Could there be a better time? Well, perhaps summertime in Virginia. Though there is something to be said of emerging from winter's dreary chill, sloughing off that melancholy aura and delving with sweet euphoria into the season of new life in the balmy south.
My latest sojourn took me to my heart's content and then some. Grappling with what was likely a case of tonsillitis, I embarked for Virginia on a Thursday afternoon. I armed myself with Emergen-C, cups of ice, and cough drops and braved the road. I stayed the night in Alexandria with one of my dearest friends and in the morning, drove with great anticipation for Fredericksburg.
My soul sang as I parked my car at the Sunken Road. Spring was jovially thriving, I was in Virginia instead of at work and in a matter of an hour, I would be making the ultimate pilgrimage. I sipped some chamomile tea charged with honey and wonder of wonders- my throat miraculously recovered (for the time being). It was not long before I was met by one of my favorite Dixie Darlings, General Ewell. Together, we drove to meet an actual descendant of Kate Corbin. He and his wife were simply fantastic. Great energy, brimming with family pride and just genuinely nice folks. More I will not relay. For once, loquacious Kristen will temper her reflections just a bit. It was a special occurrence and contrary to my typical mindset, not everything need be broadcast.
The General and I went with our new comrades to visit the actual home of Kate Corbin. The location of Jackson's winter quarters of '62-'63. It was breathtaking. Again, I will bow to privacy but I will state that it has been impeccably restored and going there was an unbelievable experience. To walk the halls of Kate's pacing, to stand in the room where Kate, Sandie, Smith, and Boswell sang songs to pass the time... unreal. Jackson, Lee, Stuart... they were all there. I consider it a great privilege to have been gained admittance. Over the last year, I have researched Sandie, Kate and their friends and family so thoroughly that I feel as though I know them personally. To stand on their hollowed ground was a dream come true. It was a rare opportunity and I will cherish that.
This was truly the glittering gem of the trip, but dears, it certainly did not by any means get less appealing. We were also fortunate enough to visit the home of Kate's father, where he settled before the war broke out while Kate and her brothers remained in the old family stead. It was a lucky pit stop where we met more wonderful people. How I have not moved South yet, I do not know. People are just plain better below the Mason Dixon.
The General and I parted ways for the time being and I bivouacked in historic Fredericksburg for the night were I scored some excellent antique books on Caroline Street. Both finds were pieces that Sandie read on campaign and will be perfect for my impression.
In the morning, after a quick stop to leave Boswell some daisies, it was off to Richmond. (I do so love Richmond). Here, I parked at my favorite spot (St. Paul's) and walked to meet the General. We spent most of the day driving around Hollywood Cemetery leaving flowers for "people we know". (And by this I mean folks who've been dead for oh, over 100 years). I was very pleased to leave some beautiful stargazer lilies for Kate's best friend, Sallie Munford (who also sewed the Virginia flag on display at the Capitol).
The weather was crazy, yet delightful. Storms with gorgeous sunshine. It cleared up just when we needed to check into our respective rooms at an inn that predated the Civil War. We changed for the ball and in the basking glow of the golden hour, General R.S. Ewell and Miss Kate Corbin walked half a block in full formal regalia to the Old Virginia Soiree. As we approached, bagpipers were playing on the lawn of the gorgeous Victorian mansion where the soiree was being held. It was a delightful evening.
To the right you will see my newest creation. I made this ballgown by hand. I didn't think I could tackle a ballgown, but, there ya have it. It turned out beautifully. I intended to add a pale green lace over-skirt to it, but I ran out of time.
- It's best not to get smash-hammered if you're going to partake in Victorian dancing. Just say'n. There are certain moves you need to be able to coordinate and if you've invested in half a bottle of Jack, you're going to look like a total dolt when you attempt to reel. (Gracious, dancing sober can be difficult enough!)
- I find it interesting that I have developed an eye for what is "correct" and what is a reach. I'm by no means an expert, I'm forever learning, but I like how much knowledge I've acquired.
- Some people in the hobby might wish to invoke the spirit of Victorian graciousness or for Christ's sake, Southern charm. It's inevitable that at any given event there will be people who aren't as well versed in what to wear or even the terminology. Not to sound like a Kindergarten teacher but... be nice!
It was a fantastic weekend. So many blessings, such a joy. I get to live the dream. My passion for history does not remain on paper, concealed in the pages of the books haunting my study. Not many people understand the drive to step back in time in such a way... but they don't have to. I get to connect with some truly lovely people that otherwise, I would never meet and I get to share history and happiness. What could be better? :)