Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Winchester Canon

Reenacting has brought many amazing people into my life.  One of them is my partner in hardcore crime, the Sunny Seamstress (who blogs here and here), who's just as crazy as I am when it comes to de-farbing camp, eating period-correct food, and obsessing over tiny details of historical accuracy in our costume choices.  We also find that reenacting in "first-person" really helps inspire our research and adds an extra edge of challenge and fun to events.

One of the brilliant ideas Sunny, or "Adah" as I more-often call her, came up with was that we would write letters back and forth in character, tracing our respective journeys from the election of 1860 'til (God willin' and the creek don't rise...) the end of the war.  Adah insisted that we write them all out in our best Spencerian ("Spencerian?  What, like, swirly-letters?" said I . . .), with pen-and-ink, if possible.  After a few tries, this letter writing has turned into quite a project:

Being the Literature Major/Author that I am, I came up with 2-3 pages of back-story for my character, Margaret-Ellen Hamilton Copeland of Hillsborough, VA (near where I used to live in Purcellville).  Adah came up with about as much, and right now we are writing as long-separated childhood friends from Hillsborough & Alexandria, respectively.  We will both eventually end up in Winchester, VA - just in time for the mid-days of the war and the muster of our unit, the 18th VA Cavalry, in 1863.  We call our character-world "The Winchester Canon," a title which will remain ironic until Spring 1862 or so, when my character will move to Winchester for reasons which will be revealed in the future.

Thus, in order to write my letters, I bring out "Beleaguered Winchester,"  (a book on civilians in Frederick County during the War) for help with character atmosphere, "The Recollections and Letters of Robert E. Lee" for style reference, "The Civil War Almanac" to keep my timeline straight, and the original 1828 Webster Dictionary for vocab. help.  This in addition to the several web-pages I keep open on my iPhone: 1860s farming research, an 1861 calendar, and an example of Spencerian penmanship.

I told you I was crazy.

I write out everything long-hand in a journal before I commit it to ink-and-paper, so I can craft a good letter w/o having to worry about the handwriting, as well as have a good copy of my letter once the finished product has been mailed.  I've been getting better at the Spencerian (practice makes perfect), and am really enjoying getting to know both of our characters in depth.  

Which is why we've figured that maybe it's time to share the wealth.  Beginning this week (if all goes according to plan), I will begin transcribing our existing letters onto their very own blogspot.  We hope that the rest of you will enjoy reading about the Adventures of Adah and Margaret-Ellen as much as we have enjoyed writing them.  I will post new letters as they become available.  Check-back in a couple days to begin the journey through time.

1 comment:

  1. If it turns out good, of course, you might have to publish it. :-)

    You ought to read "Sorcery and Cecilia," if you haven't -- a good example of a letter-writing project that got out of hand, with excellent result.