Civil War Days!
Ulysses: Welcome to the
9th Annual Civil War Days sponsored by the Chesapeake Public Library
in Chesapeake, Virginia.
Photo: Mary talking to one of the many
young visitors at the Civil War Days. You can see Robert E. and
me next to the PAPA
WAS A BOY IN GRAY books
on the left.
Robert E.: Mary, Marty, and we arrived here
on a warm September Saturday just in time to be greeted with a firing
from the cannon belonging to Battery M, Second United States Artillery.
Ulysses: Ah, the smell of gunpowder
brought back many memories.
What's a Vivandiere?
E.: Mary had been invited to sign copies of PAPA
WAS A BOY IN GRAY at this event, so
she decided to dress for the occasion. She wore a special uniform
reminiscent of the one the vivandieres wore during the War Between
Ulysses: Ahem, Robert. Folks out there may
not know what a vivandiere is. That's a mighty high-falutin' word.
You had better explain.
Robert E.: The word was originally French
with its roots going all the way back to the 12th century. "Viande"
means "meat" coming from the earlier Latin word "vivenda" meaning
"food" in general. By the 15th century, "vivandiere" had come to
mean "Hospitality giver." By the early 18th century, the word had
evolved to mean "one who sells food and drink to soldiers." Vivandieres
or "Canteen keepers" made their first appearance in the French armies
in the mid-1600's and were regularly seen on the European battlefields
by the late 1700's.
The vivandieres originally were the wives
of some of the soldiers. These women stayed in the barracks or the
camps and were responsible for doing the soldiers' laundry and selling
them food and drink. Over the next hundred years, the role of the
vivandiere assumed a more dignified position within the French Army.
The women were enrolled in the regiments and were allowed to design
and wear military uniforms -- with long skirts, of course. Vivandieres
often carried a small keg of brandy strapped over their shoulders
used to revive injured soldiers on the battlefield. This keg become
a distinctive symbol of the vivandiere.
the time of the Second Empire under Napoleon III (mid-1800's), the
term vivandiere was replaced by the term "cantiniere," meaning Canteen
woman. By now, they were officially made a part of the French Army
complete with pay and awarded medals for their services on the battlefield.
Their uniforms had become very picturesque: short gray or red wool
jackets over canvas or muslin shirts, loose wool trousers covered
by knee-high skirts embroidered with gold braid. This shockingly
short skirt was, in turn, covered by a small white apron. Women
wore small black hats, often decorated with ostrich feathers. These
hats usually displayed a metal badge bearing the cantiniere's unit
number. Sometimes the women wore small fancy swords from their belts.
These swords were for dress parades and formal occasions only. When
on the battlefield, the cantinieres always wore pistols for self-protection.
Photo: Mary at the Barnes & Noble book tent with fellow author
Dr. Keith Dickson. They are talking to one of the many Confederate
re-enactors. You can just glimpse me on the table to the left. Behind
the tent are the large wheels belonging to a reproduction field
coffee-maker. Many of these industrial-size coffee machines were
in use in the Federal campsites during the Civil War.
Ulysses: When the American Civil War broke
out in 1861, both the North and the South adapted many ideas from
the French Army such as battle tactics and uniforms, especially
the kepi hat. The wives and sweethearts who followed their loved
ones to the battle front were not slow in imitating the French idea
of vivandieres or cantinieres. Many regiments of the Union Army
soon had their own vivandieres among them.
Robert E.: Initially, many women in the South
thought dressing up in mannish uniforms and going into battle was
unladylike behavior, but that didn't stop a number of very determined
young ladies who were as anxious as their brothers to "do their
part." Like their French counterparts, the American vivandieres
on both sides wore self-designed uniforms that looked like those
of the French Zouaves. The vivandieres soon showed their usefulness.
After battles, and sometimes even while the guns were still firing,
the vivandieres were usually the first ones to reach the wounded.
They carried kegs of many canteens filled with water for the soldiers,
and often they had bandages in their haversacks for first aid until
the surgeons could treat the injured. Behind the lines, the cantinieres
helped keep up the soldiers' spirits by reading the Bible to them
in the field hospitals and by writing letters home for the soldiers.
Ulysses: Some of the better known of these
unsung heroines were Marie Tebe of the 114th Pennsylvania Volunteers,
and Mistress John Bahr of the famous Confederate unit, the Washington
Artillery of New Orleans. Read more about vivandieres
during the American Civil War.
as a Cantiniere:
E.: For Civil War Days in Chesapeake, Mary portrayed a cantiniere
of the 33rd Virginia Volunteers, even though there is no historical
record of this regiment having a cantiniere. Mary chose the 33rd
Virginia because she is an honorary member of this unit. Mary wore
a white full-sleeved blouse decorated with golden embroidery, a
gray wool Zouave jacket decorated with 11 yards of gold braid, a
long black skirt, black riding boots, a black leather belt with
a Virginia State buckle, and a small black hat decorated with a
yellow hat band and two yellow ostrich feathers. One side of the
hat is turned up and held in place with a pin that looks like an
Irish harp in honor of the 33rd which was made up of many boys from
Ireland. Photo: Mary dressed as a cantiniere of the 33rd Virginia
Volunteers. Behind her is the Coast Guard Surgeon signing up another
Signing: PAPA WAS A BOY IN GRAY
Ulysses: Since the day was very warm, Mary
stayed in the shade of the book tent and drank a lot a water while
she fanned herself with a painted wooden fan. She told us she didn't
see how we soldiers could fight a battle while wearing such heavy
Robert E.: But we did. It was the accepted
Army uniform in the 1860's.
Mary's table mate was Dr. Keith D. Dickson, author of THE
CIVIL WAR FOR DUMMIES. It happens to be
a most interesting and well-written book. Dr. Dickson is an Associate
Professor of Military Studies at the Joint Forces Staff College,
National Defense University.
Robert E.: Ulysses and I felt right at home
in such good company.
War Days Event:
Ulysses: The Civil War Days Event was particularly
fun for the children. A unit of the United States Navy (circa 1860)
conducted the School of the Sailor for youngsters interested in
the sea, while several of the Confederate infantry units took turns
conducting the School of the Soldier.
E.: There was even a 19th Century Coast Guard Surgeon there who
interviewed the naval recruits and wrote out health examinations
with a real old fashioned dip-ink pen. Meanwhile, the young Army
recruits learned to march and drill while carrying little broom
sticks, just like many of the Southern soldiers had to do when there
was a shortage of rifles.
Photo: Mary talking to one of the many young
visitors at the Civil War Days. You can see Ulysses and me next
to the PAPA
WAS A BOY IN GRAY books on the
Ulysses: Both U.S. President Abraham Lincoln
and Confederate President Jefferson Davis were in attendance with
their wives. They nodded to us as they walked by. I understand they
gave a wonderful press conference inside the library, but we were
so busy at the book tent we were unable to attend. Robert E. and
I received many compliments!
Robert E.: Meanwhile, there were demonstrations
by candle makers and blacksmiths. Children could take mule rides
-- a very different experience than the usual pony ride -- and they
could play some of the games the children of the 1860's once played.
Throughout the day there was live period music. A most enjoyable
Report: Robert E., Ulysses, Abe, & Sacagawea!
We had a wonderful time at the
Chesapeake Civil War Days, but we were glad to return to our air
conditioned hotel room! This is Ulysses', Abe's, Sacagawea's, and
my last report. Winter is coming, and that means the end of our
Report: King Hal & the Bard!
But there will be one more report about
another place and another century. Stay tuned for King Hal and the
Bard when they tell you their adventures at the Maryland Renaissance
PAPA BOOK or GIFT SETS
AUTOGRAPHED BOOK PLATE by Prize-Winning Author Mary W.
Schaller with your order of PAPA WAS A BOY IN GRAY Book or Gift
Papa Was A Boy in Gray Reports:
Papa Book Tour Main Page
| Report #1
| Report #2
| Report #3
| Report #4
| Report #5
| Report #6
| Report #7
| Report #8
| Report #9
| Report #12