Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The War at Home: 1862

The annual Texas home front event has now ended. This year was The War at Home: 1862. We arrived on Friday evening. As with each year, Friday is spent putting things in place and visiting with all the other participants. Everyone had arrived by 10:00 or so. Some of us went on to bed, but a few apparently stayed up until the wee hours on the porch of the “store” playing music.

I had my own visitor during the early morning. About 4:30 or so I heard faint thump, thump, thump and felt something climb up to the edge of the cot. I cautiously looked down toward my feet and saw the site cat, Peanut Butter, peering over the edge of the cot and then he promptly jumped up and laid down across my legs. There he stayed until about 6:30 when I had to get up.

I should preface this report on the event that we found out about a month before the event that there was a Boy Scout event also scheduled at the site this same weekend. We were ensured that the scouts would be in their own area, not using any of the structures and would not interfere with our event. I left it up to the participants as to whether they wanted to proceed with the event and all decided to attend.
The event officially began at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday. I dressed and headed to the store. My clerk decided to sleep on the porch and was still abed when I arrived to begin the day’s business. Also at this time the boy scouts started to arrive, driving their cars on to the site and setting up their modern pup tents on the open area at the end of the town square. We tried very hard to ignore them and the plastic tables and large blue water jugs they set up at the crossroads. Some then decided they wanted to us the yard of one of the farms that we were using as a gathering/lunch spot. This was all before 10:00 a.m.

After getting the front yard camp out taken care of I returned to the store and found my clerk at work, finally. He was working up the Lauderdale’s accounts. Mrs. Lauderdale ran up quite an account while her husband was away at war. We had a small stock at the store, which included not only the medicines, writing supplies and foods included in my prior post, but also cards of buttons, papers of needles, and bottles of rolled pills provided by Mr. Nix.

Mr. Nix arrived later in the morning. He is on his way from Galveston to Dallas and informed us of the conditions on the island. It seems only one Yankee ship is in the bay and commerce continues as before. This was very good news to many as some of the village residents have business concerns in Galveston.
I received many letters from friends in California, Mississippi and Tyler. It seems that mail in California was being held up in San Francisco as the letters I received were somewhat out of order and a mention was made of a box of seeds that I never received. Mrs. Betts in Tyler told us about a slave insurrection in Tyler and the resulting punishments. I also received several swatches of fabrics that were available in California at very reasonable prices.

Mr. Nix and I then took a stroll around the village to ensure all had a pleasant night and all was as it should be. First we visited the seamstress shop to show the fabric swatches and get their opinions on how they would make up and if I should stock some. Mrs. Frederick was very impressed with the plaid silk. Mrs. McKinney’s daughter, Victoria, was lovely in her new dress and shoes.

Our next stop was at Dr. Rice’s household. Miss Hale was sewing in the hall and Mrs. Rice was making green bean salad for evening meal. Dr. Rice was busy explaining to visitors about Civil War medicine; he truly seemed to be in his element.

We then visited the Lauderdales. There we found Mr. Glover, apparently he is courting Miss Hooper who is staying with the Lauderdales. However, Mr. Glover is staying with the Rices as he is under the doctor’s care for a wound he received at Shiloh. He walked all the way to the Lauderdale farm; I tried to explain to him that Miss Hooper will need a healthy husband and that this activity, especially walking such distances would not benefit him. While at the Lauderdales we heard that Mr. Lauderdale’s man ran off from the farm to which he had been lent. This was not good news as Mr. Lauderdale was also injured at Shiloh and cannot use his arm for at least two months and cannot get a crop in. So not only did he lose the $800 dollars invested in his man but he cannot earn anything from a crop to replace him and support his family. I left the gentlemen to discuss war and business and visited with the ladies in the kitchen. Mrs. Lauderdale was preparing greens and Miss Hooper was getting ready to make bread.  
Our next visited was with Mrs. Brock. We found her churning butter and entertaining several visitors. As we approached the town square we saw the boy scouts had added an inflatable bounce house to their pup tent camp.

Upon our return we decided it was a good time to eat. We had pickled eggs, pickles, bread, sausage, cheese, and lemonade. The rest of the afternoon village residents came to the store to pick up their mail. Mrs. Lauderdale received a telegram. She and Mr. Lauderdale seemed not to know who it was from, but they were coming for a visit and asked Mrs. Lauderdale to ask Mr. Lauderdale to buy a mule on credit. So we are now looking for someone who has a mule they are willing to sell. Mr. Gray also entertained us with his fiddle and Mr. Nix shared some musing of an English woman on Texas and American woman written in 1845. She apparently was not very impressed with American women; she commented on how frequently we travel about town without male company, how frivolous our conversations were and that our dress was loud and mildly distasteful. We had a good laugh at her expense.

As evening approached, the boy scouts left but the adult leaders remained and planned to spend the night at the site.
 Saturday evening we had a community dinner. There was so much food – collard greens, ham, pickled eggs, pickles, cole slaw, fruit cake, cookies, apple pies, corn bread, pound cake, green bean salad, still warm fresh bread, fresh churned butter, tea and lemonade. After dinner we were entertained with period music by Mr. Gray on the fiddle, Mr. Gray’s brother on the guitar and Mr. Lauderdale on the bones. It was a wonderful close to the day.

Sunday is always a laid back day. After dressing I went to the store and waited for Mr. Gray to wake. We decided to close the store for the day at noon and spent the rest of the day lounging on the Rice’s porch.

The event was to last until noon but the site advertised our “show” until 3:00, so quite a few participants stayed until then. However, when we started to bring in our cars at 3:00 to load up the site had issues. Things worked out but it was still a difficult situation.

The event was good and bad. I think everyone enjoyed the event and the opportunity to participate in living history with structures and a village atmosphere. However, the issues we experienced with the site this year were very stressful and I feel the communication from the site was not there. I’m really not sure if they grasped what our event was all about. For these reasons I have decided to not use the site again. There are a few other villages in central Texas that I’m going to scout out and hopefully we will find a new home before planning starts for 1863.

Additional photos can be found at

1 comment:

Amy said...

Well, I for one had a great time, despite the boy scouts. I learned a lot about first person (I suppose I'm a visual learner) and about preparing for an event. I'm really glad I came, and glad that it wasn't too intensive since I was trying to learn and overcome shyness. You're an awesome event coordinator, Annette. Thanks for letting us come and play!