Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Civil War Era Hair Oils

Did you ever wonder how people kept their hair so tidy? Remember, hair pins were not like modern "bobby pins" and were incapable of holding down flyaways. People used hair oils which tended to be a simple oil, such as almond oil, and a scent and pomatums to keep their hair sleek. Ladies tended to use "pomatum" and men used hair oil.

"Hair Oil.-- The best hair oil is made by mixing high proofed alcohol and cold pressed castor oil. These ingredients are the base of all the celebrated hair oils." -- M. L. Dunlap, The Illinois Farmer Vol. 8 (Springfield: Baker & Phillips, 1863), 117.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

1860s Carriages and Coaches

Coaches, carriages, buggies, and omnibuses are absent at most reenactments due their their high cost and the lack of manufacturers. During the mid 1800s, you would only have a family carriage if you were relatively wealthy. For the middle class, one could rent a carriage for a night or take an omnibus. Omnibuses were carriages that could hold around 6 people. Some omnibuses ran on assigned routes, but many were willing to drive along the established route and infringe on other companies' territory. 

Most carriages were pulled by horses; therefore, someone had to prepare and ready the horses in advance. Outings had to be planned out ahead of time so that a servant or a male family member could harness the horse or horses. By this point, carriages had springs that would absorb much of the shock from driving over unpaved roads.  

Newspapers frequently joked about ladies not being able to fit into carriages because of their large cages and hoopskirts. Etiquette guides of the period strongly urged ladies not to enter omnibuses that had too many people in them. Their reasoning was that the lady would not look ladylike trying to cram herself in a packed car and would make other people uncomfortable. 

 Clippings from:

Ezra M. Stratton and George Washington Wright Houghton, The New York Coach-maker's Magazine Vol. 2 (New York: E.M. Stratton, 1860).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ridley Creek 2010 and Period Recipes for Pumpkin Bread

The Ridley Creek event went very well. The weather was great! No one was hit by pummeling walnuts and the Confederates won both battles (once by accident.)

See more photos here: World Turn'd Upside Down.

October Receipts for Pumpkin Bread:


        "Boil a good pumpkin in water till it is quite thick, pass it through a sieve, and mix flour so as to make a good dough. This makes an excellent bread."

Receipt from the Confederate Receipt Book (1863.)

Pumpkin Bread

"The pumpkin is first deprived of the rind, and afterward cut up into slices and boiled; when soft enough it is strained in a colander and mashed up very fine. In this state it may be used in pies, or mixed with flourfor pudding, cake, &c. If it be intended for bread, you may add a third or half-as much wheat wheat flour as pumpkins. The sponge must be first set in the ordinary way with yeast in the flour, and the pumpkin worked in as it begins to rise: use as much pumpkin as will bring the dough to a proper degree of stiffness without water. Care should be taken that the pumpkin is not as hot as to scald the leaven. It requires more baking than bread made entirely of wheat."

Receipt from the Southern Gardener and Receipt-Book (1860.)

Pumpkin Bread.— 

"Contributed to the American Agriculturist, by Mrs. S. Washburn, Westchester Co., N. Y. Stew one small pumpkin, iu the same manner as for pies ; while boiling, stir in Indian meal until it becomes of the consistence ol mush, adding a teacup of molasses and a little salt. Then lake it out in some wheat, flour—have your sponge light—and when sufficiently cool, mix, mould and bake."

Receipt from the American Agriculturist, Vol. 21, (1862.)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Civil War Era Hot Chocolate or German Chocolate Receipt

This receipt is an excerpt from World Turn'd Upside Down. For more autumn period recipes please click the link.
German Chocolate from The Housekeepers Encyclopedia by Mrs. E. F. Haskell (1861)
German Chocolate

“Four large table-spoons of the best chocolate grated fine, two quarts rich milk added gradually to the chocolate, the whites of four and yolks of two eggs beaten light, but not separated; add one gill of cold milk to the eggs, beat well; add gradually a coffee-cup of the chocolate to the milk and egg while hot, beating constantly. Take the chocolate to the milk and egg while hot, beating constantly. Take the chocolate from the fire, keep it hot but not boiling, and add the egg and milk gradually; stir constantly, or it will curdle; flavor with nutmeg, vanilla, or cinnamon, as desired; sugar it to suit the taste. The Germans use no sugar. The egg is to be added just before serving This makes a very delicious drink. Serve in chocolate bowls.”
  • This recipe is a bit confusing, I think you are supposed to heat four large tablespoons of grated chocolate with two quarts of milk. While that heats, in another bowl, beat the whites of four eggs with the yolks of two and add one "gill" of milk.  When the chocolate mixture is hot enough , remove from the fire and slowly mix in the egg/milk mixture, stirring the whole time to prevent curdling. Add vanilla, cinnamon or nutmeg and serve in mugs.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Civil War Sontag

If anyone wants to take part in knitting a sontag, you can join the knit-along on World Turn'd Upside Down.

Sontags were designed to add warmth without adding unnecessary bulk. They were frequently worn under cloaks to add a warm layer close to the body.  The pattern we are using is very becoming and was taken from a pattern in Godey's Lady's Book from 1860. Sontags are nicer than shawls because they tie on tight and there's a lot less readjusting while wearing.

All the instructions can be found here. The knit-along will probably be open until the end of September. Everyone is in a different spot and new knitters are welcome.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Not-so Famous Photos of the Civil War

Some excerpts from The Photographic History of the War in Ten Volumes (Vol. 8) by  Francis Trevelyan Miller and Robert Sampson Lanier from 1911. Most of these photos are relatively forgotten but help round out the war experience. Some of them show interesting fabrics, women in camp, men in their shirtsleeves, and even a period "water buffalo."

  Volunteer about to lose some weight. :D

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

You Know you Civil War Reenact Too Much When...

  1. You use your reeacting stuff in everyday life.
  2. Your gear stays in the car until the next event-- at least you always have a chair.
  3. The power has been out for three days but it doesn't matter, your wife can cook a full 3 course meal 3 times a day for 30 men without electricity.
  4. You've attempted to adjust your kepi, in "the real world" when you weren't even wearing a hat.  
  5. Field-craft? You've mastered field-craft and now your working on port-o-potty-craft.
  6. You park the car at the supermarket and your wife says "Lock the doors, someone might steal my copy of Godey's."
  7. You sons are okay with wearing dresses. 
  8. St. Patrick's Day means you don't have to feel weird for blasting your usual David Kincaid in the car. 
  9. Your alarm clock plays reveille.
  10. You watch period films and documentaries just to point out people you know.
  11. You can spot another reenactor in regular life by their facial hair. You can probably even tell if he's a Yankee or a Reb.
  12. You can spot a zipper, snaps and stainless steel from a mile away.
  13. You've gotten used to the taste of rust and wax. 
  14. You have an entirely different definition of the word 'clean' after sweating in your gear for three days.
  15. You know that REAL men are okay with spooning in the cold. 
You might be a Civil War reenactor? :)

    Thursday, July 1, 2010

    Shippensburg: Awesome!

    This past weekend was the Shippensburg March to Destiny event. Tom, Alex, Steph and I were planning to go, but some stuff came up at the last minute and Tom and Alex couldn't make it. Steph and I were considering not going, but seeing as how we had no power because of the huge storm that came through Thursday, we decided to go anyway.

    When we made it out late Friday night, I was looking for the 27th VA, but nobody from our Battalion was there. There was a group of guys who offered to let us camp and fall in with them. They were Captain Matt Vandewater's 42nd Mississippi Co. I. Our thanks go out to them for being so hospitable, and my commendation on their performance during the battles. They were pretty sharp.

    Saturday, we got to forage through town, as the event scheduled promised. The various businesses of the town put red ribbons on their doors. This meant we could go in and they'd have stuff for us to take. This ranged from free sodas at the pizza shop, to bags full of apples, potatoes and bananas, to one suspicious can of vegetable soup that upon further inspection expired when I was 11 (that's almost 14 years ago!).

    Steph found a lot to do while I was gone. This was a concern for us since there would be nobody left to stay with her in camp while I was gone for drill, foraging, and the battle. The ladies of this battalion were very social, and took Steph with them to the various events in the town. There was a presentation on mourning, and even an ice cream social. They even got to ride in a horse drawn wagon!

    A few hours after the foraging expedition, we fought a battle down the main thoroughfare of the town, which was closed off for the battle. I believe the most thrilling moment for me was when we turned the corner and saw our artillery about to fire. The difference between this round and all the others I've seen is that this gun was positioned just in front of a gas station!! After it fired, we made sure the station hadn't blown up and we were still alive. We were, and the dismounted cavalry let off a volley at the Union skirmishers that was so loud it set off a car alarm! What a way to start a battle! Even though we were the third company, we were chosen to advance down the street after our skirmishers, first in the column of companies. We were determined to show that we deserved the position, and the boys of the 42nd were exceptional in their drill. We had to do a bit of extra maneuvering because the Union changed the scenario on us, but we performed sharply, and I was proud to march with them. They also fired off some of the snappiest volleys I ever heard. It was as if one big gun was firing. Each company took turns on the front, giving the others time to rest and reform. The scenario ended when the last of the Union troops tried to push us back with a desperate charge. There were very few men left, and two officers, one of which surrendered his sword to Captain Vandewater, and the other surrendered his sword to me!

    After the battle there was a short parade of all the troops down the street, and we returned to camp.

    Sunday was a slow day, with not much on the schedule except a scripted battle at the Shippensburg Fairgrounds. We were supposed to lose, and we did. We pushed the Union troops back to a steep hill crowned with large boulders and trees. The Yankee troops rallied here and wreaked havoc on our forces from their covered position on the high ground.

    As hot as it was at the event, we were happy to have gone. Steph and I both had a blast, and we are hoping to go back next year. The only negative thing I have to say is that the college kids sucked. They would drive back and forth and yell things at us. They seemed to think we were a bunch of racist hicks. If they would spend their time coming and talking to us, they'd learn a lot more, and stop being so ignorant. Anybody who happens to read this who happens to be attending Shippensburg next year for summer courses, I challenge you to explore the camps, and learn something from us. We Confederate reenactors do not do this because we're racist, or want to still fight a war. We do it to educate people. We try to bring history to life for you. It's a lot more fun than learning dates in a classroom, so come out and see what there is to see.

    Shippensburg was a great success, especially for such a small event. I really hope to go next year.

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Camp Geiger

    Last weekend was our hometown event, Camp Geiger in Whitehall, PA. The weather was hot with a chance of thunderstorms, but fortunately the rain missed our area until just after the event on Sunday!

    This event has been around for a while, but in the last few years has been taken over by a group of people (one of which is our very own Captain Tom) who wanted to rejuvenate it. They got to work coming up with new ideas and spreading the word. A unique idea they came up with was to build fortifications in the woods (with permission from Whitehall), and to rotate units in and out all day. It is like an ongoing tactical skirmish all day. This weekend I went down to the "battlefield" and actually saw the Confederate forces routed by a Federal charge and their trench captured. It was something you don't get to see at every event.

    Because this is our "home" event, and part of our goal is to help generate interest and learning in the Civil War in our area, we stand down for this event (meaning, we do not actually take part in the reenactment). Instead, we lend our support for the event in other ways. Alex, Tom and I helped to direct parking all weekend. Mike and Kat, both EMTs, ran the aid station. These jobs are also important in keeping the event running. We were fortunate to have Mike and Kat on the job, too, as Saturday's battle caused several heat casualties, one of which was pretty severe. Thanks everybody that helped out!

    The event was a success. There were some reenactors grumbling about how far parking was, but there was a shuttle provided, and most people went away happy. The spectators had nothing but positive things to say. One even chased Tom all the way to reenactor parking just to tell him how great it was!

    Now that Camp Geiger is finished, we turn our heads forward to our next event, the March to Destiny at Shippensburg, PA. This is a reenactment of an actual event. During the Gettysburg campaign in late June, 1863, Confederate forces actually captured and traveled through the town. This is our first time attending this event, and we are pretty impressed with the schedule, which includes a skirmish through the streets and even us foraging through the town! If this is half as much fun as it sounds, it may well be the highlight of the year!

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010

    Camp Seating

    According to photographic evidence and written accounts, camp-stools:  folding chairs with no backs were frequently covered with tapestry fabric or canvas were one of the most popular types of portable seating. These were popular before the Civil War, for use by hunters. These were even used during the Revolutionary War. George Washington's camp stool can be seen here. The etching to the right is from a book written in 1854, it likens an ancient chair found in Egypt to the popular camp-stool.

    Sitting on supply boxes or having no seating is also popular in photographs. Three-legged stools are mentioned in Hardtack and Coffee, these were possibly the stools used for milking cow. In most photographs not everyone has a chair or a stool and many are photographed sitting on the ground. The "director" style chairs seem to be popular with generals, enlisted men seem to have sat on more varied types of seats. Below are photos of period camp chairs.        

     Higher Ranks:

    Enlisted Men:
     Hardtack Boxes
    Furniture Pressed into Service/ Home Furniture:

     Church Pews

    A bench made from sticks and lumber.
    A thick log or box used as a chair with a folding camp stool.
    Simple lumber benches.

    A log being used as a chair, or "The Billy."
    For Our Group:
    Unfortunately, as prevalent as these are in the reenacting community, the slotted chairs seem to be a 1930s boyscout creation. I believe if we paint or stain them, we can make them look more like solid house furniture. Also, the popular "funeral home" chairs seem to be of more of an 1880-1900s style. Most folding chairs of the time had cloth bottoms. We might also be able to mimic solid house furniture by adding removable cushions to the ones we have. I wouldn't recommend getting rid of any of our chairs, I think it is a good plan to replace them with more period correct items as they break. In the photo, 3rd from the bottom, the small benches look simple enough that I think we could make a relatively inexpensive, sturdy, collapsible version if we were enough in the mood.       

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    Test Post!

    This is a test photo from Neshaminy Park 2010.