Thank you to our blog readers who sent questions to enliven the conversation this weekend. We’ll be talking about living history, historic thoughts, and places to enjoy tea… Brew a cup of your favorite flavors, and let’s inspire each other.
Feel free to share your thoughts or answers to the questions in a comment. It’s always nice to hear from readers!
Yes, and thanks for asking. I love living history as a way to teach about the experiences of folks from past era. Currently, I portray Miss Margaretta McGuire who lived in Winchester, Virginia during the Civil War. My mom portrays Mrs. McGuire, and sometimes we have a soldier boy (my youngest brother) visit or raid our “house.”
How did we choose these ladies to portray? A lot of my research focuses on Virginian troops and civilians, and we wanted our living history to fit into my studies. Out here in Southern California, there wasn’t much talk about the Shenandoah Valley campaigns and generals, so we started looking for a civilian scenario that would allow us to share that history. I started tracing family trees of General “Stonewall” Jackson’s officers, and we found that Dr. Hunter McGuire (medical director for the Army of Northern Virginia’s Second Corps) had a large family, and his mother and sisters were alive during the war. It worked quite perfectly because as I dug deeper into this family’s history we found that the women extended hospitality to many officers, were involved in hospital work, and survived over forty town invasions by Union soldiers. Clearly, these women were at the center of a lot of war drama, and as we’ve continued our studies we’ve found some absolutely amazing stories that help explain and illustrate the “human factors” in the Civil War.
Margaretta “Getty” McGuire never married and spent the war years at home in Winchester, helping her mother, caring for her dying older sister, and volunteering in the hospitals. A few of Getty’s letters have survived and are preserved in archives; these – and other family papers – have helped us build a foundation of knowledge about the family. In 2016, I got to visit Winchester, Virginia, and saw the real McGuire Home, researched in the local archives, and left flowers on the family graves. This year I’m reading through some more published journals of other Winchester civilians, always looking for clues about this family and “my character.”
Occasionally, I help at a Union Field Hospital living history group, and then I portray a Union nurse. No one particular, but I am often inspired by Mrs. Barlow and some of the details about her service as a nurse with the U.S. Sanitary Commission.
Do you portray a particular historical figure?
Ooh, this is a fun question… It was actually an interesting combination last night. In the evenings, I’ve been reading a collection of Civil War letters by a Maine soldier and a historical fiction novel about Mrs. Robert E. Lee.
So, I was excited for Private Bradford because he had just proposed to his “dear friend” who he’d been writing to for about a year. (Is it weird to be excited for historical characters when something happy happens in their accounts?) And I was also thinking how none of the Lee girls married, since in the novel that was a concern of Mrs. Lee.
Strange combination, I’ll admit, but those were my last historical thoughts. What about YOU? Last historic thought before bedtime?
Susan: Where’s your favorite place to go for tea?
Now, that’s a tough question because I’ve visited lots of fun and elegant places for tea.
I think I’d have to the say The Brown Palace in Denver, Colorado, is one of my all-time favorites, though. I was seven when I went to tea there with my mom, aunt, and a cousin. I’ll always remember the dainty sandwiches, desserts, and scones, but I really remember the music. It was the first time I’d seen someone playing the harp, and I was mesmerized. That day I politely told my mom that I wanted to play harp; six years later, I was playing harp for teas…
Other favorite tea locations are Coach & Horses Tea Room (Winchester, Virginia), Coral Tree Tea House (San Diego, California), Truffles & Lace Tea Room (formerly in Temecula, California), and Time For Tea (Oakhurst, California). So many lovely memories with my mom or friends…
Where’s YOUR favorite place to have tea?
Thanks for joining me for tea and a chat! Have a topic for tea conversation for our February “gatherings”? Leave a comment…