This was a great weekend. Fort McKavett is about 2.5-3 hours from Austin on the edge of the hill country. The drive, as my GPS devise took me, goes through Llano, Mason, Hext, Art, and several other small towns barely more than 2-3 houses. Saw some great looking cemeteries but could not stop this time to take pictures.
I arrived at the site and met up with Cody Mobley. He showed me my accommodations for the weekend and I started moving in. I was assigned to the old bakery building. When the fort was active, 2 soldiers baked 5,000 loaves of bread a day and stored it in the storehouse, now in ruins, next to the bakery. I loved the lay out with the room semi-divided with a partial stone wall. The dirt floor did make things a bit dusty though. The building is also a bit far from the bathroom facilities. Cody offered to bring over one of the port-a-potties behind the bakery but I refused the offer thinking it would not be an issue. Well at 40 degrees at 2:00 in the morning it seemed a much bigger issue :). Thank goodness for the chamber pot.
Once I was set up I headed out for the Fort McKavett cemetery. The cemetery is not on fort property but was used by the post for troop burials. This is a nice little cemetery with gravestones from the 1850s and still in use.
Upon returning to the Fort I found some of the others had arrived. All total there were 7 troops and me for the weekend. We spent part of the evening at the neatest little "bar" about 100 yards from the Fort. It's called the Trading Post. They carry a few staples, have a TV, pool tables, chips and serve sodas and beer. It's a quirky little place and I really liked it. We returned to the fort and spent the rest of the evening visiting.
The bakery is an interesting place to sleep. I knew it was going to be cold that night so moved the fire box to the back part of the building to have the heat. But there is no chimney, so the building pretty much remained smokey the whole weekend. It will be some time I think before I lose the smoke smell in my hair :). I slept on the same iron bedsteads they have in the barracks with wooden slats and a hay mattress. I don't think I would ever say this, but rope beds are really comfortable :). I did sleep pretty well though after I got used to the sounds of the fire and the building. The building has a large glassless shuttered window on one side that we opened for ventilation. It also, I think, served as an open invitation to critters. There was a skein of twine on the floor and when I got up in the morning I noticed that is was pulled out almost to the opposite wall; looks like the raccoons wanted to party :).
In the morning I watched a flock of about 20 wild turkeys march by. The morning was chilly and a bit hazy; it looked like fall. Once I was dressed and put together I took some fruit to the barracks where the men were up and cooking coffee. The men were called to formation and given the general orders for the day. The general order for November 8, 1863 was an inventory of clothing and their condition. The troops also received letters, rations and were paid. Once dismissed the men returned to the barracks to read their letters and inspect their clothes.
My impression was of a civilian squatter that also served as the fort sutler. Cody has made some packets of tobacco, matches, fish hooks, stamps and some soap. I had fruit, paper, envelopes, and pickles. I wasn't prepared to be a sutler but it turned out well. I also received a letter! It appears that my brother-in-law was very unhappy with the area he had immigrated to from Germany. He was particularly upset with the confiscating of part of his crop by the army and that he did not leave Prussia for this. As a postscript to the letter a gentleman wrote that my deceased husband's brother was fine. It appears that when the army came to take his crop he shot a soldier and ran off to Mexico!
Later we put a pot of beans on my fire so I could watch them; these would serve as dinner, breakfast and lunch for the rest of the weekend. Since the men had been issued rations some came in looking for spices or requesting I cook their meat for them. I tried to explain that I was very low on supplies and with the blockade had nothing in the way of spices nor anyway to cook the meat other than boiling. They went off very disappointed. However, they returned later having concocted a stew and asked to hang the mucket on the fire. Others came in to buy what little I had, like the much needed soap and of course the tobacco and matches.
The men then went off for target practice and I napped. Upon their return they came back to purchase more items, mostly food this time. The rest of the day and evening was spent visiting and relaxing.
The next morning the men fixed breakfast for themselves--left over potatoes, meat and beans and cabbage. Many of the men had traveled quite a distance to the event so left soon after breakfast was done. I packed up later that morning and Cody showed me around the site and we toured the interpreted buildings. Part of the site collection includes some original Berlin work men's slippers, a pair of ladies' slippers, a banion, and an original carpet bag. Very cool stuff.
Even though the event was small, it was fun, relaxing and we had several opportunities for first person interaction. I really need to do better research on the fort and the civilian population though.
Additional pictures of the event, site and details of the artifacts can be found at Photobucket and on the Fort McKavett Facebook page.