View Full Version : Civilian Immersion Events
05-29-2004, 03:27 AM
I have an opportunity to participate in my very first event at the end of June, and I wanted to be sure I have all I will need by then. My impression is of a civilian refugee- basically a woman forced from her home and now has to rely on her wits and possibly finding work with in the army camps. What I do have is:
Camp dress, drawers, chemise, petticoat (Thanks to the GREAT Hank Trent :regular_s ), boots, slat bonnet, carpet bag and civilian blanket.
What I need help with is what can I have in my carpet bag- or rather what should I have in my bag.
So far I have a period toothbrush. What sort of sewing kit would be appropriate? Silverware? Cups v. canteen? Food? Tenting? Entertainment?
I read on the forum that military items should be discouraged from use for civilians.
My first event also has a day of immersion, and while I am very excited about this- I am quite nervous as well. I want to look like I know what I am doing, even if I am really unsure!
Please any and all suggestions will be appreciated.
What else is needed? I'm kinda nervous I won't have all I need and look like it too. :confused_
Thank you all.
05-29-2004, 10:28 AM
Just one terminology clarification: you most likely have a regular old dress, not a "camp" dress... "camp" dress is a reenactorism that I've not found any documentation for in the mid-century. What I have found are references to wash dress, everyday dress, old dress, dress... so if you're conversing with another 19th century citizen, you'd want to avoid the "camp" term.
I would encourage you to look at the circumstances of your refugee life. It seems that in the past 5 years or so, "refugee" has been a catch-all impression in much the same way as "camp follower" was five years before that, and there can be a few challenges with the impression.
That you are carrying everything in a carpet bag is a good start--you won't be taking more than you can lug.
Where is your actual home, and why have you left?
Where are you headed (many refugees were very short-term, headed for a neighbor's house or relative's place a short distance off, just far enough to remove them from the main heat of battle)?
Why must you seek work in the Army camps? This works if they're going to be in a settled camp for a good long while, but it would be rare for a woman to leave her local area and follow along, with no guarantee of anything for support, etc, plus all the diseases and hardships of army life... If you're a local woman who has been burned out of her home, you might consider rooming in with another family, and taking in laundry or some such for extra money, should the army be camped for a longer period of time, but an army on campaign won't be stopping long enough to do laundry in most cases.
If a woman is a short-term refugee, what would she need? A few changes of undergarments, a bit of food, perhaps a bit of cash, a few small personal posessions... she's not likely to need cooking implements, sewing gear, etc, as the houses in which she's seeking refuge are likely to have such already. The most logical thing for a displaced person is to first seek safety, and then seek home...
Short-term refugees aren't likely to have a tent handy. Long-term immigrants might, but then you also need a wagon and team to haul your whole household for long-term immigration to another area of the country (which was indeed happening during the war years).
Entertainment might not be high on the short-term refugee list... but might be a book, or a little doll for a child in the same situation... something very small and easy to carry/light.
What sort of mentoring is provided for this event? Contact the civilian organizers, and ask about the activities planned, other citizen participants, etc. As a newbie, it might be nice to be put into a "family" pod with some more experienced folks for immersion... easier to keep in the impression when you have folks supporting that with their own actions and conversations!
05-29-2004, 12:10 PM
I'll second all that Elizabeth Clark said, especially the last paragraph. Also, what historic time and place is the event portraying? Do you want to tell what event it will be? That may help folks give more specific suggestions, both historic ones, and event-related ones if they've been to a similarly-organized event.
Another thing to consider is what you'll actually need for food and shelter. Looking like you don't have everything you need is probably a good thing, since the person you're portraying may have left home in a hurry or be traveling lighter than she wished. But it does make the weekend easier physically if you do have everything you need.
Personally, I find it a lot easier to prepare for events where all I need to worry about is fitting into the historic circumstances, but if this event only has a day of immersion (do they mean 24-hours, or only during daylight?), you might consider what's expected during the other times, and be prepared with a decision whether you want to continue to be as accurate as possible at all times regardless of what others are doing, or whether that's going to ostracize you too much and you'd rather just go with the flow. Events and participants vary widely, as far as what level of accuracy is expected or tolerated or supported.
Historically, you'd probably manage to stay in a building at night, either a friend's home, a sympathetic stranger's home, a hotel, etc., but the chance of a period home at an event is rare, so if the accuracy is to continue at night, you'll probably need to come up with an excuse to sleep outdoors, and enough stuff to do it comfortably. In June, the weather will be warm, but if it rains or you're on wet ground from previous rain, something waterproof is really good to have. A piece of oilcloth like a wagon cover is one civilian option, or another is a painted floorcloth.
The main problem with having military stuff is that the military has a tendency to want it back. Also, of course, there's the question of where you got it. If the armies have just been fighting over your land, there's probably plenty of dropped or lost items for the picking, but if they've just arrived in the area, there's less chance of debris lying around.
Typically at true immersion events, if you're trying to make contact with the army or pass through their lines, your stuff will get searched (and searched again, and searched some more), and there may be rules of engagement for what can be confiscated. If the army decides the military gum blanket you're carrying is "their property," for example, they might be able to confiscate it till the end of the event, at some events. At other events, they won't even notice or care, or will do a brief scenario and then return it. And of course a good sob story may get it back, regardless. But even in a situation where it might be accurate to have military stuff, the chance of losing the use of it is one reason to avoid it.
As far as water, historically civilians could ask for a drink of water at most homes, or use the dipper at someone's well, and not need a canteen or cup. But for modern sanitary and practical reasons, a cup is good as a bare minimum, if you know water is going to be plentiful and close by. At other events, it may be far away, or there may be a chance of the source running dry temporarily, so a water container is more necessary. There are two options--openly carrying water using a civilian wooden or gourd canteen (or possibly a military canteen, with the caveats above) and just portraying someone who got the notion to carry water, or trying to make the carrying of water less obvious by using a period bottle or flask in a pocket or carpet-bag.
For food, are you on your own or is the event supplying it? Again, in real life, you might carry something prepared to eat on the way to where you're going, but be able to cook or have cooked food at your destination. If the event is supplying the food though and it's raw ingredients, you may need to fudge reality and carry a small frying pan to turn cornmeal or raw bacon into something edible. If you're bringing your own food, you can either take stuff that doesn't need cooked, like dried or fresh fruit, nuts, biscuits or johnny cakes, cheese, etc., or figure out a reason you might have a frying pan and raw ingredients. As far as choices of food, keep in mind what's in season and what might have been available to or preferred by a person in your circumstances.
Also, check the rules of engagement and consider the historical circumstances, because at some immersion events, the army can confiscate and eat any food you have, if they were motivated to do it historically. At reenactments, they know you need something to eat and will make sure they either don't take it all, or provide you later with something in exchange, but if you lose biscuits and get cornmeal in exchange, for example, you might want to have in mind how you'd prepare it. However, that kind of situation generally only happens at the more rigorous immersion events, and the participants are notified ahead of time and there should be rules of engagement that spell out what could happen and what to be prepared for.
With more specific info on the event and/or the historic situation, we may be able to offer more suggestions.
By the way, I'm putting the skirt on your dress today, and I'll email you when it's done!
05-30-2004, 01:18 AM
Hank, Thanks for all the advice. I will take it all under consideration. Thanks for your hard work on all my items! You do excellent work. :)
Hope to hear from you soon.
05-30-2004, 08:26 AM
Well, gee, between Hank and Liz there isn't much left to be said :tounge_sm
Here's one other thing that I didn't see. A second pair of stockings, in case your feet get wet. But then we all know that it never rains at events :cry_smile
Also knowing how you got to where you are, and having the appropriate documentation is important.
At McDowell, for example, I was a married woman who was traveling alone (Hank was portraying a character unconnected to me). I researched out how I traveled by train from Wheeling to Grafton, then traveled over the mountains by stage, then took another train line to my destination. We researched out what the tickets looked like, reproduced them, and punched them to make them look used, and found out where all the train stopped for the night, etc.. My character's husband had written a letter of introduction, just in case she should run into any kind of trouble (not that that would ever happen at an event :sarcastic ) , and I had a diary with me that my character had started as she embarked on her trip describing her experiences along the way, the beautiful scenery and her thoughts of home and family.
Of course trouble did find me ;), and the Confederate army had a great read :o
Depending upon how long the military has been in the area you may have passes, or some other official paperwork. Just some thoughts :D
05-31-2004, 06:39 PM
Thanks. I know it is all those wonderful little details that make the impression really work. And thanks for mentioning some I had not even thought about.
Looks like I get to do what I do best- research!
I hope to meet both you and your husband at an event soon.
06-01-2004, 10:36 AM
May I ask some of your resources for your tickets? The idea has inspired me. We do an event on a train (more main stream interprutation than immersion) where the train supplies the tickets. But, if I have been traveling a distance more I may have other train tickets and stage tickets with me. And I love the travel journal idea. How divine!
06-01-2004, 12:26 PM
May I ask some of your resources for your tickets?
The train tickets were from an http://www.google.com search.
The lines and where they ran, cost, lay overs, etc. came from a Documenting of the American South link to: Hill & Swayze's Confederate States Rail-road & Steam-boat Guide, Containing the Time-Tables, Fares, Connections and Distances on all the Rail-roads of the Confederate States; also, the Connecting Lines of Rail-roads, Steam-boats and Stages. And will be Accompanied by a Complete Guide to the Principal Hotels, with a Large Variety of Valuable Information: J. C. Swayze. 90p. Griffin, Georgia: Hill & Swayze, Publishers, 1862
I also used the Making of America project, diaries, and other accounts of travel.
Hope this helps!
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