Friday, August 22, 2014

A Fun Approach to History

Thought for the day:  It is well that war is so terrible, or we would grow too fond of it. [Robert E. Lee]


Because this year marks the 150th anniversary of  Atlanta's invasion and occupation by Union troops during the Civil War, as well as Sherman's subsequent incendiary march through Georgia, this has been a summer of numerous living history-type re-enactments, one of which Smarticus and I visited last month.

The encampment of Union soldiers on the lawn of Barrington Hall  in Roswell provided a fascinating glimpse into the past, and taught us something about the local happenings of those days, too. A re-enactment showed the notorious capture of some 400-500 cotton mill workers... mostly women and children... who were arrested, charged with treason, and deported to prison. On Sherman's orders, the mill was burnt to the ground.


This tent was furnished more elegantly than the others. See the dresses hanging in the rear? It seems this was the abode of one of the (ahem) camp followers. Oh, and in spite of what you may have heard, the term hooker wasn't derived from General Joe Hooker's well-known appreciation of... camp followers. The term actually preceded the Civil War. 





Here we have a display of a typical Union soldier's possessions.









A  makeshift table.







Healthcare left a lot to be desired 150 years ago.





More stomach-turning medical implements. Those jars on the bottom were for holding leeches, but that doesn't bother me nearly as much as those surgical tools on top.

A large building held many Civil War era items, including numerous photographs of the day. Although the required time of subject immobility had decreased dramatically since the days of the daguerreotype, it was still quite long by today's instant standards. This young lady apparently possessed a wealth of patience and poise.



This little girl, on the other hand, doesn't look at all pleased with the process.





Post-mortem photographs were quite common during the mid-1800s, especially following the death of a young child.





Most fashion-conscious ladies of the day had at least one set of hair combs, but fans weren't just a fashion statement. In the South, they helped ladies tolerate the brutal summer heat, and in the hands of some women, they also became effective instruments of flirtation.

Corsets created an hourglass figure. Women may not have been able to take a deep breath, but they looked terrific while they were swooning from lack of oxygen.



And one final picture... just because I like it. It reminds me of what a schoolmarm might wear to church.








And that's it. Whatever you may think about the sanity of modern-day fellas donning old scratchy woolen uniforms on a hot Georgia day, I'm glad those folks did it. Nothing reinforces the understanding of history quite as well as ... living it... or more accurately, re-enacting it.

In closing, I found an interesting poem online, which was allegedly written by a sentimental young lady from north Georgia to her Confederate soldier admirers:

                                                      'Tis hard for youens to sleep in camp;
                                                      'Tis hard for youens to fight;
                                                      'Tis hard for youens through snow to tramp,
                                                      In snow to sleep at night.
                                                      But harder for weans from youens to part,
                                                      Since youens have stolen weans hearts.

Hmmm... admirers? Reckon she was a... camp follower?

There are places that need no historical marker because they are haunted, haunted by the spirits of men in blue and gray, now a part of the soil they fought over. If you stand quietly and listen, you can sense the clash of arms and see the skirmish, as if the gnarled old trees can't forget and whisper their story to your imagination...  [Barry Etris]

NOTE: The picture in the header shows the front of Barrington Hall, which was built in 1842 in the Greek Revival style. At various times during the day, musicians played Civil War-era music on that porch, and at other times, dancers did their thing.

                                       Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.


89 comments:

  1. I didn't realise that it has been 150 years. Time to watch Gone With the Wind again!

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    1. It some parts of the South, it certainly doesn't feel like 150 years. Some folks around here act as though the war hasn't ended yet.

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    2. Yes!!! When we lived in South Carolina, I got the distinct impression the Civil War...ahem... "The War of Northern Aggression" was not over. (And please say "war" as a three-syllable word)

      ;-)

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    3. Exactly... the "war of Yankee aggression!" You've got that right.

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  2. Thanks for sharing those antique items of Georgia. You have literally walked us through museum. Thanks.

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    1. My pleasure, Sangay. I'm glad you enjoyed them.

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  3. Dear Susan,
    thank you for that interesting glimpse into history! I shudder at the sight of medical instruments (naively I thought first it was a game of Boules), I only know the term 'Happy Hooker', and share your estimation concerning the hapitic part of re-enacted history.

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    1. Dear Britta,

      Just looking at those old medical instruments is enough to make anyone thankful to live in modern days. Oh yeah... the happy hooker. I'd forgotten all about that book...

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  4. My maternal great grandfather fought for the Confederacy. I have his letters to home. Yes, I'm a California liberal of paternal Portuguese descent but my mommy was an Okie who fled to Berkeley in 1939. That is history. The rest is history too. And those who reenact that strange time in Atlanta --and American history-- are to be lauded and thanked for their cautionary portrayals. It's really quite docent of them.

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    1. That's quite a history, dude. I'm most impressed with those letters you have from your great grandfather. Sounds like a fascinating book in the making.

      Quite docent... HA! Good one. Happy weekend.

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  5. Thank you.
    And oh dear on the medical front. It is a wonder anyone survived anything more lifethreatening than an ingrown toenail.

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    1. Yeah, I know. I shudder to think of the emergency surgeries performed without anesthesia or antibiotics. Heck, maybe without soap. Medicine's come a long way, thank goodness.

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  6. Some years ago we had a Civil War re-enactment near me. The Cavaliers rode into town on their horses, including one large mare in season and a very small stallion wanting to do what came naturally. The riders trying to pretend nothing was happening. Parents trying to explain to small children. Such fun!!!!!

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    1. HA! That must have been hilarious! There's no way I could have pretended nothing was happening. I would have been all but rolling on the ground with laughter.

      I read your book about your travels in Laos earlier this week. LOVED it!

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  7. I've heard that corsets were invented by men, and all the swooning and outright fainting that ensued gave rise to the "weaker sex" tag attached to women.
    I'm not a fan of re-enacting wars.

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    1. I don't know if it's true or not, but your explanation about the root of the "weaker sex" label makes good sense to me.

      No, I don't want to actually see a battle re-enacted, either, but I do love the feeling of stepping back into history for a day.

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  8. So glad women don't have to wear those torturous corsets anymore to attract the opposite sex. Now we have Spanx. Do you ever wonder where all the fat goes?

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    1. Me, too.

      HA! Sure. Where do ya think the term "fathead" comes from...?

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  9. I had to laugh about the corsetts giving them an hour glass figure .. with them swooning from lack of oxygen. But hey they looked great...lol

    I think reinactments are cool... you almost feel like you are there ;-)

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    1. You wouldn't laugh if you ever had to WEAR one of those things! (You COULDN'T laugh... too hard to breathe!)

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  10. They have these reenactments here in KY sometimes as well. I've always wanted to go to one. I think they'd be interesting.

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    1. They are interesting and educational, as long as people regard them not as a glorification of war, but as a glimpse into history.

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  11. I don't know what's more horrible...the conditions those men fought under or the road side bombs they have to deal with today.

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  12. Not sure why one has to reenact it
    Pretending wars were a hit
    But nice to learn I suppose
    The so called highs and lows

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    1. We all know war is hell,
      No pretending it was swell.
      But living history days can teach a lot
      About the lives and times of people who fought.

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  13. Well, it seems that human nature hasn't changed much over the years - - except that nowadays "camp followers" no longer have tents.

    I like all the photos, but those primitive medical instruments of torture scare the hell out of me. And those corsets look pretty scary, too. I wonder if those pesky camp followers bothered to wear them.....

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    1. Oh, I'll betcha camp followers didn't wear those pesky corsets... and that's why they were considered "loose women." HA!

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    2. That's a good one, Susan!

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    3. Thanks... I was rather fond of that comeback myself.

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  14. I was not a good history student while in school, yet today visiting historical events is one of my favorite things to do. The Civil War was such an awful time in our history. These displays really illustrate how far we've come with medical knowledge, thankfully.

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    1. Maybe if your class would've visited some historical sites, you would have found history more interesting. No matter how interesting a history book may be, nothing beats that "you-are-there" feeling we get when visiting those historical places in person.

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  15. We have a friend who participates in historical re-enactments. He loves it. I've learned much more about history since I've been out of school than I ever learned in a history class.

    Happy Weekend!

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    1. I've learned a lot more about history since I got out of school. too. Then again, that could be because there's so more history to learn now than there was when I was in school... HA! It helps to be married to someone who enjoys visiting historical sites as much as I do, too.

      Happy weekend to you, too.

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  16. Just imagine how hot it must have been wearing those clothes in the summer. The poem made me chuckle, and I loved the dance video. :) Sounds like it was an interesting experience.

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    1. Yeah, I know. Hot and itchy.

      It was a lot of fun.

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  17. always interesting to visit old battlefields and museums. I am always amazed at Civil War sites with the surroundings, the heat, and the proximity of both sides to each other. At Shiloh they do a good job of posting blue and red markers and often it's a hodge-podge of color. At Gettysburg in PA - the rolling hills are so pretty now - tough to imagine the horror.

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    1. I used to love to visit Gettysburg, but it's been a quite a few years since we were there last. One of the things that astounds me about some of the old battlefields is imagining how people would sit on chairs in the hills overlooking them, watching the battle as if it were "entertainment." Talk about horror.

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  18. What a fascinating post! And as for those surgical instruments - and those revolting garments ... crikey! Thank goodness times have moved on.

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    1. Thanks! Glad ya liked it. All but those surgical tools, of course. They're pretty scary. Crikey... I LOVE that expression.

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  19. The family went on a Civil War battlefield tour one summer. Started in Mont Vernon and worked our way around and ended with The White House tour.On the Fourth of July. We knew someone in the White House and got the private tour. It was wonderful.

    Fabulous post as always.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Oh wow, that sounds like a fabulous trip. A private tour! I've been to the White House a couple times, but never for a private tour. (I hope they let you take some pictures!)

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    2. No we didn't even try... but the Secret Service agent was so darling and very correct.
      We did met Socks the cat and did take photos in the Oval Office. It was our Christmas Card that year.
      Such a highlight. We got the special treatment and did not have to wait in any lines. We just showed up and the Secret Service walked us in. WooHoo !

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    3. How cool. Now, THAT musta been some special Christmas card!

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  20. I LOVE this post----I really enjoy reading anything about the Civil War. My father was a history major who specialized in the Civil War. I am one of George Custer's descendants, so I'm VERY interested. You are so lucky that you got to see these things!

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    1. Very cool that you're descended from General Custer, and also neat that your father and you have such an interest in the Civil War. My guess if you've visited LOTS of historical sites. (My hubby and I even visited sites like Appomattox Courthouse... on our honeymoon!)

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  21. I find the first little girl quite odd looking. Don't you think her head is too large for her body? Someone should have helped her out with the medical instruments--or maybe someone did.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I dunno. I think that first little girl looks kinda strange because of the clothes she's wearing. They look so grown-up. And she has such a long swan neck. Okay, so maybe she has a bit of a melon head, too...

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  22. I'll have a word with The Queen, and see if she's willing to have the USA back as a colony again. You may be in luck!!!

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  23. Hi Susan .. interesting post to read and see the photos of 'how they lived' and the poem is a classic ... I agree re the little girl - she does look a little strange; and I'm so pleased I don't have to fit into those dresses/corsets, or wear wool ... or have leeches removed with a fleam .. or ...

    However the description in Wiki about the Civil War being the first true industrial war .. because of the railroads, the telegraph, steamships and the mass-produced weapons ... a pre-cursor to WW1 - makes informative reading ...

    We have enactments here ... but I've never been to one ... the thought of music in front of Barrington Hall sounds quite delightful .. thanks for telling us about this period - cheers Hilary

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    1. The music was quite delightful, as was the dancing. However, I don't believe the ladies were wearing corsets. (Smart move!)

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  24. I think war re-enactments are a very American thing. I was not familiar with events like that until I came over here. At first I just shook my head - it seemed absurd to me, like reliving a nightmare or celebrating a horrific death of over 600,000 people. I slowly began to realize, over time, that they are meant to make you understand history. Now I enjoy events like this - maybe not so much the re-enactments, but all the historical exhibits that go with it. Your picture of the surgical tools...priceless! And I certainly appreciate the fact that we womenfolk are allowed to wear shorts and T-shirts these days, instead of long dresses and corsets!

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    1. You're probably right about re-enactments being an American kinda thing... although Jo did comment about a re-enactment near her, and she lives in London. I wouldn't be surprised if there are Renaissance re-enactors in other countries, too.

      Yes, it's the historical and educational aspects that pique my interest, too. Present day living looks even better after taking a gander at all the old medical instruments. (I took a lot more pictures of them, but didn't want to bore everyone silly by posting them all.)

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  25. That looks like so much fun!!
    The death photographs are quite creepy, but in many cases, it was probably the ONLY photograph of the child they would ever have. One can hardly blame them for wanting a memento of their child.

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    1. It WAS fun! I think you would have loved it.

      I knew it was a fairly common practice to photograph a young child who'd died, but I was surprised at how many post-mortem photos were on display of adults of all ages, too.

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  26. Fascinating photos, though the post-mortem ones were very creepy, not to mention the medical instruments! Thank goodness the "campfire girls" were there to lighten the mood. I'm not sure they sold cookies back then, but the "youens" and the "weans" were always up for s'mores!

    Julie

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  27. SUSAN ~
    I'm late in getting here and not feeling at all well enough to try thinking of something witty to say.

    So I guess I'll just mention that, based on some things you wrote here, I think you might find the book 'THE REAL LINCOLN' by Thomas J. DiLorenzo to be very interesting reading material. I know I sure as heck did!

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

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    1. Sorry to hear you aren't feeling well. Thanks for the book recommendation. I'll check it out.

      Get well soon.

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  28. Yeah, those medical implements look pretty terrifying - back in the days when nearly as many died from the treatment as from the original wounds. Thank goodness someone eventually discovered penicillin, not to mention anesthetics!

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    1. And soap! Don't forget what a huge difference it made when doctors started washing their hands.

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    2. No kidding. Infection killed so many. It didn't end with the Civil War, either. The World War I numbers are staggering.

      During my wife's labor, I decided that anesthesiology was a rather magical profession. It's is your job and mission to relieve pain. Beautiful. Of course, they're also the ones most likely to be sued for malpractice.

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    3. Yeah, I'm grateful to all the anesthesiologists who knocked me out for surgery over the years. It never even occurred to me to sue the one on duty when I had a bad reaction that stopped my heart. (HE didn't know that was gonna happen... and they WERE nice enough to give me a new kick start.)

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    4. Yeah, I thought it was rather sporting of them...

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  29. It all looks terrifying, thank God for all the modern techniques now.

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    1. Lots of things about the "good old days" weren't all that good.

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  30. It is good to re-enact scenes from history as long as they are not glorified. I had to flick past those medical bits. They're certainly not glorified!

    Here in the UK we are having a year filled with memories from the First World War and last weekend it was the re-enactment of the Battle of Bosworth and the death of Richard III.

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    1. Nope, nothing glorious about those old medical instruments.

      I would expect you to have all kinds of historical re-enactments there in the UK. The U.S. is still an adolescent compared to Europe.

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  31. I have always taken delight in re-enactments. Well, shoot, you mean Col. Hooker didn't have a stable of hookers, after all?

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    1. Oh, no, General Hooker definitely had a stable of what was commonly called "Hooker's Girls," but the term "hooker" predated the Civil War.

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  32. Great pics, Susan! Finally a Georgia location I recognize on sight, but I used to live in Roswell (loved that town). Reenactments are such a fun way to learn about historical events. My only visits to Barrington Hall have been for a Victorian Christmas—a whole different kind of reenactment. :)

    I understand doctors are using leaches again in medicine. They start using those surgical implements, and I'm canceling my health insurance.

    VR Barkowski

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    1. Oh, wow! I'll bet Barrington Hall was gorgeous when it was decorated for a Victorian Christmas!

      Yeah, they are using leeches again, but only for limited cases, and the leeches are supposedly "clean." (I don't care HOW well they wash their little hands; I ain't interested...) HA! Me, too.

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  33. We went to a Civil War re-enactment over the weekend. My youngest thought it was cool and only 'a little scary.' Barbaric is the word that came to mind for me, but that's the word I always think of with war. ;) I do like to visit the history, and I enjoyed your post.

    Three cheers now for no corsets in today's day and age, woot! :)

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    1. Oh.cool, so you saw some of the same things we did.

      Me, too! When I was young, most of us wore girdles, whether we "needed" them or not. That was bad enough; I sure don't want any parts of a corset. (It's much more comfy being a "loose woman"...)

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    2. hahahhaha better watch those terms you throw around on the internet. Your search engine hits could go wild, hahahaha

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  34. Interesting pictures. I like the fans and tents. It's fascinating seeing how people lived them, although I can live without postmortem photos.

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    1. The fans and hair combs were all lovely, and some were quite intricate.

      I wouldn't want to have any postmortem photos, either, but evidently, they were quite common back then.

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  35. those surgical instruments look QUITE scary. i guess in order to perform those the wounded had to get purrrrrrrrrrrrty liquored up. i bet they had barrels of the stuff. great-looking stuff in the typical soldiers possessions. great story. cheers!!

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    1. Yep, surgey required a certain amount of inebriation in those days. (Hopefully, only of the patients, not the doctors...)

      Cheers!

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  36. Oh man...you know this post makes me grateful I live in the day and age that I do. Can you imagine having the doctor stop in with such medieval implements to "heal" you? *gulp*

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    1. Me, too. Yeah, all I'd need to do is take one look at some of those instruments, and I'd suddenly feel all better... (Really, doc! I'm fiiiiiine... you don't need to do a thing...)

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  37. Great history! When I lived in New Hampshire, I would visit the re-enactment of the final encampment of the NH 5th Regiment in Manchester, Vermont every year. The history is fascinating.

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    1. Welcome, fellow history nerd. I think it's fascinating to experience history through these living history set-ups and re-enactments, too. Smarticus and I started going to this sort of thing before we got married, and we haven't grown tired of them, yet. (Or of each other!)

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  38. We are in the center of a lot of this history. We even have homes that soldiers appropriated during the war for billetting and hospitals. One home, which is now a B & B, is about a 20 minute walk from our house and it was the headquarters for R.E. Lee when they were fighting the battles hear about.

    We have had several re enactments here, but we have been otherwise occupied during them - the most stunning is the Battle of Chancellorsville - it encompasses miles and miles - and so many men died during the war. It is protected land and just goes on and on - to this day they still find relics of the war in the woods that have always grown there.

    We are also fortunate to live 8 miles from Montpelier, home of James Madison - one of the founders of our country and the reason our little town exists. They constantly do things around holidays to show what life was like back then, plus they are excavating the grounds now and unearthing so many valuable clues to plantation life, slavery, etc.

    If I didn't hate the politics and arbitrariness of the laws in the Commonwealth I would say it was a pretty cool place to live. :D

    Although I will say - this far south in the state? The need to realize the south DID LOSE the war. Yimminy Christmas it's ridiculous. I get southern pride, but the times changed - catch up already.

    Love ya' sis. Always 12:34

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    1. *here abouts [not hear] some of us sutherners can spellz.

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    2. There are soooooo many wonderful historical places to visit in Virginia. Love it! Although I must say, when we drove up to Maryland a few weeks ago, it felt like we were in your state forever!!! (Okay, so it was only about five hours.) I thought about you, and wondered how far away you were from where we were.

      12:34, kiddo

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