Friday, October 30, 2009

WWI and the Dog with an Overactive Imagination

     Last week we concluded our study of World War I.  I did not think I would enjoy studying this war, yet I admit it was extremely interesting.  TOG notes and recommended books did an excellent job of clearly explaining the intricate web of alliances that led to the Great War.  In fact, our history lessons have been foreboding the impending gloom in Europe for many weeks (from all the way back in Year 3 Unit 4). The children have sat at the dinner table, explaining the complexities of the beginning of the war with their dad, by their own initiative.  They also explained the uniqueness of the war due to changing technology from trenchwarfare to the use  of chemical warfare.  When my husband was in the military, he used to bring his gas mask home to clean inbetween exercises. (There is nothing like walking into the powder room and finding this eerie "face" staring up at you from the sink.)  We continue to make connections from the past to the present.

     One of the most fascinating aspects of the war that we studied was the continued development of the airplane.  Initially, enemies in the air would shoot guns at each other. That led to technology to attach the gun to the plane, yet there was the problem of the bullets deflecting off the propellers back into the plane.  That led to more technology to synchronize everything so that the bullets fire inbetween rotations of the propellers.  We also learned about the WWI flying aces, most notably the Red Baron. At last, the Red Baron is more than a Snoopy cartoon and a man on a pizza box.

     My children have not seen a Peanuts cartoon in years, so they do not remember Snoopy and his imaginative exploits in the air with his doghouse. Those scenes used to be my absolute favorites in the Peanuts cartoons. I guess I have a thing for dogs who like costumes and have an overactive imagination. It was funny in that during our weekly Socratic Discussion on WWI and the airplanes, I kept trying to link Snoopy to the Red Baron but my kids couldn't remember those scenes.  I finally thought to google and I found an old Snoopy scene from Peanuts.  We watched several, including some newer ones. After watching a few, my kids agreed with me, the classic Snoopy flying through the air on his doghouse from a clip from Peanuts was the best! It's from YouTube and titled, "Baron versus Beagle: The Original 'Dogfight'."

     It was especially nice to do something lighthearted after reading about all the heaviness of this war, which used completely different battle techniques resulting in hopeless stalemates and death. Unlike previous wars where the men got out and met face to face, did the job of combat and the survivors moved on, for the first time men sat and waited in trenches with stalemate battles, hoping the fog of chemicals would not appear on the horizon.  We also watched All Quiet on the Western Front, which is heavy with everything we had read about in our history books about dismal, dreary disgusting unsantitary life in the trenches, chemical warfare, flamethrowers, rats, disease, hunger...It was real, it really happened, and the peace talks only kept the pot simmering until it boiled over into the Second World War.  After all that dreariness and reality, it was nice to take a step back and be a little lighthearted for a bit.  This is extremely important to remember, in this era where kids have to grow up fast in an ever changing society and while learning difficult dark history, to allow kids opportunities to just be kids.   

     I always figured there was more to the story of the Red Baron.  It was interesting to learn how the airplane was further developed during the war and how the Red Baron became classic.  The excellence of the Red Baron made history and is classic to this day, even influencing a dog with an overactive imagination!   

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Shenandoah National Park Skyline Drive

     Our first autumn in Virginia has arrived!  A few weeks ago we had five days straight of rainy 45 degree days. brrr  My husband insisted on taking me tree shopping on two of those days and I am sorry to say that I mutineed on him. As much as I enjoy gardening, I am close minded to it when it is bitterly cold. I am sure any northerners reading this are going to laugh, but I have lived in Louisiana, Hawaii and Texas all of my life. Now living in Northern Virginia has been a new experience. If this is autumn, what is winter going to be like? 

     Last Saturday was warmer, but extremely rainy. It was a cozy day to sew.  Then Sunday arrived with cloudless blue skies and true autumn cool (not frigid) weather. The kids hit dad up for a drive to the mountains.  I sat back and smiled as I listened to the discourse.  

Kids: Dad, can we drive to the mountains today?

Dad: Why?

Kids: So we can see the colors!

Dad: Let's wait for nice weather to see the colors.

Kids: It is nice weather! The sun is out.  

Son: I didn't realize the colors were changing until I saw all the colors in the mountains in the distance.

Daughter: If we don't go now, the leaves will be all gone.

Son: I have never seen the colors before, Dad. Besides, you said you wanted to see the autumn colors in the mountains.

Dad: Hmmmm, what does your teacher say about your school work? Are you behind on any schoolwork?

Mom: The colors can be school today. This is their first year to see the colors. I've only seen them once before.  If we don't see them now, I'm afraid the leaves will drop by next weekend.

Dad: Okay, we'll go.

We decided to drive out to Shenandoah National Park's Skyline Drive. We drove over 3000' in elevation.  That was sort of funny to us, because we've driven over 14,000' in Colorado.  Nevertheless, the views were gorgous. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Revolutionary City Autumn 2009

           After touring the Costume Design Center, we walked to the historic area and ate lunch, got the ball for my son's trap game he got for his birthday, then I asked the kids what they'd like to do for the rest of the day. My daughter wanted to do Revolutionary City. Really? My son even liked that idea. I couldn't believe this! Sometimes I'll suggest going to see a specific scene to help them remember a specific point about our country's history and they'll say, "But Mom, we've already seen that scene." Now they were looking forward to RC of their own free will! 

    While waiting for RC, this Mrs. Randolph, wife to Peyton Randolph, came over to talk to  my daughter. She asked her where her brother was. Across the street. (How did she know about him?) Then she asked if we were in town to enroll him in the College of William and Mary. My daughter said no. Mrs. Randolph asked how old he was. When we said 14, she said that was a good age to start, but some who are quite bright start as early as 8. She figured my son could be in that category, as he strikes her as the philosophical type. (This was uncanny. She has him perfectly pegged, but how does she know that?  Was she sort of guessing to strike up conversation because we are guests?) I told her he does keep us on our toes at home, constantly talking to prove a point. He reminds us a bit of Patrick Henry. Oh, she said once that man starts talking he never stops. (That sounds exactly like my son, although I think the historic area has been spared much of my son's verbosity.)  I like how her dress matches the autumn colors.  The CDC does such a nice job coordinating colors.      



     We were surprised by some new things we saw in RC.  My son told me one of the guests walked up to him and said she saw him on the EFT. That surprised me, because he wore a different costume than usual, mixing up a few elements and he took his glasses off for the show.  The kids got a lot of attention from the actors.  It was funny when we walked by Alexander Purdie, the printer of the Virginia Gazette.  He gave my son the same look a certain British officer held for ransom in the Mary Stith house gave him. Before the slave scene, one of the slaves came to us and looked at us really seriously.  He asked if we owned slaves.  We said no. He came closer to us and spoke softly and asked, "Can I trust you?" We said yes. He softly said that there was a slave meeting behind the Coffee House. I cannot do justice to how he engaged us, but it was fun. When we went behind the Coffee House there was another slave there who gave her courtesies to the kids and then asked my daughter if she had seen Kate yet. My daughter stood there and talked to her for a few minutes before the beginning of the scene. 

      




 

Here are some more burgesses. That is Patrick Henry on the left. I think Richard Henry Lee is in the center.  And I think Robert Carter Nicholas is on the right.


 Here is Lord Dunmore and I think his aide. Being the British govenor for Virginia, he is dressed the fanciest of all.



Here is a close up of John Randolph and his wife.  We've noticed that the Randolph family is usually color coordinated.

's

  We noticed Mann Page had a new costume, at least to us. The first thing the kids said when they saw him was, "He's wearing blue today!"  Can you tell we were costume fixated that day! 



      In the final scene, cannon shots are fired.  My son has been on a quest to get the perfect picture of the cannon firing.  Specifically he wants to show the fire coming out of the cannon. Well it's not the best coloring and clarity, but for the first time ever, he got the fire!



How in the world did he get that shot?  After the scene we were walking down the Duke of Gloucester Street, heading for home and a return to the 21st century. While walking down the street, my son excitedly showed me all his pictures of the cannon firing.



     While showing me the pictures, Mann Page walked up to say goodbye to him. Mann Page made an infamous 100 mile (I think) horseback ride during the revolution, relaying important news from Fredericksburg to Williamsburg, and then back again.  

     

Friday, October 23, 2009

Silversmith's Filigree Work

    While waiting for RC, we stepped into the silversmith shop where they were making beautiful filigree.



    She explained the grids in the floor behind her (and under her) were to catch all the bits of silver she'd file away. Every few years that is swept up, shipped to England where they have factories to melt down the shavings and purify the metal. Instead of shipping the metal back, they are given credit in England. It is interesting how England kept their colonies dependent on them.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Visiting the Costume Design Center at Colonial Williamsburg

Tuesday the kids and I went to Colonial Williamsburg to visit the Costume Design Center's (CDC) 75th anniversary open house.

Wow! Can you imagine me in there?  What an opportunity!  Actually, when we arrived at the CDC, I was overwhelmed. There was so much to see.  

     We started in Operations.  Look at all those costumes!

 

On the other side of the room were all of these!

 

I didn't get a picture of it but my favorite was a gorgeous ball gown that was laid out, in the process of being sewn. This dress caught my eye.  I stood there looking at it, then looked at one of the costumers and asked if it was a maternity dress.  Yes!  I've never seen anyone wearing one of these in the historic area! 



     I asked if the ladies wore stays while pregnant and she said yes. I can't imagine.  I hear stays are quite comfortable and help a lady to keep her posture. In fact, there are stays for babies!  All of the ladies in the historic area wear stays.  It provides a completely different shape than our 21st century look. I didn't get any pictures, but stays can be quite decorative.  Being in the historic area so much, and analyzing the costumes as I always do, I've recently realized how common it is to see parts of the shifts, petticoats and stays.  Also the bodices are pinned into the stays!  Recently I was shocked while talking to a reenactor during Prelude to Victory when she unpinned her bodice to show and explain elements of her stays.  She assured me it was okay.  Well, if she says so. We talked a bit about modesty, since these bodices are a bit revealing. She said the main modesty issue back then were the elbows and knees. One of the coachmen has been after me for showing my elbows (gasp) and has asked why I don't wear my proper dress.    My son has agreed with him, since he's been after me to wear a costume like he and his sister. Can you believe I haven't worn one yet?

    I got tips on sewing a new costume for my son, who wants historically accurate breeches, coat, vest, shirt and cravat.  Specifically he wants to be the son of a gentry plantation owner. I got to talk to several costumers, including one I met a few weeks ago. She assured me that I can sew breeches. Hmmmm, I'm not so sure. Look at these! They have flaps and buttonholes and lacing everywhere! Also it is important to make them fitting to the body around the knee and thigh (lower thigh) with more room above.  



  She has sewn lots of the men's costumes so I'm thinking that's easy for her to say! =)  Additionally the waistcoat (vest) is cut in such a way to cause a man to have correct posture. I mentioned to her that with all the costumes I made for my kids' history presentations, I have had some surprisingly unusual pattern pieces and methods of assembly, as compared to 21st century patterns.  She said that's precisely due to the differences in fashion and body shape in the past.  She also encouraged me, as has the milliner and reenactor and perhaps the tailor, that I start with muslin for the fitting and use that as a fitting. When the milliner tried to explain this to me last July, I was overwhelmingly confused.  I suppose with time to think about it and time to skim through a CW costume book helped me to understand when a reenactor who has sewn 18th century clothes explained the process to me. Sooooooo m-a-y-b-e I can do this.  

Our next stop was Research and Design.  There were costumes all over this room too!





In the corner was the computer with the CAD program, where they design specially fitted patterns for those employees who have such a shape that a generic pattern doesn't work for them.

I think this was some of the embroidery work. 



This table had hand drawn patterns (a stunning work of art) and notebooks full of information for costume design for the Electronic Field Trips!  Suddenly this became my favorite display.     



Then we went to see Accessories.  Speaking of "Will of the People," here are some of the costume accessories from that EFT.

 

Here's some from theater. Check out the boat on top of the wig!



Oh my, you won't believe what I found!  Some of the very accessories I desperately tried (and failed) to recreate for my son's Lafayette costume were on the table.  This was now my favorite display!  We had so much fun here, oohing and aahing. We were allowed to touch the accessories. This was incredible.  Here's the picture and let me go one by one describing our favorites.



 My son got excited about the dragoon's helmet. It's the one that looks like a horse tail is coming from the top (that's to represent the horse that the dragoon's ride).  I picked it up to hand over to my son and I was surprised at how heavy it was.  Does anyone get a headache from wearing this?










 I saw the round cream colored hat, walking cane, gloves and pocket watch.  "Are those George Washington's?" I asked.  Yes!  I've read about the leather gloves before. My son and I admired how soft they were.  

   

 Then we got a peek around the corner to see a costumer who I think was weaving trim for the ball gowns. I wasn't able to get a good look due to all the people crowded around her.  There was another lady doing quill work on leather leggings for the American Indian costumes.  



 I stepped out of the room for a few moments and when I returned, I found my son at the table talking to the costumer at the accessory table where the epaulettes were.  I went to them and they said I needed to make a white stock for him. Yes, the sewing list is growing...



 We went back to the Operations room and who came over to talk to my son, but his favorite actor, who portrays Lafayette. He has been so kind to acknowledge my son on every visit we've made recently. We had a great time talking to him!  He is a real machine gun of information, which is one of the reasons why we admire his work.
       
 Then we went upstairs and saw the "stock," which were piles of all the costumes. The entire walls from floor to ceiling had rows and rows of neatly stacked pants and breeches, shirts, etc of every size imaginable. It is up here that new employees get their costumes. If a new costume had been made for an employee, the fittings take place up here.  



Here are the sleeve ruffles. Actually the shirt and neckware seem easy enough, if I can just remember the right combination. It's the breeches, waistcoat (vest) and coat that worry me.  Well, one thing at a time. Let's see, how many items are now on the sewing list?



Saturday, October 17, 2009

CW EFT: Emissaries of Peace and my Kids' Opportunity to Skype for theLive Broadcast

     This past week was the first Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trip of the season, "Emissaries of Peace."  The award winning EFTs are made affordable for homeschoolers through Homeschool Buyer's Co-op. For this EFT, my kids were offered a wonderful opportunity to use Skype to be on the air with the live broadcast.

     Monday we read the background history for "Emissaries of Peace."  Set during the French and Indian War, we learned about the British emissary, Lt. Henry Timberlake to the Cherokee Indians.  Timberlake wrote memoirs of his work as an emissary. Today this primary source document is a window to the past of Cherokee life.  After reading and discussing the history,  we watched the video segments, bringing the pages of history to life. 

     Tuesday we went over the activities together, comparing various aspects of Cherokee life and British colonial life in the 18th century. Then the kids played the two activities on their computers. One was about the peace treaty process.  First there was a cool interactive map which showed how Cherokee land dwindled over the years with each successive treaty. Then they went through a sort of timeline of peace treaties, where they got to see Cherokee opinions of the peace treaty.  Next they got to select the terms they would offer for the peace treaty, which would be presented to the King.  If the wrong choices were made, as in not enough concessions, the kids had to renogotiate the treaty. The second activity was an interactive timeline.  The kids got to choose events that they thought caused the Trail of Tears to take place. That was a great higher level thinking activity.

     During these lessons, I told the kids to think of the question they'd like to e-mail to Henry Timberlake. They also did the on-line vote, the results of which are discussed during the live broadcast on Thursdays.  During the live broadcasts, students get to call in questions to ask the actor/interpreters and historians.  Video questions can also be sent ahead of time. Additionally, e-mail questions are sometimes selected. Several of my kids' e-mail questions made the live broadcast last year.

     Late Tuesday afternoon, I received a surprise e-mail from one of the producers of Colonial Williamsburg's EFTs!  She had read my blog entries about how my kids have enjoyed and done activities using the EFTs. Along with the various types of questions answered during the live broadcast, CW wanted to add a new dimension to the program. They wanted to allow schools to do a sort of visual show and tell over the internet for the live broadcast, using Skype.  They had two schools lined up for each broadcast, one for the morning and one for the afternoon. The school for the morning broadcast had canceled. Would we be interested in filling in? The kids could read a poem, share one of the graphic organizers or share anything related to the EFT.  To participate, we would need to download Skype (which is free) and have a webcam and microphone.

     Wow! What an opportunity! I ran out to tell my husband who was planting my mums.  He was talking to our next door neighbors and they could tell I was about to burst with news! I finally exploded with the news as I told my husband we needed a webcam and microphone. He said he'd go out and buy it after dinner as long as I came with him.  So I ran back inside to tell the kids.  

     I called the kids' to hear the e-mail.  They were dubious. "Mom, we don't have time to put something together!  We have less than two days! We haven't even started any activities." I explained that unlike the unit celebrations we usually do for history, they don't have to carry the entire program.  In fact, they probably had only about a two minute slot for their presentation. The producers know this is short notice and would not expect a masterpiece, although we do want to present a good project. They were increasingly nervous. "But Mom, everyone will see us. The EFT airs on PBS. Everyone will see us."  I laughed and said, "Who reads my blog?  I've gotten e-mails from homeschoolers around the world, right?" They admitted I had a good point.

     Then they said they had no idea what to do. No problem. We looked through my binder of the EFT teacher packet. Flipping through the pages, we looked for inspiration. They wanted to do something interesting. After flipping through the packet, I asked them, "What inspired you or interested you the most about this EFT?" My daughter said she thought it interesting that the Cherokee women in the 18th century had political power, when British women did not. Perfect! Then my son said he wanted to do a skit and open it by mentioning that he had seen Cherokee Indians walking down the street.  During the EFT, we learned that some of the Cherokee came to Williamsburg. When we were at Colonial Williamsburg last weekend, for the first time ever we saw Shawnee Indians walking down the street so my son could relate to that part of the EFT.     

     Now we had a plan!  I had to get dinner and then run out to the store to get the webcam with my husband. I told the kids to write up the skit, starting with a key word outline of the main points, while I prepared dinner. At the dinner table, I asked them to bring what they had written. Hmmmm, not much.  "But Mom, we did it exactly how you taught us."  Last year one of the EFTs was "Making History Live," where the kids learned how to put together a first person interpretation, using a worksheet to write down notes from research. They had been using that worksheet and so far had only established their setting and characters for the skit.  I got a pen and told them I'd be their secretary.  Since my son had previously mentioned opening the skit with the Cherokee who were in town, I asked him what he would specifically say for that.  He was stuck for ideas. I had interrupted his sequential flow of thoughts in character development.  My husband suggested, "Did you see the Cherokee Indians walking through town?" That got the ball rolling. I had the kids suggest lines for their parts, I jotted them down and we were done in about five minutes.  My son replied, "Mom, the language is all wrong. You wrote everything in 21st century language when it needs to be in 18th century language." I explained that this is a rough draft.  While Dad and I were at the store shopping for the webcam, he and his sister could edit the skit and put in the 18th century language. Again they used a sheet that came from the EFT "Making History Live" that lists common phrases in the 18th century.

        My husband and I found a webcam with a microphone built in.  Then we went back home, downloaded Skype, and installed the software for the webcam. After everyone went to bed, I typed out the skit, which now had proper 18th century language. The next morning I printed out 3 copies for each of us and highlighted the parts. Then I had the kids practice their parts, while I suggested ideas for voice inflection. I told the kids not to develop any movements, because they would need to sit down for the skit.  After analyzing all the possible locations to set up the Skype, I decided to set the kids at the  dining room table. That was the only table long enough to give them room to sit side by side and for all of our notes to be spread out.

    At 8:30am, the producer called and we traded usernames for Skype.  We set 2pm for rehearsal.  Also she e-mailed release forms for the kids, which I printed and filled out. Then I drove it to a nearby shop who handle faxes. By the time I had returned, CW had listed me as a contact in Skype, which I approved in Skype. (I think, this was all new! My son says I'm not a gadget girl.  I trusted I would figure things out with help during the rehearsal.) 

     At 2pm, CW EFT called us on Skype. I clicked "Answer with video."  We saw the student hosts! They saw us! We heard the crew! They could not hear us! Oh no!  They assured me that is what rehearsal is for. They tried to talk me through what to do and told me to use the chat.  I saw the chat feature before the video phone call, but now that the video of the student hosts was working, I couldn't see the chat.   The crew was extremely nice and patient. They seem to do a good job reading lips, as I talked out the problems that they couldn't hear.  My son started writing notes to show the camera which made them laugh. I clicked all the little tabs at the top but couldn't find chat. Finally I noticed some icons underneath the video in the same color as the background.  I clicked on the one my son thought was a chat, and there was the chat. I typed, "Help!" and they laughed!  Now we could communicate. They had been telling me that our microphone must be set to mute. I typed in that we had a microphone built into the camera and in the settings, it was not set to mute. They told me to open "Preferences." I could not find that anywhere.  I clicked on everything but it was not to be found. I did find "Options" so I clicked on that.  All of the audio settings looked good so I typed that to them. Then I noticed a device that looked unfamiliar. I clicked the little arrow to the right and underneath was listed the device (webcam) my husband and I had purchased the night before.  I selected the one we had purchased and I lost the video and audio of CW. I typed that into the chat, so they called us back.  I answered the call with the video. We saw the student hosts! They saw us! We heard the crew! They heard us!  "Yea!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!," my daughter and I cheered. (We should have yelled "Huzzah!")  Everyone laughed. My son told me to calm down.  Oh, it was such a relief to conquer the audio!

     I got up so the kids to take their places.  They were told to wave after their skit. Then they were asked what inspired them to do this topic. That took them by surprise, but my daughter gave an excellent answer. The director told the kids to add that in before the skit. That sort of confused them, so the director suggested that the student hosts could ask after the skit. That became the plan.  The live broadcast would be the next morning at 10am Eastern time.  CW EFT would call us on Skype ten minutes before.  Here they are acting like they did during the rehearsal after CW EFT hung up...



     Later I got an e-mail, suggesting we trim the skit to allot for the question on how the kids were inspired and keep everything to two minutes. We were asked to trim the part my son had wanted to do about Cherokee justice, and keep the focus on Cherokee women's involvement in government. Although I had tried to talk my son into doing this very thing the night before, he insisted on keeping it. When he heard what the producer and director had asked, he was in complete agreement. He had to admit it was difficult to cram so much information into a few sentences. Now the skit flowed much better!

     The next morning the kids put on their costumes. My daughter had been getting increasingly nervous about answering the question about what inspired her, so her answer got more dragged out and confused. I told her to write down her answer and that took care of the nervousness. She kept her answer next to the script to refer to when needed.  

     At ten minutes to ten, CW EFT called us on Skype.  This time all was good except we couldn't see the student hosts.  They hung up and called us again. Now we could see them. Then they put the kids on pause during the beginning of the program. 

     Meanwhile, I had the television on, yet on mute, so it wouldn't interfere with anything.  I stood between the family room and dining room and told the kids what part of the broadcast was playing.  I knew they were going nuts not knowing what was going on.  

      A few minutes before they went on, the crew activated things, except now we couldn't see the hosts anymore.  So they hung up again and called us back. Everything was good now.       

      During the question and answer segment, the new Skype feature was announced and my kids were introduced. They waved as they had been directed. Then the camera went back to the hosts and the actor/interpreters and historian answering a few questions from students phone called, e-mailed or sent via video tape from across the country. Then my kids were introduced to present their skit. After they read their skit about Cherokee women's involvement in government within their tribes in the 18th century, they waved, as they had been directed. Then one of the hosts asked them what inspired them to present this topic.  My kids gave their answer and they were done! As the show moved on to other questions, the crew told my kids good job and reminded us that they were the first ever CW EFT Skypers! That didn't really sink in until he told us.  That was truely an honor!

     After CW EFT hung up, I took their picture...





     Then they watched the rest of the program on television. At the end of the broadcast, the hosts explained that information at the EFT website is available for other EFT subscribers to be future Skypers.  It's a great experience! 

     After the show, I asked the kids if they had any questions to e-mail Henry Timberlake. We had forgotten all about this in all the excitement! They sent the e-mails and got some terrific answers. 

     My kids had an incredible experience being the first ever CW EFT Skypers. They learned a lot about what goes on behind the scenes, working with time constraints and being part of a team. On top of that, it was a thrill to have this opportunity with Colonial Williamsburg, of which we are huge fans! This will be a memory my kids will always carry with them! Thank you for asking us to do this CW EFT!       

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kitchen Table Window Treatment

This valence is for the kitchen.  I got the fabric off the clearance rack at JoAnn and think I got to use a coupon on top of that. The backing is a silk dupioni I got on clearance at G Street Fabric, also with a coupon. This is the most ambitious window treatment I have ever made.



Thursday, October 15, 2009

Prelude to Victory at Colonial Williamsburg 2009

    For my first birthday since movint to Virginia, I couldn't think of anything more incredible to do than tour the battlefield at Yorktown in preparation for Colonial Williamsburg's annual reenactment of Prelude to Victory, which commemorates the Continental Army gathering in Williamsburg to prepare for the seige on Yorktown. Certain victory under most highly unusual circumstances was certainly at hand and in truth, this battle was the last effective battle of the revolution. Britain told their king, "No more!" 
As soon as we were done with our tour of Yorktown, we drove to Colonial Williamsburg where my son hurriedly called me to join him at the capitol where the traitor Benedict Arnold was speaking to the town he had taken.

 

     A few months after the British occupied Williamsburg, the American and French armies moved in to occupy the town.  Reenacting that time, Prelude to Victory is a special annual event where hundreds of Continental Army reenctors arrive in Williamsburg. 

     Ending Revolutionary City that Friday afternoon, was a special scene to open events for Prelude to Victory weekend.  We assembled at the courthouse where we met the mayor (CW had a mayor?) and General Nelson, whose house we had just visited in Yorktown. This was great! We had never met either one of them before!





Then General Lafayette spoke about why and how he came to fight in America on the American side.  He had been in Williamsburg with his dragoons, awaiting the arrival of Generals Washington and Rochambeau.

 

 

 

     Afterwards we watched the Continental Army arrive in town and set up camp.  Then we went to dinner.

   Being my birthday, my husband made reservations at Christiana Campbell's Tavern and told them it was my birthday.  A historic musician, playing a tiny violin, about 6" long, played several songs for us. Then he walked to our table and explained the traditional "Happy Birthday" song had not yet been written, so he played the 18th century traditional song, "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" which my husband sang.  Later another historic musician played a hurdy-gurdy, a type of guitar that has a hand crank and sounds like a set of bag pipes. Later he came back with a lovely medium sized guitar, walked right over to me and announced he was going to play a popular 21st century tune.  He plucked out "Happy Birthday" while my family sang for me. Now I've been sung to before at a few other restaurants, but this was the most unique. =)

       The next morning we arrived at the Courthouse for roll call.  



 Generals Washington and Lafayette arrived on horses with the dragoons, and joined the other generals in front of the Courthouse. Knowing that Williamsburg had been previously occupied by the British, General Washington assured the town a brief occupation while all the troops gathered, before moving on to Yorktown.



   Here's one of the dragoons...



Generals Washington and Lafayette leave with the dragoons to scout the town.



       Then we went to the Wythe House to meet with the generals. This was a surveyor. It was fascinating to see real equipment and learn how it was used.



Here is another type of survey equipment my son got to inspect.

 

     Colonel Pickering is the quartermaster, in charge of gathering supplies, none of which can be found. He showed us the supply list and explained how it was next to impossible to work with Congress, much less to gather all the necessary supplies and food for so many from so few.  He also showed us the route they had journeyed from New York. When he learned we had recently moved from Texas to Northern Virginia, he realized why we seemed so unfamiliar with the terrain and explained in more clear terms. The importance of supplies came to light while he described the journey.  What happens when his troops come to a bridge? I replied that they have to make sure it is sturdy for all the men. Then he rolled his eyes, handed us his supply list, and asked us where in the world was he to procure these supplies?  (Hmmm, I suppose I can't tell him to talk to Tony Curtis from "Operation Petticoat".)   He was a lot of fun to engage with, as he portrayed a truely exasperated supply officer.  I definitely felt his frustration, which came to life from many of the books I had previously read about how Washington's army was short on supplies.



     Then we met with General Nelson. My husband told him we had been to his house the afternoon before. I had forgotten he thought it was Cornwallis' headquarters.  I knew the enemy was camped close by and I could honestly admit I had been terrified by cannon shot (safely fired from the nearby living history museum). Then I asked him about his double duties as governor of the state while general of the militia. He spent quite a bit of time sharing about this. He didn't seek to become governor. However the delegates felt a need for a strong military presence in the position and selected him.  General Nelson made comment on my son's costume, saying the only other general close in age to him was Lafayette. Lafayette joined the American cause when he was 19. My son said he was merely dressed as such to support the troops.  After we talked a while, General Lincoln, Washington's second in command, came over and asked Governor Nelson to introduce him to the young general.



General Nelson introduced my son as General Lafayette! My son quickly replied, "No, I am here to support the trooops."



 Next we got to meet with General Hand, who was Washington's Chief of Staff.  He oversaw all the other departments. 



While we were talking, guess who arrived?  None other than Generals Washington and Lafayette!

 

General Lafayette announced Washington's presence and gave a brief speech.



 All activity stopped while we stood in awe of the moment. It seemed so real. One doesn't merely chit chat when General Washington is around. General Lafayette told us they didn't come to stop activity. We were to resume what we were doing. That was difficult! Washington inspected the work of the different men.

 

 Finally we pulled ourselves together to resume talking to General Hand.  Before long, we were surprised by an exuberant General Lafayette who quickly strode over to my son and exclaimed something to the effect of,  "My friend, I see you have been promoted to major general! I commend you for that!" My son smiled and replied that he was supporting the troops. Lafayette knodded his head in acknowledgement and said that is to be commended as well.  He asked my son if he had seen the town yet.  No, we had only been here to meet the generals so far.  Ah, Lafayette understood, as it was still early in the weekend. Lafayette said it was important to learn the war strategy and he discussed that at great length.  Then he said it would be good to go around the town to meet the different soldiers, etc, etc, etc.  Hmmmm, was he talking to my son as if he was a general and these were his duties as general?  It sounded a lot like what Lafayette himself was doing!  It finally occured to me I had a great picture moment and took out my camera.  Wow is he observant! He caught me doing that out of the corner of his eye!



 Then without my even asking, he volunteerily stepped over to pose with my son.  Now that I see their costumes side by side I can critique the differences in my son's costume. I used Lafayette's costume as a guide with contemporary patterns I had, which I made last year for him to portray Lafayette for an EFT project on Yorktown at home. My son needs a new costume as right now this is the only one that fits. Nevertheless, this is great to finally have the two of them side by side in the major general costumes, considering that Lafayette's was the inspiration for my son's.  Never did I expect them to stand side by side in similar costumes!  The entire experience was truely wonderful! 

 

     Lafayette left to attend to his other official duties.  We then got to meet the mayor!  I told him we have made many trips to town but had never heard of a mayor of Williamsburg before. I asked if this was something new since the provincial government left. No, there has always been a mayor and he spent quite a bit of time explaining that and various other things to me. One explanation led to another question and it went on and on.  Quite fascinating!



Somehow we got onto the topic of distance of shooting range. Maybe my husband or son was asking that. He said 80 yards was good. Or is it feet?  Hmmmm, anyway, he asked what was a good way to judge that distance. Now this I know!  By the whites of their eyes! Yes! He explained that was not first said at the Battle of Bunker Hill, as it is often credited, but goes back many years. Then I asked about Baron von Steuben's work with the soldiers.   After much discussion of him, the mayor brought out the baron's guide book for soldiers. Ahhh, I remember reading that he was responsible for this important manual which has been used through the years. The mayor offered the book to my husband for his perusal. Now my husband is not really into books, but this book caught his eye.  He flipped through a few pages and recognized some stuff, then he pointed out some differences. That's when things got interesting!

  Colonel Pickering overheard the conversation and he came over and joined the mayor in reeducating my husband in the art of soldiery and trying to convince him to join the militia.  When my husband mentioned that he marched "1-2-3-4" they exclaimed that that made no sense whatsoever. Who has four feet?  Then they found out my husband didn't efficiently right turn or about face.  Colonel Pickering set out to demonstrate for my husband the proper method while the Mayor read from the baron's instruction book...





       After the drills, we decided to leave for lunch.  The family wanted to eat on Botetourt Street, where we saw the generals and the dragoons pass by.

 

After lunch we walked around the camps, where I met a seamstress. I learned how to make buttonholes by hand and we talked extensively about draping for gowns and how to use all of the accessories. I plan to make this a separate blog entry.



We talked to many interesting people and my kids played a lot of colonial games. He was roasting something highly unusual. He asked me to guess what it was and I guessed a cow's udder.  Yes, to render the fat for the soldiers' diet. Can you imagine?



At these tents I met some cooks of more appetizing food. Actually they  cooked for the officers. They had recently roasted a hollowed pumpkin full of apples and spices. 



 Then we went to Revolutionary City which had special scenes just for Prelude to Victory. First we met with General Washington.  Afterwards men were recruited to join the army, and my husband did join. Col. Pickering and the mayor should be delighted. They went through their drills and my husband probably snuck in some 21st century about-faces which were better than some who did 360 degree about-faces!  We missed the next scene about Barbary Hoy, because my kids insisted on going to the print shop to buy a birthday gift for me. However Babary Hoy's story became more real to me after having had talked to the cook for the officers. She said the safest place for them was often in following their husbands in camp. However they were never given tents. They slept wherever they could find a spot. Babary Hoy comes back to Virginia after being a camp follower with her husband, who has been captured in South Carolina. This is a regular scene from RC. 

     

The next scene, "The Court Martial of Private Grant" was emotionally rough to get through. He was accused of treason after nearly killing his officer. 



Although he was able to prove it was not treason, and he acted alone, he admitted to premeditated murder.



Why? Because this officer was having his way with the soldiers' wives of the camp, and was caught by the private with the private's own wife.  Here is his wife surrounded by friends, in tears at her husband's trial.



Angered, the private shot the officer in the eye. He was found innocent of treason but guilty of premeditated murder. He was sentenced to execution. While studying WWI, my kids and I have been discussing this kind of tightened up rules during war time, to keep order in the ranks to remain focused on winning the war.



 After watching another poignant scene, regularly in RC about slaves contemplating escape to freedom, we met Washington in front of the Capital and followed him to the Courthouse for a review of the troops.



There are also some Shawnee Indians in town. More about them later.  Looks like these Indians are helping the Continental soldiers.



Then we followed Washington to the Courthouse for his review of the troops.



There is General Washington, Lincoln and Lafayette.



The next morning we attended the drumhead church service.  Because there is no pulpit in the field for the minister, drumheads are used to represent the pulpit. Baptist preacher James Ireland delivered the sermon while the generals sat in front.



Then Generals Washington and Lafayette joined the dragoons to tour the town.



We returned to the Wythe House to meet with the generals again and met different surveyors. This time I got to talk to a map maker. I've always wanted to see how the art of surveying went hand in hand with cartography. Although I did not enjoy math in school, I always liked geometry and cartography looked like fun. The surveyor admitted to the same and said he found map making to be quite relaxing. General Washington arrived again, alone this time, and inspected each of the projects. He told the surveyor he needed the maps as soon as possible. After Washington left, the surveyor told us maps could be made quite quickly and these particular maps were like today's triptiks from AAA, focusing on the roads themselves.  



    After lunch we met the singer from RC.  He walked by my son and stopped and said, "Yes, we were all wondering what your rank was." He chuckled when he saw the rank and said, "That's pretty good that you made yourself a major general." My son said it was to support the troops. The singer said my son might be a spy for all he knew.  What?  Not my son! He took a close look at the stitching and said it was too precise to be American. He said it looked like it came from Britain. Really? (I stitched it but I'm not British. Afterwards my son came to me and asked if the singer was complimenting me or not. I have no idea!  I was wondering the same thing myself!) We  got to talking about Under the Redcoat and I said my kids were nearly imprisoned. He was surprised to hear that and said he was captured. We said we knew because we were there.  (I blogged all about it!) He told us the real story of why he was captured and that was interesting because we didn't know the details at the time.  He related it to things in our current time. 

    

     Then we met with some officers who were British prisoners of war under house arrest. They have a small bit of freedom about town. The one on the left engaged with my son a lot!  He was a bit laid back and resigned to his condition, and a bit philosophical in that he was able to argue the Continental view alongside the British view. While discussing the Boston Tea Party, he talked about the savages running through the streets and dumping tea into the harbor. He asked my son why the townsfolk did not get upset about the savages running through town. My son simply replied, "Because they were not Indians. They were the men of the town dressed as Indians." The man on the right, who was extremely frustrated at being cooped up and imprisoned, said that was an astute answer. He had been taken prisoner at the Battle of Saratoga (which Benedict Arnold won for America) and was later exchanged. After Arnold became a turncoat, this man fell under his command but he didn't trust him much.  They were very interesting to listen to. 

 

 Next we saw the newest RC program, "So Far from Scioto," about the Shawnee Indians in Williamsburg. Since it is set in a different time frame than Prelude to Victory and because it is a unique program, it deserves a separate blog entry which will be forthcoming.  Afterwards we got to meet with the actors and they were wonderful.



We learned more interesting information about Native American culture. Additionally I discovered one of the actors (the one in the white shirt) had the same educational philosophy that I had and we had a great time talking about that. Then one of their friends, another Native American in 21st century clothes (the one covering the non-historic Denver Broncos logo on his blue shirt), asked me if I had a camera. When I told him yes, he said I should get a picture of my kids with the actors. In fact, he'd stage them. How nice of him! Here they are! My daughter said the man next to her was making her laugh by whispering in her ear, "I bet you're scared of me.  Grrrrrr. No not really. Grrrrr."



 Next we went to Revolutionary City. The first scene was of Loyalists sneaking out of town.



Here's his slave loading the Loyalist's wagon with his personal belongings.



Then we saw a demonstration of the dragoon's skills while Lafayette narrated. 



This was the first we ever saw horsemanship like this demonstrated at CW.





 Lafayette led these dragoons through the war. My daughter and I had gotten separated from my son and husband during the Dragoon event. She and I went behind the Coffee House to wait for the next scene and to wait for my husband and son. When they arrived my son was grinning and said, "Hey Mom, guess what?"  Lafayette had seen him and asked if he had been learning how to be a general and if he was ready to lead his own group of dragoons.  My son told him yes to both.  I knew I could lose my son to the dragoons. He's always had a thing for horses.  

 Afterwards we watched a meeting of the generals as they planned their seige on Yorktown. As Washington arrived at the meeting, there was a loud gunshot. He was told that was the execution of the soldier who had been convicted of premeditated murder the day before.  During this scene, a wagon pulled by horses and followed by soldiers in arms went up the road. The wagon had a casket.    



The next scene, usually seen in RC, was The Promised Land with pastors Gowan Pamphlet and James Ireland. Afterwards we met with General Washington who announced that all of the troops have arrived from the north. They were now prepared to leave Williamsburg and engage with Cornwallis in Yorktown.



 After Washington reviewed the troops at Market Square, the army left town for Yorktown.  Today we know the rest of the story.  America, with France's help, successfully lays seige against the British, Cornwallis surrenders, and England prepares for peace talks which conclude two years later. Yorktown was the final major battle of the American Revolution. Huzzah!