Sunday, February 3, 2019

Civil War Heritage

I was wandering around the beach and field at Fort Zachary State park, and more on that another day, when I saw people on the fort walls pointing into the interior of the fort. So that was where they were...
These reenactors come annually to Fort Zachary to camp and replay a sea battle but this was the first time the stars coincided with my ability to check it out. The fort is period piece and shows off canons from that time as year round exhibits. This one pointed directly at the handicapped parking spot at the path to the fort.
My legs were tired from stumping around the pines and beach so I took a pause on a park bench set at a nice height for my weak legs. A woman sitting there was kind enough to make room and I laughed as she started back from the cripple. I explained my temporary disability and she explained she'd left home in north Florida at 4 am to be present to help her son, a Confederate who doubles as a student at the community college. Apparently his musket isn't allowed on campus, imagine that, and he relied on his mother to come down and haul his firing piece safely home for him.   
 The Confederate camp was a bit smaller than the garrison of Federal soldiers inside the fort. The reenactors are at pains to point out the Union held Key West thanks to artillery Captain John Brannan who stole across town with his soldiers in the middle of the night in January 1861 and held the fort for the US government which was very useful to help blockade the Gulf ports and their exports of cotton. Apparently some of the Confederate reenactors represented captured sailors.
The hill was steep and covered with pebbles but nothing daunted I climbed up to meet Jake the blacksmith.
He operates a small blacksmith shop in Edgefield South Carolina as a retirement hobby where he makes ornamental candlesticks and hinges and smaller items he said. 
They were getting ready for the weekend and I can only imagine and  80 degree day such as we were enjoying yesterday might get a bit warm.
One other business that caught my eye after I negotiated the slippery descent from the smithy was the fudge shop. There were people selling canvas and wooden items but an iguana shooting wooden crossbow wasn't on my list not least because I don't have an iguana problem with Rusty in my life.
Whittling for customers, not terribly impressed by modern technology:
 I bought mint fudge and it was every bit as good as I had as a child.
 The Union lines inside the fort:
I was using my cane to get around and practice walking but she looked like she had stolen my rolling walker:
 Camping in costume:





I posted these three lads on Instagram and labeled them cannon fodder which was what they were in the 1860s. Casualties were appalling and medicine was rudimentary:
 Walking around in wool clothing in January heat seemed a lot to bear but they were stoics:
 Then I spotted more food alongside an actual menu:
And there I found food I had often read about but never tasted. Well I have now.  
This guy explained hard tack to me, indestructible rations for soldiers on the move used as a last resort instead of bread and often eaten with smelly salt pork as campaign rations.
He offered me a piece and it became a challenge to get the stuff down as they saw it as inedible. I did eat it and did not break a tooth. It tasted floury and salty, not exciting to eat but not disgusting either. He said they often dunked it in water or on ships they used rum. Which might make it more palatable.
The seated woman knitting made it using an original recipe she said, equal parts white and brown flour, salt and a touch of cinnamon to make it bearable. They were impressed by my ability to pack it away. Yum! These reenactors may be crazy  but they sure do enjoy themselves and impart their joy of history too. I wanted to spend more time there talking about life as it was lived.
 A comfy looking tent:
 I did not try the coffee. I could only imagine how strong they made it.
 Cavalry yellow he said.
Then everyone popped out and headed to the entrance for some battle acting on board ships, they said.




Undeterred the park rangers continued their normal program of tours inside the fort. I couldn't climb the steps to the tops of the walls in my condition but the harbor views are quite pleasant. 


The bus was taking them to the harbor to board the ships for the sea battle. I had to go to the gym so I left in my air conditioned chariot.
 And left them to it.
I couldn't help but think had I suffered my injuries 160 years ago I'd have died, say from a fall off a horse or similar.  Modern medicine is just one thing I'm thankful for, and tasty food that travels is good too.