Sunday, April 25, 2010

Keokuk, IA Civil War Weekend

'Twas a wet day yesterday but one that found us arising early and shephering the little ones into the car, still yawning and sleepy eyed, and beginning a very long drive to just "over the river" to the city of Keokuk.
It was a little disappointing to not make it out for the entire weekend, espcially when we heard, once we arrived, from more dedicated campers, that the prior evening had been fine and lovely. However, it did rain quite a bit while we were there so I suppose it is a good thing we did not take all our canvas out to have to pack up and haul away while wet.

We enjoyed ourselves for the time that we were there. The last time I was in Keokuk was 2005 - the year I met David - and so it was nice to be back once more. The park is lovely, though in the middle of the city, and with the gray foggy mists that gently settled on the damp grasses, the trees, whose wet bark was made darker by contrast with the green of leaves, it was very beautiful and romantic and dream-like.
The remainder of our medical unit, the 108th IL, also came up just for the day.We walked the paths, browsed the sutler tents and at last we settled down in a pretty spot near the outdoor stage, from whence came jubilant and exciting music from the 33rd IL band and the boys roamed the low "ditches" and played the leaves and with rocks and sticks they found. The occasional mud puddle was a delightful thing for them. For lunchtime we spread a little picnic we had packed and ate by the shores of a small and pretty pond. We had, in the words of the boys "Sausert" (sausage) and cheese and bread with cups of water and for dessert shortbread cookies which are wonderful since they do not stain clothing. It was simple and satisfying fare and easy to clean up afterwards, just requiring a shaking out of cups and a brushing off of crumbs. No sweeping or dish washing necessary! :)
My beautiful white and green cup, just minutes before Malachi dashed it to pieces on the concrete
The boys behaved themselves very well, except for Malachi who is not yet very accustomed to walk in the same direction as us, nor does he think hand holding a very desirable or useful practice. He was carried half the time by me and the other half of the time he walked - whether his desired direction was also our desired direction was entirely a matter of chance, you know. Since we really had nothing in particular to do or anywhere in particular to go, we enjoyed slowly meandering about. (In retrospect, my bum-pad seems a bit. . .too. . .ah, bummy. I look like I weigh 250 lbs. here! And slat bonnets are terribly unflattering though they ARE practical)
We met and talked to lots of lovely people; we saw a beautiful brand-new darling little baby boy reenactor, we learned how to bake bread in a dutch oven using coals from a sweet gentleman from Columbia, MO, we saw a photo of an Iowa officer who looked uncannily like David, we got ginger bread men from a friendly group of LDS members who shared with us about the historic site of Nauvoo, closely located, we got striped candy sticks for the boys and had our picture taken more times than I can remember. (As an aside, I used to never get my photo taken when I was still single nor before we had children; but now we are very popular! This strange occurance seems to be the effect of three certain small boys in our possession).
David and Judah hit the tree with a bit of stick they found by the pond
In the afternoon the battle was to take place. Since the rest of our medical unit had already left David was asked to be acting surgeon for the 108th IL. He carried his doctor bag and left for the field of battle along with the troops while the boys and I more slowly made our way up the hill to where the fray was to take place. We never quite made it all the way up. Another ditch was discovered, full of leaves and puddles and sticks, quite tempting to small boys. Malachi ran towards it as fast as his fat be-stockinged and booted legs could carry him and tumbled headlong into it, falling with force upon a soft bed of dead leaves. He was stunned at first, though not hurt - just suprised that he had fallen!

Some dear friends of mine - Van and Katherine - were at this point seen approaching. They made their way to us and we spent the duration of the battle in conversation with Katherine and I at times making dashes for a wayward child. In the midst of the booming cannon, Malachi fell asleep.

Me and a very tired Munchkie-Poo - don't you love his delighted expression? :)

After the battle David went back to the field hospital and assisted with surgical demonstrations. It began to rain again - heavier, this time - so we soon left. As soon as we crossed the Mississippi River back into Illinois the rain became furious in its violence and for the next hour we slowly crept along the highway in the nearly blinding precipitation. After we crossed the Illinois River, however, the rain abated and we arrived home just as the sun was setting in a glorious sky of gold and blue and purple and gray.

Now I am trying hard to get the mud stains out of our clothes. I'm so glad I dressed the boys in their play outfits instead of their dressier tunics! The dark blue and white spotted fabric really hides stains very well and I think with a thorough washing and a pressing once they are dry they will be as good as new again. All of our white underwear is in a sad state though. The dirt seems to have a very reddish tinge to it which bespeaks clay and I don't know if that will ever completely come out. My new petticoats too! Sigh. But, it is at least an authentic stain and is really a part of the whole experience!




  1. Sarah, I love it! All of it! Your boys are so charming and I NEVER would have guessed that park is in the middle of the city. That very first picture looks like a painting. Wow! I'd love to do reenacting but I'm too afraid I wouldn't do it the justice you and your family achieve.

  2. It looks like you all had a wonderful time! I loved seeing all the boys in their outfits and I love love your dress Sarah! God bless!

  3. I think the slat bonnet is flattering.

  4. Okay, for those stains here's what you want to try...

    5 gallons of the hottest water (or double this if you have enough whites, I just fill my washing machine to the half load point with the hot water setting)
    1 cup clorox 2 powder
    1 cup cascade (dishwasher detergent) powder

    mix, put in your whites and allow to sit at least 8 hours, but a whole day is better...Wash in cold water and check them before they go into the dryer. (However, even if you've already washed them and the stains are still there this very well might still work!)

  5. Jenny oh you just HAVE to try reenacting now that I know you are interested in it. :) I would sooooo loooooveee to have you at events to talk to and visit and walk around with and have tea with. :) And don't worry about not doing justice to history or anything like that, just DO IT! :) Everyones impressions are different and as you get more involved, you will get a better idea of what you want to do and who you want to portray and you can tailor your impression to specifically that. In the meantime, you can read up about basic garments items and such on Mrs. Clarks excellent site, and just jump right in! You don't have to be "perfect" (none of us are!) just willing to have fun, talk to people and learn. :)

    Oh thank you so much for the laundry recipe! I knew my mom had a recipe similar to this that I have sucessfully used before on whites but I could not remember the proportions. I soaked our pettis and undershirts last night in Biz but haven't checked them yet this morning to see if the stains are out or not. I will definitely use this recipe if the Biz didn't work. Thanks!!!

  6. Love the pictures!! Your boys are too cute. Tilly's recipe for laundry stains is great! I'd also recommend boiling the water first... a low boil seems to work better than the hottest setting on our laundry machine.


  7. What fun!!! You all look wonderful.

  8. Sarah,
    We always enjoy reading about your family.
    I loaned a dear friend my corded petti and it came back muddy with Red Georgia Clay and, I thought, ruined. I soaked it in the bathtub in Oxyclean, scrubbed it with a brush, then threw it in the regular washer, starched it and hung it to dry in the Pecan tree. Turned out perfect! And it starched so well I don't have to put it in a drawer, stands by itself in the corner!

  9. I ADORE that first picture - it so very sweet.
    So sorry about your dashed cup . . .
    it looks like a fabulous time - I can not believe how GREEN it is already! One day I will go east, one day.

  10. You all look so lovely, and what fun! My biggest chuckle was your interpretation of your bum pad...

    Some day we hope to dabble in re-inacting, but I don't know when or how. Maybe, just maybe...


  11. I know what you mean about stained petticoats! I went to a large event that had non stop rain, and it took alot of effort to get the petticoats clean again!

  12. (Amorette from the Sewing Academy...)

    I think you look pretty wearing a sunbonnet. ^.^

    And I'm not sure if I'm not picky or anything, but I think your skirt looks fine... though possibly more earlier-looking because the front lays flatter?

  13. Beautiful pictures, Sarah. It looks like you had a wonderful time. :)


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!