June 29, 2012

March to Destiny: The Shippensburg Reenactment 2012

The Shippensburg Reenactment “March to Destiny” is always a lot of fun. Maybe it is because it is a Confederate victory in my home state or maybe it’s because it is civilian and military centered.  Civilians can enjoy a number of lectures, an ice cream social and a ball. Not to mention that you can be chauffeured into town in a wagon or carriage. 

This weekend was hot but not to the extent that we couldn’t enjoy ourselves. We didn’t attend any of the lectures as we have in past years and instead wandered the town together, and read in the shade of the trees. It was a very relaxing event. No drills, short battles and the townspeople really support the weekend when time-travelers take over.

From The New York Herald, 1863
For those of your not familiar, Shippensburg is a small town in PA that was occupied by Confederates on the way to Gettysburg. The town retains much of its 1860s appearance, albeit with modern establishments. One such building containing a hardware store, opened its doors in 1858. In modern times, the store is called Pague & Fegan but it was originally called McPherson & Cox  Hardware Store. The building itself was looted by Confederates in June of 1863 but McPherson reportedly hid his most expensive assets in the walls and wallpapered them over, preserving a portion of his livelihood.   

The town has many stories of the raids. In his report to Colonel R. H. Chilton, Lieutenant-General R.S. Ewell simply stated "At Carlisle, Chambersburg, and Shippensburg, requisitions were made for supplies, and the shops were searched, many valuable stores being secured. At Chambersburg, a train was loaded with ordnance and medical stores and sent back. Near 3,000 head of cattle were collected and sent back by my corps, and my chief commissary of subsistence, Major [W. J.] Hawks, notified Colonel [R. G.] Cole of the location of 5,000 barrels of flour along the route traveled by the command." 

June 19, 2012

Low or No-Cook Civil War Dishes for Reenacting in the Hot Summer Months

 One of the most frequent questions that reenactors get asked is "Aren't you hot in that?" and the answer is "Yes!" Cooking over the fire isn't usually too bad but there are some events, like the 150th Manassas, where it is so hot no one can move and no one was willing to cook and it really wasn't safe for anyone to be eating hot food. Here are some tips and recipes for those days where it is so hot that you burn your hand picking up your tin plate that you left sitting in the sun.

There are three ways to avoid cooking in the heat. The first is to plan to bring foods that require little or no preparation such as nuts, fruits, bread, pies and cakes or things that can be prepared ahead of time at home. The second way is to plan to cook at night after the sun goes down and eat the dishes cold the next day. The third is to cook meals that are prepared without heat.

No Preparation Food:

 -Peanuts, bread, cakes, bread, pies, pickles, apples,watermelons, cheese, hardtack, etc.

Things to Eat Cold:

 -This includes pretty much anything that you are okay with eating cold but also includes period dishes such as cold meat slices or hard-boiled eggs. This is a period option, especially in the army where men have time to cook but might have to wait until later to eat. 

No Cook Dishes:

What we know today as "Cole Slaw," although the dressing is a little different.

 It's a good idea to have cold drinks available. This version of Lemonade doesn't need to be heated.

This isn't like today's chicken salad and is much more like a chicken cesar salad with a few additions. The recipe recommends gherkins, which are cucumbers and chopped hard-boiled eggs.

Be creative with your meals and preparation times. If you are going to make breakfast and know it's going to be a hot day, try to start early. You can also get an early start on lunch or start meals at night. Try anything to keep yourselves away from the fire for long periods of time.

June 14, 2012

Eggs Benedict: A Short History

Egg Benedict, dish consisting of a split, toasted English muffin, topped with poached eggs, slices of Canadian bacon and Hollandaise Sauce is a dish of questionable origin. It supposedly dates back to the 1860. Delmonico’s Restaurant, opened in 1827 in New York City is credited with its creation when Mrs. LeGrand Benedict, a regular patron, was bored of the selection and wanted something new. Charles Ranhofer, the chef at Delmonico’s presented her with “Eufa a' la Benedick” An “English” bread with a “Canadian” meat and a “Dutch” sauce with a French name? Sounds just like something a chef would serve a worldly client, tongue-in-cheek.

At least that’s one version of the origin. Another version of the origin of the dish, published in 1942, claims that a Wall Street broker named Lemuel Benedict drunkenly ordered the invention in 1894 from the Waldorf Hotel. Regardless of the origin, the dish became very popular in the 1890s and has continued to be a staple on restaurant menus ever since.

Eggs and toast have been pared together for hundred of years. What makes Eggs Benedict special is the addition of the sauce and slice of ham. “Hollandaise sauce” is the term that has been used since the turn of the 20th century but the sauce has been used for centuries as “Dutch sauce.” The first recipe was published in a Dutch cookbook in 1593. Hollandaise sauce is an emulsion of egg yolk, butter and lemon juice. It is neat because as an emulsion, the ingredients normally repel each other. Today we typically only associate Hollandaise sauce with Eggs Benedict and asparagus, but it used to serve a variety of dishes.

Eggs Benedict was made at my request for my birthday breakfast. :) We cheated and used a packaged sauce because supermarket eggs have to be cooked at a low temperature for a long time to kill the bacteria. If you wish to make your own, there's a recipe here at the Food Network.  

June 11, 2012

Post Desert

I don't know what's been going on lately but it seems like everyone has been taking a break from posting, including me. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's too hot or everyone's been too busy. I know I've been doing some kind of event every weekend and it's been crazy.

Andy and I have been going a lot of places that we haven't been to before. After 6 years of reenactments, we've decided to try do to some new events, non-reenactment events and places.

Obviously, we haven't left the hobby, but our schedules are now jam packed. We've definitely discovered some new things we'd like to do in the future.I'm looking forward to posting about some of the fun places we visit but my blogging habits have been terrible lately.

Blogger keeps making it harder and harder to post. I've hit my image max which means I have to host somewhere else and link to my images and has really been giving me problems with formatting to the extent that I dread trying to post things that I've written up. :( I know a lot of people hit their image max and switched to wordpress.

We'll see if some of these technical issues have been affecting other bloggers' will's to blog. I for one am grateful that blogger has let me post so long for free but a paid for site is not in my immediate future. I'll keep everyone updated if I decide to pick up and move to another host or domain but I'd rather not do that.

Has anyone else been having blogger formatting problems or image problems?

June 5, 2012

History Questions From Passion for the Past

This post is a response to Ken's post at Passion for the Past. Go on over and check his blog out if you haven't already.

How long have you into history?

-I have been into history since elementary school. I was really interested in ancient Egypt first. 

What got you into it?

-  I had a really cool Egyptian set when I was a kid that had stamps for Egyptian letters. My best friend and I used to write each other notes in “Egyptian.” We also played French Revolution (barricades, anyone?) and runaway slaves. I guess we were an eccentric duo.  

What was it that clicked inside your head that all of a sudden made you realize you had an obsession with the past?

-I loved historical fiction. I really wasn’t interested in fantasy books like most children. 

Do you only study a certain era in history or all eras?

- I am limited in my areas of history. American history is my favorite but history does not exist in a vacuum so American History is a world affair.  My favorite eras and places in order might surprise you:  Revolutionary War, French and Indian, Civil War, Ancient Egypt. Maybe not.

Do you only study American history or do you study world history?

-I’ve taken a good amount of classes on Chinese and Indian history as well but it’s not my focus.

Are you partial to daily life, politics, or wars of the past?

- I am one of those people who is happy that she gets to choose what historical period she wants to be in for a few days. However, if I had to pick another period to live in for one month, I would probably pick Colonial.

Whichever subject you chose (daily life, politics, or war), what interests you most about the chosen subject?

-Daily life of the average person is my favorite thing to study but I do believe that you need to study as many aspects of a time period as you can. These things didn’t exist independently of each other and we should work together with each other to help create a fuller picture of the past.  I force myself to read books on politics and military strategy. Surprisingly, as with most things, it gets more interesting the more I learn about it. 

How do you do your research? Do you look up information on the internet or stick with history books? If you research on the 'net, do you double or triple check the sources?

I read A LOT. I try to read everything I can about a subject that I am researching. I read current books, magazine articles, scholarly journals, newspapers ect. I ask more knowledgeable people to point me in the direction of sources. I check old archives. I read older books on the subject to see how historiography on the subject has changed. I collect primary accounts and secondary accounts from the period (it’s nice to know what people of the time thought about an event, even if they weren’t there or their information was not correct.) I make note of conflicting sources and try to factor out who is reliable and who isn’t. You would be surprised how misinformation spreads.  

If by book, do you read multiple books on the same subject? 

-I do read multiple books on the same subject but sometimes on related subjects too. For instance, if I am studying colonial cooking, I will also be studying economics and trade to see what exactly was available and at what prices. 

To what extent do you research? 

- Too much. I am a perpetual researcher and never get around to writing anything up. My perfect job would be assistant researcher, although I would love to be a writer. Maybe, someday.

If you reenact, why? What makes you want to put on period clothing and subject yourself to ridicule by family and friends and strangers?

-I reenact because it's fun. If it wasn't fun I wouldn't do it. I like to spend my weekends in the past because I am overcome with technology and modern work. It's nice to get a taste of historical work (working together at home with family and friends.) I like teaching about the period but I like creating a different world for people to get lost in, more. I kind of like the strange literary "gypsy," caravan-style meetings. All reenactors have friends all over the country and we all drive far distances to meet up with our friends and build a town for a weekend. Then we don't see each other until the next meet up, sometimes we only see certain friends once a year. If you go to an event where you don't know anyone, you are almost certain to know someone who knows someone you know. :)

Is dressing in period clothing a want or a need?  

- I think it’s still a want at this point. It is definitely a preference over modern clothes. I feel pretty in dresses, even my dirty Civil War dress. Modern clothing clings to every body flaw. In the past, you could achieve an attractive “shape” regardless of what your body shape was.   

How do you feel while wearing accurate period clothing?

- I feel “at home.” I do wear a Colonial dress 5 days a week in the summer so maybe it’s from that. I feel most at home in a corset. It just makes everything feel very secure and covered.  

How long have you been doing living history?

- Well if you count those years of pretending as a small child, then for a very long time. I did come Colonial living history with a homeschooled family when I was in 7th grade.  I didn’t reenact until I was in college because my family wasn’t really interested in history at all. I had to go to reenactments by myself. I've been reenacting the Civil War Era for 6 years.

To what extent do you portray one from the past: mainstream, progressive, or hardcore? 

- I am a happy mainstreamer. I am always trying to improve but I am also poor and frugal. My kit is limited but quality. I frequently do without than to do incorrect. I am far from a hardcore, though.  

Do you believe in time-travel?

- I wish it was possible, but I do not think it is possible in the way we want it. I mean, I think Einstein had a theory and I’m with Einstein. But I don’t think that would put us in a world of the past.

Actual time-travel or mind-travel?

-I do love mind-travel. I think the world needs more mind-travel and the best place to get it is from living histories and books.

Have you ever experienced "seeing the elephant" while reenacting, whether soldier or civilian?
In other words, have you ever felt you were "there"?

-Yes.  Every time I can’t go to the ball because I don’t have a nice dress. I sit in my tent and mope and girls put on their beautiful silks and I’m stuck in my grease covered work dress.

How do you feel upon entering a period home?

- When I enter a period home I feel like I want to build my own. I love a house where you can fix things yourself. Historical homes make me relaxed. There isn’t the background noise like in a modern house: no toilets flushing, no air conditioner running in the back, no hard drives buzzing or refrigerators running. It’s glorious.   

Does the feeling change when entering said home while in period clothing?

-When I enter a period house in period clothing I feel like I am a part of the house.  The house is another world and I am just the ambiance.  

Head over to Ken's blog and leave your answers there. The photo above was taken by my friend and fellow blogger Jeff at Dispatches from Company Q

June 2, 2012

Cupping, Bleeding, Leeching and Tooth Extracting...

Just some of the many services your 1850s barber could supply.

Today's post is brought to you by the shot that I have to receive today at 8:30 AM. I am very scared of needles. They gross me out like you wouldn't believe. I would much rather undergo cupping, bleeding or leeching rather than have a needle stuck in me. Yes, I know needles don't hurt and that this is an irrational fear, but I really dislike the thought of having a needle anywhere near me. It's very unnatural and if I wasn't bullied into getting one, I never would. 

Wednesday, I had to race from work to the doctors to get a test done for school which required the unnatural puncturing of my arm and the insertion of a needle filled with a foreign substance. As I sat in the chair, I asked my companion to take note of how similar the chair I was sitting in was like the ones used for lethal injection. He told me he could strap me down if I wanted. I politely declined, but it would have made it easier on the nurses.
Credit: http://www.burnsarchive.com

As I was sitting there, one nurse came in and called their new nurse.

"This is as good of a time as any. You have to learn how to do this eventually,"she held the needle up and flicked it a few times.

The new nurse astutely replied "This probably isn't the patient to try on." :)

She was right.

After some back and forth between the two of them, the more seasoned nurse had a go and after 30 seconds it was finished and I was thoroughly grossed out for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, they ran out of another shot that I "need" and I have to go back today. I bet those nurses are looking forward to the grown-up-woman-who-acts-like-a-child-near-needles. I'll know I'm an office attraction if other nurses pop in for random items like toothpicks or something. :)

By the 1850s, bloodletting was losing favor but was still an acceptable part of the medical field. Cupping, while lesser known, was at its medical height in the West.  Physicians would heat small glass cups and place them on the skin to create a vacuum, which drew blood to the area to form a blister.   

This painful procedure was performed during the Civil War on Sarah Morgan, a wealthy refugee from Baton Rouge after a wagon accident left her unable to walk. She described the experience in her journal, which has recently been published as “The Civil War Diary of a Southern Woman,” as follows:
“I was interrupted yesterday morning by Mrs Badger who wished to apply a few dry cups to my back, to which I quietly submitted, and was unable to move afterwards with[out] pain, as a reward for my patience.”  

When the doctor visited her later, she wrote of the pain she experienced, the large amount of blood lost and the reactions of her sister and friends during another cupping procedure. "two dozen shining, cutting teeth were buried in my flesh....Then came the great cups over the cuts that I thought loosened the roots of my teeth with their tremendous suction power, and which I dare say pulled my hair in at least a foot."

I guess I'll just bite the bullet and get my shot. :( "Bite the bullet?" That's a post for another day.

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