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.