I am delighted that the opportunity of writing for this staff blog has given me the occasion to interview a new member of the Conner Prairie team—General Manager of Operations (AND my new boss!), Mr. Jason Adams.
Jason brings with him a wonderfully varied background including the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, and the Poder Program of Burbank Elementary in Chicago, where Jason served as a Parent-Teacher Liaison and Learning Facilitator, developing math, reading, and creative projects in this supplemental program for underserved youth. Raised in Toronto, Jason spent his high school years in Raleigh, and has also lived in Asheville NC, Chicago, and now Indianapolis!
In what may soon be his rare moments outside of Conner Prairie, Jason enjoys playing for ComedySportz Indianapolis, and creates his own puppet shows by adapting found objects into puppets.
Introducing Jason Adams!
He is thrilled about incorporating a new overhead projector into his puppet presentations. You may find Jason on stage later this summer at the Indy Fringe Festival, where he and his wife will present a “half-magic, half superhero” show called We Have Powers. Jason is thrilled to be at Conner Prairie. He has yet to learn how to knit or sew, but he promises that will be remedied in due time. And I think he also said he would be preparing a weekly pot roast buffet for the staff, so be sure to ask him about that. ;)
Jason’s favorite part of Conner Prairie is the Pepper’s Ghost effect used to present the story of Albert Cheatham. (Did you know that the Pepper’s Ghost effect was first developed in London in 1862? Meanwhile, America was in the midst of Civil War!). You can visit Albert Cheatham in the kitchen of the Porter Family Home at Civil War Journey
, or you can read more about him here
There are so many new and exciting things on the horizon for our 2012 season—new people, new activities, and new ideas to learn and share! We’ll see you opening weekend
March 31 and the rest of the season too!
Has your petticoat ever fallen around your feet? When I was young, I read about a girl losing her petticoats during a parade, and I couldn’t imagine my elastic-waisted petticoats ever falling down. Nowadays, many girls can’t even tell you what a petticoat is; we’ve left them behind. (It’s really just a skirt worn under the dress.) How many other garments that were commonly worn in the 19th century are only words in a book to most people these days?
It’s easy to notice the women wearing hoops in our Civil War Journey
, but what else are they wearing to get that mid-19th century look? Hoops are nearly the last garments donned before the dress. Stockings, garters to hold them up and shoes are donned before the corset; it’s really hard to bend down to tie your shoes with corset boning fighting to keep you straight! The chemise is a low-necked, short-sleeved garment that looks like an old-fashioned nightgown and is worn over drawers (think loose capris).
The chemise protects the corset from body oil; they work together to shape the “bosom”. Some women wore a corset cover which kept corset ridges from showing.
Hoops (more accurately called cage crinolines) replaced most of the layers and layers of petticoats used to hold the skirts out in fashionable silhouettes from the 1820s on. However, there’s at least one petticoat over the cage crinoline to hide the lines of the hoops and one underneath for coverage in case the contrary hoops pop up or tilt unexpectedly, which they can and do.
Have you ever seen a photo from the Civil War and thought the woman was wearing a blouse under her dress? Usually, you were seeing two separate pieces, undersleeves and collar or chemisette. Cuffs and collars were basted in and changed when soiled to keep the dress looking fresh. Undersleeves and chemisettes (think dickeys) filled in wider sleeves and necklines.
So, why did petticoats fall down? They were buttoned at the waistband, and buttons can work loose. With all those layers, it’s hard to know until it’s just too late.
When you visit a Civil War re-enactment, you are often confronted with a series of unit numbers - 35th Indiana, 153rd Pennsylvania, 44th Tennessee. While these descriptions let you know what unit you are seeing, they leave out an important word - volunteer.
During the Civil War, the majority of both Union and Confederate armies were volunteer soldiers. They came from all walks of life- rich and poor, farmer and businessman. Regardless of which side a man served, he was in the field to support something that he believed in.
Many of these volunteers made the ultimate sacrifice. Over 600,000 were wounded, lost limbs, or lost their lives. Today, we often fail to remember that the union was preserved by volunteers.
This same volunteer spirit exists today. Across the United States, several hundred re-enactments take place each year. At least one can be found each weekend between April and October. A single re-enactment can host upwards of 3,000 soldiers and civilians. Virtually every re-enactor who shares their time, talent and passion for Civil War history does so as a volunteer.
People involved in the hobby, as they refer to re-enacting, spend a significant amount of time preparing to go out into the field. They study the history and experiences of the men who fought the war, often visiting battlefields, historical sites and libraries during their vacations. Military re-enactors learn about the weapons and equipment of their army. They also spend time practicing drill and rehearsing battle tactics.
Conner Prairie's annual Civil War Re-enactment
is one our most popular programs. Without the volunteer efforts of hundreds of re-enactors, this experience would not be possible. Civil War Days weekend is May 21 & 22! Visit the soliders in their camps, and witness the battle at 2 p.m. each day.
On behalf of Conner Prairie, I would like to thank the re-enacting community for their time, effort and dedication in bringing this story to the public.
As Conner Prairie Interactive History Park continues to prepare for the grand opening of the 1863 Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana
, follow along with the fictitious reporter Wilson Mayweather as he gives a perspective on the events of the only Civil War battle to take place on Indiana soil. This reporter and story is fictitious; representing an amalgamation of historical facts.
Find out what happens next for the small town of Corydon from Reporter Mayweather’s next story.
Tim Crumrin - Experience Delivery Director/Senior Historian
For many reasons, Conner Prairie rarely presents “actual” individuals from history. Instead, we research many past lives and use them to form the basis of the “people” you encounter when you visit Conner Prairie.
Such is the case with “William,” a character who will be part of our new Civil War Journey experience
. William, an escaped slave, was taken in by an abolitionist family in Corydon, captured by Morgan’s raiders, escaped once more, and eventually joined the 28th Regiment, USCT
(United States Colored Troops).
The genesis of William were brief mentions in letters written by young Attia Porter of Corydon, Indiana. She referred to “our little contraband” (a period term for escaped slaves) and wrote, “They [Morgan’s raiders] kidnapped our little negro… but he got away.” This struck us as a compelling story we might want to tell, but first we had to learn more about him and his story. It was much easier said than done.
First we had to identify “our little contraband.” Who was he? What was his name? What happened to him?
For weeks I and others searched in vain for his name and information about him. Scores of book, articles, letters and online resources were checked. We contacted Porter family descendents, but no one knew his name. Finally, five of us went to the local history library in Corydon. There, VP for Experience, Dan Freas found a single mention in a local history book. His name was Albert Cheatham.
We now had a solid starting point. Indiana Civil War records were searched. There was no “Albert Cheatham,” but there was an Albert Chatam (variations in spellings were common in the 19th century) who served in the 28th and was buried in a military cemetery in Louisville. Was this our man?
Using this information I searched through various online databases and other resources. There he was, Albert Cheatham (or Chatam, or Chatain). This gave us his service records. As he died in Louisville, I searched Kentucky census records. There he was again.
So, what do we know about Albert? Not enough, but much of that is due to the fact that African Americans during this period lived their lives on the barely acknowledged fringe of American life. Their lives were little noted or recorded. But we were able to put some flesh on the skeleton of Albert’s known life.
Albert was born into slavery in Tennessee or Alabama (he listed both states as his place of birth) in 1844. Sometime after the war began he escaped and made his way to Indiana and was taken in by the Porter family. He was “kidnapped” by Morgan’s men, but was either later released or escaped and returned to Corydon. Eventually he made his way to the Indianapolis area. He then agreed to be a substitute (those with enough funds and a disinclination to serve could pay a bounty and have another person serve in their place in the military) for a white man named James Faught of Hendricks County.
Albert was mustered into Company K of the 28th USCT on August 25, 1864. He was 5’5 ½,” nineteen years-old, and could not write his name. He went to Virginia with the 28th, but does not appear to have seen any fighting. Most of the time he was listed on the company rolls as “absent sick” as he suffered from chronic bronchitis. In fact he was mustered out in August 1865 from a military hospital in Alexandria, Virginia.
Albert is lost to us again until the 1880 census of Louisville, Kentucky. In the interim, Albert had learned to read and write, married his wife Laura in 1879, and worked in a lead and oil business. He and Laura rented a home on 12th Street in Louisville. There they lived the rest of their lives. They had a son named Llewellyn. Albert died in 1921 and was buried in Cave Hill National Cemetery. After his death, Laura applied to receive his Civil War pension.
Not much to be known about a life that lasted over 75 years, but enough to tell an important story.