Monday, August 16, 2021

Port Sanilac Civil War Days 2021

It was the best of times,  it was the worst of times.
Since 2009 we have had the Civil War Days event take place at Port Sanilac.  That first year it took place on the last weekend in May.  The following year we moved it to the first weekend in August,  where it has remained since. 
You know...putting on a reenactment is pretty taxing.  A lot more work than folks realize goes into something like this.  And I must admit,  the lack of response from so many reenactors had me a bit worried,  so my hat is off to all of those who did come out and participate.  You made this weekend a wonderful one indeed!
What I am most proud of for Civil War Days is the fact that both military and civilian get equal  "time,"  so to speak,  at the event  (not necessarily in my blog post lol).  It is not strictly a military event,  nor is it just a civilian event.  It is both - together we show American life during those precarious years from 1861 through 1865.  And I did my best to capture it all by way of photographs,  the best,  of which,  are here.

...  ...  ...

Since death seemed to encapsulate these Civil War years,  much more than we see today,  we thought it to be an interesting subject to present on.
"A Civil War House in Mourning"  was the theme for Saturday,  and we had one of the top mourning presenters in Michigan to share her knowledge,  Mrs.  Sandy Root.  
Though the beautiful Loop-Harrison Mansion House was built a decade after the war had ended,  Dawn,  who is the head of  The Sanilac Historical Society,  "dressed"  it as if it was around a decade if a family member - a Civil War soldier - had died during the War.  And it was in the parlor where the coffin lay that Sandy gave a wonderful presentation on mourning,  centering on the 1860s.  
Your  "mourning host"  Mrs.  Sandra Root.
We were pleasantly surprised at the amount of interested emitted from the spectators who attended.

Being that it was a steamy day,  Mrs.  Root did her best to cover as much information as she could as to not keep the over-flowing crowd too long in the heat.  But they didn't seem to mind and were riveted to their seats;  many were awe-struck and in disbelief at some of the details of this part of everyday living over 150 years ago that Mrs. Root passed on.
I've been taking part in and researching mourning practices for years and I still learned something new.
I especially liked the emphasis placed on a person's class,  location,  ethnicity,  occupation,  and even place in society concerning how they would have mourned.  It wasn't just a  "one size fits all"  tradition.  And many traditions spoken of here covered over-all generalities to give the audience an idea of mourning during this time.  To go into too many deeper details would have made it an all-day seminar for sure.

Oftentimes in the Victorian era,  funeral biscuits were given out at the end of funerals for mourners to take home,  or sent to those who were unable to attend the funeral.  Some wrappers were even printed with the deceased's name and date of death,  as well as lines from hymns or Bible verses.
Most who attended this presentation had their first introduction
to the concept of funeral biscuits  (which were also known as
funeral cookies  or funeral cakes),  and had an
opportunity to partake in this 19th century tradition.

The Sanilac Historical Society owns a Victorian hearse and brought it our for this special mourning occasion.  Sandy mentioned she felt it was a good time to honor the loss of her husband's mother,  who passed away this past March.

Sandy takes a breather,  surrounded by Victoriana,  before part two of her presentation: 1860s mourning fashions.

The young lady in mourning here is  "from the future" - her
dress style is more 1880s,  twenty years beyond the era
we are portraying.  It was good to show this,  as her
dress was actually more suitable to the mansion house.

Jackie,  on the left,  showed full mourning during the time of the Civil War  (early-to-mid 1860s),  while Sandy portrayed a woman in 2nd mourning from the same period.

Men also went into mourning.  But because they needed to continue conducting business,  they did not have to go through the stricter rules of the women. 

The rest of the fashion show was of women who were not in mourning,  but just showing average everyday life during the 1860s.
Charlotte in her work dress.

Carolyn wearing her middle to upper class fashion.

Here are the  "tweens" - the young ladies showing the different lengths of dresses depending on their age.  The older they were,  the longer the length.

And the younger set in their dresses.

What would a Civil War reenactment be without the presence of the military?
Due to covid,  it had been two years since many of the men had been out in their wool.

I am very thankful for the guys that did come out to participate.  It certainly meant a lot to me as well as to the Sanilac Historical Society,  and,  as small as the numbers were,  they did a  "bang-up"  job,  and the spectators loved it.

For a while,  the men of both sides of the War march & drilled together.
But fear not---someone will make a smart-alecky crack and the two sides shall be fighting before you know it.
The boom of the cannon was,  perhaps,  one of our best forms of advertising.

The firing of the cannon signaled to folks for literally miles around that the battle was about to begin.

This,  from one cannon shot.

The Confederates responded with their mortar.
I was very happy when I saw I captured the flame coming from the mortar firing!

Marty had no idea I  "shot"  him...with my camera-----

The north...
...and the south.

Muskets and cannon together make for a glorious sound for fans of historic weaponry.
It doesn't matter how large or small a battle reenactment may be,  people love to hear the boom of musketry and cannon.

Well,  what is going on here?
Looks like a tent hospital.
Both Cathy & Ben are medical doctors in their real  21st century lives but had studied medical practices of the past as well.  
For this event - their first together - they didn’t do any planning other than Ben would bring the operating table and mannequin and perform the amputation while Cathy brought her ether cones,  box of amputation instruments,  etc.,  and do the rest. 
As 21st Michigan nurse,  Cathy,  said,  "Nearly every wounded soldier received the anesthetics ether or chloroform,  but some of the soldiers had adverse reactions which made it seem as though they weren’t anesthetized for their amputations"  Cathy was portraying Dr.  Mary E.  Walker,  whose service in the Union Army included her being the first female awarded the Medal of Honor.  
Cathy & Ben spoke to the public about their duties in the medical field as well as historical information:  the post-Civil War stats showed amputating limbs increased the soldiers’  survival rate by 25%  by decreasing infection rates in an era before antibiotics were invented,  and Dr. Joseph Lister’s discovery  (yes,  of Listerine  fame)  in 1865 that using carbolic acid to sterilize instruments and the surgeon’s hands decreased infection.  She assisted Ben Bever with  “amputating”  a soldier’s leg,  describing the instruments used and their purpose plus the different wound dressings used- sawdust,  plaster,  and lint created by removing the fibers from linen fabric.  Dr.  Jonathan Letterman,  Medical Director of the Union Army in 1863,  created the concept of wound triage,  an ambulance Corp.  for wounded soldiers with well-trained stretcher bearers instead of the usual musicians,  designed well-ventilated hospitals to decrease the spread of infection using Nurse Florence Nightingale’s published recommendations after the Crimean War,  created oral and written tests to make sure Union Army surgeon candidates were qualified,  and revolutionized the Army’s supply methods by sending medical supplies,  food,  etc.,  to areas where a battle was anticipated to occur.  The last wounded soldier from the battle of Gettysburg wasn’t transported to a hospital until November 1863,  and nearly every surgeon educated in America had never seen the inside of the human body before because nearly every state had laws making dissection of the human body illegal.  Doctors earned their American medical degrees by attending 6-12 months of lectures which were repeated for the next 6-12 months and then had an apprenticeship for 1-3 years with a practicing physician.
Thank you for that information Cathy!
The spectators who visited were given a wonderful Civil War history lesson.  Cathy,  the nurse on the left,  told the good folks that  "nearly every wounded soldier received the anesthetics ether or chloroform, but some of the soldiers had adverse reactions which made it seem as though they weren’t anesthetized for their amputations."

Sue is very much into textiles,  and she made her own
flax break  (above) and hackling board  (below) to show the
process of preparing flax for spinning. 

Kids always seem to add so much to any reenactment.  It makes it  "real."
I miss when my own daughter was this age and running with her friends.

My lovely and beautiful wife & I.
Though she doesn't reenact nearly as much as she used to, 
she joined me here for both days!

The Lynch family,  who's members literally live all over the world,  came together for their family reunion.  And what better place and activity to do so!

So many of us have not seen each other in over two years,  so this event was a sort of gathering of friends.

There was a working blacksmith on site as well, 
and he also consistently drew the crowds.

There was music played throughout the weekend:
Not Quite Ourselves performed traditional mostly American music of the 19th century, 
including one of my favorites,  Sweet Betsy From Pike  (a tune not heard too often).

Erin and her friend,  Loni,  entertained at camp with mostly wonderful
traditional Irish music.
Not only that,  but they also gave a history of the wind instruments they were
playing as well.

The Assenmachers always do a wonderful job in re-creating a Victorian parlor.

John Lennon and his 1843 circus poster
Click to enlarge to
see Lennon's poster and
his inspiration.
For Sunday the Sanilac Historical Society planned a 19th century circus.  
It was unfortunate that we had a downpouring of rain for much of the time,  but it did stop long enough to get some of the entertainment going,  including jugglers and balancers  (not sure what they're called,  but they did balance themselves in ways I could never imagine).
I have to admit,  the entire time this was going on I had the bouncy circus organ tune of  "Being For The Benefit Of Mr.  Kite"  from the Beatles Sgt.  Pepper album playing in my head.  John Lennon garnered most of the lyrics for that song  - almost word for word - from an 1840s circus poster he had purchased at an antique shop.

For the one or two of you who are not familiar with this song,  please click the link here and then scroll further down at the pictures as you listen:

I know very little about 19th century circus-type entertainments,  but I must say the ladies here were very enjoyable and pretty amazing to watch.

They made their act look so easy. 

According to their Facebook page,  they are a small circus
company based out of Grand Rapids,  Michigan.
I will be honest - I was pretty blown away by them.
The mental and physical excursion to do such balancing
was simply amazing.

And then,  a little turnip came and stole the show....
Little Nadia,  who is no more than two,  decided she wanted in on some of that circus action and strolled right up to the performing area.  Her father realized it after she had made it to the pole and ran up after her.
The performer reached out to the little girl,  and she gladly walked up...

...only to find herself...

...being lifted into the air by the performer!
The crowd that encircled the area were filled with smiles,  and the cameras were clicking.
As good as the performers were,  this was the highlight of the day.  It brought many smiles to everyone.

One more thing before we leave for this week:
I am saddened to report that  "One is missing from our  'family'  who will never return."  
On this just past July 28 our dear friend and 21st Michigan member,  Violet,  also the mother of Larissa,  passed from this world.  She was very ill and in hospice care.  A few days before her passing,  Larissa asked her mother what should be said to everyone who asked about her.  In Violet's own words:  “Thank everyone for their prayers,  love and concern.  Your prayers have been answered.  I’m healed and gone home.”  
Revelation 21:4  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;  and there shall be no more death,  neither sorrow,  nor crying,  neither shall there be any more pain:  for the former things are passed away.
God bless the family of Violet Kyryluk.
Thank you for your friendship.
Ian,  here,  beautifully performed Amazing Grace
on his bagpipes in honor of our friend, Violet.

And then---just like that---the event was over.
Port Sanilac 2021 was a success,  which made me very happy.
And then a few of us continued our A&W tradition once we were all
packed up from the long weekend.  Great burgers - great tradition!

To everyone who came out and participated,  I thank you.  Many people are not aware of how close we came to losing this event.  We've already lost plenty of reenactments this year,  and to lose another,  well,  that would have left 2022 with only one or two.  I mean,  in past years from May through October we used to have one or two events a month.  Now we're lucky if there are three or four total.  Be honest:  how many Civil War reenactments have you been to in 2021?  One?  Two?  
Reenactors:  without your participation,  these events will falter and die.
It almost happened here,  but at the last minute some wonderful and active reenactors - those who came out and made history come alive - saved the day.
And I thank them.
But we can't always depend on the other person showing up.
We need you.
Remember:  the 1st full weekend in August - in 2022 it will be August 6 & 7 with set up on the 5th.

Until next time,  see you in time.

For more information on mourning,  please click HERE

~   ~   ~


Daisy Debs said...

Oh ! I just love that adorable " little turnip " ! :) ...and you all look just grand !

Lady Locust said...

Another success! It's refreshing when folks are able to smile and let out an easy sigh so to speak.
I think it's kinda unfortunate that more people don't appreciate what you (reenactors) do and what can be learned from such an event. We don't have CW reenactments out here (west) since it wasn't really settled yet. I would love to attend an event like that but obviously would take some doing.
Glad it was a fun time & lovely tribute to Violet.

Historical Ken said...

Thank you both so very much for your kind words.
I am very proud to be a part of such a thriving reenacting/living history scene here in Michigan. I think because the cities and state tends to destroy or cover up so much of our past here that those of us with this passion have found our way to bring it all out front.
Thank you again - I so very much appreciate your comments.