HistoryBuff.com September 2008 Newsletter
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A Full Weekend of History For Free!

A friend told me about a Civil War Muster that would be going on the next weekend in a city near where I live. Still being unemployed and with time on my hands, I decided to go. If nothing else, it would be a good chance to get out of the house and cheap, as in free, entertainment. Not having attended one before, I was unsure of what it involved, but I am glad I went.

While at the muster, I learned that this particular one was the 24th annual in the same town. It had about 2,500 participants this year from not only Michigan, but also Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Kentucky, Illinois, and Tennesee. How about that? It was one of the largest musters in the country in my own backyard and I never knew it!

As I left my car to walk to the muster grounds, the first thing I noticed was the number of cars in the large parking lot. Perhaps as many as 500! As I got closer to the muster grounds I began to see more and more people dressed in Civil War era clothing - even the children and babies in strollers as well. Perhaps as much as 40% of those attending were in Civil War era clothing. A muster is a great way to bring history to life and get children hooked.

The reenactment was the Battle of Wilson's Creek. They started with artillery strikes that were super loud. There were perhaps as many as 50 canonballs shot. From there, troops moved onto the site and began firing. As time went on, more troops entered the scene. In a few cases, some soldiers ran away from their battle line - deserters. Medics entered the battlefield to attempt to give medical help to the injured soldiers while bullets were still firing around them. The battle went on for about an hour. When it was over, dozens of "dead" men were laying on the ground. Then a miracle happened; The dead soldiers were resurrected!

In addition to the battle reenactment on both days, visitors were able to walk around the camp that had been set up by those participating in the battle reenactment and visit with them. The camps were also set like they were in the original Civil War era. There must have been 150 tents and families set up there. Noticeably absent were radios, televisons, VCR/DVD players, electrical hookups, coleman stoves and so forth. The familes camped much like their counterparts did in the 1860s. I also learned from visiting with them that not all Union soldiers wore blue uniforms. Some regiments from Iowa wore gray uniforms even though they fought on the Union side. Others, having no uniforms, wore their normal clothes during battle. Talk about friendly fire!

A special area was set up where you could visit with Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, Stephen Douglas, and General and Mrs. Grant. They were look-a-likes, of course, but gave the impression of being very much like the originals. I also witnessed a recreation of a portion of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. It amazed me that even young children sat quitely through the hour-long debate and did not fidget or keep asking "Can we go now," etc. After the debate, I overheard a boy of about 10 and a girl of about 12 asking the Lincoln's questions. The boy asked Abe how he became a lawyer; The girl asked Mary Todd Lincoln if she missed not having daughters. Civil War musters are an excellent way to get kids interested in history.

Another area was set up to demonstrate medical care given to soldiers in the battlefield. I witnessed a leg amputation and the embalming of a dead Confederate. It was not only interesting but I learned a lot from these demonstrations. Ether was first discovered in 1540! For 300 years it was used only as "entertainment." People would sniff small amounts of the liquid and it would make them light headed and dizzy. Ether parties were often held. In 1846, Doctor William Morton performed his first surgery utilizing ether. Ether was available to doctors in the field during the Civil War. I also learned the origination of the phrase “bite the bullet” came from the Civil War. Frequently, doctors were not able to obtain a supply of Ether in the battlefields. Unlike scenes in movie and television shows, a fresh bullet was not used as it could be swallowed or explode when biting on it. Instead, a spent bullet was used. After battles, medical assistants scoured the battlefield looking for flat, spent bullets to use when they ran out of Ether to use.

There were also merchants set up in large tents selling historical interest items. Among items offered for sale were, reproduction Civil War clothing, music CDs with Civil War tunes, historical DVDs and books, replica guns and rifles, paintings and prints, and much more. It took me over two hours to browse the goods offered. The only "bad" part was the food concession stands. They were the same trailers that set up at carnivals and fairs. It took away the "authentic" feel of the muster.

The Civil War muster was so interesting that I ended up going both days. I have a selection of photos that I took at the muster and placed them online. To view them click here. I encourage those that have not attended a Civil War Muster or reenactment to go to one if they have the opportunity. it’s a great family event to attend.

Corned Beef Hash

My mother filed for a divorce in 1958 when I was ten. In this era, there were few jobs for women - especially in the small town where we lived. At the time, there were four children still at home, so we had to on welfare. There were no food stamps then. Instead, families on welfare could go to the welfare office once a month for their allotment of food. Food was primarily in powdered form - eggs, flour, milk, and bisquick, but also included macaroni and a brick of cheese. We ate lots of grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese. A family that lived across the street from us owned and operated a grocery store. Every week the wife would drop off a box of canned food that was either dented or missing the label. Every Wednesday night was a surprise dinner. My sister and I would open two cans and whatever was in them we had for supper. Sometimes it might be two cans of peas, or a can of corn and another of carrots. We had fun trying to guess which two cans contained the same food. One night we opened two cans and both had the same contents. It was some ground meat with white chunks in it. Not being sure what it was, we asked our mother. She said it was corned beef hash. That night we had a grilled cheese sandwich and the corned beef hash. A few days later, the neighbor dropped off her next box of canned food. She asked how Pougie, (poo-gee) our family dog, liked the Skippy dog food. Turns out that our corned beef hash was actually dog food! To this day, fifty years later, I can not eat corned beef hash!!!!

HistoryBuff.com Updates

There has been lots going on with HistoryBuff.com in the past month.

Newsletter Archives Now Online

Over the past few months, several people have emailed me requesting if they could obtain copies of past issues of this newsletter. I dug through my archives and found most of the past issues intact and ready to go. A few issues I no longer have a copy of. I have now uploaded what I have and created a link to them. The link is http://www.historybuff.com/newsletter/index.html. Enjoy reading them.


As many of you recall, several months ago I changed the email address for my site due to receiving in excess of 500 SPAM emails on a daily basis. I took steps to make it so that nowhere on the site the "bots" would be able to find my new email address. Despite those measures, I am now up to about 50 SPAM emails per day. However, I will keep the newer email address (current one) until the SPAM emails get too far out of hand again.

When I changed my email address, I also added the new one to the HistoryBuff.com PayPal account and deleted the old one. PayPal automatically sends me an email when each person makes a donation. However, after about 3 months with no donations, I checked my PayPal account and saw that, in fact, several people had made donations but I wasn't notified. It took over 2 hours on the telephone with PayPal customer service to finally get it straightened out. It actually took my insisting that I speak with a supervisor before the problem was remedied. Those that made donations in the past three months were: Barbara Johns, Susan Freedman-Varbero, Morris Brill, Paula Stephen, and Daniel Hunt. Many thanks for your donations. It is always appreciated.

Additonal Panoramas Now Online

Over the summer I had the opportunity to shoot panoramas of several more historic sites. The ones online now are: Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia, Surratt Tavern that played a role in the assassination of President Lincoln in 1865, historic sites related to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and the Appomattox Court House National Park in Virginia. This is where the surrender papers were signed by General Grant and Lee to end the Civil War. Several more panoramas are in the works.

Beta Testers Wanted

I have encountered problems with viewing the panoramas on different Web browsers. I think I have solved the problem with viewing and hearing the audio commentary with both Internet Explorer and Firefox. I created a sample panorama utilizing a different format but I am not sure if both viewing and hearing the audio commentary is compatible in Safari or Opera as well as any browser utilizing a Macintosh. If any subscribers would like to help me test out the new format, please email me with the subject heading Beta Tester and indicate your desire to participate and what browsers you have.

August Contest

CONTEST ONE QUESTION: Three United States Presidents died on July 4th. Who were they?

ANSWER: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe.

CONTEST TWO QUESTION: Who was Abraham Lincoln's FIRST Vice-President?

ANSWER: Hannibal Hamlin.

One-hundred-thrity-one people entered. forty-two people had errors in their entry: Not selecting a prize; Selecting a prize from the Contest One entry, but answered the Contest Two question; or incorrect subject heading. A few answered the movie trivia questions instead. Two prizes went unclaimed.
The August Contest Winners Were:
  • Candice Monhollan - Pennsylvania
  • Gretchen Bakies - Ohio
  • Duane Watson - Texas
  • Patti Roberts - Utah
  • Joellen Schmidt - Kansas
  • Casey Dorion - Minnesota

This Issue's Questions:

To enter Contest One, answer the question: Which president was the first to be inaugurated in Washington, DC?

To enter Contest Two, answer the question: Which president weighed more than 300 pounds?


Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Wednesday, September 17, 2008. Later entries will be disqualified. Winners will be notified by email within 24 hours after the contest deadline. Winners' names and states will be published in the next issue of the HistoryBuff.com newsletter.

  • To enter Contest One or Contest Two, email your answer to curator at historybuff.com

  • To enter Contest One, use "Contest One Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the contest question one. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • To enter Contest Two, use "Contest Two Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the contest two question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • Subscribers may enter both contests, but only win one prize.

  • If entering both contests, entries must be sent in separate emails.

  • Each entry MUST select ONE prize from the appropriate prize list.

  • If answering the Contest One question, select your prize from the Contest One prize list.

  • If answering the Contest Two question, select your prize from the Contest Two prize list.

  • From subscribers entering the contest, submitting the correct answer, correct subject heading, submission received by the deadline, as well as advising which ONE contest prize they want to win, EIGHT will be selected to win ONE of the contest prizes below.

  • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.
August Contest One Prize Selection
(Only one of each offered)

The Lonely Years of World War II
By Charles Di Bartlo

Although there have been literally thousands of books written about World War II, few of them relate about life on the home front. This book tells the author's experiences of growing up in an orphanage during World War II.

It was so hard to put down once I started reading it, that I read it in only two sessions.

The author is a subscriber to this newsletter. To read more about this book, go to http://www.charlesbook.com. To order the book, go to www.Xlibris.com.


Wonder Toons Volume 4

Cartoons featuring:
Popeye, Felix the Cat,
Little LuLu, Casper, Snow White
and more!


August Contest Two Prize Selection
(Only one of each offered)

DVD Movie

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972)

Staring Michael Crawford and Peter Sellers

DVD Classic TV

Episodes of the Classic 1950s Comedy

Original Historic Newspapers

The Atlas (Boston) historic newspaper from 1837

Original Manchester American & Messenger (New Hampshire) historic newspaper from 1853

Original New Hampshire Patriot historic newspaper from 1868

Original Coldwater Republican (Michigan) historic newspaper from 1876
That's it for this issue.

Rick Brown

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