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My Civil War Weekend


I spent last weekend in the 1860s in a Civil War camp. In reality, it was the 28th Pennsylvania’s annual Civil War reenactment at Neshaminy State Park just north of Philadelphia, PA.

The biggest challenge after not doing any reenactments for nearly a year was finding all my reenacting stuff. But being the super organized person that I am, I was able to locate all my dresses, underthings, shawls, wool cape, bonnets, hairnets and other essential things in a hurry. Meanwhile, my husband was going around the house saying, “Have you seen my brogans?”

Not only did I have all my stuff ready and packed by Thur day night, but I even baked a batch of muffins to take with.

We got to the campsite late Friday morning to set up our camp. The worst part was loading and unloading the truck. We have a large A-tent, a tarp we use as a canopy, and long wooden poles for both. Also wooden tables and chairs, a cast iron grill we set up for cooking over the firepit, buckets, a wooden box full of dishes, cast iron pans, utensils and other camp stuff, and two cots.

We also have to bring modern things that we hide in the tent, like a large plastic container to keep food in and the all essential cooler, as well as a modern sleeping bag for me. My husband, trooper that he is, just rolls up in a bunch of wool blankets.

Once our camp was set up, we went home so my husband could attend his bowling tournament. Modern life always seems to intervene. We went back early Saturday morning, changed into our reenactor clothes and started living life in a Civil War camp.

Our youngest son came out for the day to play soldier, as well as my husband’s brother and nephew. I wore my hoop dress and best bonnet to go watch the battle and support all my men.

When I came back I wanted to change into another shorter day dress, so I could take off the hoop, and to my horror realized I’d forgotten to wear my under petticoat for modesty. So, every time I shifted my hoop, everyone got a view of my ankles, calves and the hem of my drawers. Oh my!

Once the sun went down it got downright chilly. But there was plenty of wood, so my husband built a bonfire to warm us up and hung two candle lanterns in the tent to take the chill off. I brought a warm, cuddly pair of jammies. I kept my cotton chemise on, though, a trick I learned from another reenactor. When you get up in the morning in a very cold tent, you not only have a head start on getting dressed, but you have a nice, warm chemise against your skin. My husband also made sure I had a winter weight sleeping bag to curl into. I snuggled inside and threw it over my head and stayed nice and warm despite the cold temps outside.

It rained overnight, but stopped just about the time we had to get up. When I stuck my nose out of the sleeping bag, I couldn’t believe how cold it was in that tent. I pulled on my scruffy camp dress and apron to start the day. Because of the rain, morning camp events were cancelled, so we had a nice leisurely breakfast of bacon and eggs cooked over an open campfire. Yum!

I decided to change back into my 21st century clothing before the afternoon battle, so we could get packed up and home quicker. Of course, when I got undressed, I realized I’d forgotten to wear that petticoat again. Must be a mental block. I also didn’t wear my corset, but that was on purpose. I’d had enough of that on Saturday.

I packed up all my clothing and gear except for what we needed for lunch. After the men formed up, I went with my husband’s sister-in-law and his two nieces and a few of their friends to watch our men fight it out again.

We had a lot of fun and caught up with reenactor friends we hadn’t seen in a long while. But, as always, it felt good to get home and into the shower. Although a weekend in Civil War camp is great, I wouldn’t want to live there.

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4 Comments

  1. Nicole McCaffrey says:

    Thanks for the sneak peek into the life of reenacting, Susan! Not sure I’d want to go out there in the chilly spring weather and rain, LOL. You’re definitely a stronger woman than me *G*.

  2. Susan Macatee says:

    Well, I’ve been a camper since my boys were small. And although we did modern tents with floors and zippers back then, they were still tents. You get used to it.

    We even faced a few black bears at one modern campsite.

  3. Mary Ann Webber says:

    Loved reading about your Civil War weekend. I went to one near Scott, Arkansas when my children were young. The enactors were busily doing their thing around campfires. They seemed to enjoy explaining what they were doing – and why – to the kids.
    Of course – the South always wins at southern reenactments.
    Thanks for sharing your extraordinary experiences.

  4. Susan Macatee says:

    LOL!
    At our reenactments each side takes a turn. The South wins one day and the North wins the next.

    Guess we’re equal opportunity.

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