Sunday, June 23, 2019

The 2nd Michigan Musters In at Detroit's Historic Fort Wayne 2019

So---do you recall only a few months ago that I put together a sort of specialty living history reenactment celebrating and commemorating the Battles of Lexington & Concord - the beginnings of the Revolutionary War?
I called it Patriot's Day, and it went like THIS  (click the link to see my Patriot's Day posting)~
Well,  to pull something like that off certainly took quite a bit of blood, sweat, and even tears.  It was tough to try to keep everyone in the moment of April 1775, for there were many military friends who did not have uniforms of that period.  Yes, it was difficult for me, but I stood by my vision of what I wanted the reenactment to be.
Luckily for me, they understood what I was attempting to do, and those who were able to participate did a fine job indeed.
It turned out perfect.

Entering the Fort
Photo taken by Bob Jacobs
Let's jump up a couple months to June, where a friend of mine,  Will Eichler,  very recently wanted to do the same type of historical scenario, but for Civil War rather than Revolutionary War.  Will ran into similar situations where some who wanted to participate were not quite sure of the vision.  As he wrote on the events page:
"Things are a changing.  Civil War Days at Fort Wayne for 2019 will be a living history only!  We have a chance to make a solid change and push history further forward than we have in the past many years.  We will implement some things we have  (previously)  done in slightly new ways to tell the story of the boys of the 2nd Michigan very close to the time of year they were actually at this very same Fort!"

This reenactment was of a different flavor,
and it brought the visitor through a time-
warp back to 1862.
Photo taken by Bob Jacobs
Imagine reenacting an event on the very same spot - the same grounds - as the men and women who were there over 150 years ago!  Yes, maybe on the east coast or in the south this may occur frequently, but here in southeastern Michigan, the opportunities are pretty rare, for the most part, for  "progress"  has removed most of our pre-20th century history.  Luckily, however, we still have our beloved fort.  You see, Historic Fort Wayne,  a five point star fort in Downtown Detroit,  was built in the early 1840s, at the point on the Detroit River closest to British Canada.  This new fort was slated to have the most up to date cannon capable of firing on the Canadian shore as well as ships sailing the river.
Since diplomacy reigned, there was little danger of a war between the two countries,  and this new Fort was re-commissioned as an infantry garrison,  though it did not see any troops until the outbreak of the Civil War, when the first Michigan soldiers reported for duty.
The peaceful location became a primary induction center for Michigan troops entering battle in every US conflict from the Civil War  to  Vietnam.  Among other duties over the course of it’s 155 year use as an Army base, it served as an infantry training station, housed the Chaplin school for a few years, and was the primary procurement location for the vehicles and weapons manufactured in Detroit during both World Wars.  Also during WW II  the Fort housed prisoners of war from Italy.
With that history in mind, Mr. Eichler came up with an idea:
"When I was looking for a scenario to portray at Civil War days this year,"  Will Eichler said,  "I was conscious of where on the calendar we were and looked for a story from the Fort that was appropriate to that.  Quickly it became apparent that the best story to start with was that of the 2nd Michigan infantry."
The barracks of Detroit's Historic Fort Wayne.
Photo taken by Bob Jacobs
To put an event like this together takes a lot of effort and time.  Of course, Will didn't mind, for he received a nice check for doing this.
Wait-----no he didn't!
What many non-reenactors don't realize is that we, as living historians/reenactors, rarely get paid for what we do.  Unless we are hired on to do historic presentations, such as what I do with Larissa  (click HERE),  all of this is done for the love of history - no charge.
Fife & Drum
Photo courtesy of Bob Jacobs
So what'd you do this weekend?
I guarded a fort built about 1840.
Photo taken by Gary Thomas
So, as I was saying,  to put an event like this together takes a lot of free effort and time,  much less finding those willing to take part.  I mean, how many people would give up their hard-earned weekend to stand guard at the entrance?  To march and drill?  To take part in a weekend scenario without a battle? you get the picture;  it's out of a love for showing the past in a most accurate way.
And when I walked inside the star fort, I did see and feel history come to life.  As Will put it,  "We were able to portray a portion of these men  (from the 2nd Michigan)  the weekend before they left for the front.  They had already been mustered into federal service.  They had already received ammunition from the Pittsburgh arsenal.  They were making final preparations and had been training under Israel Richardson for over a month.  Richardson had actually been married about 10 days earlier."
As for pulling it all together and getting reenactors to come out, he told me that,  "We raised two good companies of living historians and also had support personnel from the quartermaster to staff to Annie Blair to an African-American named Parker Bon who is looking for service.  We also had a post sutler.  There were many different things for us and the visiting public to see and experience."
Jillian and Amanda were representing what Jane Hinsdale and Annie Blair (soon to be Etheridge) did throughout the war.  They had their laundry set up to display the roles of laundresses within the Union army.  They also had a basic medical kit and bandages to represent what they would’ve done throughout the war as nurses.
Top photo by Gary Thomas
Bottom photo is mine

Jane’s husband, Hiram Hinsdale, joined the 2nd MI Co. D.  When they left Detroit and went to Washington DC Jane went with them.  She was a matron and laundress for the regiment. 
Photo taken by Gary Thomas
When the 2nd Michigan left for Bull Run, Jane followed on her own.  At Bull Run, Jane tended to wounded and dying soldiers, even carrying water to them in her shoe.  She was captured by confederates at Bull Run. While captive she helped more wounded Union soldiers.  Eventually she made it back to Washington City and was a nurse at a hospital there for the rest of the war.

Annie Blair, after marrying  (and becoming 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.
Here we see Annie and Jane taking care of the men.
Photo taken by Bob Jacobs

Citizen Parker Bon, laundress Jane Hinsdale, and Annie Blair, and a couple of privates review the offerings of the post sutler, Ben Jenkins.
This photo taken by Bob Jacobs

Quartermaster Robby Cook prepares the supplies of the 2nd Michigan for movement to Washington City while Private Brian Burtka stands a sentry post guarding both the quartermaster and ordnance supplies.

"The garrison was kept busy from the time the park opened to the public until just after it closed each day.  Men rotated between guard,  drill,  and fatigue duties, as well as eating military food, to both achieve the necessary work of the regiment and to keep the fort  "alive"  to anybody who walked through."
Both photos here taken by Gary Thomas

And here we have a portrayal of a full regimental medical staff, including Surgeon Dr William Brodie, Assistant Surgeon Dr Peter Klein, and Steward George Greene.  
Above photo taken by Gary Thomas
They had a display of medical instruments used during the Civil War, and discussed the instruments as well as medicine.
Long-time reenactor extraordinaire, Ken Roberts, joined in.
Ken has been reenacting the Civil War as well as the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 since around----1960!

Historically, I am not certain how many visitors would have come to the fort while the men were there in 1862, but we certainly enjoyed our time speaking with those who were calling it home for the weekend.
Caught on digital film by Gary Thomas

“The clerk copies government forms in triplicate for the quartermaster.”
Top photo taken by Gary Thomas

The age before carbon paper took off.
Though carbon paper has been around since the early 19th century, 

it really didn't  "take off"  until the 1870s.

“For the overwhelming number of Union and Confederate soldiers, religion was the greatest sustainer of morale in the Civil War.  Faith was a refuge in great time of need. Troops faced battle by forgetting earthly pleasures and looking heavenward . . . Guarding and guiding the spiritual well-being of the soldiers was the primary responsibility of army chaplains.”
(from THIS site)
On Sunday morning, preacher Mike Gillett gave a sermon to the
men inside the fort.

(picture courtesy of Mike Gillett)
Mike is an actual ordained minister who has taken
part in period weddings, as well as modern ones
(including my son & daughter-in-law), and he is
usually called upon for Sunday service
at reenactments.
As he has said many times, the Bible hasn't
changed.  It has had the same message
as it always had.

(picture courtesy of Mike Gillett)

Meanwhile, outside the star fort:
Most of the action took place inside the star fort itself, though there were numerous civilians and activities along the river road outside of the fort.

My friend (and sometimes reenacting sister) Jackie and I.
Photo by Gary Thomas

I am privileged to be among some of the finest living historians in the hobby.  Plus, I suppose I am kind of a bright spot in a dark-clothed world (lol). 

This past January the reenacting world lost a wonderful woman, Mrs. Bonnie Priebe, who portrayed Mary Todd Lincoln like no other could.  Bonnie was married to the finest and truest-to-form Abraham Lincoln since 1865, Mr. Fred Priebe (I am certain you can pick him out in the above photo), and the two of them together were an unbeatable force of living history.
This year many of the participants at Historic Fort Wayne paid honor in a wonderful memorial to Bonnie:
The Union soldiers marched passed the civilians for the memorial service.

Fred Priebe, on the right, and fellow reenactor, Guy Purdue, stand next to the wreath as a prayer was said.
It was a fine memorial befitting of a fine lady who will be sorely missed.

So there you have it - - a fine weekend of living history.
Will Eichler, who put all of this together, is silhouetted against the
Detroit sky.
Reenactments of this sort seem to be a trend, and I hope it continues, for it raises the bar for all who dare to bring the past to life in as accurate a way as we can.  It's another level - one that I enjoy greatly.

Until next time, see you in time.

Thank you to
Bob Jacobs
Gary Thomas
Mike Gillett
for allowing me use of their pictures.

 ~   ~

Monday, June 10, 2019

Spending Time in the 18th Century With The Voyageurs

If you look under the title of my Passion for the Past header, you will note the general description of this blog:  "Thoughts and Social History for the Living Historian."
Yes, what I write here almost always has its base in living history and reenacting.  My hope is that my posts can be used to help accent the good folks who reenact, at least to some degree, common life, which is why most subjects center on what is considered the everyday, mostly mundane occurrences of the past rather than the  'greatest hits of history,'  such as politics and war, that tend to dominate school curriculum.  Yes, politics and war find their way into my postings here and there, but I attempt to show how it may have affected the populace, such as the civilians who fought in the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775, or how the townsfolk of Gettysburg dealt with 150,000 soldiers invading their little town, rather than focus strictly on the military or political leaders of the time.
The Lac Ste. Claire Voyageurs
on Lac Ste. Claire a few years back.
So with that being said, since my last posting, which was about our three day adventures at the Civil War reenactment at Greenfield Village, I have attended two more events:  one colonial and another Civil War (look for the Civil War posting to be coming up soon).
A week after the Greenfield Village reenactment, I visited the Lac Ste. Claire Voyageurs as they set up camp in the mini-historical village of the Chesterfield Historical Society, located in northern Macomb County (about 14 miles north of Detroit).  The Voyageurs have been doing this wonderful event for a few years now and it just continually gets better and better, for the members are an amazing living history group;  they portray the early settlers, mostly of French origin, who lived pretty much in the general area where most of their reenactments take place - in and around the Great Lakes region.  In other words, they are reenacting on the same ground where the original Voyageurs actually lived!  For a region like Michigan, this is pretty cool, especially considering it is depicting the 17th and 18th centuries.
So why do I usually portray an easterner when I reenact this period?
Well, that's my area and era of preference.  However, when I present as a farmer, I can still be a local living here in what is now Michigan.
A 1755 map showing what would become the states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin (and the Canadian province of Ontario).
At this time this area was known as New France (as the map here states), 
as well as the Northwest Territory.
~(Thanks to my Voyageur friends for helping me out with what 
this area was called at the time)~
For a quick overview of the folks who were unique to this old northwest region (including what is now Ontario, Canada), the Ste. Claire Voyageurs were Great Lakes fur traders, missionaries, and explorers that came to the area in the early 1600's.  They were of French origin, though they did not come directly from France.  Rather, they came from the large French settlements in Montreal and Quebec.  From the 1670's until the 1800's, French fur traders and homesteaders started settling in the Macomb County area of Michigan, north of what is now Detroit.  I find this very interesting since Macomb is the county in which I have lived nearly my entire life.
The reenactors who portray this group do an outstanding job in their presentations, and I made certain to grab a few photos to show some of their ways:
Creating an earthen oven.

Unfortunately I was not around to taste the pie, but
it certainly looked good going in!

And the makeshift wood cover to keep the hot hot.

A home away from home, so to speak.  
I always enjoy seeing some of the items others bring along to their camps.  And this family looks like they could stay put for the summer season, for what they brought with them; they have a little bit of everything to show & tell the visiting public, including the art of churning butter.
The Voyageurs were known for buying, selling and trading animal fur and pelts. They adapted the Indian-style canoes and bateaux (a small, flat-bottomed rowboat used on rivers) to move their furs, as well as using sailboats.
Micki and Jerry have been Voyageurs since 1767.
Okay...a little far-fetched, but they have been replicating
this part of history for a lot longer than most.
Such great people!

Not all tents were wall or A-frame. Here is a lean-to used for some protection but mostly display.

Many original axes that were found in the area were on display.


...and the final result.

One sometimes wishes that the history of our early medicine could have been written by the patients rather than the physicians.  Those who were ill in colonial times underwent stern experiences.
Tom Bertrand explains medical procedures and medicinal cures to the visiting public
The methods and materials used by colonial doctors were based on European texts.  The English and Scottish professional pharmacy books that were used by doctors in the colonies include chemicals, plants, and other products from around the world.
While some North American plants were listed, overall the theories and practices in the professional practice of medicine remained firmly rooted in European tradition.
The Greek physician Galen (A.D. 129–199) is credited with organizing and promoting the humoral theory of illness.  During Galen's time, and for centuries after his death, it was believed that the human body had four humors: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile.
Disease was attributed to an imbalance of the humors, and treatment involved restoring the humors to their proper balance.
Anatomical discoveries by Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564), William Harvey (1568–1657), and others, as well as the budding sciences of chemistry and physics in the seventeenth century, refuted many aspects of the humoral theory.

The modern tools of the 18th century medical profession.
Of course, bloodletting is, perhaps, the most famous of 18th century medical practices.
You can say this about bloodletting: the practice of bleeding the ill patient to get his or her  "humors"  back in balance had a long and somewhat respected history.  Dating back to at least fifth century B.C. and in practice across many cultures, bad blood was blamed for just about every ill, so bleeding became a universal treatment and served as a foundation stone of Western medicine.  The practice of bloodletting came to America with the Europeans and persisted into the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Unfortunately, you can also say this about bloodletting: It was at best a useless practice and at worse a dangerous one, causing more deaths than it could ever claim to save. Today, the idea seems barbaric, maybe equivalent to torture, as I found out during an illness that befell me:
When a large cut was needed, the fleam would be used.  
A fleam was a kind of lancet, used for opening veins.
(A Richard Reaume pic)

The fleam was a handheld instrument specifically used for bloodletting 

It was hoped that the fleam was sharpened well when they were used.

The brass bowl might have contained elegant images of birds, palm trees 
and women, belying the fact that its purpose was to collect large 
amounts of blood.
The one I held here was simple and plain. 
Well, now I can scratch that  experience off my bucket list!

I am sure I will surprise most of you here, but until this day, I had never shot a gun outside of one from the later 20th century.
It's true.
Not Civil War and not Rev War.
Until now:
The smoke from my first time firing a flint-lock, belonging to Dave Pierce.
And now that I have my own gun, I plan to fire it more often.  No, I do not plan on necessarily doing military, but if needed I can maybe do some militia here and there.
(Richard Reaume Photo)

Dave Pierce is a collector of period musketry and usually will set up a display of his arms at reenactments. He did so at the Patriot's Day event in April and it was a very popular attraction.
He did so here at the Voyageur encampment as well.
(Picture taken by Richard Reaume)
And speaking of guns, this was a time-line event, so guess who else was there?
There were a few WWI and II reenactors here, 
and they gave the public a little history of firepower 
through the years
(photo by Richard Reaume)

I have fair knowledge of WWII itself, but little knowledge of the soldiers.  It is unfortunate that my father, who was in that War, passed away when I was only 20 years old and had not yet formed too much of an 'adult bond' with him, otherwise I would had been a bit more well-versed due to his passing on his own stories.
(photo by Richard Reaume)

Their camps and firepower did look cool, though.
(photo by Richard Reaume)

The guests were very interested in the procedures of loading and firing the flint-locks.

The entire process can take 30 seconds or longer.

Many in the crowd never saw (or heard live) a real flint-lock being fired.  And that's what we, as reenactors, are all about: allowing the public to see, feel, hear...experience...the past in ways that TV cannot do.
There were no reenactors depicting the 19th century (i.e. Civil War soldiers), so it jumped from the 18th century to the 20th century and WWI.

Well, now, with this being Michigan in the spring of 2019, it rained.
Then stopped.
Then rained again, even harder.
Looking at the blacksmith's shop from the fly I was under.

In this picture it was raining so hard I was able to capture the rain drops falling from the sky, which is something my camera usually doesn't do.

And this little girl completed the day, for it brought many of us great joy to watch her walk with her grandmother and splash in the puddles.   I mentioned that if only we all had the mind to do this same joyful childhood ritual, but as adults, then maybe we would be less stressed.
Nope...I didn't do it, as much as I wanted to.
And neither did anyone else.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: the Lac Ste. Claire Voyageurs are an amazing reenacting group, and if you live in our area, you would do yourself well to venture out to one of their reenactments.  You will learn about a different history not often told in schools.
Not even if it's local history.
And that's why we have reenactors.

With that, until next time, see you in time.

For more information about the Voyageurs, please click HERE
For life on a colonial farm, click HERE

Information on bloodletting came from HERE and HERE.

~   ~   ~