Friday, March 18, 2011

And a New Season Begins...

So here it is, the eagerly anticipated beginning to the sesquicentennial celebration. I will be kicking off the living history year in April with an event in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. It should prove to be an outstanding event with a great mix of things to see and do for a wide variety of Civil War enthusiasts.

With that being said, I found myself in need of a new bonnet. Have you ever been bonnet shopping? It is not something I find myself liking. Without the proper research, you could potentially spend at least $150 and up on an incorrect one. There are so many styles and shapes, let alone materials to choose from, but how do you know if you are getting something that is "good enough" or something that is historically accurate? Let me tell you, it isn't an easy task.

So, with my research information handy, I was a woman on a mission. I happened to stop at a local "sutler." Upon entering the store, I saw the most beautiful bonnets, from a distance. Upon closer inspection, they were made out of synthetic materials, the flowers were not of the correct material, and the lace on the brims were hot glued on. I proceeded to engage the cashier in mild conversation about the weather and such and when she saw me looking at the bonnets she gave me permission to try some on. I had indicated to her that I was not looking for ones that really had all the fru-fru lace and frillies on the insides, just something very simple to go with my impression of upper lower class farmer's wife, which might I say is vastly underportrayed in my area, but would be the most prominent of the time of the Civil War.

The cashier then proceeded to still encourage me to try them on and stated that ALL bonnets had the lace and other frillies on the inside. Now, armed with my new-found bonnet research, I knew this was not the case. There were bonnets that existed during the Civil War that did not contain said frillies. She then proceeded to get out her book of Civil War CDV's, to which I gladly took a look at. And lo, and behold, one of the first ones in there was a very simple one without lace. And it certainly was not hot glued together.

It's these types of things that really grind my gears. If you want to own a store and sell items, that is fine, but please don't peg yourself as being authentic when it is clearly not. If the maker of these beautiful bonnets would have taken the time to research and construct the items properly, in a period correct way, I would have purchased one in a heartbeat. Three years ago, I wouldn't have known any better and would have purchased one because I hadn't done the reseach, I would have bought it because it was pretty and matched my outfit.... And unfortunatly, that is what many people do.

I can't stress enough how very important it is to spend time researching an item before you purchase it. Do you want to spend $200 on something and turn around a month or a year later and find out that it is not historically accurate? I sure don't, especially in today's economy. I work hard for my money and it is not something I easily part with, especially on historical items that are hot glued together. I understand that we can not do everything as they did during the time of the Civil War, but we can try to be as accurate as possible, so that we are able to educate the next generation properly. After all, isn't that what being a living historian is all about?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Someone Needs a Time Out

Where has the summer gone? I feel like I blinked and here it is almost the middle of July already. So many things to do and just not enough time and resources to get it all done. Things have really picked up with the Monterey Pass Battlefield. I say how this summer has gone by so quickly but here I am wishing that we can fast-forward time to one year from now to see a key portion of the battlefield actually preserved and owned by Washington Township. It will be a wondrous day, to see part of what my husband has worked for over the last 12 years come to fruition. Many a day he has spent working towards this goal and I know that this will be the first of many that we will see over the course of the next few years.

Sometimes it is hard as a wife and mother, to have patience and let time take its course when it comes to the dreams and goals of your family. You just want to take charge and speed things up to get them to where they want to be in life. To make all their hopes and dreams come true. But as a wife and a mother, you have to realize that life in general is a learning experience. They have to get through all the trials and tribulations in achieving their goals, otherwise they would learn nothing from it and it wouldn't mean as much.

The older I get the more I realize that sometimes it is better to sit back and smell the roses and enjoy what life has put in front of you without jumping to conclusions, overreacting and sweating the small stuff. Enjoy life, enjoy your family and your love, because if you do that, you will have lived a happy and content life. And when I am 80, sitting in my rocking chair, and my grandkids ask me what I did in life, that is what I want to tell them, that I enjoyed life, built a strong family with a wonderful husband and raised two wonderful children who grew up to be amazing adults. That I have lived a complete life because I enjoyed and cherished every moment of it. And as a wife and mother, that is the best life I could ever imagine and all I could ever want.

And to my husband, yes, I get a little nutty sometimes but you know my heart is in the right place because it is always with you.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Citizens of Cumberland Valley

The Citizens of Cumberland Valley is the civilian branch of the Cumberland Valley Rifles. It consists of men, women and children of all ages, that have chosen to reenact the role of civilian life during the Civil War era, promoting heritage and history. The purpose of the CCV is to assist the military organization in whatever needs it may have when portraying Confederate or Federal soldiers and to accurately portray the civilians that endured those turbulent years. The CCV is dedicated to remembering the importance and sacrifices of civilians during the Civil War. As historical interpreters, we want to honor them by striving for authenticity in what we wear, say and do. The CCV participates in battle reenactments and living history programs. At times, the CCV will perform independently from the Cumberland Valley Rifles.

The Citizens of Cumberland Valley have many knowledgeable members who take part in a variety of living histories and educate the public on different aspects of civilian life in the Cumberland Valley during the Civil War. Such programs include:

Women on the Homefront
Civilian Life During the War
Open Hearth Cooking
Children's' Games
Shortages During the War
Victorian Fashions
Victorian Needlework including knitting, sewing, quilting and spinning
Interpretative Displays of Original & Reproduction Artifacts
Participate in civilian scenarios at battle re-enactments and living history programs

Upon becoming a member of the Citizens of Cumberland Valley, members will assist you obtaining the correct clothing and accessories for the impression that you choose to portray. As civilian impressions of the day varied, you will be provided with civilian guideline information including a sutler list, pattern supplier list and clothing guidelines, to help you develop the impression you wish to pursue. We strive to raise awareness and contribute to non-profit organizations dedicated to preservation of historic sites such as the Monterey Pass Battlefield Association. Our membership also includes families with children. We do not believe that "family oriented reenacting" automatically means "farb". In real life, families stayed together whenever they could and as long as all members of the family provide an accurate depiction of what they are trying to portray, then that is acceptable.

Friday, April 30, 2010

A True Historian by Definition

This is the very first entry in my blog, I thought I better make it a good one.

Historian...the definition of this word is an expert in history, authority on history, writer of history; chronicler, yet this term has come to mean so much more to me. Being married to a historian for over 12 years now has taught me a great deal about history and life in general.

The first thing I have learned is that if you don't learn from history, then it is destined to repeat itself. And learn from history I have, not just from the Civil War era, but of all time periods. There are so many great, events that have involved our country and its citizens, but I have also learned about the not-so-great events that have involved our country and it is my firm belief that in order not to repeat these same mistakes, you must learn about them.

My husband is the greatest man and best historian I know. Now, I am sure that you think my opinion is biased but here is my reasoning. He is always and forever researching to expand on what he has already learned, sometimes I think to the point of insanity. He always tries to get every viewpoint of each battle, person, unit or war that he studies. Not just to educate himself, but to also educate the public, because isn't that what being an historian is all about, educating the public?

I have never met someone that can retain as much information in their brain as what he does. My husband is an accomplished author and has published one book so far in addition to over 100 historical articles, I edit each one and my brain just does not retain the information about so and so who did this on this day in history...

But I don't think it is what information he retains that makes him a true historian or the fact that he is constantly researching, it is the fact that he is on the front lines, at the battlefield each and every day educating the public on our nation's history, that makes him a true historian. He isn't someone who studies history on the side, who has another profession as their main source of income, who writes the occasional book or participates in the occasional lecture. He does this each and every day not only because it is his job, but because it is something he loves to do and he does it with such passion and interest that that feeling is then relayed to the public when he speaks and educates them.

For my husband, it isn't about the money of speaking for this and that organization or writing a book about this or that, it is about his love of history and his never-ending quest to educate people on something that they may not have known before talking to him. This is what makes my husband a true historian in every sense of the word.

So for all that you do for our family, the boys and I are forever grateful. And for the patience you have had in teaching me, and for all of those whose lives you have touched by educating them, thank you. You are, without a doubt, an educator and a true historian.