Monday, July 31, 2017

Frankenmuth 2017: Cass River Colonial Encampment

Sometimes I feel that I live in the past and reenact the 21st century. I mean, it's only midsummer as I write this, and so far I have worn my period clothing 10 out of the last 14 weekends. And four of the next five weekends promises more of the same...and that's not even including the last four months of the year! There are also times I do two different periods on the same weekend. Well, three if you count returning to the 21st century - - - In fact, this happened very recently when I did the 1860s on Saturday in Charlton Park (click HERE to read about that), and the 1770s on Sunday in Frankenmuth, which is what today's posting is about.
To begin, one must understand that Frankenmuth, Michigan, also known as "Michigan's Little Bavaria," is a tourist town in every sense of the word. It was founded back in the 1840s by German Lutheran immigrants and has since highly accented these German and religious roots as part of its charm. And it's these deep roots that have become the draw for millions of visitors to this little town nestled in the middle of nowhere, making it a top state attraction. Frankenmuth also has what is, I believe, the largest Christmas store in the country - possibly the world: Bronners.
Then there are the chicken dinners...yeah...they are well-known for their fine chicken dinners at the world-famous Zehnder's Restaurant.
On the west end of the town is an outdoor shopping plaza whose structures tend to have an old-world European flavor to them.
Little Bavaria indeed!
It's also here where, for the past half dozen years or so, there has been the Cass River Colonial Encampment:
It's a fine location for a reenactment, for there is a large open field behind the plaza - large enough to situate a good-sized reenacting community:
Looking at the picture, you would never guess that directly behind me is a 
shopping center.
This was my first year attending the Cass River reenactment, and I found it to be a well-run event. My very good friend, Mike Gillett, a long-time Civil War reenactor, had joined up with the Queen's Rangers earlier this year and this was his first real colonial/Rev War reenactment.
Well, okay, he actually attended Uncle John's Mill last year sort of as a guest reenactor - he was the officiant for a wedding held there - but Cass River was his first as a bona-fide member of a Rev War unit.
Many reenactors enjoy doing multiple time periods; I've found that quite 
a few in the world of Civil War reenacting have crossed 
the bridge into the future, to the 1940s WWII era, which is cool.
However, I'm always glad when I can get a few who will cross time back to the 
era of our Nation's founders ...even if they sometimes do join the other side (lol). 
Standing with me here you see Mike Gillett, now a Queen's Ranger.
And there I am, Paul Revere, representing Citizens of the American Colonies.
(Picture by Kerry Dennis)

Let's meet a few from the military - - - -
The Massachusetts Provincial Battalion

The 42nd Regiment of the Royal Highlanders

The 13th Pennsylvania, portraying a late war period from 1779 to 1781. The gentleman in the back with the frock in the top picture is not actually part of this group - he fell in with them for this event.

And, tho' not reenactors, how about a special salute to the...
...Sons of the American Revolution. How wonderful to be a descendant of one who fought for our nation's independence!

For the visitors and the soldiers, the two battles presented here are probably the highlight of the day. Neither is based on an actual historical battle, but, rather, more on the tactics of the war. This gives the public a little taste - just a taste, mind you - of what it was like to fight in 18th century America. Children especially can have a more understanding of our nation's early years.
When I was a kid, reenactments were *almost* unheard of. It wasn't until the later 1970s that this hobby began to get a little bit of notice in my neck of the woods. I don't believe I actually attended my first one until sometime in the 1980s when I was already married with kids. I was enthralled.
And if I, as an adult, got so excited, I can just imagine what it was like for a young 10 year old kid attending something like this - - wow!
Of course, at the Frankenmuth event, I had my 'stealth camera' with me and took some photos of the excitement. I am also using pictures taken by a modern visitor friend (with his blessings - you'll see his name under the photos he took).
To accent some of the photographs herein, I have included original snippets from documents (letters and journal entries) and even songs of the time, which I've put in quotations.
The Massachusetts Provincial Battalion are preparing to commence fighting - the rolling hills and the covered bridge provide a nice back drop for the battle.

Also on the Patriot side are is a mixture of 1st Pennsylvania and 2nd Dragoons to help fight the King's army.

"General Washington...ordered some of the men to be placed near the bridge over Stoney Brook on the main road to hinder the (Royal Highlanders) passing over...which was scarcely done when (they) appeared, which caused a 
second firing...
In a little time, our men retreated and the (Royal Highlanders) were obliged to 
cross the brook.."

"The battle was in plain view from our door. The (Highlanders) fell in great plenty, but to do them justice, they keep a front and stood their ground nobly."

"Our main body (had) time to form and take an advantageous ground."

"It was now the fate of our army was to be decided---the firing was supported with equal vigor---and neither party seemed inclined to give way...all was dubious..."

"The horrors and devastations of war now begin to appear with us in earnest.
As these two regiments were to sustain the assault of the whole British line, 
it is not to be supposed they could make a long opposition. 
They were obliged to give way and retreated..."

"...when we mounted the summit, where the engagement was - good God, how the balls flew - I freely acknowledge I never had such a tremor come over me before."
Photo by Kerry Dennis

"We descended the hill into the field of battle and began our fire very briskly."

"Tis God that girds our armor on and all our just designs fulfills;
Through Him our feet can swiftly run and nimbly climb the hills."

"Every time they shoot it off it takes a horn of powder,
and makes a noise like father's gun, only a nation louder!"

"...our men in the fort were ordered to fire and make a swift retreat - we covered their retreat till they came up with us by a brisk fire from our small arms - 
the dead and wounded lay on every side of me, their groans were piercing indeed."

 "The cannons roar from shore to shore the small arms make a rattle
since wars began I am sure no man ere saw so strange a battle.
The kegs, 'tis said, though strongly made of rebel staves and hoops, sir
helped oppose the rebel foes and we conquered the troops, sir."
(slight changing of words to fit the picture)
Photo by Kerry Dennis

"The particulars of the skirmish surprised me very much, as I had no conception the loss of the troops could have been so great when everybody agrees that the men behaved with proper spirit."
Photo by Kerry Dennis

"...they now had possession of our fort and four field pieces, and by much the advantage of the ground..."
Photo by Kerry Dennis

"Our orders then came to make the best retreat we could...and ran very fast up the hill, leaving some of our dead and wounded in the field."
Photo by Kerry Dennis

"...this battle, tho' we lost it, cannot do but honour to us, for we fought with less numbers...
...alas, some brave fellows (fell), among the unhappy number was our worthy friend Dr. Warren, alas he is no more, he fell in his Country's cause, and fought with the bravery of an Ancient Roman..." 
Photo by Kerry Dennis

Let's look at the homefront - - - - - -
The loneliness and anxiety felt by women whose husbands, sons, 
and lovers had enlisted was captured in a popular song:
Here I sit on Buttermilk Hill
Who can blame me, cry my fill?
And every tear would turn a mill,
Since Johnny has gone for a soldier.

Israel Hatch most respectfully informs the publick that his line of Stages will run every day in the week, excepting Sundays.  His Coach leaves Boston at 5 o'clock, and arrives at Providence by 2 P.M.   The Stages from Providence start at the same early hour, and arrive at Boston by 2 o'clock.  
One dollar, which is one half the customary price, and 3s cheaper than any other stage---
Well, I certainly cannot pass up such a deal as this! 
I will be home to Boston before you know it!

Wait---no one hitched up the horses yet.

The resident blacksmith of Michigan's reenacting world, Richard Heinicke.

Today Richard seems to be working on some sort of a copper bowl.

Fife & drum - the sounds of the 70s...the 1770s!

This young lady became an apprentice to the local pewterer. He showed her how to use a file correctly, and she was very attentive. In fact, she remained at his side for quite a while.

And here is her mother and father. 
Meet the Diggs - newest members
of Citizens of the American Colonies

The Continental doctor drew quite a crowd as he explained the procedures of 18th century medicine.

A pose with Mr. Gerring.

A line up of soldiers
Photo by Kerry Dennis
You know, any chance I can get to reenact, I do, no matter how large or small the reenactment may be, and I was happily surprised at the amount of participants at this Cass River event, for I thought it would be much smaller.
Good show to those who made it happen! And you can bet I plan to attend next year, and hopefully bring even more from my Citizens of the American Colonies group along.

Until next time, see you in time...

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I would like to thank Kerry Dennis for allowing me to use a few of his wonderful photos (I noted which ones were his).

Some of the original quotes came from THIS book ("Spirit of 76")
and THIS book ("The American Revolution: Writings from the War of Independence”)

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Monday, July 24, 2017

The Civil War at Charlton Park 2017: Summer of '62

Charlton Park is a very special event for many of us who participate. First off, the kind folks who run the historic open-air village, located in rural mid-Michigan, certainly are to be commended for entrusting a few of us living historians to practice the art of 1st person and immersion - and we get to do so in a house built in the mid-1800s, making it even more historically accurate.
Each year we re-create a southern-leaning family living in Maryland, which was a border state during the War. Why do we side with the south for this event? Because all year long we are northern civilians, so it's kind of nice to do the "other side" once in a while. And it allows us to set up situations and scenarios that you simply cannot do the other way around.
Of course, I had my 'stealth camera' with me...and not only did I take pictures but I gave it to another for other angles, and she did a wonderful job!

Now...there is a story to be told here...are you ready to go back?

Meet my 1860s family - - 
We sure do look like a proper Victorian family, don't we?
I say this every year, but it bears repeating:
The three of us in this picture are not related, but portray ourselves as an 1860s family. We all work very well together in helping to create this in a believable way, and that's not an easy thing to do. But we know each other well enough that we can come off as being natural...real.
Many thanks must go out to all involved - including our real spouses! - in helping and allowing us to create this realistic and workable scenario. 
I also have, in this 1860s family, three sisters - two older and one younger - and you shall meet them shortly.

Imagine waking up from your slumber and opening your front door only to see this scene:
My Lord! The Yankees have taken over the town!

The artillery have set up the cannons facing the river.
And on the Village Green there were Yankee soldiers marching and drilling, firing their muskets to show their might.

"Oh my! Father! Have you seen what is coming down the road?"
"Yes, daughter, I have seen the tents and cannons."
"But father, it looks like a whole regiment of Yankee soldiers...and they are marching this way!"

"And they have stopped directly in front of our home!"

Yes, my daughter was quite correct. The Yankees stood for what seemed like hours but was, in actuality, only a few minutes before banging on our front door.

I made the attempt to shut them out but they forced their way in and told us they were requisitioning our home for use as possible headquarters!
Fortunately for us, our home was much too small to be used for their purpose, and the Yankees marched off to find another that would be more accommodating to them. But many neighbors gathered to see what the commotion was.

Some of our friends remained and came in to visit. You see, two of my sisters had traveled a long journey by train and carriage for our annual summer reunion. Many neighbors and old friends stopped in throughout the day, which made it very special for all of us, especially my two sisters.
We really put a lot of effort into our scenarios, and it always adds to the picture when friends stop by...especially when these friends are willing to do 1st person right along with us! 
These lovely ladies fit right in perfectly!
But - knock-knock-knock! - we had another guest - - a very special guest:
Why---it's Mr. Bagley!
Now, Mr. Bagley is a fictitious character I 'created' a few years back. We were having a conversation and my sisters and I were reminiscing about our youth. In my story, I 'remembered' Mr. Bagley wanting to have a courtship with my sister, Jacqueline, but our father was not fond of this man and scared him away...for good...or so we thought.
Last year, Mr. Bagley surprised us all - mostly Jacqueline - with a visit! The look on Jacqueline's face when his name was announced...then there he was---right before us in living color (yes, I found a man who was willing to portray this former suitor wannabe! Click HERE to visit last year's posting)
So, as it went, after decades, Jacqueline and Mr. Bagley reunited.
Well, this year, our own Pete Bagley had other ideas - - - -
Initially, we all enjoyed polite conversation as we sat in the back parlor. After a short time, Mr. Bagley asked if he may speak to Jacqueline privately in the front parlor...

Jacqueline got the surprise of her life when Mr. Bagley got down on one knee and pulled out a ring...

Of course, she said "yes!" and such joy permeated throughout our home! Larissa excitedly suggested the two of them get married right away, so we sent Jillian off to find the preacher!

Only she didn't come back with the preacher...instead, another supposed suitor, who also had had his eye upon my dear sister, entered our home, with the devil in his eyes.

Mr. Heath felt he had been spurned, for he noted that Jacqueline had lead him to believe he was in her interest, and demanded that the betrothed recount their actions.

Of course, after decades of waiting to finally marry Jacqueline, Mr. Bagley was not about to give her up again. An argument ensued with the outcome being...a duel!
This, after the excitement of Yankee soldiers invading our house!
The two men stepped outside...right outside our front gate!

Everyone watched in horror at what was about to take place.

The two men stood back-to-back and prepared to walk the ten paces...ten paces to death - - - -

Mr. Bagley drew his fire arm - - 

- - Mr. Heath prepared to fire his pistol as well.
Which man will meet his final fate?
Which man will walk away?
The suspense is killing me!
But before we get to what happened, let's look at something pleasant and happy, shall we? And maybe even learn something historical - - -
This is young mother Mrs. Suave with her
son Gabe and tiny daughter Emma. 
You will notice that both of her offspring are 
wearing dresses. Yes, including her son.
Interesting enough, boys wore dresses until
they were breached...that is, old enough to
use the necessary on their own. This practice
of boys wearing dresses actually went into 
the early part of the 20th century. In fact, it
would have been rare and uncommon to see
such a young lad without one.
Now...back to our story - - -
Oh! Such a sad state of affairs!
Our Mr. Bagley - dear Mr. Bagley - took a bullet to the chest.
Jacqueline was beside herself in grief...

Oh! To think, only moments before, all was joy and happiness

And now...oh...oh...oh...!!!
Jillian's childhood friend, Carrie Kushnir, came upon the scene shortly after the body was removed - -
"...and then Mr. Bagley took off his gloves and slapped that Mr. Heath across his face and they went back to back and then took ten paces and then..."
Such excitement for one day - - - - 
You'll notice that Mrs. Kushnir is dressed in a sort of female Confederate uniform (though my wife certainly cannot believe any woman would wear pants!).
Carrie wears such garments to show pride in being a "Daughter of the Regiment:"
Women who chose to follow the Union or Confederate armies into the field provided needed services for the soldiers. Some held positions recognized by the army and were called Daughters of the Regiment or vivandiàres. Many patriotic women on both sides served as vivandières, though exact numbers are unknown. The women in the camps worked as cooks, laundresses, seamstresses, sutlers, and nurses. Often, but not always, they were wives or daughters of soldiers.
Many daughters of the regiment wore adapted military uniforms, as you see Mrs. Kushnir, pictured here with her husband.

Mrs. Kushnir proudly wore her vivandiare uniform and regaled us of her tales of camp life. Larissa had her concerns with Carrie being surrounded by all of the soldiers, but was assured that her husband was always near.
Yes...until battle.
I certainly hope Jillian doesn't get such notions in her head!
For our afternoon entertainment, Carrie read poetry while Jillian acted out the scenes, just as they did when they were children.

Both girls were very expressive, whether reading or acting.

Thank you ladies! I only wish I could remember the poem that was read and performed.

One of the special things we as living historians enjoy doing is eating our afternoon meal - our dinner - in the period kitchen. I don't know about you, but when I visit a historic village such as Greenfield Village and I see the period-dress presenters eating their afternoon meal at the kitchen table, I always would get a little jealous. I would LOVE to be able to do that! And now...I can...and do! It's because we take such good care of this historic home that they continue to allow us to carry on in such a trusting manner.
We had summer vegetables and pulled pork for our meal.

Yes, we did allow our servant, Candace, to eat with us. She's our friend and we like her!

But make no mistake, when we have servants during our immersion events, they really do work. For Candace (and Carrie, when she portrays our servant), 
this is not reenacting - it's reality!

As mentioned earlier, throughout the day we had visitors, including the Carlson family. The Carlsons journeyed in all the way from Jackson by stage - quite the dusty ride on a summer's day.
They were staying at the Bristol Inn, right in town:

Built by William Bristol in 1848, this house was a stagecoach stop until 1869 when the railroad put the stage out of business.

On the left, we have another sister, Caroline, who took a bit of a, shall we say, sabbatical last year. We were so glad to have her return this year.
Sandy, in the center, had portrayed my younger sister a few years ago and fell right back into her role when she came by in the afternoon.
Now, do you have that straight?
Caroline, Jacqueline, me, then Sandra.

The young lady on the right is another dear friend.

You may not recognize the young lady on the right
but you've seen her before here on Passion for the Past.
However, when you saw her last, she was dressed 
in colonial clothing.
Yep---that's Rae!


One of the best purchases I've made in the reenacting world, besides my clothing, is a hand-cranked ice cream maker. After years of watching the historical presenters at the 1880s Firestone Farm make ice cream every 4th of July - and wanting to taste some but, of course, not being allowed to - I found one and, naturally, bought it. Lucky for me, I was also able to procure a period recipe as well! So now it's become an annual afternoon activity to make ice cream while at the Charlton Park event.
It's summertime...and it's mighty hot.
Time to make ice cream!
Larissa and I prepared the Victorian treat by using ice we were able to get from 
the local ice house, as well as salt, both items being poured inside the wooden 
bucket in layers, surrounding the tin container known as the 'freezer.'
The freezer, of course, held the main ingredients to make the ice cream itself!

Once the mixed dairy ingredients were placed inside the freezer, we all took our 
turn to churn the ice cream.



Watching Larissa work was a favorite past time.
Well, heck! She's the pro!




Even a Yankee soldier who happened by.

The ice cream is ready to be enjoyed!
Yes, we put strawberries in for flavor.

Yankee Jim that Mr. Bagley? Alive??

The Confederate daughter of the Regiment
 & a Union soldier.
Oooo...the look.
Now, just how the heck did I wind up in jail...with Mr. Bagley?
It's a lo-o-ong story....let's just say I took the bullet for my daughter.
And that's our record of the 2017 Charlton Park event.
Since we are blessed to get the Sixberry House every year, we try to come up with something new and different, yet historical, to keep interest going for us as well as for the annual visitors. But most important, we try to keep it true - - our conversations while sitting around the table are almost always period, even if there are no visitors to see or hear us. It's this sort of thing that makes this hobby more than just a hobby - it's this sort of thing that will keep the past alive for all involved.
All while having fun.
And isn't that what it's all about?

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One more thing before we leave - -
I wrote the following on my Facebook page on July 20th at 7:41 pm:

Wow - - this may not mean much to folks out there, but it certainly means a lot to me - -
just a couple minutes ago I reached 1,000,000 visits to my Passion for the Past blog!
Pageviews today (so far)
Pageviews yesterday
Pageviews last month
Pageviews all time history

I caught it right as the number turned to one million!
What can I say but "thank you!"

Until next time, see you in time.

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