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March 2004

Upcoming Events

March 26-27 Living History at Elm Middle School (Elmwood Park, IL)
April 4 Board Meeting, Bob’s House, 4:00 pm (note change of date/time) and Sewing Circle/Round Rolling at 1 pm before the meeting (Joliet, IL)
April 6 Woodcutting at Dollinger Farm, 9 am (Minooka, IL)
April 15 Unit Dues are Due!
April 16-18 Company drill at Dollinger Farm (Minooka, IL)
April 23-25 Re-enactment with the 26th NC (unit will be Federal) at Rand Park (Keokuk, IA)

Your Help Is Needed!

We've put together an "attendance form" for the 2004 event season.  This is to get an idea of how many members can be expected to attend each event, so Bob can have a better idea when it comes to registering the unit.  Please take a moment to click on the link below, print and fill out, and send back to Bob ASAP. 2004 Attendance Form (5.72 kb)


Rockford Reenactment

At the last meeting Bob had received an invitation for the 64th to attend the Rockford event on May 1-2. This in an invitation-only event. We are requested to conduct a small skirmish with whatever Confederate units will be attending. It was voted upon and passed to add the event to our unit schedule.


Welcome New Member!

George Harbinson is joining the 64th as a veteran reenactor since 1991. We look forward to seeing him around the campfire. Welcome, George!


Fire Up the Chainsaws…

Some dates for woodcutting in preparation for the Minooka event:

For all three dates meet at Sister’s restaurant in Minooka (contact Bob for directions) for breakfast at 8 am, or meet at Dollinger Farm at 9 am. Please let Bob know if you can make it.


Fundraising

At the last meeting some fundraising ideas were discussed, in addition to members doing school presentations. One idea presented was to have a raffle or auction for both reenactors and spectators at the Minooka event this year. Marc Findlay is looking into the possibility of several sutlers donating items to our raffle, and having the ladies of the 64th sew an easy quilt. This could potentially bring be a great fundraising opportunity for the unit! Please get in touch with Marc if you have any ideas or assistance to share regarding this.


Indoor Drill Recap
By Scott Gutzke

Several members of both the 64th Illinois and the 26th North Carolina attended our indoor drill weekend. We worked on the manual of arms and the school of the company. For this season, we decided to try to improve our military appearance. We want to have that nice snap and pop that well-drilled soldiers have; we want to avoid sloppy drill maneuvers. After we finished drilling, we got together for a Civil War battle game. The Federal army successfully beat back the larger Rebel force. Also, thanks to Jerry Kowalski for his culinary expertise; it was appreciated by all. We will be having another drill weekend in April, come and join in the fun!


Chaplain’s Corner
By Jerry Kowalski

Thoughts after leaving the training weekend at the Dollinger Family Farm on Sunday, February 22, 2004.

I do not understand death. Why would the Lord allow a man to be killed accidentally when his wife is four months pregnant and his one and a half year old child need him so much? Why would the Lord take any child from its parents? Why does He allow war, and death and forces of nature that kill so mercilessly? How can this be a Loving God? Ordinarily we would say "too bad, so sad, that's the way the cookie crumbles." Folks have been looking for the answers to my questions for time immemorial. Volumes have been written on the subject; but when the pain comes from the death of someone you love – someone you cherish, then things get hard.

My mother-in-law died in January. She was a good woman. I loved her and will miss her. My wife is in anguish - even though she knows that her mom is in a better place and does not want to come back. Mother's suffering is over and she is at peace. But there is a hole in my wife's and my soul that will never be filled. It will harden, and in time the pain will lessen - but it will always be there.

Here comes the part where faith must come in. If there is no God, if He did not send His Son to redeem us from sin and pay the price for our folly; if there is no after life – no heaven or hell – then this entire life is a sham. It is not worth the effort. There is not enough reward for all of the baloney that we must endure. If I am not going to see God in the next life, if I am not going to spend all of eternity with my family and friends in Paradise - then I'm not going to stay on this train. It isn't worth it. But I have Faith. It is bolstered by my family and friends, from those who gave me religious instruction through the years. I believe that my prayers are heard and answered. I believe that God has a plan for me. I believe that He wants me to be happy with Him in this life and in the next. It is why I do what I do. It is why I worship Him on His Day. It is why I try to treat others the way I want to be treated myself.

How about you? What do you believe? Where are you going?


Fall Out
By Ken Gough

The Spring events are right around the corner. We're all starting to drag our gear out from wherever we chucked it last fall and checking the calendar just waiting for that first event.

Let's think about that first event for a minute. Even if the skies are blue and the sun is shining, at night it's going to get COLD. If you're not ready you're not going to be a happy camper come morning. The first answer I get from most new guys, and this happens every year, is, "no problem, I'll just throw a couple more blankets on."

Wrong!

Sure, this will help with the cold that comes from the night air, but most of the cold will get to you from the ground. This is the time to kick your buddy's butt off that bail of straw and use it for what it's there for.

Bedding. Don't just throw it in your tent either. Fluff it up. At least six or eight inches. Don't waste it by using it to seal the bottom of your tent on the outside. Where this practice came from I don't know and it always cracks me up. Maybe if we were reenacting Byrd’s expedition. All this will do if the weather turns wet is promote mold growth in the bottom edge of your tent.

But I digress.

Spread your gum blanket on top (rubber side down) to keep the ground damp out of your blankets and make sure you have as many blankets below you as above.

Blankets. Make sure you have at least one or two WOOL blankets. Yes, many soldiers went off to war with quilts from home, and the USSC issued over 125,000 of them but if that's all you have for bedding you're going to freeze. A cotton quilt will absorb moisture right from the air. So unless the night is bone dry it won't keep you warm. Wool on the other hand will keep you warm even if they become damp.

If you've become at all damp during the day, change your shirt and socks before turning in. This one seems so simple that it's embarrassing to bring it up but it's the one that gets ignored the most.

Now for the really hard part.

Limit your intake of spirits. Yes, when you're sitting next to the fire you feel warmer with a couple drinks in you. That flushed feeling in your face are the blood vessels next to your skin opening up and releasing heat. Kinda like the coils in the back of your fridge. Releasing the heat to make the inside cold. Just what you don't want.

Following these simple rules will insure that all we see around the fire in the morning are “Bright Shining Faces”.


The Unmentionables (gentlemen, avert thine eyes)
By Mary Gutzke

Your Civil War wardrobe is more than a costume…it’s the clothing worn by the people who were alive in the 1860s. What they wore every day, we wear for a 2-day week at the reenactment and then are glad to peel it all off on Sunday afternoon. We’ve all had spectators ask, why did women wear so many layers? Especially when it’s so hot out? Women of the 1860s adjusted their outer clothing by the seasons—but underneath it all, the fashions stayed pretty much the same with few exceptions. Ladies of the 1860s wore up to six layers of clothing! But it wasn't because it was just plain fun; instead, each layer of clothing served a useful purpose and added to the overall demure effect that the lady was trying to achieve. Also, since under-garments were, with very few exceptions, made of white 100% cotton, the fabric could “breathe” and it’s actually about the same as if you were to wear two layers of synthetic fabrics. From the skin out, the order in which undergarments were worn:

Drawers
At this time, drawers were still considered more or less optional, since they were thought to be a rather masculine garment. Drawers of the 1860s were constructed as two separate legs joined together only at the waistband; they would overlap quite a bit in front and back, but the inseam was left open for convenience at the necessary. Generally drawers were left untrimmed or had minimal trim, like some narrow cotton lace around the hem. Length was usually about mid-calf; younger women may have worn slightly shorter drawers while older women would wear longer ones in accordance of the 1840s/50s style.

Chemise
This was a one-piece, unfitted cotton garment (think nightgown, only with short sleeve and wide neckline) which went on over the drawers, but under the corset. This is perhaps the most important undergarment to own. Since the outer dresses weren’t washed all that frequently, the chemise absorbed most of the body’s sweat and grime, and thus were washed much more frequently, and were a very utilitarian garment. Every women would have own several in order to keep a clean one on hand. It would fit snugly around the shoulders or by a drawstring in a casing, and should come down to approximately the knee to mid-calf. Chemises were often decorated with tucks, fine lace or embroidery at the front and at the hem.

Corset/Stays
Corsets or stays were worn by nearly every woman from every class. Corsets were NOT worn to get a woman to the mythical waistline of 16" or to give her cleavage, but rather were designed to give women a smooth line from the chest to the midriff, so that she would not have any unsightly “rolls” at her waist. The corset served basically the same supportive function as a modern day bra. Corsets, when properly laced, were designed to come within 2 inches between the back pieces. A corset that meets in the back is too large (and will probably slip down throughout the day). An alternative to the corset are stays, which are a lightly boned or unboned version of the corset, and usually had shoulder straps. This is a good garment for women who do working impression that may require a lot of bending or lifting.

Hoop/Cage/Corded Petticoat
Hoopskirts were worn by most women and were one of the major defining fashions of this time period. Hoops were flexible steel rings held together either with a cotton covering, or left uncovered - a cage hoop (a very common type of hoop during the 1860s, invented in 1857). Hoops were generally about 40% to 60% of the wearer's height; this will also vary depending on your impression. For working impressions, a smaller hoop or corded petticoat (a white cotton petticoat with lots of cording sewn in for stiffening) is appropriate. Appearance should be dome-shaped, and without any part of the hoop exposed below the skirt. Bottom hoop should be about 8-10" above the ground to prevent the wearer from tripping.

Petticoat
1-2 white cotton petticoats were worn over the hoop to prevent the hoop ridges from showing through to the skirt. As with the chemise and drawers, petticoats were left fairly plain except for some white embroidery, tucks, or small, delicate lace. Petticoats were often gathered with stoked gathers or pleated into a narrow waistband.

And there you have it! The basis for your entire Civil War wardrobe. Now when someone asks you why you’re wearing all those layers, you’ll know.


The Support Cast

As we begin the 2004 reenacting season, we’d like to extend a congratulations to Marge Dernulc in her new/old role as 64th Illinois Civilian Coordinator. She will be the contact for any civilian-related activities for events, and a source of information for civilian members and potential civilian recruits alike. Thank you Marge!

Also a continuing thank you to Jerry Kowalski as our unit Chaplain. I know many members have found Jerry to be a source of wisdom on a variety of topics, not the least of which is religion, both within the reenacting context and without. Thank you Jerry!


Next Board Meeting/Round Rolling/Sewing Party

The next meeting will be at Bob’s house on Sunday, April 4 at 4 pm. Prior to this the guys will be getting together at 1 pm to start round rolling for the season. At the same time, the ladies will be having a “sewing circle” to work on our loaner dresses for potential members. We’re doing good work with them and they do look how they’re supposed to! Even if you don’t sew, feel free to just hang out. Come and join us!


Submissions…

…of good taste are always welcome! This is the newsletter of the 64th Illinois and is the voice of its members. Research, editorials, announcements, etc. which pertain to the good of the unit are all acceptable. Please try to get any submissions to Mary Gutzke by the 10th of each month. Submissions by email are preferred since I’m in the process of moving at this time (either in the email itself or as an attachment – send to roseof1861@lycos.com).


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