Sunday, November 22, 2009

Battle of Secessionville - Friday

Friday dawned cold and overcast again. Dad had gone out to the campsite early and called to tell us to arrive later than we’d planned since it was so cold. He also informed us that they weren’t enforcing the “no vehicles in camp” rule on Friday. This was good news for us since the walk from the parking area to our campsite was roughly a mile. (Really.) So when we finally drove out to the plantation, we were able to head right up to the campsite and park by the "Denver Airport."

Did I mention the road we drove in on once we were past registration? It was a literal tunnel of greenery. All kinds of trees and vines swarmed overhead and the trail itself was hard-packed sand. I have no idea how trucks got through there since our van and trailer barely made it. I s’pose they came up the avenue of oaks instead.

The Suttons were set up next to us in living history so I ran over to take some pictures of them first off. They had big posters with the words to famous Civil War songs. Mr. Sutton was playing his banjo and the three of them (Mr. & Mrs. Sutton and Jennifer) were teaching the kids to sing them. I think the kids were having fun.

Mom wanted to straighten up the tent so Raquelle and I decided to take a quick walk and get the “lay of the land.” First we headed for sutler row, which was set up along the famous avenue of oaks. Very picturesque, the avenue looked, with all those old-fashioned white tents set up and 1860s gentlemen and ladies wandering around. We discovered where some of the PSRS ladies were encamped and stopped to talk for a few minutes. They were going to cook lunch for the entire Federal army the next day so were getting started on it then. Huge cast iron pots were already over the fire and meat, carrots, and onions were being sliced rapidly into their depths.

After visiting with the ladies, we headed over to check out one of the plantation’s big “attractions,” nine of the original slave cabins. They were roomy little brick houses and had various displays in them about slave life. As usual, though most of the info was true, it was extremely slanted so we didn’t bother to read a whole bunch. But as we arrived at the last cabin, a black couple stood up to say hi to us. They had been doing tours of the slave cabins for folks all morning.

“Well, hello there, ladies!” the man called out as we walked up. He and his sister greeted us and introduced themselves, as did we. He was quite voluble and went on and on about our “lovely dresses” and bonnets and capes. His sister agreed that we were quite finely dressed. Then he got a twinkle in his eye and said, “Well now, my spirit’s tellin’ me somethin’. My spirit speaks to me and tells me that y’all have come down from the Big House to visit us.” We laughed and fell into the role and agreed that we’d come down to see how they were doing.

He was quite entertaining and told us about his Confederate ancestors and the fun they have telling people the true history of the black people in the war. Then he got a twinkle in his eye again. “My spirit’s tellin’ me somethin’ else,” he intoned. “It’s tellin’ me you’re gonna give me money!” We really howled with laughter that time and told him we wished we could. After some more jovial conversation we decided to head back to camp and see how Mom and Dad were doing.

We entered the huge wrought iron gate of the mansion and began the trek up the front “sidewalk” (a broad sandy avenue). We were properly impressed by the “big house” even though it is only a 1920s rebuild of the original. As we sauntered up the long walkway we noticed a small opening in the hedge marked by a sign telling us it was the garden entrance. Curious about the garden, we went through it and – well! Were we ever impressed! The gardens of Boone Hall are absolutely gorgeous, even in November! There were still roses blooming and all manner of other flowers and plants flowering. I’m not good at botany so I haven’t the faintest idea of what most of them were, but they were lovely. I took a ton of pictures.

As we exited the gardens we found ourselves by the water. I looked it up and found out later that Boone Hall sits on Wampacheeoone Creek. (I have no clue how to pronounce that.) And it looked a lot bigger than a creek to me anyway. At least, when the tide was in, it did! Anyhow, the banks of the creek are lined with marsh grasses and live oaks – one oak was sprawled clear into the water. We hurried back up to the tent to tell Mom and Dad of all the lovely scenery we’d found and take them on a tour.

But first things first. Mom was digging out sandwich makin’s so I whopped up a baloney sandwich. Raquelle was getting a little sleepy so after we finished munching, she laid down on the cot for a nap, Dad pleasantly occupied himself explaining Civil War engineering to spectators and Mom and I wandered off to tour the grounds and shop.

We stopped off at the PSRS ladies’ tents for a while to chat. One of them was tatting with a shuttle, something I’ve wanted to learn for quite a while. Raquelle and I learned needle-tatting some years ago, but needle tatting wasn’t invented in the 1860s. So to be authentic, we need to learn to use the shuttle. Expressing my desire to learn, I promptly received a quick lesson and took several pictures of the process.

We also got our first look at the PSRS calendar, a fundraiser to which I contributed several photos. It looked perty nice, if I do say so myself.

As Mom and I were coming back through the gardens (which she properly admired) we saw Raquelle and the Sutton ladies approaching and we all spent some time admiring the beautiful flowers and plants. We also set a time to meet them for dinner that evening at the Golden Corral in town. Then Mom, Raqu, and I went on towards the camp and came upon the oaks in the water.

Here I must mentioned a regrettable incident.

In complete defiance of proper 1860s etiquette, Raquelle and I not only climbed up on the branches of the tree (good thing our ankles were properly covered with drawers and petticoats!) but we acted like total goofballs once we were up there.

But I am heartened to relate that, seeing spectators in the distance, we endeavored to reassume our decorous demeanor and behave like 1860s ladies, albeit still snickering privately.

As the day was now winding down, we helped Dad put all his instruments into the tent and pack up for the night. As we were tidying up, Dad told us of a funny incident. Apparently some of the spectators were confused when they got to his station. They kept asking him, “Where are the engravers?” He finally asked to look at their program and yup, someone had written down “engravers” at Station 14 instead of “engineers.” The funny thing was, one of the organizers came over later in the day and checked out Dad’s setup. “This all looks great,” the man enthused, “but you’ll have to move your site. Station 14 is for the engravers.” Whereupon Dad explained the mistake and they both laughed. I’m still wondering whose bad handwriting caused the misinterpretation.

Then we picked up Dad's car and drove the car and van back to the hotel. Now you're probably wondering, "Why on earth did they bother with TWO vehicles? Don't they know there's a recession on?" The answer is simple. Dad likes to be at the campsite at o'dark thirty to set up all his instruments and equipment. This is fine for Dad. Guys can jerk on their pants, whop on a shirt, duck into a coat and rustle on a few appurtenances such as sidearms and hat in a matter of ten minutes. Women, on the other hand, have difficulties. It's not just the chemise, drawers, petticoats, stockings, and cuffs. It's also the hoop skirt, overskirt, bodice, collar, jewelry, shawls and shoes. Not to mention putting your hair up, adjusting your bonnet and packing your purse and carpet bag. So we ladies need a little more time in the morning to get ourselves pulled together. Thus, two vehicles are a marvelous and necessary measure for keeping the peace.

So anyway, after divesting ourselves of our hoops, guns, bonnets and wool at the hotel, we popped into our van to follow the Suttons to the Golden Corral. Mr. Sutton believes in using all the horse power available, so it was quite fun to try to keep up with him. However, he was also very nice about pulling off if we got shaved off at a red light. :D

At the Golden Corral, we proceeded to spend a couple hours yakking our heads off and stuffing ourselves. Then back to the hotel to iron clothing for the next day and flop into bed.

Thus far, I had only managed to take a mere 75 photos. I intended to rectify that little problem the next day. Stay tuned. . .

No comments: