Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield, on the 154th anniversary weekend of the battle. While there, I was able to explore part of the battlefield which has been beautifully preserved. During this anniversary weekend, there were living historians who were doing artillery-firing demonstrations, infantry demonstrations including musket fire, camp life, and military music.

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The Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is comprised of Kennesaw Mountain, including the large open field which had been held by Confederate forces, and a monument to the Georgia troops;

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Pigeon Hill where one of the two major attacks by Sherman’s forces were repulsed; a 24-gun battery of Federal artillery. These guns sit on the location where an actual Federal gun emplacement was located, comprised of four batteries (6 guns each), which bombarded Kennesaw Mountain for 10 days, attempting to force the Confederates off the hill. Cheatham Hill, located south of Kennesaw mountain and to the east of Sherman’s headquarters, saw the fiercest fighting of the battle at what would be known as the “Dead Angle” where Confederate forces had created a protruding angle in their lines and was a slaughter of the Union Forces. Today, a monument to the Illinois troops stands at this location. The Wallace House stands to the west of the mountain, facing Pigeon Hill. Built in 1853, Josiah Wallace abandoned his home as Sherman’s forces invaded. The home would be used by Union General Oliver O. Howards during the battle, though it had earlier been used as a Confederate hospital. Kolb’s Farm is located at the southernmost end of the National Battlefield Park, and well south of the mountain. It was the location of General Hooker’s headquarters after the repulsion of Confederate forces under General Hood by Union troops on June 22nd, 1864. These locations and the sites of other locations (many of which are no longer standing or are private residents) can all be found in the Kennesaw Mountain handout available in the visitor center.

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Also on site is a theatre showing a film about the battle and the park, as well as a museum. The museum contains maps, uniforms, weapons, artifacts – such as surveying equipment, a Union Surgeons’ capital case – which had been captured and used by a Confederate surgeon, ammunition, original cap case, and the Confederate Medal of Honor.

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The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was the seventh engagement in the Atlanta Campaign as Sherman and his generals marched their way through north Georgia toward Atlanta. Sherman’s objective was to get into Atlanta and raze it to the ground to cut off all transportation and supplies from one of the main hubs of the Confederacy. Sherman and his generals would clash with Johnson and his generals off and on for 10 days on miles of Marietta, GA ground, surrounding and including Kennesaw Mountain.

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Knowing the Federals were on the move in their direction, Confederate forces began digging in on June 19th, taking command of earthworks complete with trenches and fortifications prepared by volunteers working around the clock, as they entrenched for the impending attack. On June 22nd, the battle for Kennesaw began when Sherman and Johnson’s troops clashed at Kolb’s farm, south of Kennesaw Mountain. General Hood, one of Johnson’s commanders, had wrongly assumed that he had outflanked General Hooker (USA) and attacked without reconnoitering the area and having proper intelligence. The battle would be a disaster for Confederate troops, costing them roughly 1,500 soldiers, roughly one third of Union losses. This action led Sherman to think that the Confederate line was spread thin and would be easy to penetrate and break in two. This caused him to choose a frontal attack on the entrenched Confederate Forces, which he had not wanted to do since the high losses he had received at Resaca, GA. On June 16th, he would tell Chief of Staff, Major General Henry Halleck, “I am now inclined to feign with both flanks and assault the center. It may cost us dear but the results would surpass an attempt to pass around.” 1

Deciding to give up the element of surprise in exchange for loosing fewer men, Sherman ordered an artillery barrage to start the battle. On the morning of June 27th, cannon opened fire to the west of Kennesaw mountain, as federal artillery tried to rain shells down upon the Confederate forces and lessen their hold on the mountain in order to take them much easier to push back or surrender. Unfortunately for the Federals, it alerted the Confederates of the impending attack and allowed them to entrench and prepare more securely. Following the end of the bombardment, Sherman sent 8,000 of his forces to attack right in the middle of the Confederate line, thinking it weak. They were anything but! The fighting was close and personal, artillery raining grape shot and canister on one assault of General Cleburnes’ men; to Missourians fighting Missourians; whole regiments not returning their ram rod to their rifles, but sticking it in the ground in front of them for speed of loading, and creating a much more deadly fire down on the federals. Some Confederates were well entrenched and were able to pick off their Yankee foe without being reached. In one section of the line, the underbrush caught fire from the muzzle flashes and risked burning the wounded Yankees in it to death. Seeing this, Colonel William Martin of the 1st/15th Arkansas Regiment took a white handkerchief and stood atop the wall of the trenches, calling a cease fire long enough that the Federals could move their wounded to safety. Many Confederates jumped out of the trenches and helped move these wounded men to safety, before returning to the trenches and preparing once again for battle. Colonel Martin was handed a pair of pearl-handled pistols by a Federal officer out of appreciation.

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In one point of the Confederate line on Cheatham’s hill, the line bowed out, creating a right angle known as the Dead Angle. 180 Tennesseans held the Western side of the angle, while other Tennessee regiments held the southern side, with a total of ten artillery pieces, all poised to obliterate the oncoming Yankees. Union General Davis hoped to quickly overrun the Confederate position by consolidating his men into densely packed columns rather than battle lines. They attacked the Confederate forces, to the point the Rebels had a fierce fight on their hands to hold their position, in part due to Federal artillery having obliterated the top part of a section of their breastworks. Also defended by sharpened logs positioned toward the oncoming enemy (called abatis). “No sooner would a regiment mount our works than they were shot down or surrendered, and soon we had every gopher hole full of Federal prisoners,” wrote Watkins. “Yet still the Yankees came. It seemed impossible to check the onslaught.” 1 Though viciously assaulting the Confederate line, and rotating troops from the rear to quickly fill in holes created by their fallen comrades, the luscious undergrowth and abatis slowed the Federals to essentially being caught in a quagmire, and the Confederates picked them off one by one with heavy fire.

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“A poor wounded and dying boy, not more than sixteen years of age, asked permission to crawl over our works, and when he crawled to the top, and just as Blair Webster and I reached up to help the poor fellow, he, the Yankee, was killed by his own men,” wrote Watkins. “In fact, I have ever thought that is why the slaughter was so great in our front, that nearly, if not as many, Yankees were killed by their own men as by us. The brave ones, who tried to storm and carry our works, were simply between two fires.” 1

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By 11am, the two federal Brigade commanders Newton and Davis sent word to command at the rear that there was no possible way of breaching the Confederate line. They had lost nearly 1,500 men and were then instructed that those who were able were to retreat to the rear. Those who could not without receiving further casualties were to retreat under the cover of night. Just north of them, nearly 13,500 men were still bombarding the Confederate center. With the retreat of these two Brigades, the Confederates at the Dead Angle got desperately needed relief.

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““When the Yankees fell back and the firing ceased, I never saw so many broken down and exhausted men in my life,” he wrote after the war. “I was as sick as a horse, and as wet with blood and sweat as I could be, and many of our men were vomiting with excessive fatigue, over exhaustion, and sunstroke; our tongues were parched and cracked for water, and our faces blackened with powder and smoke, and our dead and wounded were piled indiscriminately in the trenches. There was not a single man in the company who was not wounded, or had holes shot through his hat and clothing.” Many of Cleburne’s and Cheatham’s men taunted the retreating Yankees, screaming “Chickamauga, Chickamauga,” because many of those attackers had yelled “Missionary Ridge” during the advance.” 1

While all the fighting continued at the Confederate center, Union General Schofield’s troops quietly slipped to CSA General Johnson’s right attempting to outflank him, and were undiscovered for some time.

Over the next day, the Yankees formed into a 4-mile long battle line, skirmishing with the Confederates here and there, but for the most part the Confederates – both infantry and dismounted cavalry – fought from behind the breastworks. Little became of the skirmishes other than another 100 Union losses. The Confederates continued to hold the position until it became clear to Johnson that he had been outflanked. Rather than being completely cut off and obliterated, he withdrew his forces from Kennesaw Mountain to reform and hold at Smyrna, Georgia.

The whole battle of Kennesaw Mountain would cost Sherman 3,000 troops and two of his generals, and he would dub the battle “the hardest fighting of that campaign up to that date.” In contrast, the Confederates lost between 500-700 men and one general during the fighting. It was a Confederate victory tactically, though it felt short-lived as Johnson was unable to permanently stop Sherman’s forces. (To read more details of the battle, check out this link: http://www.aboutnorthgeorgia.com/ang/Battle_of_Kennesaw_Mountain)

Sherman would remain in place for 4 more days, before Johnson was forced to leave and retreat toward the ill-fated Atlanta. Sherman would follow and continue fighting his way toward Atlanta on his fiery march to the sea.

 

 

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If you get the opportunity, please visit Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. For Georgians, it’s a great day-trip! Our battlefields and national parks are in danger of closing and losing that history forever if we do not visit them, support them, and teach our children the real history. Kennesaw Mountain is one of the better-preserved battlefields in Georgia and worth the trip (especially if you are a history nerd like me!) My trip was delightful, and I plan to go back in the future and take to some of the trails! If you go and enjoy your trip, please post photos of your trip in the comments!

 

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The Cannonball House

Recently, I had the immense pleasure of doing a photo shoot at a historic mansion in Middle, GA. The concept of the photo shoot was acting as if I were the woman of the house during the time of the war.

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All modern photos credit to Kellie Morgan.

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We were also exploring what we might experience if my man were leaving for war when it was on our doorstep, or finally returning home to me from the ravages of battle. These pictures are an attempt to capture what might have been experienced or felt by those living through the siege of Macon.

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“Is it you?”

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“It’s me, Darling. I’m home! I had to come right to you.”

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“How glad I am you have returned to me.”

The house of which I speak is the historic Cannonball House. It was built from 1852-1855 for Judge Asa Holt and his wife Mary Palmer Holt, and cost $7,000 to build (approximately $193,424 today). The Greek revival “Half house” was designed by the prominent Macon architect, Elam Alexander. At the time of its completion, the home consisted of a men’s parlor and a lady’s parlor, two bedrooms, a sitting area, and a hallway, with a brick kitchen behind the house where all meals were prepared and eaten. The servant’s quarters were in the same building on the second floor above the kitchen.

 

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Cannonball House in 1910

 

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At the brick kitchen to the rear of the house.

Judge Holt was a probate judge who served on the General Assembly of Georgia during the 1840s. He would not only own several plantations throughout the state, but was also a cotton broker in Savannah. With their main residence in Louisville, GA, the Holts would finally take possession of their home in Macon in 1855, using it as their winter residence three months out of the year.

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The book I am reading was from the 1850s!

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After Mary’s death on January 1, 1862 from “dropsy of the chest” (now known as Congestive Heart Failure, for which there were very few treatments available at the time), Judge Holt would live in the house by himself until March 25th, 1862 when he would marry the 30-year-old spinster Miss Nora Burke, just eleven weeks later. Judge Holt was 72 at the time of the union. Nora was the younger sister of Methodist Reverend John W. Burke, owner of the Burke Publishing Company.

Nora Holt around the time of her marriage

Nora Holt, around the time of her marriage.

In July 1864, General George Stoneman was sent by General William T. Sherman to destroy Macon, GA. Macon was a strategic spot for Sherman’s forces to destroy because it was an industrial and key city for the Confederacy. Cannons, artillery armament, medicine, uniforms, weapons, and dental equipment were all being produced for the Confederacy in Macon, GA. Macon would also be the second largest hospital city in the Confederacy, hosting eleven primary hospitals and serving over 6,000 wounded and sick by this point of the war. A secondary mission of General Stoneman was to free the Federal prisoners from Camp Oglethorpe on the outskirts of the city, prior to swinging south to free the prisoners at Andersonville. All of this was unknown to Judge Holt as he was overseeing his plantation in Louisville, but Nora was in Macon.

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“Darling, what is happening?” “Fort Hawkins is being shelled.”

 

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“Do you have to go?” “I’m afraid I must, my love.” “Come back to me.” “I promise.”

Recent flooding had caused a rise in the Ocmulgee River, which flows just two blocks from the house. This flooding caused the river to become impassible due to the collapse of the bridge, and served to keep General Stoneman out of Macon! General Stoneman was not to be stopped. With Union troops camping on the Dunlap farm (now part of the Ocmulgee National Monument) just two miles from Macon, General Stoneman ordered his artillery to open fire on the city of Macon in the early hours of July 30th, 1864. Hotchkiss Shells rained down on Macon, effectively destroying what he could while being unable to enter the city. One of these shells would ricochet off the sidewalk in front of the Holt residence, careen into the house, hitting and shattering the third pillar in the front parlor, barrel through the front wall in the entrance hall and crash through the floor, unexploded. This would be the only residence to sustain damage in Macon during the War Between the States, thus earning it the later name the “Cannonball House.” The Holts would immediately have repairs done to the house after General Stoneman moved on, and no major structural damage was done other than the pillar which had to be replaced. Both Judge Holt and Nora would survive the war.

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Cross sectional of a Hotchkiss Shell

In May 1872, Judge Holt died, leaving Nora a widow. She would remarry to Charles Canning, a widower with two daughters, in 1874. Charles would move himself, his daughters and three grandchildren, and an invalid sister into the home with Nora.

During that time, the house underwent renovation to now maintain the two parlors that were original to the house, and would now have six bedrooms, the hall, and a dining room which was in the screened in porch as an addition to the back left side of the residence. Meals would still be prepared in the brick kitchen standing to the rear.

Canning:Martin family- Charles, Nora, Lizzie Canning (his younger daughter) and Kate Canning Martin's children- Charles Canning Martin (next to Nora) and the William Martin and Katie Mar

Charles Canning Martin, Nora Canning, Lizzie Canning, Charles Canning, William Martin, Katie Martin Roberson.

In 1904, Charles’ great granddaughter, Elizabeth Martin, was born in the home where she would live until her death in April 1971.

During the year 1962, her family all gone and Elizabeth alone remaining, Elizabeth was approached by members of the Sidney Lanier Chapter #25 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, inquiring about the purchase of her home. They wanted to acquire it for their chapter headquarters, as well as to open the home for tours. After deliberation, Elizabeth would sell the home to them in November 1962, as long as she could remain living in the home. The sale was completed under these conditions, and the Cannonball House would open as a historic museum in 1964.

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Today the house has three bedrooms (one not open to the public) containing period furnishings from the Holt/Canning/Martin families, two parlors which contain the furnishings of the two oldest sororities – ADPi and Phi Mu, the entrance hall and stair case, a formal dining room with furnishings from the Sidney Lanier UDC and chairs possessing needlepoint seats of the State Seals from our great Union. Also in the house is a War between the States museum with original uniforms and artifacts, including weapons created just down the road at Griswoldville, GA, where a major skirmish would happen with General Stoneman’s troops in 1864, just to name a few! The brick kitchen still stands and shows artifacts of cooking and preserving food of the time, as well as spinning and other period arts. A gift shop is also on the premises where you may purchase research material or a souvenir! Today the Cannonball House continues as a historic home and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is owned and operated by “The Friends of the Cannonball House, Inc.” and is open Monday through Saturday for tours and rentals.

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I hope you can see from the pictures taken here, the beauty of this house and the rich history on the premises, as well as in the town! If you are in the middle Georgia area, I highly recommend you stop and take advantage of this hidden treasure in our state!

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Special thanks to Jessie Whitehead, docent and Guest Services Coordinator for the Cannonball House, for letting me pick her brain and bug her with lots of questions! For more information, please visit www.cannonballhouse.org, call the staff at 478-745-5982, or email at info@cannonballhouse.org! Be sure to visit and take a tour. It’s well worth your time. The Cannonball House is located at 856 Mulberry St., Macon, GA 31201.

What are your interests?

I am so thankful for each and every one of my readers! I hope you enjoy this blog, as I love the topics and I put my heart and soul into it. But I know if it weren’t for you then I wouldn’t have a successful blog!

So, I want to know from you what you would like to read about or learn about! Please post in the comments topics or articles you want to learn more about or are curious about, and maybe throw in a few you have loved!

~The Southern Belle

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I would like to give a thank you to the Jones County SCV for having me come speak last month on “Medical Practices During the War Between the States.”  A special thank you to my fellow members of the 53rd Georgia Co. K who came out to hear me!

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The SCV meeting.

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Members of the 53rd GA, Co K!

 

 

Work Dresses

One of the things I find most helpful in historic sewing is having a pattern specific to me. The generic patterns are a great starting point, and can provide a lot of information, but most women do not fit directly into any one pattern. They may need an allowance here, a tuck there, a slightly different drape to the fabric in another place to make it look right on their body. So, I recommend making a specific pattern, either in muslins (pattern pieces made out of muslin material so it can be sewed and checked or tweaked before you cut your outside fabric) or a custom made pattern. Years ago I took a pattern making class and never in my dreams did I realize what a benefit this skills would be to me! I personally make my custom patterns either from pattern making paper (available online) or from ironed packing paper! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, right? I had a friend help me adjust the pattern to my body and how everything fits with my corset, and once we had all those tweaks completed, I drafted everything on pattern paper and now have my own personal pattern. As I have made the bodice several times, I have found I have tweaked it even more, and have adjusted the pattern accordingly. Now I have a bodice that fits me exactly and looks good!

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Pattern making! (Yes, I live in a 1960s house!)

The second benefit of having these custom patterns is you always know it is going to fit! I use the same bodice pattern for my day/tea dresses, and my work dress, just changing the sleeves or small details that make it unique to each type of dress. This last month I have been making a new work dress. I have made it through two years of reenacting with only one work dress (don’t ask me how), and it was far beyond time to have a few more. So, I have now made two so far this year. I’m going to share a few tips and tricks I have figured out along the way.

One of the biggest tricks I have found is to think about the skirt and the bodice separately. They each have specific things that need to be done on them. I personally like to work on the skirt first because it is quite time consuming. The skirt on a work dress is only 2-3 panels of fabric, verses the 4-5 in a tea dress or ball gown. I prefer three panels in mine, as there is more room to work. I finish my dresses just a couple inches off the ground, and have measurements noted for both my work dress, which will just have a corded petticoat under it, or my tea/ball gowns, which will have hoops under them. For me, at almost 5’8”, I finish my work dresses at a 39” skirt, which means I cut them out at 41” in length. Three panels of 45” fabric sewn together gives me 143” of fabric that I then have to calculate how to pleat down to my 26” waist. I know, it’s no Scarlet O’Hara, but I am telling on myself! I have found after making several of these, that I like having a little wiggle room. With as much fabric as is overlapped with the pleats and folded over for finishing the skirt to the waistband, I now finish my work dresses to a 29” waist closure. That gives me just a little wiggle room over all my under-pinnings and all the layers of fabric around my waist. I have finished these last two dresses differently. On one, I used double box pleats due to the design in the fabric. They worked PERFECTLY with the softness of this dress, the weave, and print of the fabric. It was a much nicer type of dress so this worked well with it.

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Double Box pleats

The second work dress I made was definitely made to be a WORK dress. The coarser fabric and checked print all said it was made to work. For this one, I made knife pleats all the way around. On my tea dresses, I will often change the directions of the knife pleats as I go around the skirt for a nice finish detail, but on the work dress, I had them all facing the same direction. Now that I know the math for getting all that fabric pleated down to my waist in each way, I make notes of it and keep it for future reference.

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Knife pleats

Another trick I have learned along the way is to sew the skirt panels together, press the seams open and then go ahead and attach the kick pleat to the bottom and hand stitch it in place before I ever work on the waist. I find this makes it MUCH easier to keep it flat and smooth, without buckles or puckers that will show on the skirt when it is done. It also makes it faster for sewing. I pin everything in place with the fabric laying flat, then I drape the fabric over my knees, keeping it taught by applying just a little outward pressure with my knees, and then hand stitching in between, rotating the fabric and resetting it after each section is stitched.

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Kick pleat section done over the knees

Once all that is done and I have a good crisp edge, then I start on the pleating for the waist. The other thing I have noticed by doing it this way is that I can find my measurement on the print of the fabric, and know that it is going to be the same all the way around the skirt, so I get a perfectly even hang from the waistband without extra work.

Once I pleat and pin the whole skirt, I baste the pleats in place. I learned the hard way about trying to attach the waistband without it basted. I also learned on this last dress, that it is so much easier to apply the waistband and keep anything from moving if you will pin the pleats under the location where the waistband will be attached. This keeps the pleats from moving and everything consistent while you hand stitch the waistband in place. Be sure to get enough of a bite on the fabric with each stitch while you are attaching the waistband or it either will not hold, or will not go through all the layers.

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Folded over section, sewing the waistband to the skirt. You can see the knife pleats folded over on the inside.

Once all that is done, and I know I have the right overlap on the dogleg and the tab of the waistband, I consider the skirt done for the time being and move to the bodice.

When working on the bodice, I go ahead and sew the back pieces together, and pleat the front panels on both the fabric and lining material. I press them – pressing the back seams open, and the front pleats toward the side seams – then I carefully pin and baste the pieces together, making sure not to baste the neckline or the front opening, as these will be adjusted and trimmed while assembling it. Once these are satisfactory, I sew the side and shoulder seams together.

1860s dresses have piping around the sleeves and the bottom of the bodice, if not in every seam on the bodice. I prefer just the armholes and the bottom, so that’s what I do. Piping is made by using strips of fabric long enough to go around both arm holes with some overlap, and long enough to do the whole bottom of the bodice with a 1” tab extra on each side. I like the strips to be between 3-4” wide so there is enough room for them to be folded over to encase the yarn (making the piping) and still have room for it to be included in the shoulder seam, or to become the finishing casing at the bottom of the bodice. You can either cut these out in line with the pattern of the fabric, or on the bias, depending on the design and the look you want.

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Piping made on the bias.

I have done both, and liked the look I achieved with both. I attach these with a zipper presser foot on my machine so that they can be stitched very closely to the piping and it doesn’t pull away from the seam at all. At this point, it’s time to start hand stitching.

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Piping and sleeve attached with a zipper foot.

I go ahead and fold in the front, making the placket on which I will be attaching the hook-and-eye tape. Once this is done, and I know the pattern is continuing unbroken or blending across the front of the bodice, I stitch it in place with double thread in the needle.

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Then, I trim the lining away from the neck at least ¼- ½ inch and roll the neck in place, pinning as I go. Once it is done, and I know the neckline is in the right place, and lining up correctly, I hand stitch it in place as well, making sure it does not show on the outside.

If my hook-and-eye tape tab needs to be under the edge of the rolled neck, I will go ahead and set it, making sure that it lines up right for the proper closure, and then pin it in place, that way I can stitch the neckline down on top of the tape. Sometimes I will attach the hook-and-eye tape first and then do the neckline depending on what is going on with the dress. Hook and eye tape is attached with even stitches done with double thread, making sure it is secure and does not shift while you are stitching.

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The bottom piping is then folded up and the edge rolled under forming the bottom interfacing for the bodice. Be careful to make sure your bottom hook and eye are not covered. Usually my interfacing ends up being about 1.5” deep. I stitch it in place with the same stitches I have been using for the other parts of the bodice.

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Piping attached to the bottom of the bodice. The extended fabric will become the lower interfacing.

On to the sleeves. There are several types of sleeves for this time period. Bishop sleeves, coat sleeves, and Pagoda sleeves with under sleeves were the three most popular and most represented on original dresses now in museums that I have found. Depending on the dress and the purpose for the dress will depend on which type of sleeve you use. One would only use Pagoda sleeves on day dresses or tea dresses, never something as common as a work dress, and ball gowns were usually cap sleeves or with a Bertha (That’s for another post). When doing a work dress, some people like a coat sleeve, which has two seams the length of the sleeve, no cuff, and generally fits closer to the arm. Another option is the bishop sleeve. This one has a lot more fabric and a cuff, which is easily unbuttoned and rolled up, allowing for washing dishes, work, getting bloody working on the wounded such as when I portray a nurse, or just when it’s too blasted hot and you need some air movement! I personally prefer this option considering all I do at events, and the rolls I portray. I also like that there is more air room around your arm making it more comfortable in the long run. I chose Bishop sleeves on both of my new dresses for this reason.

With there being extra fabric to the sleeve, it will not fit securely in the armhole without gathering it. Based on the research I have done, a Bishop sleeve is either gathered, smocked, or pleated to fit the hole. However, while I have read it can be pleated, I have never found evidence of pleating in Bishop sleeves, so I decided to gather these. I did a quick stitch by hand through the top edge of the sleeve and gathered it, carefully spacing all the pleats so that it was evenly distributed across the cap of the sleeve. Once this is done, I stitched the sleeve close to the piping, making sure there are no gaps.

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Gathered cap on a Bishop sleeve, attached with the piping in the shoulder seam.

At the bottom of the sleeve, you whip stitch the opening between the sleeve body and the cuff, allowing enough of an opening to roll the cuff and sleeve up. Attach the sleeve either completely by hand, or sewing the first side on and then folding it over and stitching the second side to the inside of the sleeve. Make a buttonhole with tight stitches, slicing the inside open with a seam ripper when finished, and attach the button to the opposite side, making sure it fits your wrist.

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Tight stitches on a hand stitched button hole, using authentic stitches.

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Slicing open the button hole! This keeps it tight and neat.

At this point, the bodice and skirt are both done. Pin the bodice to the skirt, making sure the bottom piping is fitting securely to the top of the pleating, completely hiding the waistband. Then stitch from a couple inches into the front, around the back, and a couple stitches onto the front on the other side of the bodice, stitching between the piping and the bodice body through the waistband, securely attaching the two pieces. You don’t stitch the front to the waistband so that there is room to open the front of the bodice and the skirt to get in and out of the dress. Once this is done, attach hook and bar closures to the tab of the waistband, making sure that the dogleg closes correctly. Then I attach a hook to the bottom of each side of the bodice front and bar closures to the waistband so that the waist band doesn’t dip down but the whole dress functions as one piece.

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Dress with the bodice open. You can see the dog leg is hooked shut, and you can see the hook and bar closures for the bottom of the bodice!

Once all these are in place, add collars, cuffs, jewelry as desired, perhaps a pinner apron over the front to protect the dress, particularly if cooking or getting dirty, then enjoy your new dress!

If you would like to see my latest dress, be sure to come out this weekend to Old Clinton War Days in Gray, GA. Battle at 2:05 pm each day!!

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New Recruit’s Perspective

Good Morning readers! I’ve been thinking lately about the soldier’s of the war. What did they go through? What was their experience the first time on the field? The fear, the overwhelming of senses. Could they make it through battle? Rather than sharing my supposition, a friend of mine has graciously shared his first-time experience with me. Check it out!

By Les Patton

It was my second re-enactment. I had only a uniform and a musket. I was given a pair of boots that did not fix too well. I told my Captain that the boots were tight. He told me that was realistic. A good portion of the Army of Northern Virginia did not have shoes. The shoes and other needed equipment were often taking from fallen soldiers after a battle.

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Photo credit: Joey Young

The unit marched out onto the field and assumed our defensive positions. We were in a trench about 10 feet in front of another mound where I could hear a cannon crew preparing their gun. It was cold and snow flurries were falling. There was a slight whiteness to the ground where the snow would melt almost as fast as it hit the ground. Ahead of me I could see about 200 feet. There were numerous trees to both the left and right but thinned out in front. There was a mist hanging over the field and
there was hardly any wind.

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I then heard my Captain give the command to load. Everyone in the company loaded as quickly as they could. You could easily tell who the veterans were. Their musket were loaded before us newly arrived recruits had our cartridges out of the box. Then for what seemed like an eternity, we waited, and listened, but heard nothing except the falling snow flurries. They fell like the stars.

Then the ground began to shake, I heard the thunder of horses getting closer. I saw a horse and rider approaching fast. I heard him say to an officer several yards from me. “The Yankees are coming.” He pointed into the trees and said they would be here in minutes.

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Photo Credit: Charleston Tintypist (Be SURE to check out her work!)

Then, I heard the shout of a word that will forever be engraved in my memory. From behind me, loud and crisp, “Fire”. Within a second, the cannons began to roar. Each time they fired the ground would shake. We laid in the trenches with our hands over our ears. It was a deafening roar. Leaves and twigs began falling all around us. Some even fell on us. The air in front and all around us turned blue from the cannon blast. I could not see more than 50 feet in front of me.

Posted by Charles Harris

From Charles Harris

We then heard the word “Rise.” We all stood up and dressed out lines. “Forward March.” At the arms port, we walked through the blue smoke. With each breath, my throat became dryer and dryer. It was a horrible taste. This was the taste of battle. Then came the command of halt. We all stopped and stood staring into the blue smoke. Then came the command of “Fire!”

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Photo credit: Matt Young

I pointed my musket and began to fire. I started to re load as fast as I could. I still could not see at what I was firing. Just aiming and shooting into the blue smoke. By now the smoke was so think I could only see about 20 feet in front of me. Which each round of ammo fired, the blue smoked, thickened. It was like a big blue blanket covering everything. The air was alive with sound. The muskets firing, the cannon roaring to our rear, The commanders shouting orders. It was a constant roar of noise which made anything difficult to distinguish.

I then heard someone yell “There they are boys, pour it into them!” I looked and saw faintly dark silhouettes appearing from within the smoke. For the first time I met the enemy, almost face-to-face. As they approached, I could hear them yelling. I could hear their commanders shouting orders. I could even hear the twigs cracking with each approaching step.

They stopped at a short distance which seemed just a few feet from us. I saw them level their muskets pointing straight at us. I could barely make out their faces when suddenly there faces were consumed by a bright flash. The person standing beside me fell to the ground. I hesitated with my loading and looked down at my falling companion. He was motionless. At that instant, the horrors of war hit me.

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Photo Credit: Matt Young

I felt someone grab my back and pull me backwards, I then heard someone yell ‘I said fall back.” Was this command meant for me? Or was it from the Federals? I started to fall back with the rest of the unit. When the order to halt was given, I found myself surrounded unfamiliar faces. To my left I saw an individual that I have never seen before. He had long hair and a beard. Neither his hair nor his beard looked as if had been washed in weeks. His uniform was in complete disarray, Patches everywhere. It
seems as if he was wearing just a bunch of patches sewed together. I looked down towards the ground and noticed his bare feet. I asked him where his shoes were, He told me that he has not had shoes in some time. Wasn’t the ground cold I asked, He smiled and said, “You get use to it.”

Gettysburg reenactment

A reenactor rests his feet during the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in Gettysburg, Pa. on Saturday.

I found myself in a completely different unit. I had no idea where my unit was or what
happened to it. I found the unit first sergeant and told him I did not know how I ended up with his unit and that I had to find my unit, He chuckled and said, “you are now part of this unit.” Part of that unit I remained for the duration of this battle.

I have served our country and retired from the United States Army. Although I have been in countless deployments, field exercises and assigned to a rapid deployment unit in Operation Desert Storm, I have never felt the confusion, chaos, and camaraderie within a unit facing the horrors of battle.


 

I hope you enjoyed Les’ story, and that it gives you a small look into the life and terror of a new soldier in battle. War is not all guts and glory. Sometimes it’s fear, terror, pain, suffering, and finding out just what one is made of.

Be sure to check out past blogs to learn more, and stay tuned for more blogs in the future!!

What are some things you would like to read about?

Chamberlain’s Wounds

Joshua L. Chamberlain is famously known as the “Hero of Little Round Top.” As commander of the 20th Maine, and placed on a hill called Little Round Top at the end of the Federal line at Gettysburg, he was tasked with holding it at all costs. Though he and his men held the hill against wave after wave of charging Alabamans and Texans, and then ordering his infamous bayonet charge, there is another reason I find Colonel Chamberlain majorly important. The face of medicine changed because of a wound he incurred.

General Joshua Chamberlain with sword

Petersburg, Summer 1864
The Battle of Petersburg (more accurately the Petersburg Campaign), started June 9, 1864 and went through March 25th, 1865. Just 9 days into the campaign, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine led the Union charge on the Confederate line. At this time, officers led from the front, not the rear (unless you were a brigade or army commander such as Longstreet, Jackson, and Lee). This made them much more likely targets for the enemy. Another of the main people the enemy would aim for was the color-bearers. When the colors went down it was disheartening to the troops, it would cause confusion on the line if the colors could not be seen, and the regiment could not stay together or aligned properly.

During the charge, his color bearer was shot and killed. Chamberlain picked up the colors and continued forward. Now he was doubly a target for the Confederates, and indeed, they found him. A ricocheting .58 caliber Minié ball struck Chamberlain in the right hip, traveling up and through his pelvis and lodged in the inside of his left hipbone, ripping through organs as it went. Knowing that the wound was most likely fatal, but not wanting his men to know, Chamberlain thrust his sword in the ground for support as blood poured from his body, filling his right boot. He stood there commanding, until the blood loss made him so weak that he collapsed on the field as the battle raged.

Commanders at the rear saw Colonel shoulder boards lying on the field through their field glasses and realized the famous Colonel was down. They ordered men forward with a stretcher to retrieve him. When these four men arrived, Chamberlain begged them to leave him there as he believed the wound was fatal (over 90% of abdominal wounds were fatal at this time) and he did not want others dying because of him. Knowing their orders, and that they could not let the hero of Little Round Top die on that field, they told him that their orders out ranked him, placed him on a stretcher and dispatched him to the rear. By the time he reached the field hospital three miles to the rear he had been bleeding for hours and lost a significant amount of blood, not to mention having a fractured pelvis, punctured bladder, and severed urethra.

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Harmon, W.J., McAllister, C.K. (2000) The Lion of the Union: The Pelvic Wound of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. The Journal of Urology, Vol 163, p 716.

His brother, Tom, would hear of his brother’s severe wounds and come running with two of their physicians who would join with the doctors caring for Chamberlain. Finally finding him in one of the many field hospitals, they set about trying to figure out what to do. Gut wounds were nearly always fatal, but they couldn’t let the Hero of Little Round Top (and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient) die, but surgery on the abdomen was usually fatal as well. It would end up being the patient who made the final decision – Chamberlain himself asked them to try it. Now at the time, abdominal surgeries were almost strictly prohibited because the majority of the patients DIED, yet he was asking them to take a chance and try. At this point, what did they have to lose? He was certainly going to die if they left him there. So they agreed.

As many of you may remember from previous blogs, we did have anesthesia at this time, in the form of Ether and Chloroform, though Chloroform was the most commonly used agent due to it’s stability, and being less flammable. The thing with these early anesthetics is that they are heavy gasses, and if left under too long, the anesthetic to make one insensible to the pain would actually take their life. This happens by the heavy gas displacing the oxygen in the lungs. To prevent that, they would have to awaken the patient and get them taking big breaths to replace that oxygen and force the gas out. This means that they would have to awaken the patient every 15 minutes or less. Chamberlain’s surgery was going to take far longer than that, yet he persisted.

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Retrieved from history.com

Therefore, on an operating table in a field hospital somewhere on the Virginia soil, four doctors and a brave man embarked on an unprecedented operation. Given morphine and chloroform, they opened his abdomen and began a surgery of exploration and restoration – tying off vessels, finding the bullet and removing it, having to rejoin his urethra to his bladder and repair the organ, during which they had to bring him out of anesthesia many times. Halfway through the surgery, the surgeons decided to stop, saying they could not torture him anymore. Chamberlain disagreed, and though in unimaginable pain, most likely held down to the table while they worked inside him, he gasped in pain and asked them, “I’m not dead yet. Please continue.” The incredible surgery would last FOUR HOURS. When they finally closed him, no one knew if he would survive. In fact, the exhausted doctors were incredibly skeptical that he would, but they had done their best. They nearly lost heart when they saw urine leaking from one of the wounds, knowing that most assuredly they had been unable to close everything and he would die, most likely from “ulcers” forming in the abdomen and causing death 1 (most likely they were indicating abscesses).

Yet, for several days he continued to fight and live. With no antibiotics (there were none until the 20th century), non-sterile conditions, unclean instruments with which the operation had been performed, lying in a field hospital surrounded by death and disease, no significant pain medication to deal with the tortuous agony he was enduring, and only able to void via a catheter they had placed (either made of metal or wood, most likely metal at this time), he endured. Due to concern that he might contract a disease on top of his wounds in his weakened state, eight litter bearers were ordered, and carried him 16 miles until he could be placed on the hospital ship Connecticut which was at City Point.3 The ship carried him to Annapolis where he was placed in the naval hospital for care. They say he arrived, “booted and spurred, blood soaked and smeared, hair and beard matted with blood and earth, pale as death and weak as water.” 1 One can only imagine his condition when they were operating on him! Probably laying right there on the table still in the blood and filth, and operated upon still in uniform.

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But God and Chamberlain had other plans. Miraculously, for that is all that can be said about it even by his doctors, Chamberlain began recovering. Six weeks after his surgery, the doctors had to admit that he was recovering so well that his chance of survival was nearly certain. Indeed, he would recover, but with several prolonged issues. He developed a fistula (tunneled opening) from the urethra that opened just in front of his scrotum due to the prolonged use of the catheter. It was unforeseen, and most likely unavoidable, but made things difficult the rest of his life. Due to this fistula and his issues voiding, he would have chronic urinary tract infections the rest of his life. In a day and time where there were no antibiotics, this was quite terrible and painful, taking him out of commission for sometimes weeks at a time. The pelvic fractures were (thankfully!) not unstable fractures – which is a serious medical emergency and often fatal – but would cause him continued issues, making him unable to mount his horse, Charlemagne, without help, or to sit in the saddle or even walk for very long.

Yet, all of these things did not stop this formidable man. He would return to command his troops in November 1864 as a newly promoted Brigadier General and would finish out the Petersburg campaign. He would, in fact, finish the war, being chosen by General Grant to receive the final surrender of arms from Confederate General John B. Gordon just three days after the armistice signing at Appomattox, VA. After the war, he returned to Maine and wrote extensively about his time serving in the Army of the Potomac and his experiences during the war. He returned to teaching for a time, and would serve as President of Bowdin College from 1871-1883, during which time he founded a Scientific Division and the establishment of a military drill at the college.2 At the urging of many, he ran for Governor of Maine and won, serving not one, but four terms in office.

Joshua Chamberlain by Dale Gallon

Painting by Dale Gallon

Strangely, it would be the War Between the States that took his life, but this would not happen until 1914. Complications of his wounds and multiple surgeries later, he continued to be plagued with problems and chronic infections. On his death in 1914, his doctors listed one the death certificate, “Bacteremia, probably secondary to a urinary tract infection.” 3 In other words, he got a urinary tract infection that went systemic, causing sepsis, and then death. He had survived heat stroke, malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis, smallpox, having his horse shot out from under him 5 times (twice on Charlemagne), being shot a total of six times. He engaged in 24 major battles, who knows how many skirmishes, captured 2,700 POWs and 8 battle flags.3 He accepted the final surrender and retired from military service a Major General. He went on to have quite a significant career in education and public life for 50 years, contributing much to this country, and yet in the end, the devastating wounds he incurred on Virginia soil would ultimately take his life.

I personally find Chamberlain an amazing man, one from whom we can learn much. But what I find most exciting about this tale, is that because of him, and his valor and fortitude, the first successful abdominal reconstructive surgery was performed on American soil!

 

 

  1. Nesbitt, M., Chamberlain, J.L., and Chamberlain, J.J.: Through Blood and Fire: Selected Civil War Papers of Major General Joshua Chamberlain. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 1996. Quoted in Harmon, W.J., McAllister, C.K. (2000) The Lion of the Union: The Pelvic Wound of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. The Journal of Urology, Vol 163, p 713-716.
    2. https://library.bowdoin.edu/arch/subject-guides/joshua-lawrence-chamberlain-resources.shtml

 

  1. Harmon, W.J., McAllister, C.K. (2000) The Lion of the Union: The Pelvic Wound of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. The Journal of Urology, Vol 163, p 713-716.

 

Other reading you may enjoy:

  • Trulock, A.R., Nolan A.T. (1992). In the Hands of Providence: Joshua L. Chamberlain and the American Civil War. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press.
  • Wallace, W.M. (1988). Soul of the Lion: A Biography of General Joshua L. Chamberlain. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Stan Clark Military Books.
  • McAllister, C.K. (1998). Fire, Blood, and the Lion of the Union: Joshua Chamberlain’s Civil War Ailments. The Paros of Alpha Omega Alpha, 60: 40.
  • Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion: U.S. Surgeon General’s Office 1861-1865. 3 Vols., 6 parts. Washington, D.C. (1870).

Hello readers!

Be sure to check out this short film about reenactors and the war, and interviewing reenactors. I personally have been on two of the battlefields featured in this production, and know some of those in it! I think you will enjoy it!

Let’s talk about Reenactors

Reenactors are a rare breed of people. They love history, they love teaching, and they LOVE this country. Many of our reenactors are military veterans who have sacrificed and served for this country. Many more of us are military family members who have sacrificed on the home front. But, all in all, whether veteran, family member, or civilian, our reenactors truly love this country and are very patriotic.

Those of us who are serious reenactors, are historians. We spend countless hours in research, pouring over journals, records, first-hand accounts, other historian’s research, maps, troop movements, military manuals, and more. We learn and know the correct clothing designs, materials, and accessories. We know our weapons and how to use them, the equipment of the time, items that would have been used at the time, medical equipment and procedures, troop movements, the manual of arms, actions on the battlefield, we learn skills of the time, and more.

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Ladies of the 53rd working on our crocheting skills.

We delve into the thoughts of the time, the motivations behind historic events, the reasons people joined the war (and they were quite varied), the reasons the war took place, the politics leading up to the war, and throughout the war, the complications for the war and the home front – from decisions made, to the impact of the war on the country as a whole, down to the Northern or Southern housewife. We study the shortages caused by the war and how it affected the people as well as how or if they were able to overcome it. We explore the effects of the war on the countryside from the North and the South. We find out what it was like to watch one’s town shelled until it’s nothing but empty husks of once majestic buildings, or to see your home, farm, and town burned and destroyed by an invading army. We educate ourselves on the cost of war, from minor skirmishes, to 16,000 men falling in one day, to the long-term effect of losing over 650,000 men in 4 years.

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Photo Credit: Sherry Frazier

We don’t just study these things, we are impassioned by them. One cannot study these things to the point that you feel as though the people about whom you read were one’s family members, without being passionate about it. We seek to describe it and portray it from the viewpoint and context of those who were there. Only those who lived through the actual events can give us true perspectives on the issues and time that we portray. Then, we take our passion and use it as the impetus to educate any and all who will listen!

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Photo Credit: Kellie Morgan

Reenactors aren’t motivated by politics, or the whim of a time. We are motivated by history! We feel our only job is to tell the history of what happened – good, bad, or ugly – and then let the reader or hearer decide where they stand on the issue, and whether or not they would have agreed with those long ago. It is not our job to interpret the issues, only to present them, and let each person decide for themselves.

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Reenactors are like family. We say we have a reenacting family, and we truly do. Of course, we have the ups and downs, the conflicts and selflessness of any family, blessings and extreme irritations (just like a real family), especially when you have hundreds of passionate people all in one place! But for all of that, we truly get along and support one another. There are times when we may want to knock someone in the head one minute, and will go running to their rescue the next. We watch out for each other, protect each other, sacrifice for each other, and we do it gladly.

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Photo Credit: 53rd GA

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Photo Credit: 53rd GA

Not only do I write this blog, and articles for several publications, but I also travel all over my state here in the South to teach in schools and universities, and give guest lectures to whichever group invites me. I know that there is almost no place in this state, or over the line into other states, where I do not have connections within 1-2 hours, or less, who would drop everything and come to my aid if needed. I have crashed in friend’s houses, had friends look at my vehicle when there were issues, or simply say “pull up a chair and I’ll make you a cup of tea” when I show up on their doorstep. These are the type of people I find among reenactors. They will help you, pray with you, clothe you, feed you, rescue you, and literally give you the shirt off their back if needed.

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Photo Credit: Les Patton

Reenactors are also special, and a rare breed! There are things that make us happy and excited that no one would understand unless you have spent time with us. For instance, seeing what appears to be canvas rolled up with tent poles in the back of someone’s truck going down the highway and getting all excited because you’re thinking about your tent and being in camp (and very sad when you realize it isn’t a tent). Or knowing how to handle and survive in all different types of weather and hardships because you have WILLINGLY gone to events and survived in it before!

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Photo credit: Robert Carswell. It was below freezing when this was taken!

Or making and putting on clothes that went out of style 140 years ago. Or loving the smell of your stinking uniform that smells of black powder, sweat, the terrain in which you have fought and camped, campfire smoke, and more, because it reminds you of camp, your family and friends, and all the adventures and stories contained in those few yards of fabric. Or being willing to pack for a full day, to drive between one and thirteen hours to do an event for a few days, just to drive home and have to go straight back to work. Or choosing to go to the field with nothing but an outhouse or port-a-john for days, living with people who, along with you, have not had a shower in days, only to go home, shower, and get comfortable in your house with HVAC, sigh and say, “Okay, when is the next one?”

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Photo Credit: 53rd GA

When we are out of the field too long, we miss it. It is currently January, but it’s been six weeks since the last event for many of us. Just a few days ago I was speaking to other reenactors and we were all saying, “I need to get back in the field!” Now we all do not want to be camping in this cold front that’s the coldest in 30 years, but we are yearning for the day the next campaign will start and we can roll into camp in our SUVs, trucks and trailers full of gear, just to set up camp and live like the 1860s for several days.

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Photo Credit: Sherry Frazier

 

For me, not only do I recognize all these things, but also the awesome guys who volunteer to be our patients for the medical demonstrations. They recognize that the war was not just soldiers fighting, but also being wounded and killed. As a medical reenactor, I couldn’t do my role, if it were not for these guys willing to be my patients, and to make it very real. They do their own research, and listen to me and my co-surgeon as we explain the details of the case we have pulled from the records, and what that soldier would have experienced, and then they bring it to life. Boy do they do a good job with it too! Many times, it is so real that people have to leave if they have a squeamish stomach lest they get sick. These boys take it as a challenge to make it more realistic than the previous event with every demonstration we do. Who else but reenactors would volunteer to have their arm or leg “taken off?” 😀

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Photo Credit: Cathy Stancil

 

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Photo Credit: Heidi Edge

When I was in college, I wanted to be part of a group, to have my own nickname, to have a family away from home. I didn’t realize that would not happen during my education, but that I would find my “tribe” on barren fields once burned by Sherman. I never had to ask to be included – I was invited. I never asked for nicknames – they were freely given. I never had to ask to be a part of something or ask whether I was allowed – I was adopted. I have never found something in which I felt so much like myself, and yet so much a part of the greater whole, as I did reenacting. Honestly, these are some of the best people I know.

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Photo credit: Kellie Morgan

So, to all my adopted siblings, my adopted family, my friends in the GVB, thank you for being incredible, loving, patriotic, passionate, giving people, who strive to keep history alive! I’m looking forward to seeing you all in the campaigns of 2018!

Happy Holidays

Good morning readers! Thank you all for following me and reading all the articles I work hard to put out for you!

I debated long and hard about what to write for this month, and have several things in the works. However, I decided to skip and article during this holiday season to spend the time on what was more important: family and God.

So I wish you all a wonderful, happy holiday season with your families! May we remember all the boys who did not get to be with their family as they marched through frozen lanes and bled to death in frost-covered fields. May we remember and support all our soldiers deployed now, and provide for and encourage our homeless veterans. May we give back during this season of giving. Most of all, may we never forget what is most important: not the things, the stuff, the materialism which is here today and gone tomorrow. May we put our focus on those who have less, on our families, and most of all, in thanksgiving to God who provides all!

Happy Holidays!

~The Southern Belle