Sunday, June 14, 2009

Billie Creek Village Reenactment, Rockville, IN

It was all I ever hoped it would be. I have, I confess, been in a reenacting "slump" for the past few years. I haven't been very excited about going to events and the only thing remotely interesting about them is making the clothing that we wear to events beforehand.
But, picture it. Here in central Illinois, most events take place in a flat, open area. Few trees to provide shade. The ground is usually cemented and what is not cemented is coarse grass, recently mown, with hard, stubbly stalks on which to pitch your tent and make your habitations. The morning sun is blazing and hot. The afternoon sun is drowsy and hot. Smells of Hot Dogs and Funnel Cakes press themselves heavily upon the nostrils. Much sightings of polyester and ostritch plumes emerging from tiny straw hats, or enormous boquets of plastic flowers bedecking wide brimmed ones. Massive outbreak of Hoop Lines in skirts. Fashion ranging from 1770's quasi-colonial to 1970's Pioneer-Little-House-on-The-Prairie. A fondness for proudly displayed blue and red coolers seems to be the pervasive idea.

By contrast, picture this.
A quiet, meandering creek, banked by soft green grass with tiny flowers nodding therein. Slender, lovely trees bending over the waters provide restful shade. A worn pathway leading over a rustic, turn-of-the-century covered bridge into a little historical town, complete with a boardwalk, a school, a restuarant and general store, two churches, homes, a blacksmith, a woodwork shop, a candle shop and other misc. buildings. . .The air is still and quiet and the low murmur of voices can be heard as ladies in sunbonnets and well fitted work dresses bend over their cooking fires or walk modestly through town in company of their citizen husbands. Soldiers with good facial hair and authentic uniforms lounge in the shade; some nap beneath their shelter halves. A "village green" in the center of the town features a white painted gazebo and a black iron fence encloses it. A wonderful place for certain little boys to run and play while Mama and Papa rest upon a bench in this lovely little park. Did I chase children? Yes. But here. . .there was so much for them to do and so much for them to explore. Everything they did that delighted them equally delighted me. Visit the church? Of course! While little David appreciated the acoustics that magnified the sound of his boots stomping upon the floor I appreciated the coolness, the soft light sifting through the windows, the rows of dark wood pews, soft and glossy, facing the pulpit.
It truly was the best reenactment I have been to for many years. I had heard that it was dying and at last dead and so was curious to see what was really the case. What I found was indeed a smaller number of people and a smaller number of vendors but the quality had vastly, vastly improved. It seems to definitely be a Progressive Event now. Can I describe the thrill I felt when I realized I was looking all around me at women wearing things that I wanted to copy? One lady in particular had a lovely, airy striped slat bonnet. The curtain floated so prettily behind her as she walked. Hmm. . .a new use for the striped fabric I still have on hand? :)

The Federal Camp:
Nothing so very extraordinary, but David was quite impressed with the neat rows of tidy tents all in a row. Very military and not commonly seen at the events we usually go to. So here it is.

After a firm talking to prior to getting him out of his carseat, little David suprised me and kept his cap on his head for most of the day. He took it off only after it began to rain, upon which action Judah snatched it up and wore it for the rest of the day. Judah wore his new corded sunbonnet for about five minutes. He didn't like the fact he could only see straight ahead of him while wearing it. Sigh. I guess I will save it for Malachi.

David and Judah Discover the Governor's House:
Near the little village green, this pretty little home sits on the south east corner. The gate was open and inviting and a brick pathway led up the door. What more invitation did the boys need? Judah peered in the window, enjoying the fact that it went nearly to the ground. David enjoyed the fact the gate was loose and he attempted to shut it on several occasions. Inside the home Judah explored the rooms that were open. Here he is in the hall between the kitchen and the front room.
The battle took place only shortly after we arrived. We had forgotten to take into account that we would gain an hour after we crossed the Indiana state line. We thought we'd arrive by 11:00 a.m. and have a bit of time to walk around and have lunch, but alas, we arrived around noon and David immediately set off in persuit of the commanding officer for Federal medical. He discovered that the hospital was set up in a large barn.
While he mingled with the other surgeons and stewards and the young men who seemed to be helping with the miscellaneous, more menial tasks, the boys and I enjoyed the tree-shaded park. David, of course, also soon discovered a sutler with cigars and got his characteristic two. He then came back to retrieve us.
The battle was situated on the far southern end of the village. We passed through the village, passed the barn, passed a large pavilion where the evening dance would later take place and passed the sutler tents. We passed the lemon shake-up stand that was beyond the sutler tents and then passed through the Confederate camp. We passed a farmhouse. By this time we were on the northern end of the battlefield, which was placed within a valley. The creek bordered one edge, a steep hill the other. Woods were all around. The path grew muddy. Little David lost one of his shoes. A kind young man from the Confederate Camp ran after us with the shoe. Otherwise, I would not have known until much later that it was missing. David left us to traverse to the far southern end of the battlefield and took his place among the other medical persona and the ambulance. I could tell who he was only by his height and his red checkered shirt. This was the hardest part of the day for me. I put the two older boys in the wagon and spread Malachis quilt on the grass. He rolled to his tummy and scooted his way to the edge of the quilt. A few moments later, he was meditatively chewing some grass stalks. David and Judah were for a few minutes amused with drinking water in their little glasses, poured from their daddy's canteen. But once their thirst ceased, their interest did too.

How good God is. The boys started attemting to climb out of the wagon as they wanted to follow David to the field. It is very hard and difficult to grasp two squirming, strong toddler boys and to try to keep them in the same place when they want to go both in different directions. I prayed, since I knew I needed help. A sweet lady from the crowd offered to help me and she played with Judah while I held David. Judah was unsure at first about being friendly with a strange lady, but he did warm up to her after a bit! Malachi was good on his quilt until the battle began and then he cried at the shock of the first cannon. Another lady held and cuddled him until David came back. I tell you, the acoustics in that valley were something else. The cannon and rifle fire were amazing to hear.

The soldiers marched back to their camps after the battle and the wounded were taken to the hospital.
David and the others attended to them. David was the most handsome of them all. I love how he looks, carrying his doctors bag!We ate our lunch then and little David napped for almost an hour. Malachi nursed and Judah was full of energy. He did not nap at all. Once little David woke up we set out to explore the village a bit more. David wanted to look more closely at the sutlers. Malachi and little David were packed into the wagon and Judah, with tireless chubby legs, walked.
The wagon is not period correct at all, but we figure it is better than our modern double stroller. I can't seem to get around the need to have something to help me haul the children and the few necessary items I need to bring for them. It has come in very handy. Other mothers and fathers had wagons too, but theirs were much more period looking. We inquired as to where they got them and one man told us they were from Ireland. Well. I doubt we could afford to purchase a wagon from Ireland and then pay for the cost to ship it here but perhaps David could build one similar to it, if we could find wheels somewhere.

Later in the afternoon it began to rain. We took shelter in the hospital-barn. Here Judah looks out into the rain.

The boys found a wooden stairway and went up it with great excitement. Steps! I was worried that they weren't supposed to be up there but I was reassured that it was entirely fine for them to go upstairs if they desired to. I went up too. A large collection of antique farm equipment was stored up there. Judah found something with a wheel on it. He loves wheels. So he spun it round and round and round. It entertained him for quite a while. Here are both my older boys. In the same picture, too. A rather rare occurence. The rain did not stop. Little David enjoyed the barn but after a while Judah grew weary of it and ventured outside into the rain. He got quite wet and quite muddy. He picked clover and brought it to me and watched a trickle of water streaming off of a roof corner with intense concentration. He was happy when his daddy bought him and his brother a watermelon candy stick from the general store. As it was wet and rather chilly and Malachi was damp from the rain in his little strapped underdress we decided to come home earlier than we had planned. We cannot wait until next year and are looking forward to it very much.And yes! I had a "Magic Moment". While I was in the barn, during the rain, the surgeon and one of his young helpers came in. They spoke about lighting candles and the surgeon sent the lad in search of some in the upstairs of the barn. I felt I was looking back into history then. It was wonderful.



    Sarah Jane, so glad you had a blessed time and have shared with us through words and pictures.
    I felt like I was there and enjoying the event.

    How grand it must have been.

  2. I'm a newcomer to your blog and I must say that I am absolutely enthrawled. Thank you so much for sharing this weekends event, I would love to attend one myself.

    Can I ask where you find your baby clothes patterns? We are expecting our 7th baby and I would love to make some classic and civil war area items.


  3. Wow, that sounds like a great re-enactment, a great place. I am so glad you really enjoyed it!

  4. I just love living history vicariously through your beautiful family! I love the photos, your boys are scoops of delight!

    I know what you mean by the polyester, hoop lines, etc. I have been to enough events and seen the same individuals over time commiting the same acts of fashion no no's. You'd think after attending an event, wearing whatever one could come up with last minute, that one would feel a little envious of the gals who do it right and want to emulate them, and try harder to educate yourself and bit by bit improve one's impression...but that never seems to happen. I always see the same people loud and proud of their concoctions, not seeming to notice the flaws.

    So I really appreciate the fact that you really care about what you are doing, and put thought and love into it as well.

    Keep up the good work!

  5. Love it! Love it! Love it! Your descriptions made me feel as though I was there. And your pictures are awesome! God Bless!

  6. What a fun event! I wish there was something like that where I live.
    Thank you for sharing about your day!

  7. I'm so glad that it was everything you had hoped it would be! I, too, am envious of your well dressed little boys *and* all the great events you go to!


  8. How great to find such a progressive event! It looks like a fabulous time!

  9. I am so glad you had a nice event! And that every thing work out even for the little boys. It looks like a very good location for a reenactment.

    Faith G.

  10. Wow, sounds like you had a wonderful time, Sarah—I’m glad. ;) You deserve it!

    During the re-enactments, does everyone just choose which position they want to act out, as in David being a surgeon, or do they have to have some experience?

    Now, if you would just move those re-enactments closer this way, I would partake with you!

  11. Thank you for sharing this, Sarah. I enjoyed the pictures very much and I'm glad you all had such a good time.


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!