View Full Version : Harpers Ferry Yuletide

11-19-2008, 12:44 PM
The first weekend in Decenmber I will be at Harpers Ferry Yuletide event. Short summary - how the military-occupied town coped while celebrating Christmastime in 1864.

Hopefully I will have a "doctor's office" across the yard from the back door of the Whitehall Tavern. I set up shop there and talk medical shop with any poor fool who dares pop their head in and ask who I am. I portray an assistant surgeon detached from the 34th Mass., in charge of monitoring the health of both the residents in town and the occupational garrison. I guess I could be labelled the immediate point of contact for any medical emergencies in town, so residents would not have to go to the field hospitals up on Bolivar Heights.

Over the years it seems my display attracts San Comm, Christian Comm, civilians and assorted "groupies" who all hang out together. We swap trivia on our respective geek-outs, do some first-person interaction and otherwise make our own fun. Sometimes I feel like some renegade Biblical king holding court, but I'm not a jerk about it.

If you're still reading this you are welcome to join me - drop me a line at bluemasscat [at] yahoo [dot] com and we can work something out. You are not anchored to one spot/display area. You may wander as you see fit, and otherwise have fun.

Saturday night the NPS feeds the volunteers a catered meal. It's five bucks if you've paid in advance, otherwise it's ten onsite. Bring your own utensils, plates, cups &c.

Contact Melinda_Day [at] nps [dot]gov for more information of different displays and the supper.

Thanks, and hope to see you there!

Marylander in grey
12-03-2008, 07:41 PM
I will be there, even if I have to be a period dressed spectator.
Chris Fisher
Surgeon CMF

12-04-2008, 07:39 AM
Rock on, my man.

12-08-2008, 02:19 PM
sounds like a ball
Fill us in with the details. Sadly I can not travel far as I bady fractured my hand on a K9 call but i'd love to hear about it

12-09-2008, 12:19 PM
There is not much to report for several reasons -

Traffic at the display seemed kinda light to me.

I was only there for one day.

I received from another reenactor a bottle of the elusive purple baking crystals I needed to top off my Permanganate of Potash bottle. I loaded up my bottle and the pretty purple among the browns, tans and whites generated some interest in something other than blue mass, which was the whole point in the first place. I double-checked a reference (Deadly Doses: A Writer's Guide to Poisons, by Serita Stevens) and found that potassium permanganate indeed is purple or violet crystals in its raw form. The reference never mentioned how big they were - baking crystal size, or rock candy chunks? Only the Shadow knows.

The whole hospital/doctor's office display for the weekend seems to have increased, and has become a larger civilian depot for the overflow of civvies at the dry goods store and Frankels Ready-mades. Fortunately I and the civvies had been in touch, so we were able to set up a good San Comm box display.

We had to fend off the usual jokes about amputations, and I was not helped by a "surprise" steward. (A hospital steward reenactor I did not know was coming, therefore I did not get a chance to "screen" him before we set up shop.) That was bad communication all around - I didn't know he was coming; he didn't know I was coming, and we didn't get the chance to synchronize our displays efficiently. The whole meshiva got compounded when he indicated (correctly) that the steward was the pharmacist for the regiment, but he cheerfully transferred most of the pharmaceutical questions to me. My own steward, Andy, remarked he still had a good time, even if he was a "doppleganger" steward (his words). Well, I hope my lectures rubbed off on folks. I think I scared some of them off.

You've probably heard/read this rant from me before, but considering what's going on overseas I think amputation jokes are in pretty poor taste. The other steward encouraged what Hank Trent once called "drive-by" spectating - the spectator only sticks around to make some remark or joke, and doesn't stick around to listen to corrections or elaborations.

Whatever the case, it was darn frustrating at times to present a knowledgable interpretation when our display was semi-treated as a coin-operated toy. I remember 2006's stunt was to pull all meds from my display which are still used today. 2008's stunt was to read off all the Latin names on the labels, properly. I told the visitor not to ask me to recite them backwards. We all got a good laugh out of that one, which means that even though I may have lost my tin cup, I have not lost my sense of humor. I fully expect to return to the lair in '09, '10, '11, &c. and hold court yet again.

Unless I die beforehand.

Marylander in grey
12-09-2008, 04:58 PM
I agree with Noah. The unplanned Steward was IMHO a hinderence to what Noah and Andy were trying to portray. Once again research is the key to all we do. If you are developing your impression then I encourage you to contact those who have been doing this for a while. I have never heard of any serious impressionist turned away. We all learn something new and if sounded out to fact will improve the hobby and will dispell the same tired old rumors and untruths retold by many a "Medical" Reenactor.
I had the pleasure of meeting Noah and Andy for the first time in person and found them both very agreeable.
For those of you who havent had the privlidge of seeing them in action I will say you should make every effort. Noah and Andy have one of the best displays I have ever seen, job well done. Both Noah and Andy are top notch in thier interpritations.
I have seen ways to improve my own set up as well as had the opportunity to speak to a master if even for a few fleeting moments. I think the only improvement for this event would be a location change or a larger venue within the park and some pre-event coordination.
The constant visitation of dressed spectators of a non medical nature, other than the SC Women of the AGSAS, seeking shelter from the elements was also a hinderence to the presentations Noah and Andy were trying to do.
My only regret was not being able to return on sunday to cover for Noah. There was a small ice storm east of Frederick Maryland that made an awefull mess of things saturday night.

12-09-2008, 07:16 PM
Well, like I say, it seems like just bad communication and coordination, not necessarily bad impressions. I need to improve my impression all the time. As part of growing more experienced I need to apologize for the previous AAR post I made. I came across as harsh, mean and autocratic. For 2009 I'd like to work with other groups to coordinate a medical impression that will have the NPS begging us to come back. Thus consider this a public apology to other participants.

Noah Briggs

josie wales
12-09-2008, 08:25 PM
Pards, Many thanks for your efforts.....unable to attend due to Illumination duties. Remember how "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell immortilized his troops......"Illigitimis Non Carborundum"...... I feel certain that your efforts expended in will never outweigh the result.....keep up the d##n good work.....

Elaine Kessinger
12-09-2008, 09:17 PM
Well, Mr. Fisher, I offer my humblest apologies for interupting your historic moments. I felt the need to vent to friends, in an enviroment I found comfortable for such things, and to introduce my family (who doesn't re-enact but attends, with interest, in support of me) to gentlemen I consider my friends. I see now that I was not as welcome as I felt, and I am very sorry for the akward situations I put you in.

Marylander in grey
12-09-2008, 09:49 PM
Ms Elaine,
I must have misrepresented my opinions, I enjoyed the event and I have no problem with the overall event. I felt that the compined SC/ Medical was in to confining a space for the benefit of those we were to educate.
I felt the Ladies were tucked away in the dark away from space sufficient for the excellent impression they presented. I felt the room to small for the participants and spectator alike, this compounded with those of us occupping the front room, as well as the perpetual sticking door, added to the frustration.
My suggestion was to perhaps find an area suitible to give the interpriter and the public a chance share without feeling stuffy.
As for the comment about ruining my historic moment, well I make the best of every event, reguardless of what others do. I wish you accept my appologizes.
As for the historically dressed spectators, I like the added depth they present however I wish some would have been more proactive in the days events. I will admit that I was guilty of some of this myself.

Elaine Kessinger
12-09-2008, 10:23 PM
We all dealt with less than ideal circumstances, historical buildings with quirks, and volunteer "re-enactors" needing a different historical level. Apologies given and accepted, we will say no more.

12-12-2008, 03:22 PM
Mr. Fisher and Miss Kessinger it was a pleasure to meet you at Harpers Ferry on Saturday.

To Noah Briggs I give the credit for my steward’s impression. I was wearing his frock and used his pharmaceutical collection and paperwork. And it is thanks to his pharmaceutical notes and guidance (with a dose of Joseph Janvier Woodward’s Hospital Steward’s Manual and time well-spent at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine) that I can talk a bit to visitors about Civil War-era medicine. A steward’s impression is a new one for me and without question a work in progress.

The highlights of Harpers Ferry for this one of two stewards was listening to Mr. Briggs and Mr. Fisher discuss surgical procedures and pharmaceuticals with visitors. The delight on Noah’s face as he read the Latin labels of each of his 40 odd bottles of real or faux-made-to-look-and-taste-like-the real-medicine was infectious. I enjoyed my opportunity to talk about Civil war era medicines and what medicines might be prescribed for ailments still with us today.

The unplanned double steward situation was a bit awkward. I thought of putting on my private’s sack coat and letting the other steward do his thing, but he took a couple of breaks to walk about and get warm (the room we were stationed in had a tantalizing but non- functioning stove and a heating system blowing down cold air ) so I kept as I was. I spent much of the time as a doorman anyway, letting people in and out of a problematic door with a sticking lock. As the temperature fell later in the day, I draped my great coat over me and could have represented a private for all anyone knew.

Next year, if there are multiple groups with medical impressions, we might coordinate ahead of time so that we can work in shifts in the doctor’s office (and rig that door open) or set up shop in a larger area with a hospital-like venue rather than a doctor’s office.

My view--worth 2 cents or as much as GM stock.

All in all it was a worthwhile experience and I would gladly do it again next year.


12-12-2008, 04:18 PM
I spent much of the time as a doorman anyway, letting people in and out of a problematic door with a sticking lock.

Guess all that practice with the in-and-out cats and dogs paid off! :cool:

12-12-2008, 04:23 PM
Yes, indeed!

12-12-2008, 04:24 PM
Dear sirs,

We were one of those "reenactors" that sought shelter from the cold right before the meal was served(outdoors!) It was trully a cold day and we are sorry that we were not sensitive to your space. It would be great if we could all enjoy each other's company without having to get it right 100% of the time. We have attended this event for the past three years but have kept pretty much to the big tent to serve the public with the decorations and such. We leave the 1st person stuff to you all that know so much more than we do. No sarcasm, either! We all have lots to learn and it is nice when there are knowledgable people around. So please accept our apologies for intruding on your scenario.

12-12-2008, 06:27 PM
I think I had left by then, unless that was lunch. Frankly I don't think the other civvies were underfoot. Coordinating beforehand would be good, that way we could come inside in shifts so the place doesn't get so overcrowded at once with the modern spectators and us. I think that was why Melinda Day had opened the stairs between the two rooms - to relieve the increased traffic pressure.

Should have announced yourself! We could have worked together and adapted. The doctor's office is a poor place for first-person anyway.

I had fun in general. How about you?