This week has been tremendously long but also with some fantastic visitor interactions, from the typical silly comments about the heat to some wonderful moments to really educate people.
Tuesday when I was in the McLean house I had these two couples come up to me and start asking questions. What I loved about this visitor interaction was the questions they were asking was the kind of stuff we NEVER get asked about. A typical conversation with a visitor in the McLean house goes “This is the parlor” “No those are not the original tables, General Lee’s table is in Chicago and Grant’s is in DC as well are the chairs.” “No, McLean did not come down here to get away from the fighting in Manassas. He was a business man” So on and so on…Then the visitors take their pictures and leave.
Well against the wall in the McLean house we have a map that depicts the subsequent surrenders after Appomattox, to show visitors that Appomattox was only the first of many surrenders, disbandment’s, etc. So these four visitors asked me about the map and I was discussing with them about the different armies and how huge of a deal Confederate History is in Brazil because some Confederates fled there after the war, rather than return home, and every year the people of Brazil celebrate these Confederados because there is a large population of people that would not exist otherwise.
The conversation then turned to Nathan Bedford Forrest, whose name was on the map because he disbanded his army rather than surrender and we spent a few minutes discussing his history after the war in relation to the KKK. I told the visitors I honestly could not attest to his character one way or another as I do not personally know a lot about the man, so it would not be appropriate for me to tell them anything about his life. However THAT then turned into a conversation about the Battle Flag and the First, Second, and Third National flag, which I LOVED because people seem to only know of the Battle Flag and call it the Confederate flag and they have NO IDEA about the actual national flags.
This image is a great graphic to show the different flags. For those who may not know why there were three different national flags, I’ll explain what I told those visitors.
The first national was the flag for the first two years of the war, but was soon changed because it often caused confusion because of the similarities the flag shared with Old Glory, especially when furled. So they changed to the Stainless Banner, which was the flag until early 1865, but it was decided to be changed because when the Stainless Banner was furled it appeared to be a surrender flag. Finally in early 1865 they adopted the Third National, and was used until the surrender in April.
So I discussed these issues with the visitors, and then they asked me the big question about slavery vs states rights. A topic that we discussed for several minutes and I told them about the Emancipation and how it was issued after Antietam to serve as a political move of sorts. I also told the visitors about how it had been in Lincoln’s desk for months, simply waiting for the right moment, and the reaction that it caused among the Northern Armies. We also got to discuss John Wilkes Booth a little bit, until finally they decided they felt bad for some reason, and wanted to leave me alone. I absolutely adored the interaction however and I told them that they were asking all of the right questions and that I did not mind talking to them all day if they wanted. The best part was, upon leaving the house for my next shift location I told another volunteer about it and he informed me the visitors raved about me to him! My ego was stroked ever so slightly.
This little guy also made an appearance Tuesday morning down near the Kelly house. We put ropes and signs up around him to insure no visitors messed with him. He was only about two days old at the time, and the most darling little thing.
On Wednesday, I have to admit nothing particularly exciting happened except I went into the full parlor of the McLean house before and touched the mantle, something I had never ever done before.
Yesterday was my Jennie Peers day, and the heat was extraordinarily terrible. I had to take many breaks in the upstairs break room, seeking comfort in the air conditioning, and I lasted about thirty minutes after my 1:50 talk ended, before I gave up and changed for the day. I had three talks yesterday, all of which were relatively decent, though the trend seems to be the second and third talks were the best. My second talk was particularly enjoyable and I had some darling little girls asking me a lot of questions after my talk. The funniest part was when they asked how my skirts stay so full, so their father turned around and I showed them how hoop skirts were made.
The heat and my dress however bring me to my next amusing visitor interaction.
I was sitting on the porch of the tavern with Jon who plays Private Dowler and a couple came up to us. They made the usual remarks about how hot it must be in my dress to which I said “Well what would you expect me to wear?”
The wife replies, “Well shorts.”
Me: “What are shorts?”
Wife: “They’re like pants.”
Me: “Well I daresay it would be quite unseemly for me to be wearing pants, ma’am.”
Wife: “Well it would be unseemly for me to be wearing that.”
Me: “Well ma’am, where are you from that the ladies do not dress like this.”
At this point her husband jumps in and says “Fort Lauderdale Florida, it hasn’t been discovered yet.”
I turned my head and looked at Jon who was trying with great difficulty to not laugh at this point. Then the husband points to the Peers house down at the other end of the village and asks me, “Is that a private residence?”
So naturally I responded “Well sir that is my home.”
Husband: “So it is where the park rangers live?”
Me: “Park rangers? I am not sure what you’re saying?”
Husband: “The seasonal rangers or staff live there?”
Me: “Well sir I live there with my husband, our three children, and a colored girl named Millie who helps me with the children.”
Husband: “…..You’re not going to break character are you?”
To which I simply shook my head and they went about their day.
Today was our annual Civil War baseball game, so I had taken the day off of work and decided to go out and watch the game. I dressed out as Jennie and wound up giving a talk this afternoon at 3:50.
There were two games played, Us, meaning the villagers, vs Y’all, meaning the Provost Guard. Both games, the villagers lost to the Provost Guard, for the second year in a row.
My talk was not particularly large, but it was a good group that listened and cared about what I had to say. One man, who was visiting from Spain, shook my hand, and thanked me for my talk, which I thought was rather nice of him to do. There were these very cute little girls who had rainbow colored hair, which I had fun with telling them I had never seen hair like that before and when they told me they were from Lynchburg, I acted even more shocked, since Jennie Peers was originally from Lynchburg.
In terms of my research lately, I tracked down grandchildren of the Peers’ through their little boy Charlie, but the great, great, great, great grand daughter that I messaged on facebook has yet to reply to me. I am going to try reaching out to her again, and if I cannot receive a response, then I am going to try and contact her brother. I simply want to see if they have anything new for me, and if not, then to make sure they realize how important their ancestors were.
This is a photo of myself and my friend James as the Commanding Officer of the Provost Guard, Captain Geyser. James was one of my very first friends at the Park and we are never at the park dressed out together on the same days, so even though I am a Southern lady and he is a Yankee rascal (I kid, although this is true in real life…..again I’m joking) I wanted a photo of us together.
Preparing for the baseball game this morning.
Lastly, this morning during the game I was sitting with another living historian and I hear “Uh ladies.” Elizabeth and I both turned to see this little guy slithering under the fence and toward the tree.