Tea With Sarah: Historical Dresses, Living History, & Photography

Good afternoon, it’s time for tea!

This weekend I’m at a Civil War Re-enactment in Moorpark, California, so I thought it would be a great time to answer a couple of those fun and often asked questions that I hear during living history presentations.

If you were able to join us “live” at the McGuire Home in Civilian Town, you’d likely find the weather a bit chilly today, but plenty of hot tea and ginger cookies!

And – by the way – Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’m actually wearing a green dress today, but it was blue dress when we did a tea photo shoot a couple events ago… (And in honor of the occasion, Irish harp music CDs are on sale in our store.) Continue reading

Christmas in July!

I’ve always wanted to host a Civil War Christmas educational event, but December always gets so crazy busy. This year McGuire Home Winchester, Virginia, Civil War Living History hosted “Christmas in July” – a tea and educational event.

We had a lot of fun decorating the room with items which might have been used in a Civil War Christmas celebration.

The dramatic presentation “Christmas in Winchester” took our guests through five Christmases at the McGuire Home (1861-1865) and emphasized the importance of courage and family love.

Here’s a few photos of the event – and Happy Christmas (in July)!

Click on a photo to view the gallery in full-screen mode.



“Mom, We Need 4th of July Books!”

Sometimes people ask me when my love of history began. I really can’t say there was a single, definable moment that it started, but as we’re approaching one of my favorite holidays of the year (4th of July), I thought it would fun to take a one week break from historical posts and share an incident or two prompting my exploration of the past.

4th of July Books

My mom is an amazing home-maker and teacher. She loves to decorate by season – hearts and bears for Valentine’s, birds and flowers for spring, Americana for summer, glorious autumn leaves, pumpkins, and pilgrims in the fall, and of course Christmas. When my siblings and I were little, she used her special décor to teach us about the seasons and holidays. Great fun!

My mom reading to me when I was little.

My mom reading to me when I was little.

Books have always been important to my family. Mom and Dad read to us…picture books when we were little, classic children’s stories and historical fiction novels when we were older. I remember one of the exciting things going hand in hand with Mom’s seasonal decorations was the picture book basket. Stories about baby animals for spring, the Pilgrims at Thanksgiving, the first Christmas in December.

One summer when I was about five, the patriotic décor was out, and I suddenly realized we had no books. (For those of you who know my family really well, you might be shocked to know that at one time we had no history books on the children’s shelves! Now, we can’t find room for all of them…) I went to my mom and sweetly pointed out this problem, “Mom, we need some 4th of July books. We don’t have any!”

Mom acknowledge the fact and later loaded us kids into the car and we made a trip to our local bookstore. There, in the back of the store – I can still picture it – high up on the top shelf, she found a book about the history of the American flag and a beautifully illustrated version of Paul Revere’s Ride. We purchased the books…and thus began our American history book collection and my curiosity.

“The British Are Coming!”

Paul Revere’s Ride became one of my favorite books. (I still love the poetry, even though I’ve detected a few historical errors – another topic for another day!)

I loved to role play when I was kid, and Paul Revere had lit my imagination. There was a map in the front of the picture book, showing the route of the patriot’s ride and I helped my mom use sidewalk chalk to copy the map onto our driveway. Then I got my stick horse and waited across “Boston Harbor” for the two lights in the Old North Church (usually my mom pausing in her yard work to hold up both her hands with imaginary lanterns.) Then I was off, riding along the “country roads” on the driveway and warning every neighbor in the vicinity that “the British are coming.” Like Longfellow’s Revere, I never did get captured and, of course, I was the hero of the night!

"Paul Revere" at the 4th of July Kids' Parade

“Paul Revere” at the 4th of July Kids’ Parade

4th of July Parade

One of our family traditions is to host a kid’s parade on 4th of July. It’s a chance for children to dress up, beat drums made of oatmeal cartons, carry flags and banners, dress their dolls in patriotic clothes, decorate wagons, etc. etc. etc. It’s usually followed by more fun and games and a neighborhood BBQ.

Well, the year when I was inspired by Paul Revere, that’s who I wanted to be in the parade. So mom and I made a costume – a heroic blue cap (made from one of Dad’s old shirts) and a tri-corn hat (made by safety pinning the sides of the regular hat into the correct shape). And off I went on my beautiful stick horse to warn the citizens and newspaper men that the “British were coming!”

"Dolley Madison" joins "Commodore Perry" and "Francis Scott Key" at the 2012 parade, commemorating the War of 1812

“Dolley Madison” joins “Commodore Perry” and “Francis Scott Key” at the 2012 parade, commemorating the War of 1812

Patriotic Musings

As I grew older, I learned the real history of Paul Revere’s famous ride. And you’ll be pleased to know I learned it’s much more fun to dress-up in a gorgeous Colonial dress as Martha Washington, a Regency gown as Dolley Madison, a Civil War dress as a Southern lady, or an army green jacket as a WWII army nurse.

I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to explore American history. The hands-on learning and great books swept me into an adventure of learning and educating which has, of course, morphed and changed as I’ve grown older.

Looking back, I know that the experience of learning about famous Americans and role-playing their adventures has shaped my belief that history is the study of real people making a difference in their community, state, and nation. An ideal that has become my motto as a historian.

I’m so blessed to be a patriotic American citizen. I’m so blessed to have the opportunities to study and share our amazing history. I pray that many will be inspired to stand up and make a difference in our nation today, remembering the American heritage of righteousness.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Do you have a favorite 4th of July memory?

Remembering Captain Hugh McGuire

I’m pleased to share my article published by Emerging Civil War blog. Here’s the link to War’s End: Remembering A Cavalry Captain.

I am grateful for the opportunity to write this historical account and share it today (May 8th). Captain McGuire’s life, actions, and ultimate sacrifice won’t be forgotten.

Again, here’s the link – War’s End: Remembering A Cavalry Captain

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Go ahead and leave any comments or questions on Emerging Civil War, and I’d highly recommend following ECW!

A Couple Photos…

I had a lovely weekend at Prado Park Civil War Re-enactment with my Civil War living history group “McGuire Home, Winchester, Virginia.” Unfortunately, though, I didn’t take a lot of photos, mostly because I didn’t want to be caught with a camera in my hand when I was portraying a young woman from 1863. 😉 So my apologies for the lack of exciting photos…

Here’s a brief summary of the weekend for those who are interested.

I loved the location – camping on grass is especially nice. Our neighbors – Confederate White House – were delightful and we enjoyed visiting and making the “four yard journey” between Winchester and Richmond. Across the street, the Flying Horse Artillery had set up there picket lines, so we also had about 15 horses nearby and that was a lot of fun too! The coordinators of the event were very nice and friendly. There were quite a few spectators and we had many opportunities to share the story of the McGuire Family and the War in Winchester. Quite a few folks told us that we made history come alive and that makes me very happy! Church service was very enjoyable, and thank you Chaplain Steve for an encouraging message.

A big congrats to the units who won the prizes for authentic camps. “McGuires” will definitely be working for that award again next year. 😉 Really enjoyed the US Division Field Hospital camp and presentation – you guys and ladies are doing a fabulous job and it’s been fun to meet and “work” with you.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

Overheard At A Re-enactment

A Military Camp at a Re-enactment

A Military Camp at a Re-enactment

You can hear the most amazing things at re-enactments if you stop and listen. Canvas tents and flies flapping in gusty wind. Horses whinnying for breakfast. Reveille. Drums. Cannons. Or the most amazing comments…

One of the best “overheard at a re-enactment” statements I’ve ever heard is this emphatic, without-a-doubt, super positive statement: (Ready, brace yourself, here it is…)


“They didn’t use bayonets in the Civil War.”

And I guess you never even watched the movie Gettysburg, did you? Well, I won’t send you a list of sources to check – instead watch this video. [WARNING: EXTREME SPOILERS –  you may not want to watch if you haven’t seen the whole movie, see postscript note at end of this blog post]

Dear Re-enactment Spectator: if you don’t know, please ask. I’m confident somebody would be willing to answer your question! We’ve heard lots of questions, but most of us like to educate. Come ask…

And now an invitation to bring your questions about civilians during the War Between the States, the war in Virginia, “Stonewall” Jackson, or other topics of interest to the “McGuire Home, Winchester, Virginia” on April 11-12, 2015 to the Prado Park Civil War Re-enactment. I believe Confederate White House will also be attending this events, so bring those hard to answer Southern questions too.

Hey, if we don’t know the answers, we’ll tell you…and I will never ever tell you that they did not use bayonets in the Civil War.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Okay, the disclaimer… Gettysburg is rated PG13 for battle scenes and language. I am not endorsing this movie. However, if a “mild” war movie doesn’t bother you, it’s worth seeing…at least once…maybe twice…oh maybe we could watch it again.

The other warning – if you see the movie – you might have a new historical hero or two or three. Then pull out the history books and track what was real and what was slightly fictionalized.