Sometime during 1992 I was introduced to living with my “Uncle and Aunt” in Williamsport Maryland in the July of 1863 when the Confederate forces of Robert E. Lee were trapped hard against the river and forced into our town. We civilians were duly forced out of our homes as the injured and wounded made our tables and settees into hospital beds.
Craig, Megan and I in camp.
We moved into tents and life went on somewhat normally for the next few days with the addition of fear and war and a lot of young men in uniform. (I may not be an optimist all the time but I could certainly see the bright side in that!)
I modeled a mourning Dress at the fashion show.
My “Aunt and Uncle” were good friends of my Momma and I frequently babysat for them and they took me on the most amazing weekends reenacting the Civil War. When I was 17 I had the great privilege of attending a debutante ball which is hosted by the reenactment group every year for all the girls coming of age. I danced for hours and hours in my white gown, corset and petticoats.
*Don’t tell M. but there were more young men in uniform then too.*
At the Debutante Ball.
My first reenactment was in a little California town near the coast Somewhere north ( I didn’t pay that much attention to WHERE we were). It was such a giddy exciting time for a girl who basically couldn’t imagine anything nicer than an accurate historical costume and nothing but embroidery and camping to occupy my time. I did learn about our history mooching from my Mom’s friends but it was
almost always all about the dresses.
My beautiful “Aunt” in Civil War maternity clothes.
And sometimes maybe the young men in uniform…
So this week I am breathless with anticipation to attend
This time I wont be asked to sweat under layers of black in order to portray a widow. Nor will I have to try to keep an eye on three kids while my “Aunt” cooks a fire pit dinner. I will get something much much better: I get to share it with my children!
So if you ever need someone who knows how to dress in black in the middle of July and sweat for hours while not saying unladylike words… I’m your girl! I can’t do a reliable Scarlet impression but I am good if you need someone to go nuts at a faux abolitionists march!
Mrs. Joanna Palmer
P.S. The photos were taken at the Fresno reenactment except the tin-type which was taken at the debutante ball- and the photographer was very disappointed that I hadn’t maintained a porcelain complexion in keeping with the times. Quite frankly I don’t think my baby skin stayed porcelain for longer than my first exposure to the sun. The photography method used in tin-typing picks up on the red pigments in skin: thus my shockingly prominent tan-line. Sorry for the quality of the pictures (they are old and not very well looked after). I am also sorry that I hadn’t started plucking my eyebrows yet.