Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Battle of Secessionville - Saturday

Saturday dawned bright and… cloudy again. Bummer. The weather forecast had been for SUNSHINE so I was really ticked off. Not only that, but I had to put my hair up three times before it would behave. Not only that, but putting my hair up three times meant that I was running behind schedule so I had to scramble the rest of the morning. I was not a happy camper. In the middle of the vortex, Raquelle sweetly remarked, “I’m going over to Mom’s room to help her dress.” Ha! Yeah, right. I knew why she was leaving – to get away from Miz Grouchface Me!

Anyway, we finally got ourselves pulled together, out the door, in the van and to the reenactment site. We blithely told the guard at the entrance that we had “stuff to drop off” and he let us drive our vehicle in. We couldn’t park as close as the Denver Airport this time, but we did manage to park just two minutes away from our campsite. That was good because we had STUFF with us this morning. The ball was this evening so we’d brought our ball dresses in case it was warm enough to put them on.

But the FIRST thing I wanted to do was have someone take a picture of me. I’d gotten a new dress at the Battle of Atlanta and wanted a photo of it. Since I’m usually taking the pictures, I’m usually not IN the pictures. So Raquelle obligingly took several shots of me in my new dress – red and green homespun-looking plaid. It was a nice wintery outfit and I found it quite comfortable.

Mom and Raquelle sneer at the idea of wearing a store-bought dress (horrors!) but I insisted that if I’m going to spend time sewing, I want to spend it on FUN things like ball dresses, not boring ole day dresses.

I decided that I was still too grouchy to be around people so I grabbed a muffin and stalked off to the gardens. Since my mouth was obviously full, no one bothered me and I was able to calm down and cheer up.

The scene around our tents had changed overnight. No longer were we surround by living history exhibits. Instead, during the wee hours of the night, an entire artillery camp had sprung up around us. In fact, the Ruckers had pitched their tent just twenty feet from ours, which certainly made visiting back and forth quite easy!

Pretty soon it was time for the ladies’ tea, so we all headed for the Cotton Dock. The Cotton Dock building really was a dock on the creek. It was a nice roomy L-shaped building with a huge fireplace and big double doors that opened onto the dock. Lights and big picture windows completed the scene. We arrived early and took pictures of friends while waiting for the signal to get something to eat. The ladies who brought the “spread” outdid themselves and we had veggies, cookies, bread, as well as sweet tea and punch. We felt quite elegant sitting around chatting with our friends while sipping tea and munching cookies.

Afterwards, we stepped out on the dock to take some pictures and I was thrilled to see that ALL the clouds were gone and we were in blinding sunshine! Yay!

We sauntered lazily back to the campsite, whereupon I suddenly remembered that the Federal army was going to stack arms in the avenue of the oaks while getting lunch, so I grabbed my camera and scuttled back. Great photo ops must be taken whenever they appear, even during lunch time!

After this, we enjoyed lunch and had a good time chatting with several ladies at our tent. Dad, meanwhile, had been packing his gear for the battle. The artillery commander had seen Dad’s display the night before and asked Dad to help him in the fort by calling canon fire ranges and generally keeping an eye on enemy movements. So Dad got his tripod and map and trundled off to get set up.

Meanwhile, we ladies continued to yak until I realized the battle was going to start shortly. I really wanted some pictures of Dad so I hurried off with my camera to a short-cut through the woods Dad had mentioned. He said it was kind of scenic, with a footbridge over a creek. I pictured a cute little arched bridge, but that wasn’t how it turned out at all. Instead, I wound up on a lonnnng wooden bridge that snaked around through a marshy swamp. In some places, the bamboo and marsh grasses were tall enough to form a “tunnel” and block the sunlight. It was pretty cool.

Emerging from this shaded spot, I found myself facing a huge, empty field to cross. This was not pretty cool. The sun was now high in the sky and it was HOT. (Yeah, I know it’s November, but that’s how things are in South Carolina sometimes.) Be that as it may, there were no handy golf carts or heroic cavalrymen around, so I trudged across the field on foot and wound up rather warm at the battle lines with ten minutes to go before the battle started.

The announcer was telling people about the original battle being reenacted. Apparently, the Confederate forces had spent most of the night digging entrenchments and were laying down sleeping when the Federals attacked. The Confederates had to race to man to the walls of their fort.

Well, sure enough, there were the entrenchments forming a fort and there were the Confederates dozing in the shade. Very authentic looking.

Often times, reenacted battles can be a little boring. Troops move pointlessly forward, then pointlessly backward, then forward, then backward, and nobody dies till the last five minutes. However, this battle was different.

It started abruptly when some Federal forces sneaked up using cover on the field and suddenly raced up to the entrenchments and tried to pull down the abattis. They were driven off by the Confederates who leaned over the walls and fought them hand to hand.

Immediately following this exciting intro, the cannons began booming, drums started rolling, enemy soldiers were sneaking through the cover on the field and Confederate forces mounted the walls in waves. One wave would mount and fire, then retreat while the next wave came up. Dad was on a mound in the center of the fort, calling ranges and alerting the commander of enemy troop movements.

It was actually quite an exciting battle, both for the soldiers and the spectators. Dad took a “hit” during the battle – his guard had to bandage up his hand, which he then dutifully held up in the air the rest of the battle to keep the blood flowing the right way. Lots of other soldiers took hits too, so it looked quite authentic.

Dad gets his hand bandaged by his guard

One of the powder monkeys was a kid and he took a hit part way through. His dad and another soldier grabbed him and raced through the fort towards the hospital tent behind the lines. They ran right through the spectators, scattering them as they tore up to the medics and plopped the grinning kid down. Then they scrambled back into the fort. The crowd loved it and I got a good picture or two, inasmuch as I literally had to jump out of the way for them.

One fella had a big Confederate flag and he loved to jump up on the walls and wave it defiantly at the enemy. At one point, the commander called everyone back off the walls (probably so the cannons could fire) and the fellow got excited and flipped around the flag and it, uh, came off the flag pole. The guy didn't realize it at first and kept excitedly waving his pole around till he suddenly noticed the flag's absence and roared back to the wall to get it. He was a little more careful how he waved it around after that.

The battle finally ended with the Confederates winning the day and the bugler blew Taps as the troops resurrected. I was now pretty hot, especially since I hadn’t brought my parasol, so I headed back across the everlasting field, through the shaded marsh and to our campsite.

By the way, did I mention the cotton patch near the campsites? Very southern looking, it was!

Things were pretty quiet at the tent, so I decided to take a nap. It was very peaceful there in the shade of the pecan trees with the birds twittering. I had a pleasant time until everyone returned and Jeannie Rucker stopped by to chat. I didn’t want to miss the fun so I got up and joined in. We yakked about all sorts of things, but the best part was that we got Jeannie to agree to come to our ball as the photographer! We knew she would be good because she does all the photography for the Spartanburg ball. We had been looking for a good photographer for several weeks, so we were tickled that she agreed to come!

We went looking for supper, but apparently were too late - the fry bread folks were already out of food and had shut down shortly after lunch. There had been a hot dog stand too, but it was shut down also. We managed to nip into the Butterfly Cafe just as it was closing and at least get some sandwiches. Boone Hall has some kind of butterfly pavilion thingie where you can see all kinds of butterflies and cocoons. We never got a chance to see it, but that's where the cafe name came from.

After supper, we needed to get ready for the ball. Though we'd brought our ball dresses along, it was now getting cold and dampish so we opted not to wear them. (We later regretted this since the Cotton Dock turned out to be a lot warmer than we'd thought it would be.) At any rate, this made getting ready a lot quicker. Dad put away his engineering instruments, we battened down the tent for the night, and Dad hung a lit lantern under the fly to guide us when we came back. It was now time to leave.

Raquelle and I ended up leaving a few minutes before Mom and Dad so when we got to the avenue of oaks, we just stood there and bugged our eyes. It was BEAUTIFUL.

It was now dark and all along the avenue were lit flaring torches. Above the torches, you could see the shadowy forms of mysteriously moss-draped trees and catch a glimpse of starlight. Along the sides were tents lit with lanterns and campfire light. There's no way to describe how lovely and back-in-time it all was. And my camera gave me fits with the darkness so I didn't get any good pictures. You'll just have to use your imagination.

The torchlight continued down the path to the Cotton Dock, through the woods and bamboo. The Cotton Dock itself was all lit up and a roaring fire was blazing in the fireplace.

I have to apologize for not taking many pics of the ball. Mom and Raqu got excited about the beautiful sunset and took most of the rest of the memory space on my camera. I had a spare memory stick back at the hotel but it didn't do me much good there. :no comments from the peanut gallery, thank you:

By the way, here is one of the gorgeous pictures they came up with.

We saw the Suttons again and Jennifer, Raquelle and I strolled out on the dock to admire the water and the lights at night. Mom and Dad finally arrived as well. Then we found out that, contrary to what the program said, the ball was NOT starting at 7 pm, but rather at 8 pm. Well, phooey! Instead, the TALENT SHOW was starting at 7. Ahem, the ball would have been better. :giggle:

There was a guy who played the banjo or mandolin or something and he was pretty good. Then he was followed by a "skit" involving Senator Glenn McConnell and his buddies. They pretended to be a medicine show and had various plants in the audience come up and demonstrate the wonders of their "tonic." They left just before the supposed police caught up with them. Does it strike anyone but me as funny that a senator would know about hokey medicine shows? :snickers:

Then a group ostentatiously called the Hunley Choir got up. It was a group of old guys and they sang - sorta - in unison some 1860s songs. No harmony, and very little rhythm, but lots of feeling. Having given Confederate concerts ourselves, I can tell you a bit of strategy: Save "Dixie" for last. Everyone stands up for it and then you wind up with a standing ovation. But these fellers apparently hadn't thought of that, so they led off with "Dixie." So we all stood and whooped at the end. Then as they droned on some other songs, everyone got busy chatting. So they decided to wind up with "Dixie" again to get people's attention. So we all stood again and let out an obligatory whoop at the end.

FINALLY it was time for the ball to start. The first few dances were exceedingly crowded but as the evening went on it cleared out a lot and dancing was easier and more fun. Raqu and I snagged some Citadel cadets (who were there in force that weekend) and taught them some of the dances. I wound up in a set of mostly teenagers for the Virginia Reel. Since it was too hard to hear the dance caller at that point, I hollered to them, "Has anyone done this dance before?" One feller had done it once and another feller assured me he'd seen it in a movie. Oh cool, this was going to be fun. So I quickly walked them through the dance and when we got to the reel part, one of the girls squealed, "Oh, this is FUN!" Everyone concurred enthusiastically.

I circulated between dances to look at the ladies' dresses. Because the building was nice, many of the ladies had worn their nice ball gowns. I did have room for one or two pictures of lovely ladies.

While talking with one of them about dresses, we got to talking about the frustration of dealing with a lace-up bodice. "It takes FOREVER to lace up," one girl complained. And guy promptly chimed in, "I'll tell you what takes FOREVER - waiting on a GIRL who has a lace-up bodice!" He proceeded to recount his woes in detail concerning waiting on said laced-up girl. I found it very amusing, though doubtlessly he did not.

After a fun evening, we headed out to go back to the tent and drop off the camp stools and other paraphernalia we can't live without for two hours. The hall was all lit up and I couldn't resist getting some pictures. However, my memory stick was full. So I looked through it (in the dark) and found a picture or two that hadn't turned out, deleted them, and then used the free space to take a couple pics.

And that was the end of Saturday! More fun and frolic to follow on Sunday... if I can ever finish this blog...


republicdefender said...

Standing up for dixie, people ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Heather S said...

Why on earth would I stand for the Yankee dictatorship?? :D