Sunday, July 15, 2007

Serendipity, Civil War and Homeostasis

Homeo-what? Homeostasis, simply stated, is a process of returning back to the normal state. After a busy 8 days, that is what we are doing. This morning we said good by to Shelley as she boarded a plane for home. Now reality hits and it is back to laundry, cleaning etc because in three weeks more house guests arrive!

This Saturday was our last full day with my best friend Shelley. She and I have always loved going to the beach and have spent many happy areas on the Washington coastline, photographing, hiking, beachcombing, camping and finding agates and shells. I wanted to show her "our" beach, Goat Rock Beach and the gorgeous Sonoma Coastline. When we arrived the fog was as thick as pea soup! So much for "seeing" anything! Not only was the fog thick but it was also cold and misty...not the best conditions for the kids to play. So, we decided to go inland a little and visit Fort Ross, an historic Russian fort, further north on the coast.

Just when we got to the junction to turn off, I saw a sign "Civil War" and an arrow. It was serendipity. In the back of my mind I remembered hearing about a Civil War event near here and thinking "some day I would like to see that". I have been wanting to photograph one to have pictures in my heritage scrapbook since at least a dozen of my ancestors and their siblings fought in the Civil War. One 19 year old boy was killed in Maryland. His brother William Wadsworth Hopkins, was discharged from Custer's command shortly before his demise, only to go home to Michigan and then die of Typhoid! I thought having a few pictures would make the pages of journaling more interesting. So, I took a chance on adventure and we changed our plans!

Fortunately I found out later that Shelley has also been interested in photographing this and my hubby is a history buff. But the poor guy...he took the kids while I got closer since I have a longer lens, and he ended up not seeing so much because the kids were fussy. Too long in the car. Too many days. Not enough sleep.

The experience was amazing. It turns out that the Civil War Days is one of the largest re-enactments west of the Mississippi. It takes place each summer in Duncan Mills, California. This year's re-enactment was of a battle in 1863 Virginia. I was not prepared for how I would feel as I watched the battle take place. When you see this on tv/movies, which I have many times, you can always think, "this is just special effects". Naturally noone was killed during the battle, however they acted out as a real battle would and so many died. The reality of the cost of life in the Civil War for both sides, was played out before my eyes. At times I felt tears even well up! I was shocked. I never expected to feel this mixture of excitement and sadness. It was almost overwhelming.

One of the highlights for me was watching the medic units go to the soldiers. As a young girl I loved reading biographies and one which I enjoyed greatly was about Clara Barton who nursed and provided care in the Civil War and later founded the Red Cross. Ironically, though I had not planned it, I did end up being a Certified Medical Assistant, working primarily in pediatrics for ten years. Had I not been blessed with my lovely children, I would have gone on to RN school and possibly worked in hospice nursing. But God knows best the directions our path should take and I trust Him! If I ever become involved in re-enactment, I think I would like to be one of the women who assists the doctors on the field and in the field hospitals.

We stayed for one battle, before we traveled on to the beach, where most of the fog had lifted for the afternoon. During that one battle, I took at least 500 pictures. I will share just a few with you:

An observer, but not a participant in the battle...perhaps a renegade mountain man from the California wilds?

A lady sits beside her hoop-skirted friend and watches the battle with interest.
A view towards the Confederate camp and their cannons and artillery.

The Union soldiers line up and take shots.
Advancing Confederate men
A nurse rushes to the battlefield at the doctor's side, during a break in firing. Notice the shawl she is wearing...I need to enlarge the photo to determine if it is knit or crocheted.
Union men, including a French Zouave soldier...close up pics and a link to follow.

Confederate men waiting in defense as the Union troops advance.
Confederate troops advancing in the smoke of battle.
The medic unit attends to the needs of a fallen soldier.
There were many beautiful horses. I was told their breed was "American Standard". I had not heard of them before so I "googled" for them and could not find anything. Any horse folk out there who could fill me?
This picture shows both the urgency and the danger that women took in ministering to the care needs of soldiers on the field. As another volley of shots fire out, this nurse is running to safety. She would not have been a target, however, stray shots kill and injure as easily as those perfectly aimed.

There were two battles during the day. For the first battle, which we observed, the Confederates won. The second battled would have planned for the Union to win. Both sides were fairly, and as far as I could tell, accurately portrayed. In this photo, the Confederate men gathered together, shooting off their rifles and other weapons to make sure that they would be safe and that there were no charges left to go off.
Here the Union soldiers fire off their last rounds.
There was a marching band that we could hear before we saw the arrival of the Union troops coming down the side of the hills out from the shelter of trees. There were a few women who participated playing the part of men in the battle.This gentleman looked like the "real deal"!

This young lady is portraying a Zouave soldier, who at the time would have been a man. Many people don't realize that there were soldiers of many different nationalities fighting on both sides of the Civil War. I probably have read more about the Civil War that the average woman on the street, however, what I know barely scratches the surface and what I learned yesterday intrigues me. I want to learn more.
The young woman on the left is wearing a blue calisthenics/bathing outfit. It would have been considered quite bold in the day. She demonstrated what would have been acceptable calisthenics for a lady wearing such a get up...let's just say it was not aerobic activity! LOL The green and rust colored dress was the most striking and well sewn of all that I saw there. My local quilt shop carries quite a few of the CW period reproduction fabrics and I think I have seen this one there.

Another view showing the beautiful work on the sleeves as well as her bag and gloves.

And this shows the beautiful fabric, the black hat and a pretty hat pin.

Girls wore bonnets to keep the sun off of their skin. The girl at the right is wearing rags in her hair to curl it. My Grandma Hopkins, who was born in 1906, told me she sometimes wore rags in her hair to tame the wild curls she naturally had. Women have always worked hard to make themselves look different than God created them.

A gentle lady applauding the Civil War fashion show.
And this lady with her summer dress and parasol...I thought she could have been Marmee Dear straight from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
Knitting was very important during the Civil War. Socks were greatly needed by the troops. A proficient knitter would knit a sock a day. I could not see if this lady actually was knitting anything, it looked just like a square, not a sock.

One young lady demonstrated the many steps it took for a lady to dress. Clothing and cloth were expensive. A woman wore many undergarments which would get soiled from perspiration and the skin, but leave the outer garment clean. These are only a few of the steps it took to get dressed.

This one reminded me of trying on wedding dresses when the assitant would tell me "assume the position" and I would raise my arms so that a dress could be lifted over my head. A petticoat was worn under a hoop so that the legs would not show if the wind blew a hoop up. A hoop was also a sign of class. Working women and the poor did not wear hoops and such full skirts which took up quite a lot of fabric.

I imagine it would be difficult to fully dress one's self without help.
Even the sleeves were separate, allowing them to be changed out for clean, crisp, white ones when a lady needed to be presentable.
The outer layer was about the fifth that was applied.
Doesn't she look lovely, radiant and ready to make a call?
This dress was quite interesting. Apparently there were fabrics that went togethe rin a kit. They would have border prints and then the type of print show at the center of this bodice. A woman would cut out the kit and piece the dress together, putting to full advantage the lovely material.
There were men, women and children of all social classes represented in the fashion show, but it was difficult to get pictures there. Afterwards there were several merchant tents or "sutleries" which provided yard goods, antiques, books and information. I met a lady there who was selling Civil War era clothing patterns and she was from Everson, Washington, where my Aunt Kris lives. It's a very tiny town, so I was surprised to meet her there.
It was a wonderful time and it ended all too quickly. I will need to absorb what I saw and I hope to view another re-enactment.
After the re-enactment we headed to the beach for some more fun, this time more to the kids' liking! What a full day. We ended up getting home about ten pm.


4Js4HIM said...


I love your blog! I linked to it from Jewels' blog, Eyes of Wonder. The pictures of the reenactments were outstanding!
Thank you so much for sharing them with us!

kymk99 said...

Hi Theresa!

How fun! Yes, we are heading to Duncan Mills this upcoming weekend. I can't wait to get finished with all of my sewing so I can get some pictures up! Hope you have a great time on your vacation and thanks for stopping by my blog! :o)

Yvonne :o)

P.S. The lady in the last pictures is part of our group!