the Victorian Needle) became a vendor! She and another of our members, Liz, teamed up to form their own business and sell their wares.
|Isn't she a peach? Oh, wait---that's just her dress!
So...look what we did on this hot, sticky Saturday evening...
|Yep - we made homemade ice cream! And everyone pitched in to help turn the crank!
|Even the older guys!
|No electric lighting here at my place. Never even heard of such a thing.
|But here I sit, in the glow of my candle light, keeping my stagecoach ledger...tomorrow is another day.
|Here is our little town known as Jacksonburg, sitting along the banks of a small body of water. This peaceful serenity makes it all worth it.
Day Two: morning has broken...
|...and the ladies of the town are happily preparing for the day, including the baker and her daughter.
But there's concern on the horizon. This seemingly peaceful day may hold the promise of war, for there are soldiers camped on the outskirts of this pro-north border state town.
(Yes, we did a switcheroo for Sunday - we are now northern-leaning.)
|The soldiers camp
|Breakfast in the military camp. They needed their strength for what they knew would be a exciting day.
|And, just as our southern counter-parts, we, too, were concerned, but only because the Rebels invaded our little town!
|They fired upon our Union heroes in hopes of scaring them off!
|But the Union had more fire power and proved to be the victors on this day!
|We showed our northern pride as the Union soldiers marched past, driving the rebellion clear out of town!
|But the shady business ladies were at it again!
The mayor witnessed the dastardly deeds of these shady ladies and promptly took action by calling in the sheriff to take care of the situation.
|Upon finding out the business practices of these ladies, a warning sign was nailed to their establishment:
|She claimed her innocence as she was dragged, kicking and screaming, off to the town jail.
|"Run, sister, run!!!"
|And off she ran...until she found the saloon.
Hmmm...now why would they think that?
Ha! Sometimes you just gotta have a little fun, you know?
And we certainly did with these fine ladies!
|Although my main historical impression will be a farmer (click HERE), there will be times that I will also be running a stagecoach stop and inn: "Heacock Inn & Stage" - named for my 4th and 5th great grandfathers (father and son both named Jonathan Heacock) who, by the way, were Quaker farmers in the 18th and 19th centuries and, therefore, didn't run an inn or a stagecoach stop. But it keeps things lively for me. In this picture are a few friends who stopped by to visit my lovely wife and I.
The Jackson Civil War Muster is one of those events that has been around for so long that it's taken for granted, almost like the relative that you think will always be there, but when they pass away, you are shocked and so very saddened.
And the loss felt is great.
I would hate to see this happen to Jackson, for if we ever did lose this event, believe me, the loss would be great.
I say this because our numbers were down this year.
And I understand there are very legitimate reasons for this to an extent: work, health, family.
But then there are the poor excuses that makes me shake my head.
|Even with all these guys, the numbers were nearly half of what they usually are. There's no danger at this time, but we need to bring our numbers up or the end result could be a major blow to Michigan (and Midwestern) reenactors.
To keep this hobby we love so much fresh and growing, we need participants - YOU - to take part. You can sit at home and complain about why you didn't want to go: it's a farb-fest (except for a few, it really isn't), it's supposed to rain (it didn't at all - sunny and warm with cool nights), it's too long a drive (less than two hours from Detroit area), I had to cut the grass (really? You couldn't cut it earlier in the week?), but when it's over and closed due to lack of participation, don't say you weren't warned.
Making a reenactment fun is all in your attitude - you can determine just how good of a time you will have.
And that goes for any event you may participate in.
It's up to you.
Me? Well, you know where I stand. I will continue to support the Jackson Civil War Muster - politics or school antics be damned! - as long as the people in charge (the 7th Michigan) continue supporting the reenactors.
And I have no doubt they will continue to do so.
See you next time.