Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bennett Place

Last night we had a family movie night and watched Wreck-it Ralph while eating homemade pizza. Then the girls begged to sleep on the top bunk together because it wasn't a school night, so I let them—on the condition that we not hear any fighting. Surprisingly, they pulled it off.

In the morning they didn't come into our bed to wake us up but instead quietly closed our door and then they turned on the computer and started hopping around Netflix: Angelina Ballerina, Special Agent Oso, Jake and the Neverland Pirates. They were having a grand ol' time and by the time I woke up our household was running rather behind schedule.

We managed to get out the door with barely enough time to get to ballet. I had skipped breakfast while I frantically ran around the house putting things together (ballet bag, picnic lunch, buns in girls' hair, and so on) so I was enjoying a piece of cold pizza in the car when I remembered, about half way to ballet, that I hadn't grabbed the ballet bag.

"Did you grab the ballet bag?" I asked Andrew.

He had not. He'd grabbed the cooler. I'd grabbed the diaper bag. 

"Did anyone grab the ballet bag?" I asked.

"I was too busy getting into the car," Rachel said. "I didn't think of it."

So we turned around to get the ballet bag. And were a good twenty minutes late to ballet, which was fine. The girls had fun. And at the end of the lesson they dragged me (and the other mom) in so that we could all do the Mexican Hat Dance together (they didn't learn the Mexican Hat Dance at ballet; Rachel learned it at kindergarten and has been dying to show me how to do it). It was fun.

Rachel was sure to tell her teacher that we'd watched television on Friday night and that in the morning she and Miriam woke up and...watched more television! She was so excited about it. She's always excited about TV and tells everyone whenever she gets a good show in so often it sounds like all we do is watch TV when in reality Rachel hardly ever has time for TV and is just excited to get to watch a show ever. (For her entry on spring break in her journal she wrote, "I watched TV for spring break. What did you do? I love spring break! Do you? I do! I love TV. Do you? I do!" Seriously—we did much more than just watch TV over spring break!)

After dance we headed for Bennett Place. I read somewhere that Memorial Day was started after the Civil War ended and Andrew agreed with me that it would be fun to visit Bennett Place on Memorial Day for that reason. 

Before today I couldn't have told you off the top of my head why Bennett Place was important (but in my defense I had one US history course in high school and I took American Heritage at UVSC and that basically sums up my formal school in American history—except I think I also had a unit on the United States in grade three as well). So, for those of you who didn't know Bennett Place was very important during the Civil War. It's where General Sherman and General Johnston met to negotiate the surrender of the Confederate Army. 

I don't know why it didn't ring a bell. Appamattox did—I'm positive that was on a test in high school—but Bennett Place didn't. I guess when I think "Bennet" I'm more inclined to think of Pride and Prejudice than the Civil War. Same century; wrong continent. 

Bennett Place is where the largest surrender of the Civil War took place: Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas all surrendered at once. Louisiana and Alabama would follow by the end of the summer. I suppose the message "You already lost the war. Stop killing each other. Just surrender." took a while to travel. 

Anyway, we're here now, 148 years later (the final shot was actually fired on my 1865), living in relative harmony (except for these people) and remembering the men and women who died (750,000+ soldiers in the Civil War alone) to maintain our liberties.

We chose the perfect day to visit Bennett Place. It happens that today was a day of "living history" at Bennett Place and we saw demonstrations from soldiers throughout American History: the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, and Vietnam.

It was pretty neat. There were tents and booths set up all over the place and actors were inside all the buildings on site, as well as wandering around throughout the park.

Rachel and Miriam both loved this booth and wanted to buy dresses. But we told them no. Because our dress-up box is bursting at the seams. 

They had fun poking around all the soldiers' tents though.

I'm pretty sure all the equipment is own privately—these people do things like this as a hobby and were quite excited to get to show it off. They do reenactments or play small roles in movies and things like that.

I was almost expecting a Civil War something-or-other to be going on, since Memorial Day was "officially" celebrated after the Civil War, but it was nice...if not anachronistic...treat to have soldiers from every era wandering around.

A WWII nurse clears the field while a Revolutionary Soldier guards the cannon
We went into the buildings first because the girls love to wander through old houses like this. We stood in the room where General Sherman passed General Johnston the telegram informing them both that President Lincoln had been assassinated. We saw the table that one general or the other used as a hard surface to sign the papers detailing the terms of surrender. That's kind of crazy to think about, but at the same time...

This is not that room wasn't even 150 years ago.

My friend Molly just got back from a cruise to Europe and was laughing to us all at book club about how Europeans are surrounded by years of history. Castles and art and amazing things and they just walk past them like they're normal. And in America we gawk at things just 100 years old like they're ancient history. And her observations were pretty accurate, though I do know many Europeans who are fascinated with their history and many American who couldn't care less about theirs.

After wandering through the Bennett estate, we sat on super hard benches to watch the demonstrations. It was freezing today (okay—so it was only a little chilly) so by the end of the show (for lack of a better word) all three children were bundled up in burp cloths. Benjamin was the most cozy since his whole body can still be contained in a single burp cloth, and because his was in the front carrier. Miriam did alright with hers—she sat in the stroller, pulled her knees up to her chin, and wrapped the burp cloth over her knees. Poor Rachel was tugging the blanket from around her shoulders to her knees, then pulling it back up over her shoulders. She couldn't decide which half of her to keep warm.

Clearly we should have brought sweaters, but I just didn't think of it since it's been so warm. But at least Benjamin has reflux so we're always toting plenty of burp cloths!

Rachel, with a burp cloth cape, and Andrew collecting bullet shells
We learned quite a bit during the demonstrations, like that poisonous gasses were so common place by the end of WWI that soldiers all carried gas masks at all times, right on their chests. Who knew?

Their guns were very loud, which they warned the audience about, but Miriam wasn't expecting them to be quite as loud as they were. She was so scared that she kept her hands over her ears for the duration of the show. So about an hour.

The four gentlemen in the middle are wearing the uniforms of the War of 1812. The blue jackets were for the federal army, the white jackets were for state militias. The men on either side are playing soldiers of the American Revolution.

The jackets were issued by George Washington, though the rest of the ensamble was allowed personal flair. This particular man's ancestors were from Scotland (the Kennedy clan) and so he's wearing a cap made of the Kennedy tartan and has a Scottish sword at his side. Apparently the three feathers in his cap were evidence of his leadership (in Scotland clans chiefs wear three feathers).

Patriots (freedom-fighters) would place a bit of paper in their hats while Loyalists (Brit-lovers) would put a twig in theirs. That was the only means they drummed up to signal whether they were for or against the revolution and seeing as it was rather discrete signal there were many soldiers killed by friendly fire.

The gentlemen acting as soldiers from the War of 1812 demonstrated their guns for us, though the middle guy had a little bit of trouble with his gun (and everything else; I'm pretty sure this was his first time or something).

Next up was the cannon demonstration from the Revolutionary War. We kept jumping back and forth through time, it was hard to keep track of which war we were on, especially when they ended up being two men short to run the cannon. As luck would have it two of the actors playing soldiers from WWI were also trained on Revolutionary weaponry so they jumped in to fill the shoes of the absentees, except they didn't have their Revolutionary outfits with them.

Their Captain explained about how important artillerymen were. They needed an education to run the cannons (they needed to be literate and have basic math skills, at least) and were quite unexpendable.

"You had men out there shooting muskets and things and if they got killed you could just put their weapon in another man's hands and send him on out to the front. But the artillerymen—they were different. They were well-trained and irreplaceable. We put some of our best men behind the cannons. We even put some men from the future out there today. That's about how important artillerymen are."

He was pretty funny.

He told us that the goal of cannonballs is not to hit your target but to drop into your target. If you hit your target you do a little damage to the structure but if you drop into your target and then explode you do much more damage. The difficult thing was timing the fuse properly. The fuses were wooden and hand-carved. They'd be wedged into the cannonball after it was filled with powder/projectiles. It would have to be placed so that the fuse would be lit before it was blasted out of the cannon and then you would hopefully have timed/aimed it properly so that it would land inside the fortress you were attacking before exploding. 

So, as artillerymen were adjusting their aim and perfecting their timing as they were honing in on their target, they'd make a lot of mistakes. Bombs would go off before hitting their target, often right in the air. 

"Francis Scott Keyes was sitting in his room in 1814, thinking of his impending doom, as these bombs are going off in the air above his head and he doesn't realize, as he scratches out those words, that he's writing about a series of mistakes. He paid tribute, folks, in what would become our national anthem, to our terrible aim."

Did I already tell you that guy was funny? He was. 

This guy was a little more serious about his history, though he had his funny moments, too:

He talked about the Civil War. The Confederate Army dressed in the grey and the Union Army dressed in blue (the colour that was officially taken up for our national army during the war of 1812). It was a complicated war with, as they stressed time and again, "brother fighting against brother."

I've been trying to figure out if any of my ancestors fought in the Civil War. I don't see how they could've gotten out of it—Georgia and Florida were swarming with my ancestors in the 1860s. So far I've found a search engine at the National Parks Service, but it doesn't offer much information other than a name match.

Daniel Duggar (born 4 Sep 1844 in Thomas County, Georgia (died in Hosford, Florida) would've been 17 when the Civil War began. I can't find him in either Confederate or Union databases at FamilySearch in either Georgia or Florida.

Christopher Columbus Kyle Jr (born 19 Apr 1815 in Alabama (died in Hosford, Florida)) is difficult to find, too. I found a Christopher C. Kyle who served in the fifth infantry, but he was 16 in 1862, while my Christopher would've been coming up on 50. Christopher H. Kyle is 50, but I don't think he's my man, either. The Alabama records yield no results for a Christopher Kyle.

Robert Colvin was interesting. He was born about 1830 in Quincy, Florida. I actually found a Robert Colvin in the 2nd regiment of the Florida Infantry but I can't find any information about his age or birthplace. He was a Union soldier, though, which I thought was interesting. There's also this Robert Colvin and this Robert Colvin. Frankly, there's not enough information to go on.

N. Barfield or Nicholas Barfield or Nicholas Roundtree Barefield, he was born in Georgia about 1828. There were so many records matching his name that I'm sure he fought. Again, I just don't know which record belongs to him (or if one does at all).

Jonathan (or Jack) W. Duggar of Florida? Here's there quite a bit, too, as is William Joseph Chason (though it seems he may have gone by his middle name).

At any rate, I had several ancestors in the area who were of age when the Civil War was going on. It was such a gruesome war, I can hardly imagine my ancestors escaped it entirely.

I did find a few gems while hunting around my family tree. Elizabeth Mims, my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother was from North Carolina. And a some-odd-great-aunt was named WealthyAnn. And that's not even exactly an uncommon name from the time period. Andrew said he's totally up for naming our next daughter WealthyAnn (or some variation thereof—Wealthian, anyone?).

Anyway, by the time the Civil War rolled around, most of our ancestors had already converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and had pioneered their way across the country to Utah. My paternal grandmother's side was still in the south and others of our ancestors simply hadn't immigrated to the United States yet. But a bunch of our relatives were in the Mormon Battalion.

On Andrew's side there was Philemon Merril (2nd Lt. in Company B). I'm sure there are others from his side but I didn't find any others on the roster as I was going through his family tree.

On my dad's side there's Christopher Layton. He served with Shedrack Holdaway and George Washington Hancock (from my maternal grandfather and maternal grandmother's sides, respectively). All three were in Company C.

Levi Ward Hancock (my 4th-greath-uncle) served in company E as a musician. He played the fife.

I used to always think that was a bit of a wimpy job (no offense to all the fife players I know (Hi, Emily!)) but listening to the lecture about The History of Taps completely changed my point of view. I learned so much!

Music, of course, was communication. This was prior to the telephone or walkie-talkies or anything like that. There were 50 standard tunes that drummers/buglers/fifers needed to know in order to get their troops in line. They were in on all the top-secret meetings so that if their commanders were killed, they could continue to call the shots since they knew which tunes to play when in order to keep the soldiers doing what the commanding officers had mapped out.

I had never thought of army musicians that way before. The History of Taps was interesting, too.

We were ready to go after listening to all that history; we just couldn't take the chilliness of the shade or the hardness of the benches anymore. We skipped the section on the Spanish-American War, which Rachel might never forgive us for.

She was so funny telling Grandma about our adventure. We were trying to get her to talk about her favourite part (which was a toss up between the cannon and the music) she said, "There were guns! And drums! And something else named after a snack...I can't remember what it's called."

A bugle.

Anyway, we were excited to get off of those hard benches and into the warm sunshine where we learned about some domestic tasks on the homefront. Here's a woman making some garment tape—like ribbon or whatnot to tie aprons and hats on.

She was using a big complicated loom, but frankly the weave looked very similar to the friendship bracelets I made in elementary school. I was a couple hundred years too late to have that skill prove remotely useful.

Here's Rachel and Andrew examining a cannon at the artillery tent:

There were tents set up all over the place!

We were even featured on the Bennett Place facebook page.

We're so famous. I mean, first the girls are on the front page of the local newspaper and now this?! It's like we're being stalked by paparazzi. We're absolutely famous.

And, wow, look at my posture. Or don't, rather. That's what I get for wearing a baby and a backpack.

Here's a look at Bennett Place with the Tribute to Unity:

And another one with my cute family walking up to it:

And here's Rachel reading all about Bennett Place:

It's fun to have another reader in our house! She reads everything she can. We even played the alphabet game in the car on the way to Bennett Place (finishing up just as we were pulling into the parking lot (we were so lucky there was a sign with a Z on it right there)) as an active participant. That will make road trips more fun!

After we read the plaque at the Tribute to Unity, we left to have a picnic by the parking lot.

The girls had a lot of fun balancing on the stumps that surrounded the picnic tables.

They're eating some lemon thyme cookies I made. I used a recipe I found online because I couldn't find the recipe I got at the herb class I took back in September. The cookies I made weren't as lemony as I remembered, which is easily explained now that I have the recipe for the cookies I tried in my class. The recipe online calls for 1.5 teaspoons of lemon thyme. The recipe the teacher sent me calls for half a cup of lemon thyme. That's a big difference. Still, the cookies were good. I'll have to wait for my plant to grow a little bigger before making the cookies for real though.

We made several treks back to the information center/museum in order to use the facilities. Rachel went once and Miriam went twice. Andrew took Miriam the first time and I took Miriam the second time.

On the way she told me, "When I grow up I want to be a Civil War Fighter."

That's certainly an interesting dream job for a three-year-old. I'm not sure she came away from the demonstration with the lesson she was supposed to.

When I opened the front door and stepped into the lobby the receptionist behind the desk picked up her little clicker-counter, then paused.

"Do you just keep coming in and out?" she asked.

"Yes," I admitted, a little flustered. "We're having a picnic out at the tables in the front and our girls keep needing to go to the bathroom."

"Okay, that's fine," the lady said. "I just didn't want to keep counting you."

"We'll probably be back in after we're finished with our picnic so we can walk through the museum," I warned her and then she launched into this informational diatribe about the exhibit in the museum while Miriam was standing beside me obviously doing the pee-pee dance and I tried time and again to butt into the conversation to remind her that I was on the way to the restroom with a child.

It was rather awkward for a while there and I was afraid that Miriam was going to make a puddle on the carpet. But we made it out of that situation in fine (and perfectly dry) condition.

We stopped at the grocery store to stock up on some things before heading home for dinner—a barbecue on the back deck, with corn on the cob and fruit salad. We ate outside, which the girls are always excited to do, and then the girls begged, once again, to sleep on the top bunk together (which is where they are now for the third night in a row). Having school start again is going to be a blow to their  extended slumber party, although if they're going to go to bed so nicely in the same bunk, I hardly see the merit of separating them back into their own bunks.


  1. Before I read any further I had to say, YOU were chilly yesterday? Ha...I remember reading that you went swimming recently when all the people were telling you the water was freezing so it struck me funny that you thought yesterday was chilly. To be honest, I was chilly yesterday morning, but by afternoon (bright and sunny, high 74), I'd warmed up. Zach and I sat under a shade tree during a Memorial Day service in downtown Mebane. By the time you move from NC, you'll maybe be like the locals thinking winter is actually cold when it's not by Canadian and/or Utah standards. :)

    I always enjoy reading about your adventures. I learn quite a lot from your posts and it's more interesting than a history or botany or linguistic lesson on my, thanks! :)

  2. I always feel smarter after you go somewhere cool. :) in other news, biggest burp cloths ever!

    1. I suppose they're technically "receiving blankets" but all they receive is spit up, so...

    2. All they receive is spit up! :o) I am chuckling over here.

  3. OK, I'm, that is interesting about music. I haven't thought of that before.

    I love what that guy said about Francis Scott Key and the bombs...hehehe.

    Also, I rather like your Bible-themed named, but Wealthian has a certain nice ring to it, I guess.

    Oh, now I read that you found warm sunshine. Sorry for what I said earlier, but I hadn't read all the way through. When Zach and I found shade, we were glad for it. Maybe it's because I'd been at the park with him and pushing him in the stroller beforehand...

    LOL @ bugles being named after a snack. :)

    It's amazing how famous you Heisses have become in Durham! Cute picture!

  4. Once upon a time my mother was showing a couple of missionaries some photos from a recent trip to England, and she was telling them about a historic house they visited when one of the elders exclaimed "that house is older than America!"

  5. So, it turns out that Andrew, who claimed to have no relatives in "these parts" during the Civil War actually *did.*

    His third-great-grandfather, James Charles Akers (Keo-Pat-Pat-Reid), was living in Iowa, and it seems he joined up with the Union Army. His company (regiment 19, company H) was organized in Keokuk, Iowa...and he named his daughter Keo...