Thursday, November 6, 2014

Posthumous Medal of Honor Awarded 150 Years Later


First Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing of the Union Army was awarded the Medal of Honor today-151 years later-for his bravery and courage in leading his men during the repulse of Pickett's Charge on July 3, 1863, despite being severely wounded.  See full news article below. 

Many Medal of Honor recipients are given this most prestigious award after they are deceased. But why wait so long to recognize this unsung hero? 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cedar Creek 2014 - 150th Anniversary Recap

The Bucktail flag at dawn Saturday.
Sorry I have been so lax on posting folks... Another reenacting season has come to an end for me. I always feel a bit sad to stow all my gear for the winter, knowing I won't be out for another event until next spring.  The 6 months until then seem so long, and the summer seems so short.

This thing we do is an ordeal; it pushes my body to its absolute limit. (72 hours outdoors, exposed to all kinds of extreme weather, laying on the hard ground for less than 3 hours of sleep a night and still somehow functioning, with intense physical exertion and insufficient food...) We reenactors are gluttons for self-punishment. We come home sweaty, dirty, sunburned and weather beaten with work on Monday and still look forward to it next month.

But for an odd reason, I miss it already. I miss the smoky smell of burning firewood, the orange glow of the fire through my tent canvas, the talking and the laughter all around me; the strong feeling of comradeship, the thrills of seeing history come to life. The excitement of being there makes it worth all the hardship. This was only my second reenactment of Cedar Creek (the first was in 2011...see a really long diary of it here ) and rather than bore you with the tiniest details, I thought I'd list some big differences I noticed this time around. We have come to sort of know what to expect from these big anniversary events, and in my opinion this one didn't disappoint.  The only things about it I didn't enjoy were the circumstances like the cold nights and the wind chill, which were out of anyone's control.  On the whole I thought it was a very well-run event.

The reason I thought this was an awesome event were as follows:

1. The camps were HUGE. I don't know how big this was compared to 150th Gettysburg last year or Manassas 2 years ago, but the field was literally a sea of white tents.  I imagine this was what a full encampment looked like. You probably can't tell from the photo but the tents extend all the way back to the distant treeline, and then the CSA camp is beyond that.  The camp was so big that I was glad we were right up against the dirt road, or I never would have been able to find my tent again after a trip to the portajohn.  I arrived late Friday and it turned out my group had no military company I set up my dog tent at the end of the 12th NJ's street.  The tents were all in neat rows with officer tents at the front, and it wasn't hard to distinguish the different units.  I tried to take several vistas of the camps, but there was just too much to fit into one photo.

That is a LOT of tents. Everything white you see in these photos is a tent.
The Confederate camp by the Belle Grove plantation.

2. The clouds were very interesting.  It was heavy cloud cover all weekend with little sun, no rain except a light sprinkling.  The massive cloud formations made for a very colorful, dramatic sunrise and sunset each day.

This was the most dramatic sunrise I ever saw.

On Saturday it was so windy that the clouds were pushed into rolling bands that were miles long. They looked like giant waves on the ocean.

3. We were close to the sutlers for the first time EVER.  It was just a 1/4 mile walk down the road for us. Our campsite in 2011 was so far away we couldn't even see the sutlers, they were over the hill and probably a good mile or so. But this time if we needed anything, it was just a short jog away.  There were also more sutlers that came out for this event than I remember seeing at Gettysburg.  I guess everyone was trying to sell off their gear at the end of the season. There were all the big names like Regimental Quartermaster, Dirty Billy's, Dell's Leatherworks and Fall Creek, and a whole slew of other ones I never even heard of.   Most of the events in Virginia they tend to situate the Yankees as far away from everything as possible, but this time we got the royalty treatment. I was surprised.

4. The Federal attendance at this event was outstanding.  There were so many soldiers in blue uniforms when we did Battalion Drill and review for the General, it looked like there was a few full-strength regiments. (A real regiment during the war was 900-1000 men, 10 companies of about 100 men each)  A reenactor "company" barely equals a platoon of 10-20 men.  All Federal brigades present had a record turnout. It was cool to see we weren't the only Bucktails there, the 149th and 150th were there as well.   I even saw my old boys of Vincent's Brigade, the 2nd Delaware and the 20th Maine...I saw them on the march but they didn't see me. I made no attempt to attract their attention.

Look at all that!
  With the Mifflin Guard regiments combined, we had almost a complete company at full wartime strength.

5. The Grand Military March on Saturday There was a grand review before the General on the parade ground after our battalion drill, and there were so many Union soldiers it took over an hour just to march them all down the road. It was the grandest parade I ever saw.  Every unit performed their wheels and facings flawlessly.

6. We actually got to see cannons pulled by wagons with teams of horses.  I am not impressed at most events, when I see a pickup truck or an SUV pulling a cannon with artillery crew feet dangling from a tailgate. This time they had the caissons with five or six horses each, and a driver in each wagon with two teamsters riding the lead horses. It was really a treat to see that and felt so much more authentic.

7. The event had excellent music.  The Fife & Drum corps of the PA boy scout venturing group and the military brass band was right next to the Mifflin Guard camp, and all weekend long we were treated to the most stirring military horn ensembles and drumming. They had big cornets and french horns and even a tuba that looked about six feet high. My own Civil war ancestors were horn players in a military band, so hearing them play was really nice and it made me wonder what my Great-4x Grandfather would have thought of their performance.  Up by the sutlers the 2nd South Carolina String Band had their tent set up, and were playing all weekend long. The tunes are still in my head as I write this.

This is a real picture we have of my ancestors. They were four German brothers in the 21st New York regimental brass band. My direct relation is one of the seated men, Johann Peter Neibrich.
8. The cavalry battles were EPIC.   This Cedar Creek was the cavalry event of the century. There were so many cavalry horses at this event that their clashes literally spanned the entire field.  The most exciting part of the Sunday battle for me was when General Sheridan rode by and rallied us, and we charged up the hill at the Rebels just as two massive lines of Union & Confederate horsemen rode at each other.  I mean, they were at full gallop. It wasn't the trotting, showy "Mommy, look at the pretty horsies!" kind of pony show for spectator applause, these were Hell-bound soldiers charging head to head at 40 miles an hour and yelling at the top of their lungs. There was even some halfway decent swordplay.  Then we did a hollering bayonet charge right into the middle and watched the Rebels scatter.  The ground was shaking.  If I ever experienced a "civil wargasm," I think that moment was it. I haven't found a good photo of it yet, but look up the painting by Don Troiani called "Come On You Wolverines" and you have a perfect visual.

9. The same four British guys that were at Gettysburg joined us again.  They flew all the way from England to be at this event.  It was really something to talk to these guys. They apparently do English Civil War as well as American Civil War in the UK. They told us they were very impressed by how well these 150th events were planned and managed, despite their huge scale. Like for example, the truck emptied out the portajohns here several times a day and once each night, where they said a Civil War event in the UK just wait until the event is over. (Exactly, ugh.)  Each one of them was from a different region of England, and you could tell by their accents. It was great to see them again, I never thought I would.  One of the men was from Bristol and I was telling him how so many places in Delaware were named after places in England.  (Even the streets in my development especially,  Rockingham, Windsor Hills, Banbury, Canterbury, Cambridge, Warwick) The stories they brought over, and no doubt took home with them, will last a lifetime.

10. The trash management was very well handled.  These massive anniversary events generate a monumental amount of should be expected wherever you have thousands of people in one outdoor location. I remember at the end of the BGA Gettysburg last year there was a mountain of trash bags that was taller than the portajohns. I only saw one trash can and recycling bin per company street, and there was not the piles of empty beer cans and food packaging you'd expect. Everyone seemed to do a good job of hiding things in their tents until the end. There was one trash pickup a night.  On the whole, just about everyone seemed to be considerate of their neighbors and the grounds were very clean.

11. There was a really nice ball but I didn't go to it. Reenactment dances are always "bring your own partner" type of affairs. I decided to write Stephanie a nice letter by candlelight instead.

12. The Pro-Lincoln Midnight March. There was a superb scenario dreamed up by the event organizers that I had not seen at any other 150th event. The fall of 1864 was an election year, and Lincoln was striving for a second term. The North knew the fate of Lincoln's presidency would be decided by the battle of Cedar Creek. In honor of this, there was a torchlight political rally and parade of Lincoln supporters late Saturday night. There was at least fifty Union reenactors, both civilian and soldiers alike, marching down the road from the sutlers and through the camps. With paper lanterns on poles bearing an image of the President and chanting "Abe! Abe! Abe!" at the top of their lungs, generally making noise and being loud and boisterous. John D. Billings mentions these political activists in Hardtack and Coffee, and he observed that they called themselves "wide-awakes."  This sort of political demonstration was a common sight in city streets at night, in both 1860 and 1864, and we saw a first-person reenactment of one of these marches. I don't know if anyone took any decent pictures of it, but it was very cool.  Later that day some civilians came through the camp passing out McClellan flyers, and we made a great show of throwing these into the fire. (McClellan was on the Democratic ballot in 1864, he was running for President and speaking out openly against Lincoln and his military tactics. It did nothing to help his career.)

13. Meeting some family at the reenactment. I learned just before I left for Virginia that my Aunt Gerri, my cousin Bill and two granddaughters were in the area, and decided to come out and see the battle on Sunday. My cousin Billy is one of the biggest reasons why I am here.  He has been a reenactor for almost 20 years, a former Civil War reenactor and now leads the paranormal investigation team at Fort Delaware, he also portrays a British officer in the Revolutionary War and is collecting gear for a World War II British impression. In his spare time he has also volunteered to sail aboard the Kalmar Nyckel.  His astounding knowledge of military history--not to mention his impressive collection of antique guns and swords--has enthralled me since I was very young. He makes routine trips to Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields, and still tries to watch at least one reenactment a year.

It was an experience I will never forget, and I think it was a great way to end another season of living history.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

150th Battle of Cedar Creek Documentary in Hi-Def

Thanks to YouTuber Craig Shipp for this documentary style video of the 150th Cedar Creek in 4k HD!  (That's super-duper-maxi-ultra high definition!) I think I might have seen the cameraman before one of the battles.  Enjoy.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Magnificent Obsessions: Civil War Reenactment

For those not familiar with this strange and fascinating hobby, this is a good expository documentary on what we do.

Video by XiveTV

Sunday, September 21, 2014

1860's Infantry Manual of Arms in German

The following transcript was sent to me this year upon request by First Sergeant Kenneth Gavin, NCO of the 28th Pennsylvania Company C reenactors. It was taken from an 1860's infantry tactics manual that was translated to German, for training of German volunteers of the Union army in their native language, which they understood more readily than English.
I attended an annual battalion drill held at Fort Mifflin, where we practiced responding to these commands. For me it was a rare time-travel moment, because my Civil War ancestors of the 21st New York Infantry were German, and they most likely heard these same orders.

Military Drill
Opening Discourse
  1. Sind sie tapfere soldaten? Are you brave soldiers?
  2. Lieben sie ihr vaterland? Do you love your country?
  3. Sind sie bereit der feind in schlahct zu kämpfen? Are you ready to face the enemy in battle?
  4. Sind sie bereit für ihr vaterland zu sterben? Are you ready to die for your country?
  5. Werden sie ihr blut und ihr leben für ihre kameraden und ihr vaterland opfern? Will you sacrifice your blood and your life for your comrades and your country?
  6. Sag es lauter! Say it louder!
  7. Ich kann sie nicht hören! I can’t hear you!

Drill Scenario

  1. Stillgestanden! Stand at attention!
  2. Das gewehr auf die schulter! Shoulder arms!
  3. Im jedem rang, zählen sie durch zwei! In each rank, count two! (Eins, Zwei, Eins, Zwei…)
  4. Das gewehr heim fuß! Order arms!
  5. Das gewehr auf die schulter! Shoulder arms!
  6. Das gewehr auf die rechts über schulter! Right shoulder shift arms!
  7. Das gewehr auf die schulter! Shoulder arms!
  8. Präsentiert das gewehr! Present arms!
  9. Das gewehr auf die schulter! Shoulder arms!
  10. Laden! Load!
  11. Rechts schwengt das gewehr! Ready!
  12. Schlagt an! Aim!
  13. Feuer! Fire!
  14. Das gewehr auf die schulter! Shoulder arms!
  15. Links um! Left face!
  16. Front! Front!
  17. Rechts um! Right face!
  18. Front! Front!
  19. Vorwärts marsch! Forward march!
  20. Halt! Halt!
  21. Rechts umkert euch! Right about face!
  22. Vorwärts marsch! Forward march!
  23. Halt! Halt!
  24. Rechts umkert euch! Right about face!
  25. Links um! Left face!
  26. Vorwärts marsch! Forward march!
  27. Durch die rechtige flanke, marsch! By the right flank, march!
  28. Halt! Halt!
  29. Das gewehr heim fuß! Order arms!
  30. Das gewehr auf die staple! Stack Arms!
  31. Nehmen gewehre! Take arms!
  32. Das gewehr auf die schulter! Shoulder arms!
  33. Mit zugang links schwenkt euch, marsch! Left wheel, march!
  34. Halt! Halt!
  35. Mit zugang rechts schwenkt euch, marsch! Right wheel, march!
  36. Halt! Halt!
  37. Rechts um! Right face!
  38. Vorwärts marsch! Forward march!
  39. Durch die linke flanke, marsch! By the left flank, march!
  40. Halt! Halt!
  41. Laden! Load!
  42. Feuert durch rang. Firing by rank.
  43. Hinterer rang, rechts schwengt das gewehr! Rear rank, ready!
  44. Schlagt an! Aim!
  45. Feuer! Fire!
  46. Laden! Load!
  47. Vorderer rang, rechts schwengt das gewehr! Front rank, ready!
  48. Schlagt an! Aim!
  49. Feuer! Fire
  50. Das gewehr auf die schulter! Shoulder arms!
  51. Rechts um! Right face!
  52. Vorwärts marsch! Forward march!
  53. Durch companie, in einklang, marsch! By company, into line, march!
  54. Halt! Halt!
  55. Laden! Load!
  56. Feuert durch companie! Firing by company!
  57. Companie, rechts schwengt das gewehr! Company, ready!
  58. Schlagt an! Aim!
  59. Feuer! Fire!
  60. Das gewehr auf die schulter! Shoulder arms!
  61. Machen bajonett! Fix bayonet!
  62. Das gewehr auf die schulter! Shoulder arms!
  63. Ladung bajonett! Charge bayonet!
  64. Vorwärts marsch! Forward march!
  65. Halt! Halt!
  66. Das gewehr auf die schulter! Shoulder arms!
  67. Das gewehr heim fuß! Order arms!
  68. Abgetreten! Dismissed!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

First Timeline at Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation

I have just returned from my first visit to a living history 'timeline' at the Ridley Creek Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation.

 There were not many reenactors in attendance, but there were 3 Union soldiers, one Union Zouave, maybe 5 or 6 Confederates from the Civil War, the regular Plantation volunteers as Colonial farm residents, two men from 1812, a small squad of Russian Soviet World War II infantry, a squad of US World War II Marines, some WACs, I saw one German and even two 17th century Ukrainian Cossacks armed with sabers.

It was a motley assortment of reenactors from a broad span of time periods, but everyone seemed to be good friends.  I decided to go as a tourist this time around as I had not registered for this event, some of these things are invitation only and I didn't want to be the odd guy showing up who nobody invited... but the whole thing turned out to be very laid-back and relaxed. I could have gotten in easily and my PA Bucktail infantry impression would have made for some great photo ops.  Oh well, now I know for next year.

The latest harvest hung up to dry in the 1700s kitchen, including tobacco and these fresh onions.

I just enjoy being at the Colonial Plantation.  Every time I walk into this place I feel like I am in a sort of "time bubble."  Nothing changes here, everything stays familiar.  The serene setting among the wooded hills is so peaceful, with no modern intrusions like power lines or traffic; only natural sounds of birds and animals, crickets and water flowing down the rocky creek.  It's a perfect place to forget what century you are in...and so it makes an ideal backdrop for several different time periods of reenacting.

From the moment you enter this place that time forgot, you just have to take in a deep breath and absorb the green surroundings and the sights, sounds and smells of country life. It was hard living off the land this way, but it was simple and honest. Very close to nature and in harmony with the earth.  I think it's the way people were meant to live.

Inside the house, especially the kitchen, a visitor is amazed at the primitive but clever methods of housework, cooking and gardening.  Everything is made of solid organic materials; the wood table, furniture and tools are so worn from centuries of use, but they are still usable! As if the older these objects get, the better and stronger they are.

Unlike most historical places where the idea is to "look but don't touch," visitors are sometimes (with supervision) allowed to pick up, use and handle the objects as they were intended.

One thing is certain...this place was meant to endure.

Turkeys foraging around the camps.
One of the Cossack soldiers displaying his curved saber. 
Both the Cossacks and the Polish Commonwealth used Eastern styles of weapons
adopted from the Turkish forces that invaded their homelands.

He shows just how sharp these blades were by splitting a water bottle neatly in half.

I have been invited to come out next year dressed in my Civil War Bucktail Infantry impression. I am certainly looking forward to the 1860s skirmish here next month.

If you would like to plan a visit to the Plantation, or have an interest in volunteering for a living history event, please visit their website:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Civil War Superhero

My first thought when I saw this picture was "Hey...I didn't know Captain America fought in the Civil War too!"

A Northern state militiaman, unidentified, possibly a fireman. Sadly there's no indication in the picture of what unit he belonged to, whether this shirt was worn by other men of his unit as well, or if he was so patriotic he just had to put a shield on his chest. We will never know what some of these men were thinking.

*Addendum: This man may have been in a company of Fire Zouaves who put the symbol of their fire house on the bibs or "plastrons" of their member of the Authentic Farbs Facebook group thinks it might have been the 73rd New York Volunteer Infantry, formed from a fire company calling themselves "old Americus" firemen.

This image, found on Pinterest, points to an eBay auction. You can own this odd piece of history for $299. (Link: )

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Monument Vandalism? Or Research?

Returning from the 151st GAC Gettysburg reenactment, before leaving town for another year I decided to pay a visit to the real battlefield and the Pennsylvania monument. To pay my respects to those real men who laid down their lives, for they are of course the reason we are here.  I didn't have any trouble finding the 42nd PA "Bucktail" infantry's list of names, as the state regiments are all numbered and spaced around the base of the monument in numerical order. I paused to take a picture so I'd have all the names for reference.

Sure enough, I found it...but what's this??

In company D, middle row, there is a name missing. It looks like somebody chiseled it off.

Wild ideas entered my head. Was it vandalism? An old personal vendetta? An example of Damnatio Memoria?

I was puzzled at this as I drove home, until another historian explained. Over the years, errors have been found in the records. So the park has been quietly removing some names of people who were not at the battle of Gettysburg, and adding others who were not listed but were actually there.  So if a name is up there in error, it's scratched off. If a name should be up there but isn' they put new bronze letters on? How do they stick them up there, with superglue?

Anyway, mystery solved. This guy wasn't at Gettysburg, so his name was taken off.

Whenever you see this on a national monument, it's usually that way for a good reason.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Rollin' rollin' rollin'...

Sooo... I just sat on the deck this morning and rolled about 130 cartridges for the Enfield, using up very nearly a whole can of powder.  One 16oz. can of GOEX FFg gunpowder makes about 130-140 rounds depending on the load, and should last me an entire season.  I'll have to remember that.

5 days until Gettysburg!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Some More Sketches Made At Camp Geiger

A detailed look at a Sharps rifle (issued to the bucktails after Antietam)

This one was based on the drawing by Winslow Homer of a sharpshooter in a tree. I made the guy into a bucktail.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Camp Geiger Civil War Days: 1864 The Changing Face of War. May 28-30 2014

Well folks, this past weekend I attended my first CW event in Whitehall, Pennsylvania, now known as "Camp Geiger" (in honor of the camp organizer's son who was KIA in Afghanistan in 2013).  I thought I should post a few brief comments about the experience, and maybe do a more detailed post later on (If I feel like it).

-The place known as "Camp Geiger" doesn't officially exist. It's a very tiny park on private land, and it doesn't appear on any map.  This was much in evidence by how difficult it was to find.  Not kidding, I drove right past the dirt road turnoff almost five times before I found it.

-There was only one wooden sign off the highway that said CIVIL WAR with an arrow, and it was poorly placed and there were no signs after that indicating where to go from there. I knew I was on the right road, but the entrance was danged near invisible. That was my only complaint, really. Make some better signs next time, make more signs and think about the placement.

-Its on a "Church Road" outside of Whitehall. But what the directions on the website failed to mention is that Church Road is cut in two.  I ended up on the Church Road on the wrong side of the city. There I was sitting in this tiny parking lot in front of a tennis court, and thinking "No way, this can't be the right place"  It turned out the road dead-ends right there, and starts again on the other side of the park, which is where I should have been.  (I was told it was behind an Autozone and a laser tag place called Planet Trog)

-Well once I got where I was supposed to be, the landscape was amazing.  We camped on top of a high green hill, surrounded by an idyllic valley and majestic mountains. It was very easy to forget that Allentown was just three miles away.  It felt like the Shenandoah valley.

-The weather was glorious.  The sky was blue, the grass was green and it was warm in the day and cool and breezy at night.

-This event is unique in that it attracts both 'mainstream' reenactors who like civilian camping and 'hardcores' who sleep in the mud underneath makeshift lean-tos...which is not unique in itself, but unique in the fact that there was no rivalry or bickering, elitism or snobbery. Everyone seemed to be getting along! What a change from our experience at the BGA Gettysburg last year.  Also, it's unique in that there is a thing called a 24-hour tactical.  There were only 2 real scheduled battles, and the rest was small skirmishes erupting here and there. The battle area was in a thicket of woods at the other side of this hill. There were earthworks and trenches dug (called "breastworks" because at this time men could stand up behind them to exchange fire while still protected)  We had the option of sleeping and living in these earthworks, but nobody made us if we didn't want to.  Anytime we felt like it, we could walk down the hill and rejoin the action, and quit whenever we got tired.

-Note: I like being as authentic as possible, within reason and given my means and health limitations...but it also needs to be understood that some reenactors want to bring their wives and kids along for the fun, and not everyone can be as tough as the real soldiers were. Sometimes it just isn't practical. Babies and little kids won't sleep on the cold ground in the rain, and women like some privacy too.  You have to be fair, because if you barred certain people from an event based on this, the numbers in attendance would dwindle from 300 or 1,000 down to like 10 people.  And face it, more people is more fun.  (And yes, I do have hardcore friends. No offense to them, but not everyone can do that and not die.)  You could say I'm like a progressive mainstreamer. Slowly getting better, stronger and tougher.... but not overdoing it to the point of death. I know my limits.

-I heard a few Confederate regiments boycotted this event for whatever reason, so for the first time in reenacting history we actually outnumbered the Southern forces. It was a welcome change.

-There were shots going back and forth all day, as these were unscripted scenarios with no fixed outcome, and we just used our knowledge of tactics and the terrain to let the fighting evolve on its own. I thought it was fun.  In 3 separate occasions, I and the other crack shot marksmen of the 42nd Bucktails were defending a dugout we called "The Alamo" from wave after wave of rebel attackers.  We had a good field of fire and could see other holes and all around us and tried to keep the trenches from getting captured by the Rebels.  A few times, I helped picked off a couple skirmish parties that made their way down the road to the left of our position and tried to flank us.

-We also "died" a lot.  We reenacted a small portion of Cold Harbor, in which the Union forces got massacred.  The Mifflin Guard color-bearer, of the 88th New York Volunteers, recreated a scenario which actually happened to another regiment. A man carrying the Federal flag of a Michigan infantry charged out across No-Man's Land with all his men. And the soldiers, seeing they were vastly outnumbered and outgunned, turned around and retreated. But the flag bearer was so far ahead and running so fast, he didn't notice there was nobody behind him.  The enemy infantry on the opposite side was so impressed by his courage, they actually held their fire as he stopped, saluted them, turned and marched slowly back to his line while holding the colors high, to the loud cheering of men on both sides.  It was an awe-inspiring moment.

 Mr. and Mrs. Autenreith of the Bucktails cooked us what might very well be the best meals I have had at a reenactment to date.  The dessert was amazing, it was some kind of cake with apple pie filling. For the Army, they sure are spoilin' us. I camped side by side with three families at this event, and their kids, ranging from age 2-10 years, were all playing together. It was a nice glimpse of a future I am honestly looking forward to someday.  We were all taking turns being babysitters this weekend.  And, I am proud to declare that I am not the tallest man in my company.

The breastworks and trenchworks were impressive. This was the only cell phone picture I was able to get in between the battles. When the men were sitting around and their rifles were leaning against the walls, it looked exactly how it looks in Gardner's photographs.

Like my sign? Men in the Union Army really made stuff like that and hung them on their tents sometimes as a joke.

I tried to get a picture of this huge bonfire in the camp next to us
but you really can't tell from a still photo.
This picture shows what I like the most about camping at reenactments.

-I had used up every last round at Gettysburg last year and was completely out of gunpowder. But fortunately, the Dixon's Muzzleloading Shop was only about 15-20 minutes away, and I was able to buy another can of GOEX. I figured out one will last me about a year.

-After the amazing sunset on Saturday evening, we were treated to a stunning artillery firing demonstration at the crest of the hill.  The blue smoke appeared to glow in the dusk as it hung over the field, and the echoes from the shots were heard all over the place. A group of local yokels in the city set off some fireworks of their own, but they immediately surrendered once they heard our 3-pounders. :)

After Action Report:  I had a good time, and will look forward to doing this event next year.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Adirondack Museum: Highlights (WIP)

This is a continuation of an earlier post. For the original post, see the following link:

Very quotable sign.


Exactly one year ago this weekend, I was at the Adirondack Museum. And I just realized I never wrote a blog post about it, or showed you the very interesting pictures I took there!

I took a lot, as there are many cool things to see here, but I will try to show you readers the highlights. 

The Adirondack museum is located about 45 minutes North of our vacation house.  It's actually many smaller museums combined.  There is a large visitor center made to look like an old style inn built of logs, and once you pass through there is a big open courtyard area with about a dozen smaller buildings, each dedicated to a certain aspect of Adirondack mountain life.  There is a boat museum, one about horses and carriages, a logging museum, a building about trains and rail cars, and there are also examples of old types of tourist lodgings around a small lake.  

I will try to go in the rough order in which I visited each building, and promise not to exceed the site's image quota for a blog post. So here goes.

The Visitor Center.

An amusing sign in the first exhibit. The sign reads WARNING! Monday, July 16th--One hundred automobiles will pass along this road.  Residents should be WARNED that children should be kept off the road. Remember the day. BE CAREFUL!  (This was a sign from 1905) Seems absurd by today's standards. At this time however, only one person in the entire town owned an automobile.

Logger brands.  These were hammer-like tools that were swung into the ends of logs before floating them downstream.  At one time, there were almost 100 logging companies in New York. These marks indicated the company that harvested the log. There is a key on the wall next to this display with all the known symbols and the name of each company they represent.
This is a display showing how the Adirondack mountain men cooked their meals over a fire.  As Civil War reenactors, we are all too familiar with this already.

A sign on the wall next to this is taken from a memoir passage describing the living conditions enjoyed by the loggers, rugged men who slept together in tents, log cabins and lean-tos. I will reproduce it here for your reading pleasure.

"On a stormy day, everyone would come in all wet. The place would be full of old, dirty, wet clothes, and stinking old socks, and to top this off, the teamsters would bring in their old harness and drip them dry on the wood pile...when they got a good, big fire going, the air was not too sanitary..." (Lumber Camp News, 1850)

Handling the logs was a dirty business, and all that raw and unmilled wood was sure to cause the occasional splinter, as in an example shown below:

Yikes.  How does one "fully recover" from being impaled through the arm and chest by a 2 foot long wood spike, and go back to work the next day like nothing happened? shows you how tough these guys were.  I remember the above image from my visit to this museum as a 12 year old kid, and it still gives me the shivers.

This antique version of a modern tool is so primitive looking I almost did not recognize it.  This odd-looking piece of equipment is one of the earliest chainsaws to use a gasoline engine. It was nicknamed the "Sally Saw" and was in use from the late 1930's to the mid 1940's.  An interesting note is the ring-shaped one piece blade with teeth that spins when the motor is running, instead of a chain.  The engine is a four-stroke with a large gas tank, I cannot imagine how heavy this piece of equipment is. Needless to say, the later invention of the simpler two-stroke engine made chainsaws a lot lighter.  

This later version (from the 1950s) was used for commercial logging of very big trees, not for cutting them down but for cutting trees into smaller sections once they were on the ground.  The blade and chain is about three times longer than your average Home Depot one, and notice there is a handle on the other end for a second operator to hold and steady it. Chainsaws similar to these are still in use today in the commercial logging industry.
This is kind of interesting. Pretty much a gigantic bandsaw laid on its side.  The "blade" is a continuous loop of flexible metal with teeth on the side facing up. The museum put clear plastic tubing on the edge of the blade so kids don't cut their hands by running their fingers along the edge.
Another saw quite different from the ones we have today.
Outside the logging exhibit building. This is a tram car system for carrying logs up steep mountain slopes.  It used a braided steel cable that passed through multiple wheels, multiplying the strength of its grip on the cable. Also built-in is a safety lock to prevent the load from sliding all the way down the hill if the pulley fails or the cable breaks.


Recreation of the inside of a boat builder's shop.

This is a very popular traditional style of wooden boat used by tourists in the Adirondack lakes.  I wondered if the wood thing in the middle of the top one (labeled #16) is some kind of odd-shaped seat. But it is actually a shoulder rest for carrying the boat upside down on your shoulders! (The real seats are wicker work and on either side of the boat) This style of boat was copied elsewhere but it originated in upstate New York.

This natural decoration of uncut tree branches and sticks is a signature Adirondack style seen only in the North country. I kind of like it. Wouldn't it be cool to make a railing on a deck this way for your house?
This is a very, very early electric wiring system called post and tube wiring. Porcelain insulator posts are attached to the wood, and the wires are wrapped in an insulating tape and strung between the posts.  This dates from the early 1880's and was under a porch roof. 

The inside of a guest cabin. All the pieces of furniture are hand made from local pine. I want to call attention to the inlaid grandfather clock at center and the dresser at right paneled in sheets of birch bark.  Very nice and old timey. I would love to have a cabin like this in my backyard to go escape modern life and focus on my art.
Included in a display of vintage kitchen, picnic and food containers and utensils. Yes, that is an incredibly ornate glass bottle of Heinz tomato ketchup from the turn of the century.

This is exactly what it looks like. A snow plow meant to be dragged by a team of horses. Behind it is a large wood drum filled with water or sand, meant to flatten and compress the snow to make a better road surface.

Inside a wagonwright's shop.

No, that isn't a real horse. On the wall are many different types of horse shoes.
A very elegant stage coach, just like the ones that always got robbed by bandits.

Interesting addition to make the exhibit more lifelike, a tired coach driver. No, he's not real.
There was also a historic house on the site with some stunning examples of more Adirondack style handmade furnishings.


"This brass cannon was fired on summer Sunday mornings to call parishioners to services in the Church of the Good Shepherd, Racquette Lake. The church, built in 1880 on St. Huberts Isle, still stands." A cannon to call people to mass. Imagine that!  Racquette Lake is one of the biggest lakes in the mountains. The sound probably carried much farther than bells would.

This obviously isn't everything. But I do hope you enjoyed your virtual tour of the Adirondack Museum.  I had to leave some things for you to see yourself if you decide to make a trip to visit. I would recommend it if you are fascinated by old stuff.