November 2012 Newsletter

Hurricane Sandy Update

We are extremely grateful for the kindness and concern expressed by our many friends and customers, as we struggle to get back on track in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. We were battling not only electrical outages, but also unprecedented interruptions in mail service. It seems that the local postal hub has temporarily moved from Kearny NJ, to Bethpage NY, resulting in an additional 2 days of transit for our packages.

Despite suffered significant damage to our town (including two fatalities, we were told to consider ourselves lucky, as we were on the outter fringes of the storm.

Again, we thank our friends for the continued support.

New Product! Confederate Flag Shirt Fabric!

Getflag fabricting this simple repeat printed on cotton was relatively straightforward, but one of the issues was getting the correct amount of "bleed through". We had started this project based on some very detailed notes, and had gotten close to production, until it was brought to my attention by Carson Hudson that the fabric was in fact wool, and not cotton. Thank God he told us. I told some customers, who didn't mind that it was on cotton instead of wool, but it bothered me. I couldn't find anyone willing or able to print on wool.

Until now...

What is funny, is that when you use the proper materials, things like the bleed through, naturally fall into place. This fabric is now in production and will be offered in both yard goods and finished shirts.


Customer of the Month

Garrett Wagner 

GGarrett Wagnerarrett went to his first reenactment, the Battle of Aiken, SC. in 1997 at the age of 3. His father was stationed at Parris Island, SC and was a member of Co B. of the Palmetto Bn. Over the next two years, Garrett continued to go to events in South Carolina with his dad. Galen was an early campaigner and attended events such as the first Recon on the Rappphannock, and some of the first preservation marches and immersion events throughout the Southeast and Mid Atlantic. Garrett was destined to become a campaigner.

His Dad got out of the Marine Corps in 1999, and Garrett and his family moved back to Montgomery, Alabama. His Dad joined the 33rd Alabama Infantry, part of Rambo’s Brigade. In 2000, he and his pards formed a campaign unit in the same Battalion, the 22nd Alabama Infantry. Some of the more hardcore campaigners went further and formed the Yellowhammer Rifles. The YR attended events like Raymond, Pickett’s Mill, Fort Granger, the Immortal 600, and various Authentic adjuncts and immersion events.

In 2004 Garrett’s Dad hung it up, and got out of the hobby. In 2008, Garrett inquired about reenacting again. So his Dad re-purchased kits for them both, and they started attending events again. The Yellowhammer Rifles still existed, and the Slick Dog Mess was still in the hobby. So Garrett, then 14, and his Dad began going to local events, and eventually good events again.

Over the last four years, Garrett and his dad have attended events like 145th Bentonville, Nash Farm 145th Atlanta, Andersonville, 150th Manassas with the 2nd Mississippi, Fort Blakeley, and Living Histories at Lookout Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain, Fort Morgan and  Fort Gaines among others. Many of the seasoned men in the companies he fought with during this time reveled at the fact that he was safer, and in better control of his musket than most of the grown men.  In 2011, much to his Dad’s dismay (just kidding,) Garrett was asked to join the Independent Rifles. Shortly thereafter, about 14 minutes
later, he was kicked out of the Yellowhammer Rifles!  In 2012 at the age of 17, he was selected to serve as a Corporal in Co. C of the 6th Mississippi Adjunct for the 150th Shiloh.



Garrett’s favorite event is a Home Guard Adjunct conducted at the Battle of Selma each year. Hosted most recently by the Yellowhammer and Independent Rifles, Garrett and his pards portray the citizens
that defended Selma against the advancing Union Cavalry. He is a senior at Alabama Christian Academy in Montgomery where at 5’7” and 150 pounds, he is a starting Linebacker for the 4A football team. Garrett and his dad also enjoy WWII reenacting, portraying German Panzergrenadiers. When he graduates from high school he plans to attend as many events and Living Histories as he can, while beginning Pre-law at Auburn Montgomery. 

 Richmond Depot Button

Upcoming projects

Richmond Depot Wooden Buttons!

At the request of customer Jonathan Bocek, we embarked upon reproducing a wooden button that we utilized on garments produced by the Confederate Depot in Richmond Virginia. Contract documentation shows that these buttons were produced in the millions, making them a grossly under-represented button in the hobby.

Interview with Steve Adolphson

With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we within the hobby have also reached milestones of accomplishment. In a similiar manner, it behooves us to look back within the hobby to see exactly how far we have come in the study of the Civil War through living history.

There is no better testimony of the achievements than those who have experienced the hobby first hand. Steve Adolphson had begun his involvement at the beginning of the Civil War centennial, and has graciously offered to share his half century's worth of observations through the following interview.

What got you interested in the hobby?
My great great grandfather’s service in the Civil War. My interest in the Civil War started when I was 9 or 14 years old. Mother was housecleaning and found the widow’s pension certificate of my great great grandfather, Charles Treudt, of the 144th Illinois Infantry. He had died about 14 years after the War, and at the time all I had was his name and unit. As a little boy I had a lot of interests, and one thing lead to another and soon I was researching his unit.

What was your first event?

Manassas/Bull Run, July 1961

Steve Adolphson

How did you find Sherman's Bummers?

After I had researched for about 5 years, I became a member of a muzzle-loading rifle club called the Fort Dearborn Frontiersmen in Chicago, Illinois. At this time (1960) they were  forming a unit for the North-South Skirmish Association, and that unit became Company A, 144th Illinois Re-activated, with myself as corporal and adjutant. It was a shooter club and, while I was interested in doing that, I recognized that it wasn’t everything that could be done. I was in re-enactments from 1961 and at First Manassas in July 1961. I was at the 125 Manassas 25 years later wearing the same Minnie Welch – made uniform, the same forage cap, the same blouse, the same pants, that I’d worn 25 years earlier. I left the NSSA in 1965 and didn’t give the subject of living history any attention until an August afternoon in 1974 when, at Hollis, New Hampshire, I ran into a guy by the name of Spence Waldron.

Spence was part of the New England contingent of an organization called Sherman’s Bummers at that time, and with the 5th Mass. Battery and the 34th Va. Cavalry putting on sort of a re-enactment. I liked what I saw so much that I introduced myself afterwards and that was the first time I met Spence, and Bill Paulaskas from New York. I recognized immediately that I’d found what I’d always been looking for, I’d found the boys. They hooked me. The next season I was a probationary member of Sherman’s Bummers and the rest, as they say, is history.I never heard the word farb until I met Spence Waldron. I think the letters F A R B spell out something, but it’s got to be the most derisive term known to modern man.

What were the original goals?

The answer to this is complicated. I had placed the Bummers on such a high pedestal, that going into the organization I thought, they will do everything, exactly the way the original boys did. Well, we’re all human, and that wasn’t exactly the case.  It was curious, because I found myself at the end of my first season, being asked to become their commanding officer, which was a high honor. I also realized that in doing that, it could be possible to make the experience for myself even more enjoyable than it was, and hopefully more enjoyable for them. The following year, we took a more military, a more authentic military look at what we were doing. We began pitching our pup tents in a company street, we had roll call formations, we drilled, we drilled heavily in Casey’s Tactics, and we practiced some procedures that probably hadn’t been done since the time----the concepts of loading muskets lying down, and advancing by rushes, lying down and rising up. The objective became one of learning how to be Civil War soldiers first and then Sherman’s Bummers secondly, never losing that identity we had of free-wheeling spirits. But it wasn’t for everyone, and it brought about a shift, that had to happen, and had to happen for the hobby. That growth brought about some pain, and brought about a painful time within Sherman’s Bummers.

I did not seek the position of commanding officer. But at the end of my first season it was at the urging of  Sergeant Spence Waldron (a founding  member) representing our eastern contingent and Sergeant Larry Strayer, our Western Contingent. It was a difficult decision for me, because I wanted to remain a private -- but the future of the Bummers seemed to be at stake. I was confident I could do the job, having been an officer in the modern Army, and this background coupled with my study of  Civil War diaries and letters (officers and enlisted men) became the basis for all I would do as commander. I was idealistic, and inspired from my reading. How far could we go? And what cost to the morale and possible departure of a few who didn’t embrace the transition?

What was the best event/experience you had with them?

I would have to put the entrenchment at Bedford, Virginia near the very top; where we sat in a rifle pit with parapet, head logs and skids, constructed by us according to 1864 practice in the Atlanta Campaign. And we all sat there, in silence and we all realized we had experienced something very special, that without even forcing it, it almost happened to us while we were there. Some of the boys thought that they felt a bit of a time warp. I know that I’ve never forgotten how I felt in that moment, and there are others of us who felt the same way. I truly believe that if you go to your deepest emotional level with something that is as meaningful as the Civil War, that some very special, some very hard to explain things can occur.

How did you decide to restore a period house?

It started with collecting the material culture of 1840 – 1860, furniture, lighting devices, textiles, domestic economy books, Loudon’s Encyclopedia of Cottage, Farm, and Villa Architecture and Furniture (1853), and Webster and Parkes Encyclopedia of Domestic Economy (1845).We accumulated, initially, just enough for me to do a ‘so called’ Gentlemen’s study in whateverkind of house we would buy. That changed however, when we continued to buy all this antique furniture and stuff (we were renters at this time in a Federalist Town House in Salem, Massachusetts).

As we started to accumulate more chairs, sofa, nap couches, center table, pier table, side tables,secretary bookcase, dining table, etc. we decided we would look for a period house to properly accommodate our collections in all the rooms. This decision would have been made 1979  - 1980. It took us only about a month to find the house we were interested in, but we did not make a decision right away. Fortunately, when we did, the house was still on the market (probably because of an un-improved kitchen and un –improved bathroom; not what anyone else wanted, but us).

What we purchased was a relatively pure two and a half story frame dwelling, built in the Grecian taste, (Greek Revival) 1846. We moved in January 1981, in the midst of a terrible snowstorm. Our overriding objective was to restore the Osgood Brown house to how it could have looked on the eve of the Civil War. This, taking into consideration, the socio/economic status of  its owner, coupled with our taste. The original paint colors were carefully researched by the Society of  Preservation for New England Antiquities (present day Historic New England). The color palate was determined to be pinkish tan clapboarding with trim a purplish gray (exterior). Interior colors in the Parlor and Sitting Room were found to be a grayish stone color. In total, exterior and interior, showed an avant color scheme, far from the stark white that is normally associated with this style of architecture. 
How long did it take you?
It took us about 5 years. We found an excellent carpenter and he was absolutely essential to the project, off and on, to the present day. I consulted not only the 2 period design books mentioned above, but also made a study of documented interiors as portrayed through genre painting at the time, a fair amount of which was brought to focus by Harold Peterson’s seminal book, American Interiors.

What was the most difficult part?

The most difficult part of the restoration was determining the configuration and design of the doors separating the Parlor from the Sitting Room. A careful removal of later elements, which made this area smaller, was the first step in answering the question. Given the overall dimensions, I then consulted period guide books, chiefly by Asher Benjamin as I sought an answer. Ultimately, the decision I reached was corroborated by the Curator of the Abraham Lincoln Home in Springfield, Illinois. (The doors in the Lincoln Home, operating much like ours would have operated.) This was very satisfying because the re-creation of this opening appears to be 140% correct.  The other challenge in the re-creation was the floor covering. We wanted something that first of all would have been commercially available to Osgood Brown; secondly, compatible with our defined socio/economic level of the interior (middle class); thirdly, aesthetically pleasing for us. The pattern we chose is referred to as “San Francisco” later available from Scalamandre. We paid $75 a yard for 2 rooms, 14 foot square and featuring an olive background with a figure in shades of rust, gold and beige, echoing the diamond pattern in the wallpaper.  Once the carpet was chosen, it was easier for me to plan wall color and window treatments were hung. The walls were papered in a tannish color pattern and watered silk maroon colored curtains at the windows.

How did that change your perspective in the hobby?

Without question, our restored interiors give context to my military research, writing and re-enacting. I might also mention that an original owner of our house, Osgood Brown, was in the 19th Massachusetts Infantry in the Civil War.

First of all, everything fit perfectly within our Parlor and Sitting Room. Satisfaction in seeing a pier table and mirror fit where it belongs, as do a serpentine sofa, and a secretary bookcase. In fact, it is difficult to imagine the room arrangement of furniture and accessories and different than what was originally done.

It was and is, a truly wonderful to sit in these rooms and feel the sense of Greek Revival symmetry and take satisfaction in seeing a Pier Mirror fit where it belongs, a serpentine sofa, fit where it belongs and a secretary bookcase, fit where it belongs. Thus, there is a harmony achieved which is satisfying and
soothing. A sense of order that these two rooms convey is in keeping with a quieted spirit for us, the occupants and those we entertain.

Without question, our restored interiors give context to my military research, writing, re-enacting. I might also mention that an original owner of our house, Osgood Brown, was in the 19th Massachusetts Infantry in the Civil War.

Would you recommend others add similar physical objects around their everyday life?

Most certainly and don’t be reluctant to mix Grecian furniture with Rocco, Gothic, and Elizabethan. All this could have happened and did happen at the time. The key here, is don’t mix broad periods of time. Stick with a plan that will evoke a pre-war feeling and the middle class taste of this period as would have been shown by the presence of furniture and accessories dating from the 1840s – 1850s. This orientation will save you money and maximize the aesthetic pleasure you will derive. 

Overall, what did you learn through the hobby?

If you are talking about the Civil War military part, my days with Sherman’s Bummers brought me as close as humanly possible to understanding and appreciating how our fore bearers lived. Now, I could
read a letter passage or a diary passage and pause and smile, knowing that I had done that.I also learned that while there can be many different kinds of individuals in a unit, that these differences help make for greater realism. And very significantly, I learned and practiced a first person language and behavior. Doing this gets others to do it and when we are all doing it heightens the sense of realism.

What would you change or do differently?
Hard question to answer. I probably would have been more aggressive seeking more recruits for Sherman’s Bummers.Also, it would have been nice to have a film shoot of one of our special weekends.

You've been in or around the hobby for more than 50 years...basically as long as it's existed. In a way, "you've seen it all." With that kind of overview:
What do think has changed the most?

What has changed the most is the availabity of correctly constructed clothing and accoutrements. Larger numbers in any given re-enactment became available. So realism had the chance of being enhanced.

What is just the same? (both the stuff that never should change...and, perhaps, the stuff that should!)

There are still two different camps:  the authentic and the non-authentics and thinking modes. This is good as it enables many people in with different levels of commitment two options; that is, authentics and non-authentics. There’s a new expression called wool farbs, and that’s almost as bad as farb farbs, it may even be worse, because a wool farb is the descendent of a 1970s farb who is now in disguise.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the hobby?

Read published letters and diaries of the common soldier: 75% of your reading should be enlisted men accounts, 25% should be officer accounts. Read the books and take notes on what you read.

Here is my list as starters, Memoirs of a Volunteer by John Beatty; The Colonel’s Diary by Oscar Jackson; University Recruits, 12th Iowa by Clark and Bowen; The 72nd Indiana by Magee; Adventures of a Volunteer by John William Deforest; The Rough Side of War, Chesley Mossman; one of the best books on Solider Life, Brothers One and All,154th New York  by Mark Dunkleman; Civil War Diary of Cyrus Boyd edited by Mildred Throne; Civil War Diaries and Letters of Bliss Morse (145th Ohio) by Loren J. Morse; Record of the 33rd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry by Andrew J. Boies; Echoes of Battle, The Atlanta and Chattanooga Volumes. True, most of these titles are Western Theater, but the day to day experience and behavior patterns are largely the same – East or West.

What advice would you give to someone who's been in it for a few years?

Depending on your age and your physical condition, you have two choices:  stay where you are and accept the status quo, or in an upward move really challenge yourself by affiliating with a super authentic group. If you are going to stay in this hobby, you want to have as many different soldiering experiences as possible; this includes, picket post, a long march, and plenty of first person behavior and language. I also recommend that for say, one season, write what you liked about it and what you did not like about. After a few months of this, you might find a clear image of which path to take.

Last, but not least always practice good safety around yourself and your comrades, and have fun!

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