Monday, June 23, 2008

Grierson Days in Jacksonville

A whole week and no posts! I meant to post again before we left for the weekend but was so busy getting everything done that I lacked time to do it. So, to make up for it, a rather lengthy post follows. . .

We left home Friday, a little after the noon hour, and wended our way to Jacksonville. It was a comfortable, two-hour drive and we arrived at the park with plenty of time to find an ideal site to set up camp and get out the tents and the fly to put up before evening fell. David’s mom and her friend Bob came with us and halved the A frame for their dwelling place. She had the west side and he had the east side. After setting up the A frame I was reminded of how much I love it! It is so much easier to put up three poles and stake the sides down that getting out the many poles and ropes that go with setting up our wall tent.

I had never been to the Jacksonville reenactment before. For the past four years or so I have been hearing great things about it and it is supposedly “THE” event to go to around here. I was anticipating a much larger event than we actually experienced but it was better organized than most other reenactments around here and the camps were laid out neatly without the crammed together, haphazard chaotic mess of tents you usually see.

We set up near the federal surgeon and had friendly neighbors in blue to our East. To our West was a cavalry unit that definitely was the unpleasant part of our sojourn. Everyone in that unit had a decidedly modern appearance, attitude and conversation and it seemed the women and children only dressed in quasi-period clothing for the battle and then changed back into modern clothing for the rest of the time. It was a little distracting but not nearly so much as the fact that the unit had a loud drunken party on Saturday night that lasted well into the wee hours of the morning. The bawdy talk and obnoxious laughter and shouting that seemed amplified to a great degree kept both David and I awake and miserable most of the night.

The next day David complained to the Union commander and he said he would speak to them about it, but that they were celebrating their 10th anniversary as a unit. Later that same day we talked to our friendly neighbors to the East and they said that that particular unit has a drunken party every year.

They were supposedly celebrating their 10th year”. David said to one soldier.
Yes, they were.” was the reply. “Last year they were celebrating their 9th.”

There were signs everywhere stating that alcohol was prohibited! If we go back again next year, I told David I will *not* camp near that unit again!

The other unpleasant part was that we were set up very near the main road that goes through Jacksonville. Motorcycles, sirens and many, many train whistles spotted the night. During the day it wasn’t as noticeable but at night it kept us awake and startled wee Judah from his slumber on more than one occasion. On the other, far side of the park the Confederate camp enjoyed comparative peace and tranquility. I was very envious of their ideal situation. Sigh.
Despite the less than ideal neighbors to the West and the main road behind us it was a beautiful park and we had very pleasant weather. I heartily enjoyed being able to cook for my family over a fire, do dishes and haul water. At most events of late I have had really nothing to do besides watching the children and it was an enjoyable break to be able to fill up my idle moments with manual activity.

Little David was upset the first night but by Saturday morning was used to his new temporary home and found great pleasure in walking around the tent, looking beneath it, and exploring inside of it. He also enjoyed visiting Bob’s tent where a bamboo mat was spread on the floor. He couldn’t get over the feeling of that beneath his darling little toes!

Judah most enjoyed the food, the striped candy stick one of the sutlers gave him, and splashing in the water in the metal tub for his nightly baths.
On Saturday I walked with David up to the center part of the park. He lined up for pay call and much to my astonishment each soldier received five gold colored dollars in a small muslin sack. I can’t imagine how much money the organizers put out to be able to do that for each soldier! It was interesting to watch since I have never seen that done at an event before.
My mother in law and I went to the fashion show, held in the hospitable shade of several trees with an ornate gazebo beyond with punch and cookies for the ladies. I was startled but flattered when a lady approached me and asked me to be in the fashion show with the babies! This has been my 2nd fashion show ever! And the second one in less than a month!
After the fashion show we went to sit near the edge of the battlefield. Soon after the start two ladies in a federal cavalry unit fell off of their horses almost simultaneously. For a minute it was unsure if it was part of a staged stunt, or if it was real. At last the battle was halted and those who had medical training rushed out to make sure if the ladies were all right. One lady was hurt worse than the other was motionless on the ground. An ambulance was called and she was taken away to the hospital, later reported to have had a stage 2 concussion but otherwise all right.
The second lady was borne away on the federal surgeons stretcher.


As I watched David direct the stretcher bearers to the wounded lady my eyes filled with tears as they rushed to her. This situation was not a play act for the amusement of the crowd and enjoyment of the participants. It was real. They carried her off the field and to a place where another ambulance later came to pick her up. She was awake, conscious and moving but had to be checked out just in case. She was later released from the hospital with only bruises and scratches.

As I watched all this I was filled with a wonder as to why people reenact the Civil War. I do not reenact because of the battles, I do it because I enjoy dressing in period clothing and trying to experience a little what a lady and mother of the time might have felt as she cared for her family in a way so foreign to modern sensibilities. (or should I say, modern insensibilities). Yes, the battles that are reenacted are for the most part safe. But it is a little odd to see men rushing towards each other, firing at each other, with huge smiles on their faces, laughing, talking to each other. Was this the way the war really was? The way the whole atmosphere changed when those two ladies were hurt was chilling. What if men really were shooting at each other to kill each other? What then? Why do men make a play act out of something so horrible? Why do people come out to watch it and cheer and clap? Would the veterans who actually fought in this war appreciate the way their sacred sacrifice is being remembered?


Saturday evening we drove a few miles away from the park to a beautiful old dance hall with a luxurious surrounding porch for the ball. The floor was a glossy wood one - no gym floors this time! The dance mistress had on a beautiful sheer gown and the live music was rendered beautifully from the musicians. We stayed only for a little while since the babies were fussy but I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and look upon it as the highlight of the weekend. It was truly a “magic moment” for me to be there in that beautiful place!

On Sunday we went to the outdoor church service, ate lunch, watched the battle and then packed up and came home. David and I got to spend a little time alone together before the battle as his mom offered to take the babies for a little while and Bob napped under the shade of the fly. It is so unusual to be with David without the little ones around! We walked around the park and sat at a table to listen to a gentleman who played banjo and guitar sing some songs of the period.

My overall feelings about this event are mixed. I enjoyed some of the activities that went on but didn’t enjoy other aspects of it, such as the location, some of the people, most of the sutler wares and the food stands that sold hot dogs and pepsi and funnel cakes.
David’s thoughts are that we will only go back if he goes as part of his medical unit (we went independent this year) or his artillery unit.
There are other events around here that we enjoy much more and that do not have any of the unpleasant things that we experienced here.
So thus, we are home. And looking forward to our next event, rather than looking behind us at this one.
Love,
Sarah

5 comments:

  1. What lovely outfits you all have on.
    The babies are so cute. Looks like it was a real nice park, though.
    Glad you had an awesome time at the old dance hall. That outdoor church service sounds like it was a lovely time. :=)

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  2. How lovely! Your dresses are gorgeous and the wee ones are sooo cute. I recieved your lovely letter and I will be replying, sometime. This week is full of meetings and other "end of the sales quater" things. God Bless!

    Lauren

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  3. At least you enjoyed some of it. Hope you enjoy the next one better!

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Thank you for your lovely thoughts!