Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Living History

I'm the third generation owner of the family farm in Union Hall where my grandparents, Joe and Sallie Smith, lived for over 50 years. The main part of the cabin was built in 1852 by William Bernard. Later another "pen" was added and an enclosed dog-trot connected the two.

After William's wife Gillie Ann died in 1897, he cut a little window by the fireplace so he could see her grave on the hill.

The cabin is no longer in liveable shape, but it's mostly still standing. I can remember visiting my grandparents there when I was a kid. I was intrigued that they had no electricity and no running water (save in the spring down the hill). My grandmother walked down this hill a couple of times a day for decades:

The spring was a hundred feet or so into the trees. In the 1950s, my grandparents lived pretty much as the Bernards had lived during the 1860s. Maybe this is where my fascination with old-timey stuff started.

Ever since I can remember, I've wondered what it would be like to live in an earlier time. I'm especially fascinated with life in the 1800s. So, when some Civil War re-enactors were going to set up camp at Lake Watch, I knew I wanted to see what they were up to. They were going to stage a battle, too, even though no actual battles had been fought in Franklin County.

Their campsites looked like this:

Some had signs that told which company was camped where.

Some displayed their tack beside the tent.

And some displayed other things that might be needed during—or after—a battle:

The tents were roomier inside than I expected, but they were still a bit cramped.

Cooking was done on open fires. 

An anachronism seems to have slipped into the ashes below. . . 

. . . but rumor has it that Saturday evening a horse-drawn artillery cannon went through the Bojangles drive-thru. Bojangles is just across 122 from Lake Watch where the encampment took place. (Wish I'd seen that!) I wonder if this was this the cannon:

Just outside the camp area on Sunday afternoon, artillerymen prepared for the battle:

Guns and flags stood at the ready:

The group posed for formal pictures before the battle began:

Notice the lack of yankees in the picture.

However, just before the battle, some Confederates returned to their tents for a change of clothes—to blue.

The confederate cavalry practiced a few maneuvers: 


Soon the battle began. It was loud!

The horses were remarkably calm during the cannon fire. I was impressed!


In the background, a large crowd had gathered to watch the battle.

After the battle, the soldiers rode toward the spectators.

I was glad that, for an hour, I could slip back into time and get a glimpse of what life might have been like 150 years ago. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like to live back then, but it was nice to visit for a little while.

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Blogger R.M. said...

thanks for that - great pics, thanks for sharing. I, too, always wanted to live 'back then.' Time-traveler? Everything was an ordeal, simply cleaning up was a process. We take lots of modern conveniences for grated.

12:41 PM  
Blogger CountryDew said...

I've been to a few of those reenactments and they are very interesting if you like history. I am glad you enjoyed.

The part about your family's ancestral home is terrific!

2:11 PM  
Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

Oh My, I love the story about that little window. How extraordinary!
Great historical recapturing...

11:44 PM  

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