Wednesday, June 26, 2013

150th Gettysburg and the American Civil War – It’s Not Just for Americans

150th Gettysburg and the American Civil War – It’s Not Just for Americans

As we prepare for the first of two commemorative reenactments for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg that will begin this Friday, it is important and fascinating to appreciate how this most American of wars has resonated with others throughout the world. 

Yes, there are groups that study the American Civil War (“ACW”) and participate in reenactments outside the USA and many of those re-enactors will journey to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to participate in this historic event.  There are at least two active ACW groups in England that hold regular events. There are ACW re-enactments in France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, Italy, and Holland. We have had the pleasure to meet and photograph some committed living historians that travel to the US one or twice annually to participate in specific qualify events.

One might wonder why someone from across the seas would care about the ACW. Why not? We Americans study the history of other nations. I love the study of the 100 Years War, the English Civil War, the War of the Roses, the French wars against the Cathars, any conflicts of the Middle Ages, the wars of the Holy Roman Emperor, the wars between Spain and the Moors…..okay – you get the picture.  War is terrifying and fascinating.  The ACW has the distinction of being the first war for which photographers captured the true cost of battle and publicized the images of dead soldiers to the general public. Before the ACW, war was romanticized by the heroic paintings of Court artists that were tasked with inspiring the citizenry by the valor of those who died for a glorious cause. There was no actual documentation of the dirty, horrifying, agony of death on the battlefield.

And, the ACW uniforms are really cool, particularly early war Confederate uniforms.  Confederate uniforms are much more fun, stylish and swoon inducing to women than those bland arsenal issues by the federal army. And from a woman’s perspective, there is something undeniably appealing with wearing a voluminous skirt over a cage crinoline with one’s waist cinched in an ever-so-flattering corset.  If only the ladies footwear of the ACW period were more attractive! I personally, as a woman who loves fine footwear, find even the most stylish boots lacking.  But I can say that I did feel of that era as I sauntered down the spiral staircase at the White House of the Confederacy last Saturday.

So welcome to all who come to honor those who came before us at Gettysburg! Come by and say hello!

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Museum & White House of the Confederacy, a Gem in Richmond, Virginia

The Museum & White House of the Confederacy, a Gem in Richmond, Virginia

My husband and I had the distinct privilege of working with the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia this past weekend for a photographic seminar on photography during the Civil War. Afterwards, Todd made wet plate collodion images of the seminar group and visitors to the museum.

The museum is in downtown Richmond and is surrounded by and dwarfed by the Medical College of Virginia. This cultural institution houses an amazing collection of Civil War treasures. And the White House alone, which is a National Historic Landmark, is worth a trip to Richmond. 

The house, which served as the executive mansion of Jefferson Davis, has a fascinating history and has been restored to its former glory thanks to the meticulous research and attention to detail of its curators. I was privileged to experience a private tour and can state, without a doubt, that the winding staircase that leads to the second floor is among the most magnificent I’ve ever seen. Fortunately, I was appropriately attired as a lady of the Confederacy in a summer sheer dress and felt elegant as my caged skirts swayed as I descended those beautiful stairs. Okay, I lust for that staircase!

The mansion also houses both of Jefferson Davis’s desks, an beautiful custom crafted bookcase he ordered from England but never saw because a federal blockade intercepted it, and a collection of gas chandeliers that make my heart sing. Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life at Last I’ve Found You! [Congrats to fans of “Young Frankenstein “who get the reference]

For any student of Civil War history, the Museum of the Confederacy and White House is a must see. And the museum as now opened a branch at Appomattox! 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Harrington Traveling Photographic Artists Will Be at the BGA 150th Gettysburg

Harrington Traveling Photographic Artists Will Be at the BGA 150th Gettysburg

What’s the point of writing a blog is I can’t use it for the occasional shameless promotion of Harrington Traveling Photographic Artists (“HTPA”)?

Yes, HTPA will be making wet plate collodion images on tin and glass at the Blue Gray Alliance 150th Gettysburg Reenactment, which will take place June 27th to 30th at Bushey Farm, 1845 Pumping Station Road, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This is the same location as the memorable 135th Anniversary Reenactment.

The BGA knows how to put on a top class event; and 150th Gettysburg will no doubt be one of the best of the 150th cycle.  There are purportedly 9000 re-enactors registered for this event.

Some of the marquee events include Battle of Culp’s Hill and East Cemetery Ridge Friday evening, Battles of Devil’s Den, Little Round Top, Wheatfield, Peach Orchard on Saturday afternoon, and the Pickett, Pettigrew, Trimble Charge Sunday at 12:30. This should be an awesome re-enactment.

For anybody wanting to reserve a time or schedule photographs in advance, please contact us at  We will be taking reservations for Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 20-minute intervals beginning at 8:00am.  You can also come by and schedule a time upon arrival. Thursday will be first come first serve.

HTPA will also have available for purchase frame gold-toned albumen prints, including prints of the Burnside Bridge taken at Antietam in September 2012 – 150 years after the battle and a selection of artistic framed ferrotypes/tintypes.

We will also have a limited number of original ¼ plate cases and appropriate frames and mats for images we make at the event.

This event is one to commemorate. What better way than with a period correct photographic image!

Friday, June 21, 2013

When Things That Are Supposed To Be Fun Become Stressful

When Things That Are Supposed To Be Fun Become Stressful

This coming week begins the extravaganza of the 150th commemoration of the Battle of Gettysburg. I plan to attend both reenactments as a period photographer with Harrington Traveling Photographic Artists and have been looking forward to this event since the beginning of the 150th anniversary cycle.

But getting prepared for the events while trying to excel at my day job has been challenging and stressful. Unlike my spouse, I am not one who enjoys working on projects constantly. I need my downtime, yoga, a few hours lounging on the deck reading a book, my weekends and evening digging in the garden pulling weeds and encouraging the development of my plants.

The preparation has also resulted in our living environment being cluttered to the point where we might qualify as subjects for an episode of “Hoarders”. I am not comfortably with disarray, clutter, piles of paper, bits of projects scattered about, a feeling of chaos. . I crave order, neatness, and organization. I haven’t seen the top of my kitchen table for more than two weeks. I am so far outside my comfort zone that my reflux, which has been dormant for 10 years, has resurfaced.  My hot flashes have returned with a vengeance; my skin is erupting in anger; and I lie awake, sleepless for hours thinking of all the things I need to do.

But I know, once the preparation is completed and we are enjoying the excitement of the first event, which is the Blue Gray Alliance Gettysburg, and we are visiting with friends and taking photos that all of the angst will be a blurry faded memory.

Oh! My husband just called me a skunk! Fie on him!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Spectacle of 150th Gettysburg ~ Part I

The Spectacle of 150th Gettysburg ~ Part I

Thanks to President Lincoln delivering his now legendary speech for the dedication of a National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19, 1863, just 4 ½ months after the battle, which was fought July 1st through 3rd, Gettysburg has become the destination for those fascinated by the American Civil War.  The savvy citizens of Adams County, PA leveraged an opportunity and created a tourist industry that honors, commemorates and exploits the tragedy of the battle that was fought over three steaming July days 150 years ago.

In just about one week, hordes or re-enactors, sutlers, vendors, and visitors will be descending upon what was once a small market village. In addition to commemorative events planned by the National Parks Service at the Gettysburg National Military Park, there will be not one, but two reenactments over two successive weekends.  In the next few days I will talk about these upcoming events, both of which I plan to attend as a 19th Century photographer assisting my husband taking wet plate collodion images.

But today, I just want to point out a few of the events commemorating the 150th Battle of Gettysburg that truly exhibits how all of Adams County and the surrounding villages, towns, burgs, and hamlets plan to participate.

June 28th to July 7th there will be a walking tour of Gettysburg that explores tales of murder, scandal and curiosities.  This must be the upgrades version of the regular ghost tour.

Saturday, June 29th, there will be a special Gettysburg Commemoration and Family Festival at the Adams County Winery. It is advertised as “an incredible experience for Civil War enthusiasts”.  For some reason, I just don’t get it.

Also on June 29th, a Fife & Drum Corp will perform at the Gettysburg Outlet Mall. Now that’s a way to commemorate those who fought and died for state or country.

And, one of my favorites – on July 3rd the Shriver House Museum is hosting a Lincoln Look-A-Like Contest.

The latter event causes me to wonder just how many President Lincolns will be at the re-enactment. I’m always delighted to see a General Grant or two….for anyone who cares about history, neither was actually at Gettysburg during the battles!

And before I conclude for this edition, please note that nobody wore a pink kepi in 1863. Just saying.  If you see one, it is in accurate. If you wear one, shame on you!