Photos From Moorpark Civil War Re-enactment 2014 (Part 2)

Here are the promised photos of “The McGuire Home, Winchester, Virginia” at the Moorpark Civil War Re-enactment 2014. For re-enactment military photos from this event, click here.

We had a great time at this event. Our camping location was superb and we were able to share history, answer questions, and interact with a lot of spectators and students. Thank you to the Moorpark Rotary Club for hosting another wonderful weekend.

There were new display items featured at our “home.” We had a box of supplies and Christmas gifts which we were preparing to “send” to our McGuire family members with the army. I think people enjoyed seeing the simple, practical, hand-made gifts, and it was a nice teaching tool when talking about the historical family members and what they did during the war. (If you want historical information about the McGuire Family, please use this link.)

I took 75 Christmas cards to the event and invited re-enactors to sign them for US troops stationed oversees. The project was a great success! And many thanks to the chaplains, officers, and other re-enactors for their help and support.

Enjoy the photos! (You can click on one photo and view all of them as a gallery).

An exciting news update on my research of the McGuire family! Earlier this week I found a portrait of Captain Hugh H. McGuire who was in the 11th Virginia Cavalry. Maybe I’ll write a special post about Captain McGuire at a later time.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Which is your favorite photo? Do you have questions about the weekend, our living history scenario, or the new display items? Share your thoughts in a comment.

And don’t forget…tomorrow (Friday) is Part 2 in Shakespeare’s Historical Fiction.


3 Days ‘Til Moorpark 2014

This video was filmed at a Civil War Re-enactment in Pennsylvania…  If you’re on the west coast of the US and thinking “I would’ve loved to go, but couldn’t make it to Pennsylvania”, fear not.

MOORPARK CIVIL WAR RE-ENACTMENT 2014 starts in 3 days and is the largest Civil War event west of the Mississippi River. Here’s a link with lots of information. (And remember: the event’s at a new location this year, so check for the new address.)

“McGuire Home, Winchester, Virginia,” Civil War Living History Group is attending this event. (Yeah, I need to go finish ironing about 15 yards of calico skirts…). We have some new display items and will be packing a Christmas box for the McGuire men who are with the Confederate military…can you guess some of the practical items we’ve accumulated? (I’ll post some photos of the display and event next week, in case you’re not attending).

Check out the new Living History pages. And if you’re attending this event or another Civil War re-enactment you may find this page (and the Student Questions) helpful!

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Oh, by the way, the video clip is supposed to portray the Battle of Fairfield (July 3, 1863). Captain Hugh McGuire of the 11th Virginia Cavalry fought there.


Why Virginia?

I’m about 10 days away from attending the largest Civil War Re-enactment west of the Mississippi River…and yes, I’m excited. This will be the third year I’ve participated, but the first year that I get to take my own living history group to the event. Right now, I’m busy prepping the packing lists, finishing some sewing projects, and anticipating (and somewhat dreading) ironing the civilian costumes. (Each skirt is five yards of fabric!)

Since I’ve started portraying a member of the Virginian McGuire Family, I’ve noticed that one question a lot of spectators ask is “are you related to the family?” The answer is “no, unfortunately I’m not.” Then they usually get a curious look and ask, “Then why are you portraying Miss McGuire?” That’s a good question.

Short answer: I greatly admire Margaretta McGuire and her family. Long answer: I’m launching some extensive research projects about Virginian civilians and military leaders during the war and I needed to streamline my living history endeavors and research. I started searching for a Virginia family. Through studies of General “Stonewall” Jackson I knew about his surgeon – Dr. Hunter McGuire. A bit of historical paper-trails led to the re-discovery of Hunter’s family. When I found Miss Margaretta and learned that she lived in Winchester for the whole war (surviving 48 enemy occupations of the town) I knew I’d found someone special. Further research has revealed the strength of Miss Margaretta’s character, her godly life, and her willingness to fulfill a “daughter at home” role in family life.

Miss Margaretta

Miss Sarah as Margaretta McGuire

So “Why Virginia? How did your interest start there?” Well, Virginia is one of cornerstone states for the Confederacy during the Civil War. It is also one of the most war torn states since a lot of fighting happened there. The political advantages of Virginia, its strategic military location, and citizens’ tenacity are fascinating to me. But, ultimately, it is the people of Civil War Virginia and their personal stories set in that extreme tide of war that captivate me…

As I survey my Virginia histories and biographies (either on the shelf, stacked on my desk, or scattered around my study room), I feel “at home.” This feeling is difficult to put into words, but the history of these Virginians is welcoming and fascinating. I’m proud to say that in my living history persona and favorite area of study: Virginia Is My Home.

Enjoy this song from the soundtrack of “Gods and Generals.” Its sweeping melody is one of my favorites, and it wordlessly communicates the pride, enthusiasm, and honor of Civil War Virginia.

See you at Moorpark 2014?

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Last post on the Shenandoah Valley during the Autumn 1864 on Friday!

Shenandoah Valley: Introduction

Well, folks it’s the first Friday in October and time to launch our new topic for the month….The Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley – 1864. One hundred and fifty years ago General Sheridan and his Union troops swept through the Valley and burned the farmland. The month of October was simply called “The Burning.” (By the way, if you to learn about an early American history hero from the Valley, check last week’s post about Daniel Morgan).

Painting of a Shenandoah Valley farm by William L. Sonntag (c.1860)  Image in Public Domain

Painting of a Shenandoah Valley farm by William L. Sonntag (c.1860)
Image in Public Domain

I’d like to add a personal note here: I love the Shenandoah Valley and its Civil War history! If you don’t already know, in my living history group I portray a young woman who lived in Winchester, Virginia, which is in the northern end of the Valley. The land, civilians, troops, commanders, battles, and entire war-experience of the Shenandoah Valley fascinates and inspires me. I hope by the end of this month, you’ll appreciate the amazing history of this location…and beg me to write more posts on the topic. (Please?)

Now, I have a feeling that we may need a quick introduction to the beautiful Virginia Valley, the 1864 army commanders in this region, etc. So this post will provide the setting and in the following weeks, we’ll dive deeper into the autumn campaign and the motivations of “The Burning.”

  1. What’s the American Civil War? (I always give the quick facts when I do a historical presentation, so here’s a quick review…it’s just habit for me now) The American Civil War – aka “The War Between The States” if you’re a rebel – was fought between the years 1861-1865. Basically, 11 Southern states (Virginia included) seceded and decided to form a separate nation called The Confederate States of American. The remaining 22 states stayed part of the United States of the America (the Union) and tried to coerce the return of their sister states. Confederate troops typically wore gray uniforms and Union troops usually wore blue uniforms. Oh, and slavery was not the main cause of the war; it was a factor in the States’ Rights debate which was the focus issue at the time.
  2. Where’s the Shenandoah Valley? Excellent question – 10 points to the reader who thought of it first! The Shenandoah Valley is located in the western part of Virginia, between the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains.
  3. Why’s the Shenandoah Valley Important? Short answer #1: food supply. The Shenandoah Valley was an important agricultural region, and wheat was the number one cash crop. The Confederate army was fed with supplies coming from the Valley. Short answer #2: avenue of armies. The mountains provided a good shelter and hiding place for armies. Marching through the valley could bring either sides army to the backdoor of the enemy’s capital: Washington City or Richmond. It was a very strategic region to control, and both sides realized that.
  4. Who’s fighting in the Valley in 1864? Well, by the time we get to the autumn it’s basically Union General Sheridan (and army) against Confederate General Jubal Early (and army). We will probably mention more commanders in the coming weeks, but for now, Sheridan and Early.
  5. What happened in the Shenandoah War in the previous years? Here’s the oversimplified answer: 1861=a lot of men enlist in the Confederate army   1862=Confederate General Stonewall Jackson defeats three Union armies in the Valley Campaign (troops march 646 miles in 48 days!); General Lee, a Confederate, uses the Valley to make a “semi-sneaky” invasion of Maryland   1863=Union troops occupy the north Valley area for 6 months; General Lee uses the Valley to “secret” march into the north – he ends up at a little place called Gettysburg.

With its rich agricultural land, patriotic people, and strategic location, the Shenandoah Valley was an important and heavily contested area during the war. As one of the Valley’s best defenders General “Stonewall” Jackson said, “If the Valley is lost, Virginia is lost.” We could add to the statement by saying, “If Virginia is lost, the Confederacy is lost.” Union army commanders knew this. Thus, as Sherman prepared for a March to the Sea through Georgia, and Grant sieged Petersburg, Sheridan fought to win the Valley and cripple its ability to support the Confederacy. The Confederates where facing hard times, but determined to struggle on to defend their “breadbasket” Valley.

Now, the stage is set –

Join us next week for a discussion of the Autumn 1864 Valley Campaign.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Don’t forget that the Historical Snowmen Creative Writing Contest is now OPEN for story submissions! Start writing…

“Tea & Mystery in Winchester, Virginia” 2014

I had a fantastic weekend…here’s a bonus post!

Friday, August 1 and Saturday, August 2, were the dates of “Tea & Mystery in Winchester, Virginia.”  Hosted by The McGuire Home Civil War Living History Group, this event delighted guests with a full tea menu, a historical mystery play, and open-forum for Civil War related questions.  The event was in Southern California so guests did not have to purchase airline tickets to get to Virginia.  (Here’s more info about Living History, The McGuire Family, or Up-Coming Events, if you’d like it…)

Displays of historical reproduction items contributed to the unique “tea room” setting.  Each display represented a story of the McGuire Family or an account of War in Winchester.

Each table was named after a specific house or location in Winchester.  Guests learned about the location and the people associated with it during the introduction to the mystery play.

I’m sharing some photos and photo journaling here to show the event.  (If you want to see the photos in a larger format, click on one and it should link into a gallery for easy viewing).  The article concludes after the pictures, so scroll down.

Mystery Play: the entertainment was produced with the goal of helping guests understand the hardship and uncertainty of living in war-time Winchester.  The actual plot of the play was completely fictional, but real places, characters, and accounts were featured.  When writing the play, the author tried to produce something that would entertain the audience, introduce them to a little history, and hopefully, inspire them to learn more.

I had a wonderful time planning this event and I think it was quite successful.  I loved the guests’ enthusiasm and how they kept telling us “this is what makes history come alive.”

Proceeds from this event will be used to travel to Civil War re-enactments and produce more educational resources.  A large portion will be donated to Civil War Trust to help preserve General Lee’s Headquarters at Gettysburg and Port Republic Battlefield in the Shenandoah Valley.

If you attended this event, thanks so much for joining us!  I’d appreciate it if you leave a comment and we’ll hope to see you again soon – maybe at an upcoming event

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. See you on Friday for Part 2 of Demystifying WWI…  Here’s Part 1, if you missed it.