This week was my second week at the park since my internship officially started. With that came my first official day of living history, which I started yesterday. No amount of preparation could really get me to where I would have liked to of been, so it was simply a matter of going out and winging it.
I had started writing my program almost a month ago when I was first told I could portray Jennie. I have spent the last month trying to track down family members and descendants, searching for anything that would give me a great story to tell, and one that had not already been told by the other living historians who portray villagers. My soul point of that rode on finding out about Charles Sackett’s time in the war, and even after calling his great, great, great, great grandson at his doctors office, I still have unanswered questions about Jennie and her family. I am still in the process of trying to track down the direct descendants of Jennie and George….ie: their grandchildren.
The worst part for me was trying to remember stuff and needing water. My mouth would go dry, a problem I noticed I have when I am doing interpretation in the McLean house. If I am talking for awhile with a visitor I have to stop and get water..so I had no choice but to set up a ceramic pitcher of water and tea cups on the porch of the Clover Hill tavern, so that I could have water during my talk. I felt awkward when I would stop to get water, but I did what I had to do.
For the most part, during both talks I managed to get through about 90% of what I wanted to say. For my first talk I had prepared this funny anecdote about how McLean was boasting that he came down to Appomattox to get away from the war, but if that were true why did he wait two whole years to leave the area? I forgot about that story during my first talk….but I still managed to tell some jokes that got some laughter. Then my next talk I remembered the McLean joke but forgot this story about the McDearmon family and the history of a very pretty mansion that still stands in modern day Appomattox.
Of the visitors who came to my talks (I presented to about 55 to 60 people yesterday between two talks!!! WHAT?!) only one person asked me a question and that was “Where is your wedding ring?” and I cannot tell you why the next thing came out of my mouth or why I even thought of it but I had this image flash in my head of Melanie Wilkes at the Atlanta Bazaar scene in Gone with the Wind when the soldier is going around asking for jewelry donations for the cause. Scarlet snaps “We aren’t wearing any, we’re in mourning” and instead Melanie offers her wedding ring and says “It may do my husband more good off my finger than on” so me, having years of training for this moment by watching Gone with the Wind one too many times says, “I donated it for the cause.”
All of my coworkers were very impressed with my answer, even if it was total nonsense. The visitor didn’t question it either, which was the most important part to me. When our park historian texted me this morning asking how everything went, I told him the wedding ring story and he goes “Well wedding rings weren’t very common during the civil war, so it is okay that you aren’t wearing one.” I think even if I had known that before yesterday, I would not have known how to answer the question the man had without breaking character, so honestly that line from Gone with the Wind helped.
The other interesting part of yesterday was trying to not break character in front of visitors. There were a few times that we just gave up or had to, like when we had a German couple visiting who spoke very poor English, and they just did not get it.
Otherwise, keeping character was not very difficult, and I really enjoyed doing it.
I know that I promised a video of my talk, but I have decided until my talk gets better and more polished, I am going to wait to have someone film it. The only video I have of me in my dress from yesterday, is when my fellow living historian and I rapped an entire stanza from Hamilton the Musical….somehow I doubt that would be very appropriate to share here. So I leave you all for the weekend, with photos from yesterday.
A visitor took this one of us and posted it on her instagram. Evidently she has a plastic dinosaur named Trevor who she takes everywhere and shares photos of him in places….So she asked if we would pose for a photo with him.
Me as Jennie, with the Peers house in the distance behind me.
Fellow intern from Gettysburg college as Private Dowler, who was part of the 188th Pennsylvania, stationed at Appomattox Court House as Provost Guard.
Before the park opened, early morning shot with the McLean house just behind those trees.
Some of the last shots of the Civil War were fired in these spots.
The Peers house when the sun was still rising.