Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Port Sanilac: Civil War Days 2019 - Country Fair Time

8th Arkansas - our Confederate friends.
(Picture courtesy of the Port Sanilac Historical Society)
Usually I wait til the end of my posts to thank everyone for participating in an event that I play a major part in putting together, such as this Port Sanilac event.  This time I want to begin with it, for I so appreciate everyone who came out and made it the success it was.  And what helped me this year was I actually had a partner - a co-coordinator - who really stepped up to the plate: Jillian.  Putting on such an event can be very stressful and trying, as those of you who have done such a thing will understand, and Jill really helped to remove much of that for me this year.
Thank you.
Also, many thanks to the various reenacting groups, such as the Zouaves, the 8th Arkansas, members of the 17th Michigan and the 7th Michigan, and a number of people from units that I am not sure which one that they belong to, but it is much appreciated that you came out and participated.

Every year we try to come up with something new and different for our Port Sanilac Civil War reenactment.  And every-so-often we may repeat something that was successful for us at previous events, such as this year's Country Fair addition.  You see, the Port Sanilac reenactment is hosted by the 21st Michigan, the reenacting unit I have belonged to since 2004,  and we can pretty much come up with whatever idea we can to make it all come alive and garner interest in the past to the visiting public.  It's held on the grounds of the Sanilac County Historical Society, where a number of ancient buildings from the area have been relocated into a sort of mini-open-air museum and now have historical structure status.
And it is amidst such surroundings that we reenact the era of the American Civil War.
We have hosted this event since 2009 - ten years now.  And it has grown some since then, from eight or nine of us at our very first to now creating a mini-1860s community with dozens and dozens of participants.  Over the years we have recreated the Battle of Gettysburg and 1st Bull Run and regular generic battles to give the public somewhat of an idea of 19th century warfare, as well as had shotgun weddings, a recreated medical scenario,  unique fashion shows, visits and speeches by President Abraham Lincoln, and even a snake oil salesman.
Yes, we also had a country fair, back in 2015, which we repeated again this year.
So read on, oh friend, and gaze at the many photographs taken in hopes that you will have a better understanding of how our 2019 reenactment went.
First, meet the host of Passion for the Past  (that's me!)  
and my beautiful and patriotic bride.

Let's begin our tour of this grand event with a few grand people...some of our Confederate friends, if you will...who do quite an amazing job in their presentation of soldiers from the south.
Members of the 8th Arkansas

The 8th Arkansas colorized.

Grandpaw and Cousin Charlie.
Charlie and I go back quite a ways.  He is one of the best at doing 1st person/immersion you would ever want to meet.  He is also genuine in that he takes his reenacting to heart.  It's more than just a hobby.  And early on I remember thinking that I want to be as good as he when it comes to living history, for he truly is at the top of the game.
I was able to set him up to sleep inside the 1880s log cabin you see them all in front of, which he was deeply obliged.
I wonder how long it's been since anyone has actually spent the night in the old cabin, much less someone dressed period correct for its time?

President Lincoln returned to Port Sanilac and brought his pastor with him.  The two men had a conversation based on actual accounts that Lincoln did have with his own pastor.  In a touching back and forth exchange, they spoke on the difficulties and reasoning behind the recent death of Lincoln's son, Willie.
This was a new program presented by Mr. Fred Priebe  (Lincoln)  called  "Why Did Willie Have to Die?"  and featured his new partner, Guy Purdue, as Lincoln's own Reverend Phineas T. Gurley of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. 
Fred, who has portrayed our 16th President for decades, and is  (I might add)  considered to be the best Lincoln interpreter anywhere - and this by other  "Lincolns"  as well - lost his dear wife, Bonnie, earlier this year to cancer.  Bonnie was his Mary Todd Lincoln, and played her role very well.  So well, in fact, that one felt as if they actually met the President and the  1st Lady while in their presence.
No, I am not even remotely kidding about this.
They were that good together.
This is a tintype of Fred and Bonnie taken
with a period camera by Mr. Robert Beech.
Mrs. Priebe is so missed by all of us
in the reenacting community.
So now Fred has decided to change up his presentation to the  "Why Did Willie Have to Die"  program, and I commend him in doing so, for now he not only gives speeches, as Lincoln did, but we get to see another side of the President, which most do not get to see.
And it is historically accurate!
Well done, sir.
And God Bless Bonnie.
After the program had ended, a question & answer period took place.  
The young boy you see there asked Mr. Lincoln about his hat, 
and the President was very obliged to show him.

One of the things we do that I am most proud of is our fashion show.  Our fashion show is a bit different than most that we see - not better or worse, just different.  I came up with the idea years ago of having the participants - models, if you like - speak on their own behalf of not only about their own clothing, but of why they were wearing the fashion and style they had on. 
What was the reason behind the clothing.
So each spoke about themselves and their clothes, of their lives, their occupations, and how the war affected them.  This seemed to bring it all home for the audience watching.
As we know, the Civil War brought death home like
little before it, and our fashion hostess, Jackie, wore 

her mourning clothes and told of the different stages
of mourning for women.

Carrie wore her Confederate Vivandiere outfit.
Vivandieres, sometimes known as cantinieres, were women who followed the army to provide support for the troops.  Ideally, a vivandiere would have been a young woman—the daughter of an officer or wife of a non-commissioned officer—who wore a uniform and braved battles to provide care for wounded soldiers on the battlefield.
Jillian spoke of being in her wrapper
(From THIS site):  "Wrappers were many times quite ornate and designed to be worn over a complete set of undergarments including crinolines, and tailored to fit like a dress, accentuating shoulders, bosom, and waist.  They were sometimes open at the front of the skirting to show off decorative petticoats beneath.  Petticoats and crinoline covers were specifically crafted with a triangle of lace for this purpose.  A lady might wear her wrapper as far as the breakfast room and still maintain respectability."
And then Jillian...
...showed and explained to everyone her underpinnings!
"Gentlemen,"  she began,  "please avert your eyes."

Mr. Lincoln obliged.
He was the only man top do so, in fact.

Mrs. Cook portrayed a poor ragged woman who
lost everything when her husband died
during a battle.

Mrs. Cary wore a day dress.

Mrs. Long wore her work dress

Larissa and I were farmers.  
And why wouldn't we be?  For we portray farmers frequently at reenactments, fairs, historical societies, schools and other locations and teach of everyday lives of these unsung heroes of America's past.

Kristen showed the art of keeping cool in the 1860s

Mrs. Root explained her well-to-do style and parasol.

Military explained their uniforms.

Mrs. Makowski explained her children's clothing.

We learned about what a chatelaine was and used for.
(From THIS page):  "The concept of an all-purpose, at your fingertips device or container, is instantly comprehensible to our modern mindset.  Whether a purse or handbag, the not-so-popular as it once was fanny-pack, a briefcase, backpacks, or simply deep pockets in one’s garments, the desire for a secure place on one’s person to stow essential items are universal.
Essentially a piece of jewelry as well as a utilitarian object, this versatile item has been worn by women of nearly every culture down through the ages.  Or rather, some version or incarnation of the chatelaine since the object we are most familiar with rose to heights of popularity in the 1860s.  The image to the right, dated 1880, is an excellent visual of a Victorian Era chatelaine.
The basic chatelaine is a simple pin or brooch fastened to the bodice or waistband of a lady’s dress with a pin or a hook, any number of small dangling chains suspended to hold some useful or necessary item.
No two women kept the same items on their chatelaine.  A seamstress, for example, would attach small scissors, a needle case, thimble, pin cushion, and the like.  The lady of the house may have a key or two, but her accessories more often included a watch, a vinaigrette, a fan, a tiny purse, quizzing glasses, personal wax seal, and a basic ├ętui.  The housekeeper, on the other hand, would carry a wide assortment of keys for the important household rooms on her chatelaine, amongst a vast array of useful items as well."

And the variety of fashions continued on...

A group picture of most of the 1860s fashionistas.
Thank you, Jackie, for being a mostess hostess! 

And what would a Civil War reenactment be without the booming cannons and muskets?
Yes, a skirmish took place.  The spectators, as always, loved it.
It's unfortunate that so few military actually come out in any kind of force - not nearly as much as they used to.  We have plenty of civilians but so few who are willing to fire a gun.
Why is this?
Anyhow, for those who do come out, we so appreciate their efforts, for they give the visitors their money's worth!
Scot, from the Zouaves, will find himself fighting for the north one day...
...and the south the next!

This is pretty common in the reenacting world.

The battle scenario was small, but so well done.
The men on both sides gave their all.

My son, Rob.
I remember back in the day when he couldn't wait to shoulder a musket and fire at the Rebs.  Now he enjoys not having to clean his gun after each battle for he portrays a Captain.

Though to me that would be part of the fun in teaching about the battles.

Some of our Union men in Blue.
Our appreciation goes to them as well, for we had quite a mish-mosh of men from differing units.
I am so glad for those who did come out to make this a success.

It sorta reminds one of Manassas, doesn't it, with
the spectators all relaxing and watching this strange
bit of entertainment?

Fire! Fire! Fire!

The bayonet charge - - - - 

Out there it was summertime...a milk and honey day, as you shall see - - - 
And before our fair began, some enjoyed the day with a picnic.

My beautiful wife and our lovely daughter.

The ladies are preparing for the fair by cutting out tickets.

We planned our country fair in hopes the general modern public might join in on some of the fun.
We allowed modern kids to join in on the sack races...

...and the cherry pit spitting contest.

Even a few of the adults joined in the cherry pit spitting contest.

Long-time friends:  Mrs. Cook and my wife - enjoy watching the activities...out of the way! 

We had a pie-tasting contest to see which pie was the best of all.
Lookit all dem pies!

Scott, Robbie, and Kristen were the pie-tasting judges:
The judges tasted each pie to decide which was best of all.
Mrs. Alto's homemade pie was voted best of the best!

We also had a pie-eating  contest.  We thought it best not to include modern folks in this.  In the day and age we are in, one cannot be too overly cautious, so it was only reenactors who participated in this contest.
Robin was the pie-eating champion!

A quilting contest took place.
In which those shown were actually hand-stitched, 

in some cases,  by reenactors.

We had a 'hawk toss contest for the men - hitting a target with a hatchet.
The modern men wanted to try this but we thought it best to keep this to the reenactors.
Mr. Cary tries his hand at the  'hawk toss.
(Picture courtesy of the Sanilac Historical Society)

We also got a couple of pictures of the women and their iron skillet toss:
The hills are alive with the sound of iron skillets
pounding the ground after being tossed by the ladies.

Another iron skillet tossed

We also had a sutler:
Jewels Victoriana, run by Liz Kerstens and Pam Yockey.

And they do carry jewelry, clothing, caps 'n' bonnets, and a number of other items for the female reenactor.
Both of these ladies have been in the reenacting world for many, many years and have a reputation for their quality merchandise.

Bella, the hat-wearing great dane!
Now, there is a little fun story that goes with the following pictures.  You see, it was a pretty hot day in Michigan and, since we were only minutes away from Lake Huron, a few of us decided to head to the beach to put our toes in the water to help cool down on this hot and humid day.
Most of our ladies wore their wrappers to the beach, and I was with them in my period straw hat.  Of course, there were many stares from the modern swimmers, so I decided to play it up a bit.
So in my best Hollywood Amish accent I said:
"Ladies, we must head back to the farm. 
There is milking to do, chickens to feed, and holes to dig!"
I said this pretty loud so others might hear.
I can imagine what the  'moderns'  thought of us now!
And they did look!
Larissa  (up front):  "I'm not digging any holes tonight!  Kristen Can!"
Jillian  (on the right):  "You can do the milking tonight, Jackie!  I did it this morning!"
Kristen  (in blue):  "Why do I  always get stuck digging the holes!?"

I love these ladies - - they are awesome!

We really put our all into this event to make it fun and entertaining and yet, historical.  I appreciate all who took part in making it such a success.  During a time when Civil War reenactments are having trouble (for a variety of reason - not only because of the PC police who feel they can tell the rest of us what to do),  we in the 21st Michigan and our friends move forward  full force - damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead - and continue onward and upward.
In fact, up next for us in the 21st Michigan is our annual Fall Harvest Home presentation coming in October.
Stay tuned.

Until next time, see you in time.

~   ~   ~

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