Attending a Re-enactment (As a Spectator)

This coming weekend is the Civil War Re-enactment at Tom’s Farm in Corona, California. Here’s a link for more event info. By the way, “McGuire Home, Winchester, Virginia,” Living History Group is NOT encamping at this event.

A Military Camp at a Re-enactment

A Military Camp at a Re-enactment

Anyway, as I prepare to go on a research trip at this event, I thought I’d share my “packing” list and tips for attending a re-enactment as a spectator. (Now the packing list for when I go as a re-enactor looks very different – maybe I’ll share some of that next month…)

Here’s what I stuff in my trusty backpack when I’m doing a research trip at an event:

  • Water, Water, Water (it’s cheaper to carry it than buy it, believe me)
  • Lunch – I prefer peanut butter sandwich, apple, carrots, and a cookie or two (eating the carrots is optional…sometimes you should share with a horse, if the cavalryman gives permission)
  • Snack – never know how late you’re staying
  • Blanket or Towel – this is much nicer to sit on if you manage to get a “front row seat” at the battle or band concert
  • 1 or 2 Research Books (I usually take the ones with maps of the topics I’m exploring; it can be helpful for very in-depth discussions)
  • Camera – I usually take at least 50 photos during a battle and get only 1 or 2 good pictures (I either need a better camera, more skill, or those guys need to stop moving so quickly) One of the best photos from last year is at the end of this post.
  • Notepad – I usually carry this in my hand; I prefer a small size with a hard “backboard”  Warning: if you choose to carry a notepad, be prepared for the “are you a reporter?” questions
  • Pens – have to have something to write with…and carry at least two
  • Event Schedule – I like to plan what I’m going to see and do throughout the whole day
  • Wallet – never know when you’re gonna find the book you need for research or the perfect gift at the sutlers’ tents (And sometimes it costs to attend the event!)
  • Cellphone – just in case you need to call 911 because a cannon started a fire (yes, I’ve seen it happen)

Other things you should not forget:

  • Directions – how to get to the event (it’s no fun to get lost and know that you’re missing the artillery demonstration that you really wanted to see)
  • Coffee or Tea – optional, but nice to have on the drive
  • Favorite CD – optional, but generally more encouraging than the radio news
  • Gallon of water – this is to wash the front and back windows when you’re ready to head home. Parking is often a dirt field and you may need to wash away the archaeological layers before leaving.

My simple advice for attending an event as a spectator is “You’re here to learn, not teach; so listen, and learn something new. Ask questions and don’t be a know-it-all.”

Happy learning adventures! See you in the field?

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Don’t forget to check the introduction to Civil War Shenandoah 1864. This coming Friday we’ll start the military campaign details. Leave a comment if you’re looking forward to this month’s topic…or if you’ve thought of something that’s not on my packing list!

Here's one of the best photos from last year (2013). Check back next week for my best photos of the 2014 Tom's Farm Civil War Re-enactment!

Here’s one of the best photos from last year (2013).

 

 

History of Helicopters

Today I’m teaching a short class on the History of the Helicopter: 400 BC to Modern Era at a Youth Aviation Club meeting. The group meets about twice a month and encourages young folks to learn about flying and how to make their dreams of soaring and zooming a reality.

Sikosky Helicopter, 1940s

Sikosky Helicopter, 1940s

I love aviation history! It’s kind of my history hobby to enjoy reading about and seeing old aircraft. (Check my June field trip for some fun airplane photos). So I enjoyed doing the research to put together a presentation for the club and even found some topics that would be great “long” research projects sometime in the future.

Anyway, here’s a few of the facts that I’ll be presenting:

  • The Chinese used a very basic form of a helicopter  in 400 BC as children’s toys.
  • Leonardo da Vinci actually drew plans for a “helicopter” type flying machine.  The problem: since his design was based around the principle of a screw, the entire aircraft was going to spin…like an amusement park ride. Yikes!
  • During the Age of the Enlightenment (1700’s) Christian de Launoy  built a basic model using turkey feathers as rotor blades and demonstrated it in the French Academy of Sciences
  • 1861: the word “helicopter” is used for the first time and steam powered models try to fly (unsuccessfully)
  • 1870: coaxial helicopter toys are built for children (Wilbur and Orville Wright played with one)
  • Thomas Edison tries to invent a vertical flying machine with an internal combustion engine (unsuccessfully)
  • 1907: man flies in a helicopter about two feet off the ground!
  • Not used in WWI
  • In the 1920’s and 1930 the principles of vertical flight begin to be understood and flying models improve
  • Not practical for use during WWII, but a few models were used for medical evacuations in remote areas
  • Igor Sikosky builds successful helicopters in the United States.  The aircraft is adopted for the military and civilian usages
  • 1951: the first turbine powered helicopter is developed
  • Helicopters were used extensively in the Korean and Vietnam War
  • Helicopters are still used today in varied jobs; with continued improvements they will probably remain part of the aviation world for a long time.

There you have it – a very brief synopsis of the presentation and some new aviation/historical facts to educate (or annoy) your friends.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. See you on Friday for the last post on the American War for Independence! And here’s the Nathanael Green and Benjamin Lincoln biographies, in case you missed the last couple weeks.

 

Victor Hugo’s Historian

In his classic book Les Miserables, Victor Hugo often gets side-tracked from the story and enlightens us all with some deep (sometimes confusing) philosophy.  While I haven’t always appreciated his digressions from the story plot, his thoughts are insightful.

Here is a quotes about what historians study (or should study) in his humble opinion:

“No man is a good historian of the open, visible, signal, and public life of the nations, if he is not, at the same time to a certain extent the historian of their deeper and hidden life; and no man is a good historian of the interior if he does not know how to be, whenever there is need, the historian of the exterior.  The history of morals and ideas penetrates the history of the events, and vice versa…  Since true history deals with everything, the true historian deals with everything.”  (Hugo, Les Miserables, page 984, emphasis by yours truly).

In other words, historians can’t just look at the easy stuff like “oh there was a Civil War in America in 1861-1865.”  They need to honestly consider why.  And the answers are not always easy…they are vast and varied…and changing.  (Just as a reminder the changing views of how historians look at and teach history is called “historiography” – how’s that for a big word?)

Miss Sarah and President Davis (re-enactor) at the Moorpark Civil War Re-enactment, 2012

Miss Sarah and President Davis (re-enactor) at the Moorpark Civil War Re-enactment, 2012

If we are going to be honest with ourselves and with others, we must always tell the truth.  And there is no exception for historians.  We must “deal with everything” – the ideas, the religion, the society, the government, the individuals.  That is history.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Huntington Beach Civil War Re-enactment is next weekend. Can’t wait to spend some time with my living history friends! (Don’t worry, I’ll post the last article on WWI before “time traveling”…)