Friday, May 30, 2008

Archaeology

Went to see the new Indiana Jones movie last night, and LOVED it! OK, nothing compares to Raiders of the Lost Arc, and it’s hard to compare Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to Last Crusade, but it was really, really good despite my 2 small problems with it.

That said, what was archaeology like in Victorian times? Much like in the Indiana Jones movies, the emphasis was more on putting pretty things in a museum than preserving them for the local peoples. It’s why the British Museum and Smithsonian have such extensive collections.

During the Victorian Era, archaeology was closely related to history and anthropology. Basically, it was the systematic study of the past through its physical remains.

Two early and important people stand out:

Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers (1827-1900) was an English army officer who developed an interest in ethnology, and archaeology while in the field. The estates that he inherited in 1880 contained archaeological material from the Romans and Saxons. He excavated these over seventeen years, beginning in the mid-1880s and ending with his death in 1900. His approach was highly methodical by the standards of the time, and he is widely regarded as the first scientific archaeologist to work in Britain.

His most important methodological innovation was his insistence that all artifacts, not just the beautiful or unique ones, be collected and cataloged. This focus on everyday objects as the key to understanding the past broke decisively with current archaeological practice, which often verged on treasure hunting. It is Pitt Rivers' most important, and most lasting scientific legacy. Moreover his work inspired 20th century archaeologist, Mortimer Wheeler, among others to add to the scientific approach of archaeological excavation techniques.

Professor Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, FRS, (1853-1942) was an English Egyptologist and a pioneer of systematic methodology in archaeology. He excavated at many of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt such as Abydos and Amarna. Some consider his most famous discovery to be that of the Merneptah Stele.

He cut out the role of foreman on his excavations, taking complete overall control and removing pressure on the workmen from the foreman to find finds quickly but sloppily. Though regarded as an amateur by more established Egyptologists, that made him popular with his workers, who found several small but significant finds that would have been lost under the old system.


http://www.petrie.ucl.ac.uk/william_flanders_petrie.php
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/rivers_augustus.shtml

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeology

http://archaeology.about.com/od/historyofarchaeology/a/history_series.htm

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

TIPS FOR STAGECOACH TRAVELERS

The best seat inside a stage is the one next to the driver. Even if you have a tendency to sea-sickness when riding backwards...you’ll get over it and will get less jolts and jostling. Don’t let any “sly elph” trade you his mid-seat.

In cold weather don’t ride with tight-fitting boots, shoes, or gloves. When the driver asks you to get off and walk do so without grumbling, he won’t request it unless absolutely necessary. If the team runs away…sit still and take your chances. If you jump, nine out of ten times you will get hurt. In very cold weather abstain entirely from liquor when on the road, because you will freeze twice as quickly when under its influence.

Don’t growl at the food received at the station…stage companies generally provide the best they can get.

Don’t keep the stage waiting. Don’t smoke a strong pipe inside the coach. Spit on the leeward side. If you have anything to drink in a bottle pass it around. Procure your stimulants before starting, a “ranch” (stage depot) whiskey is not “Nectar.”

Don’t lean or lop over neighbors when sleeping. Take small change to pay expenses. Never shoot on the road, as the noise might frighten the horses. Don’t discuss politics or religion.

Don’t point out where murders have been committed especially if there are women passengers.

Don’t lag at the washbasin. Don’t grease your hair because travel is dusty. Don’t imagine for a moment that you are going on a picnic. Expect annoyances, discomfort, and some hardships.

Omaha Herald, 1877
From the Historical Museum
June, 1988

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tuesday Ten--ten things I don't know.

Generally our blog is about what we know and what we’ve learned about the Victorian Era. Today’s Tuesday Ten is about things I want to learn. Maybe there’s a reader out there who can help me out? Or maybe you’ve got questions too about the era you’d like to add. I’ll try to answer the ones I know—We can use today’s Tuesday Ten as a way to share information.


1.)Train Travel—I have a lot of questions on this. First one is baggage. I know there were baggage compartments. How did people get their baggage in the compartment? How did they get the baggage out of the compartment? And if they were switching trains, did the bagged automatically switch with them, or did they have to move it themselves.

2.) Train maps—These can be difficult to find. I want to know which stations my characters go through, where they grab a train at any given time. I know that pretty much after the first transcontinental railroad was established, a LOT of traffic went through Union Station in Chicago. I know that many people switched trains in Chicago. But what about other places?

3.) Condoms—Okay jumping out of strictly family friendly here for nitpicky questions. We know they had them and that mid-century they were readily available in NYC, and that they were called “French safes” among other things. We know that in 1873 or such they were outlawed with the Comstock Laws. We know people could still get them, however. I know that their manufacture could sometimes be iffy because people could make them in basements and such to sell illegally but that didn’t mean they understood how to work with rubber. Thus breakage with cheaper, lower quality condoms would have been much more likely. But my real question is, what did they look like? How did they come? Did you buy packages, boxes? Right now I’m just making it up as I go along, but I sure would like to know the truth. It’s not an easy thing to learn.

4.) Prisons—I haven’t actually done a lot of research on it, but I’m curious. What were prisons like in the continental U.S.?

5.) Hanging—I’ve read anecdotal information about women being hanged. But I’ve also read that capital punishment for women was pretty much frowned on. So if a woman murdered someone, was she generally hanged, or sent to prison? And, back to question 4, if she went to prison, what was it like?

6.) Electricity—I know it was being used in the late part of the era. But where? How widely available? And just because they had electricity in the city, who actually had it in their living areas? Was it mostly for public buildings and the very rich? Or did it move quickly so that even the middle class had electricity in their homes?

7.) Gas lighting—like electricity, I don’t know when it hit certain cities, although I imagine by around 1860 or so (I’m just throwing a date out there) it was widely available in major cities. But again—who had gas lighting? Did the middle class have it? Or was it really just the upper middle class? And since electric lighting came in late century, if you didn’t have gas lighting, but were “moving up” and upgrading your home, did you go with gas lighting, or electric lighting. Did both exist at the same time?

8.) Hot water—I’ve been able to place running water in Boston in the 1850’s and I’m pretty sure most cities have pipes etc by mid 1860’s. But at what point was it hot and cold running water? Did everyone have it? When was it “standard” in a house in a city? I’ve actually toured a museum in Boston circa 1860. It had a tub, it had hot and cold running water. But I’m not at all certain it was authentic although they said it was. I know the house was built at that point, but it was not turned into a museum until much later, so I’m not sure if it was upgraded later or not.

9.) Pumps—if you lived in the rural areas or even outside of major cities, did you have a pump in your house to pump in water? Or did you go out to a well? Did they have pumps in the lower-class homes of city dwellers?

10.) Dance cards—this one is something I think I can find fairly easily, though. I know they used dance cards at balls. I know that people filled them in. I know that it was frowned on to dance with a person more than twice at a ball and that husbands and wives weren’t supposed to dance together (because they were there to be with other people, not each other). But how did this work? Did a man walk up to a woman at the beginning of the ball and ask to have his name put on her card? Did she fill up all the dances? Did a man write in his card at the same time? Did a man have a card? And did he feel obligated to have a partner for every dance, or did he leave his card empty if he wasn’t in the mood?

Well those are my questions. This was my easiest Tuesday Ten ever. I guess I have a lot more questions than I have knowledge, even after all these years. If anyone has any answers, I’ve LOVE them. Otherwise, as I’ll post answers myself as time goes by.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Decoration Day

This will just be a short blog. I'm having major problems with my computer, so I'm forced to share my husband's for the duration. But I wanted to touch on the origins of today's American holiday, Memorial Day.

It was originally called Decoration Day and, although there are many stories of its actual start, the American Civil War seems to have spurred on the tradition of honoring war dead.

During the Victorian era, at least in America, visiting the graves of loved one's was a popular activity and they decorated those graves. Thus the name Decoration Day.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed by General John Logan on May 5, 1868. Flowers were laid on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

By 1890 all of the northern states recognized Memorial Day, but the South refused to acknowledge it, and honored their war dead on alternate days until after the first World War, when the holiday changed to honoring all war dead, rather than just those who fought in the Civil War.

So, take a few moments today to reflect on all the men and women who've fought for our country and say thanks.

http://www.usmemorialday.org/backgrnd.html

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nyseneca/memorial.htm

http://homeschooling.about.com/cs/unitssubjhol/a/memorial.htm

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tuesday Ten: Soiled Doves


In recent weeks my Old West research has taken me right where I like to be. In town. And as much as I love the general stores, hotels and saloons, it’s a fact that no old west town was complete without a brothel and the ladies who worked there.

In general there were four classes of houses of ill repute, from the parlor houses with the most beautiful girls, finest foods and liquors and elegant d├ęcor. A tryst there might cost up to $100 a visit. Next would be the houses typically run by a madam, where the surroundings were somewhat less lush and the beautiful women weren’t as plentiful. An establishment such as this might charge anywhere from $2 to $100 per visit, depending on the competition. Then there were “cribs”, a one or two room shack where a single prostitute plied her trade for as little as $.50; she sometimes had a male companion who helped find her clients—but she still had the option of refusing a client. At the bottom of the list were the women who worked out of the back rooms of a saloon for $1-$2 a tumble.

Depressing as all that is, the names applied to these women and their occupation were quite colorful. Here for our Tuesday Ten, is a list of some of the them.

  • Painted cat
  • Girl of the night
  • Scarlet ladies
  • Fallen angel
  • Calico queen
  • Fair belles
  • Sporting woman
  • Painted ladies
  • Street nymph
  • Soiled dove

Source: Everyday Life in the Old West –Candy Moulton; Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West - Anne Seagraves; Saloons of the Old West, Richard Erdoes

Friday, May 16, 2008

NYC Cholera spidemic 1848-1849

In May 1849 New York City finally established a hospital for cholera victims. Before the epidemic ended, more than 5,000 died. The rapidly growing city was ripe for an epidemic; poor sanitary conditions, eve poor hygiene, in addition to immigrants poorly quarantined all contributed to the outbreak.

On December 1, 1848, the New York arrived in New York from France. Seven passengers had died from cholera on the voyage, and the surviving passengers were quarantined at a Staten Island customs warehouse to contain the outbreak. Within a month, 60 experienced cholera symptoms and 30 died.

The healthy ones, afraid of catching the disease and dying, made a break for it and escaped quarantine. Soon enough isolated outbreaks occurred around New York, often in the city’s dirtiest and poorest areas. Pigs and dogs roamed the streets eating garbage, which also contributed to unsanitary conditions and the spreading of the disease.

Many city residents didn’t want a cholera hospital built near them for fear of catching the disease themselves. Finally, on May 16, the city’s Board of Health started a hospital on the second floor of a building on Orange Street above a tavern. However, the death toll rose and public schools were drafted into use as hospitals.

The disposal of bodies was a serious problem; a mass grave was established on Randall’s Island, in the East River east of Manhattan. Anyone with a horse was expected to assist with the removal of dead bodies.

Because of this epidemic, New York City’s first street-cleaning plan was implemented. An estimated 40 percent of the epidemic’s victims were Irish immigrants. Precise totals are impossible because the wealthy were often able to alter death certificates to avoid the stigma of their loved ones having died of cholera.


http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=593

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tuesday 10 - Victorian films

I’ve done this before, a list of things I want to read/watch, but since I’m sick and have had no sleep this past weekend, here’s a list of Victorian movies I find interesting. So this 10 isn’t going to be the best I’ve ever done – fast and easy this week!

On a side note, if anyone knows of a book/movie from the early 1850s, can you pass it along?

10 Victorian films (in no particular order) I want to watch …should I ever find the time again.

1. The Inheritance - loosely based upon Louisa May Alcott's novella
2. Berkeley Square – British miniseries where three young nannies find jobs in well-to-do London households and get to know each other
3. The Buccaneers - Based on Edith Wharton's unfinished novel
4. Wives and Daughters – BBC production of Elizabeth Gaskell’s book
5. North & South – not that one, though I’ve seen it and have enjoyed it, but another Elizabeth Gaskell’s book
6. The Barchester Chronicles - Alan Rickman is in it, need I say more? OK, based on the Anthony Trollope book.
7. The Crown Prince - I’ve been meaning to watch this for a while, I love Austrian history. Hopefully soon I’ll get to it.
8. Disraeli - look at the political and personal lives of PM Benjamin Disraeli
9. The Way We Live Now – I don’t mean to be on an Anthony Trollope kick, but he did write a lot of books BBC enjoys making into movies!
10. The Woman in White – based on the Wilkie Collins novel (also wrote The Moonstone)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Victorians Went A-Calling…And Left A Card


Social life in the 19th Century was inseparable from most areas of a Victorian’s lifestyle. And so the calling card evolved into a key item for visiting.

The compact size of the card was disproportionate with its import. Bigger wasn’t better and a little went a long way in graphics. Armed Services worldwide often still remain rigid with the historically popular sizing of 1 and a half inches and 3 and a quarter inches.

Multi-layered in purpose, calling cards were good for everything ranging from casual visits to formal functions. They were considered as the person having been there in attendance if delivered by another. They were a formalized and efficient means of replying and reserving spots, invited or not. They were the forerunner to modern business cards but with more breadth of meaning.

Calling-cards were typically delivered or left often in haste at residences for open social call timeframes. Many a manor house left open their foyer for an hour or so in the afternoon for a possible stream of visitors or their servants or attendants to deposit a card into their receiving dish. Or if the person themselves wasn’t received for a proper quarter of an hour audience or casual visit, then they would leave their card.

All calling cards demanded a requisite response in kind. If one was visited, then an obligatory return visit was in order, or something in lieu of. In prior generations, they’d held even more nuances of meaning and import but with massive growth and immigrations that lead to a growing middle class and upper class. Formal details of the calling card were often not known. Or were kept proverbially close-to-the-cuff as one means of determining who was within which society.

Some calling cards were regionally specific, with both sides of the cards being printed so that any corner could be turned over dog-eared to have its message read. Not all corners were the same meaning, though, depending upon any number of reasons. Some were not printed at all and so the recipient would already be apprised of the inherent meaning.

Amusements or limericks were occasionally printed or tolerated on calling cards if they were true to the character or persona of the owner. Most calling cards were a fine heavy white stock paper and simply bore a name in fine script with occasionally an additional message in calligraphic style scrawled across it depending upon the occasion. Other traditions again were localized or within specific societies in use.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Tuesday Ten, Firearms and Weapons

the interest of blogging about research I'm doing--one of the main reasons we all started this blog--I decided to do my Tuesday Ten on 19th century firearms. I realized the other day that my hero in Chasing Star (formerly Stalking Star) is a gun collector. That being the case, it will be pretty useful for me to have a modicum of information on guns. So here goes!

1.) Winchester--My hero is a Colorado rancher, so we'll start with one of the most common weapons of that time, the Winchester 1866, with that cool lever that we are all so familiar with. It was made by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company of New Haven Connecticut, which was originally the New Haven Arms Company, which was, before Oliver F. Winchester took over, the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company.


Bullets were inserted into the side of the rifle. It could take as many as 17 rounds at a time but was rarely loaded that much to prevent strain on the magazine. It took a .44 caliber bullet and weighed about 9 lbs. It was a Magazine Arm, according to my book A History of Arms by William Reid, but what that means I don't know. I think this book was written for people who understand guns a LOT.
http://casguns.homestead.com/Winchester1866.html

2.) Winchester, 1873--the new and improved Winchester! This was the rifle that won the West, apparently. It was strengthened according to this book, so that it could take a .44 caliber center-fire cartridge. According to this website:

http://aaa-webs.com/aaa/webs/homestead/courses/1873/history-1873.htm

It could take a more powerful .44-40 caliber cartridge. What this means, and if they mean the same thing is beyond me. But it sure made a difference to the purchases, who could purchase the rifle in different styles with different barell lengths. Apparently people really cared a lot--720,610 of these guns were sold. Certainly we saw them enough on the old Westerns!

It sold, in 1899 for about 20 bucks and was still selling even after the newly re-designed 1892 Winchester came out.
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0BQY/is_1_51/ai_n7581227

The Winchester 1892, by the way, was the rifle used in the television series The Rifleman, which I did not know. I always sort of thought that series was placed in an earlier time than the late 19th century when I thought the West was pretty much tamed. Shows you what I know!
http://www.riflemansrifle.com/the_riflemans_rifle.htm


3.) Springfield Rifle Musket--Civil War era. Susan may have already talked about weapons of the Civil War elsewhere, but I need 10 weapons for my Tuesday Ten, so I'm mentioning it again.

The Springfield Rifle Musket, 1861, was the most popular rifle of the war. It used a paper cartridge containing gunpowder and a bullet (am I getting this right, Susan?) and was developed in Springfield MA. ( Hey, that's not far from where I live!--I wonder if there's a museum?). According to my Arms book, 850,549 were made between 1858 and 1865, which sort of blows away the 1861 date I have from this other site. It had a 58 caliber cartridge, and was a one shot deal, unlike the previous Winchesters. You can see, then, why they were so loved. It had a range as far as 500 yards.
http://www.hackman-adams.com/guns/58musket.htm



4.) Remington Flintlock Musket: Before all that came the Remington Musket, which might have been used by soldiers at the beginning of the war, before the Springfield Rifle Musket became more available. I can't seem to find a whole lot about this gun. I know it was produced in the Northeast (this seems to be a running theme, probably because the Northeast is where manufacturing in the U.S. was for many years). It was first produced in 1816, and then was redesigned in 1840 to become a percussion musket?? Remington, however was better know for it's revolvers.
http://members.tripod.com/~vet5/musket.html


5.) Gatling gun--Before we go onto revolvers we really have to talk about this, because it fascinates me. It was the first machine gun every made, 1860-1861. It was a hand cranked gun, i f you could call it a gun, had 6 barrels and could fire 600 58 caliber rounds a minute. DEADLY. Fortunately (since 600,000 men already died in the Civil War) it was not used much during the war. It was new, and had quite a few problems.
http://www.civilwarhome.com/gatlinggun.htm



6.) Bowie Knife--Attributed to, if not originally designed by James Bowie. Also known as the Arkansas Toothpick. He was killed with it at the Alamo in 1836, so it's almost Victorian. It does appear to be, for what I've read, a pretty endemic knife throughout the frontier, namely the Old West. It was certainly used in the Civil War.


http://www.civilwar.si.edu/weapons_bowie.html
http://users.aristotle.net/~russjohn/bowie.html


7.) Remington Rifle Cane--Oh! I just saw this in my book, and it is the coolest thing! Apparently cane guns were popular in the 1850's, among city folk, I suspect (I can't imagine a cowboy with a cane). The ad I'm looking at from the Ohio State Gazetter 1860, says it weighed 160z, was "protection against dogs and highwaymen" and cost about $19. Wow, now if I'd known this when I wrote Wicked Woman my hero would have had one for sure! Now I am absolutely going to have to write another 1850's era book just so I can use the gun!




I'm looking at pictures, but I can't quite see how you would load the thing. But I want one! Hmmm, my Colorado rancher goes back East in Chasing Star. He's certainly not going to walk around Newport RI with his six-shooters strapped on. Maybe he will have a cane gun! Oh I do love research!


8) The Derringer--I'm moving into pistols now. The derringer is my favorite of all weapons, although I'm far from a gun aficionado (just in case you hadn't noticed). They are so darned cute, that is if a gun that killed a president can be cute(Booth killed Lincoln with a derringer). Created by Henry Derringer (1786-1868) in Philadelphia. Obviously it could fit into a pocket, very useful for women (like a heroine in one of my books) or gamblers. It was first produced in 1825, and manufactured by both Colt and Remington (see, told you they were good with hand guns!).



9.)Remington 1858 Army revolver. This was the name for the New Model Army .44 revolver in 1863, which was improved over the 1860, '61 and '62. It was an improved version of the earlier Remington-Beals and Remington Army revolvers of 1860, 1861 and 1862. It was called the 1858 revolver because that was when the patten was issue.

Although during the war the Colt was more common, it was said to have been preferred over the colt.
10.) Colt 45--the Peacemaker. Army revolver which was used by many lawmen in the old West--Wild Bill Hickcock, Bat Masterson and the like. Many different kinds produced from 1872 on, probably the gun that brought the phrase, God made men, Sam Colt made them all equal.

http://www.swordsofhonor.com/co45pe.html




Okay, this has taken me most of the day, and blogger as always has driven me nuts. Putting pictures on a post with blogger can give you a migraine! Wish I had more, but I do have to attend things like writing and Tylenol. In fact, I'm so aggravated, I'm not checking the spelling until tomorrow!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Mary Ann Webber Interview

Why do you write historical?
For me, a story is not escapism - it’s not even romance – unless it’s historical!
Why not escape high gas prices, faltering economy, war, and political races by entering a beautiful period in our past. Give me long skirts, fine manners, and the clip-clop of carriage horses on cobblestone streets.
Actually, I’ve always loved any period of history. I’ve even played around with stories set in the age of stone circles and dolmens. (Yes, there are dolmens in New England.)
What part of the Victorian era/setting do you write in?
My favorite era in history is the thirty-five year period between the end of the American Civil War and 1900. It’s often called the Gilded Age, and what sounds more romantic than that?
The Americas are my setting. There are thousands of untold events in American history which make wonderful settings for romances. I don’t understand why writers in this country look so often to Europe.
What is it about the era that most intrigues you?
After the Civil War, Americans changed the world forever by believing in the legend of the self-made man. Young entrepreneurs like Astor, Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller saw no boundaries. While they became the first millionaires, and eventually billionaires, they carried the American people along on a great adventure. They “Won the West” from their New York offices and made the United States a world powerhouse. What they started lasted throughout the twentieth century.
Where do you get your information?
Books about history are my greatest source. I have a collection of non-fiction books that zero in on specific events, people and groups. I use the internet to browse by topics – and find a lot of good information – but I usually end up ordering these reference books online – used, if possible.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a science fiction romance set in Texas in 1897. There are no cowboys in it. It concerns townspeople in a small community north of Fort Worth who try to cope with extraordinary events. The heroine is a school teacher who struggles to deny her love for the handsome son of the town’s banking family.
How many books have you written?
I’ve written two books. The first was a paranormal historical, A SPANIARD DEPARTS. Set in 1542, it follows the afterlife of Captain Rodrigo Romo, one of explorer Hernando De Soto’s minor officers. The book rambles all over the place and was well over 100,000 words in length when I stopped working on it. (I can’t truthfully call it finished.) I loved writing it - but I don’t see it ever being published. Actually, it would make a great video game!
My second book, A MAN AT THE DOOR, is a Victorian romance set in the mid 1880’s. The hero is a Manhattan stoneworker of Irish descent who improbably falls in love with a wealthy, shy spinster. This also grew into a whopping tome of over 100,000 words. I’m presently working to trim the fat and a few characters, and make it publishable. There’s enough left over for at least one sequel.
Do you write outside of the Victorian era, genre?
Yes. I hope to write a romance set in Jamestown in the 1680’s, and my short stories are, oddly enough, mostly contemporary.
What challenges have you faced in your career?
Like all writers, life itself is my biggest challenge. I wanted to have it all – home, children, grandchildren, teaching career – and this left little time for writing before I retired. I’m a late starter – but I’ve amassed many life experiences which, I hope, give depth to my characters.
What is your writing schedule like?
Hmmm. Hap-hazard is the word that comes to mind. My ideal schedule would be to write all night and sleep all day. Of course that doesn’t work in the real world.
Every now and then I make a reasonable and ambitious writing schedule. I work hard to follow it. Then I’m bumped out of bed by my undisciplined muse who whispers in my ear, “You won’t remember this great idea in the morning. Get up right now and write!”
The next thing I know, the morning paper is being tossed against my front door – and I’m needing sleep. How can I get a better muse?

I’ve enjoyed answering your questions. They’ve been thought-provoking and have made me reassess my work. Thank you.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

My Civil War Weekend


I spent last weekend in the 1860s in a Civil War camp. In reality, it was the 28th Pennsylvania's annual Civil War reenactment at Neshaminy State Park just north of Philadelphia, PA.

The biggest challenge after not doing any reenactments for nearly a year was finding all my reenacting stuff. But being the super organized person that I am, I was able to locate all my dresses, underthings, shawls, wool cape, bonnets, hairnets and other essential things in a hurry. Meanwhile, my husband was going around the house saying, "Have you seen my brogans?"

Not only did I have all my stuff ready and packed by Thur day night, but I even baked a batch of muffins to take with.

We got to the campsite late Friday morning to set up our camp. The worst part was loading and unloading the truck. We have a large A-tent, a tarp we use as a canopy, and long wooden poles for both. Also wooden tables and chairs, a cast iron grill we set up for cooking over the firepit, buckets, a wooden box full of dishes, cast iron pans, utensils and other camp stuff, and two cots.

We also have to bring modern things that we hide in the tent, like a large plastic container to keep food in and the all essential cooler, as well as a modern sleeping bag for me. My husband, trooper that he is, just rolls up in a bunch of wool blankets.

Once our camp was set up, we went home so my husband could attend his bowling tournament. Modern life always seems to intervene. We went back early Saturday morning, changed into our reenactor clothes and started living life in a Civil War camp.

Our youngest son came out for the day to play soldier, as well as my husband's brother and nephew. I wore my hoop dress and best bonnet to go watch the battle and support all my men.

When I came back I wanted to change into another shorter day dress, so I could take off the hoop, and to my horror realized I'd forgotten to wear my under petticoat for modesty. So, every time I shifted my hoop, everyone got a view of my ankles, calves and the hem of my drawers. Oh my!

Once the sun went down it got downright chilly. But there was plenty of wood, so my husband built a bonfire to warm us up and hung two candle lanterns in the tent to take the chill off. I brought a warm, cuddly pair of jammies. I kept my cotton chemise on, though, a trick I learned from another reenactor. When you get up in the morning in a very cold tent, you not only have a head start on getting dressed, but you have a nice, warm chemise against your skin. My husband also made sure I had a winter weight sleeping bag to curl into. I snuggled inside and threw it over my head and stayed nice and warm despite the cold temps outside.

It rained overnight, but stopped just about the time we had to get up. When I stuck my nose out of the sleeping bag, I couldn't believe how cold it was in that tent. I pulled on my scruffy camp dress and apron to start the day. Because of the rain, morning camp events were cancelled, so we had a nice leisurely breakfast of bacon and eggs cooked over an open campfire. Yum!

I decided to change back into my 21st century clothing before the afternoon battle, so we could get packed up and home quicker. Of course, when I got undressed, I realized I'd forgotten to wear that petticoat again. Must be a mental block. I also didn't wear my corset, but that was on purpose. I'd had enough of that on Saturday.

I packed up all my clothing and gear except for what we needed for lunch. After the men formed up, I went with my husband's sister-in-law and his two nieces and a few of their friends to watch our men fight it out again.

We had a lot of fun and caught up with reenactor friends we hadn't seen in a long while. But, as always, it felt good to get home and into the shower. Although a weekend in Civil War camp is great, I wouldn't want to live there.