Thursday, January 21, 2010

Playing Dress Up

Last Sunday afternoon I had the opportunity for a little bit of dress up. When I was a kid, playing dress up was one of my favorite activities and there is still a wee bit of the kid in me. I still love to dress in costume on those rare occasions it is permissible - Halloween, theme parties and the like.

Growing up, I would prowl the furthest recesses of my mother's closet to put together my costumes for play acting. She had a lot of full skirts that worked well for "evening" wear or a queen's regalia. I can remember one dress in particular, a pale green dress of what was probably rayon, and it made me feel elegant to wear it. Most of the time I played alone, but during the brief year we lived in Victoria, the kids in my neighborhood would periodically put together little stage shows in someone's back yard. Out would come the costumes and we staged our own little variety show with skits, songs and comedy acts.

When I was invited to attend the annual Confederate Heroes Day at the historic Bastrop Opera House, I knew there would be ladies present dressed in hoop skirts and bonnets. Time was too short to do a proper job of assembling a costume, but I quickly put together an acceptable imitation of a Civil War era outfit. The local thrift store provided a tiered, red skirt. A sales rack at Beall's provided a blouse with ruffled collar and cuffs. I had jewelry that would fit in, a small evening bag for a purse, and best of all a shawl I had crocheted years ago and in colors that complemented the skirt. I did a passable job of fitting into the background for the day.

I have fallen in love with the Opera House. When Lana and I were scouting Bastrop for a location for the upcoming event, one of the folks at the Visitors Center suggested it as a suitable site. We checked it out and she decided it was exactly what she was looking for. I had known there were theatrical productions staged there on a regular basis, but I had never attended one. Since then, the two of us have gone to two of their productions and I certainly intend to see more.

On this day, however, the old building welcomed a group of historians and genealogists who came to honor the sacrifices made by their ancestors in service to the South during the Civil War. The memorial event was hosted by the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans posted the colors (flags), a true daughter of a Confederate Veteran gave the invocation and benedictory prayers (she's a spry 90-something), a history of the Opera House was given by the current director of the facility, a local historian sketched the lives of two prominent local Confederate soldiers, Civil War era music was provided, and a tribute poem was read by a member of the Children of the Confederacy. It was an afternoon full of history and was especially moving to those of us who have studied our ancestry and know which of our family lines suffered losses of life and property during the hostilities.

All attendees were given the opportunity to recognize ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. Many of us noted that we had many we could name. When it came my turn, I chose to recognize the ancestor who fought from Bastrop County. Great-great grandfather Gabriel Moore Lentz served with the "Bastrop County Rawhides" in Co. D, 12th Texas Cavalry. He was lucky. He came back and lived out his life in Bastrop County.

There were many of my ancestral relatives who did not fare so well.

Great-great grandfather Joseph Sheppard Mobley and his brother Hezekiah Madison Mobley served the Confederacy out of Georgia. The two of them survived the war, but three of their brothers - Stephen, Andrew and William - perished. Joseph and Hezekiah left their Georgia home and moved to Texas.

Joseph's wife Mary Caroline Morgan lost her first husband, George Washington Sewell, in the Battle of Atlanta. Mary's and George's only child, a daughter, died in infancy and I have often wondered if her birth might have been premature and brought on by the stress Mary suffered. Mary Caroline lost not only a husband and daughter, but also two brothers - James and Richard Morgan.

Great-great-grandfather Albert McAfee is said to have served as a teamster with the Pointe Coupee Artillery out of Louisiana. I know Albert lost his father in the early days of the war. Jacob McAfee served the Union Army out of Livingston County, Missouri, and died of measles.

Great-great-great-grandfather George Washington Huddleston served both sides. He first enlisted with the Confederacy in Arkansas, was ultimately captured and confined as a prisoner of war. He opted then to join the Union Army, but I don't think his heart was in it. He ended up being court martialed for insubordination.

Great-great-great-grandfather William Frankum and his son William served the Confederacy out of Tennessee. Both survived the war, but the family stories say that they both died shortly afterward from wounds received.

There are those who look askance at present day recognition of our Confederate Heroes, but I think one has to look past the continual harping about the battle flag and the obvious slavery issues. We can't relate to how it felt to live in Georgia and have your home threatened, not to mention suffering Sherman's fiery march to the sea. We do watch our young men go off to war, but we can't relate to being defenseless women at home dealing with hordes of soldiers over-running your farm and taking anything they felt like taking. We may know the pain of losing a family member to battle, but how many of us have lost multiple brothers, cousins, friends, a husband, an uncle, a father - and some lost all of these - within a few months. It must have been hell on earth. I can't imagine what strength it took to live through such horrendous loss.

I honor the memory of every one of those courageous people who lived through the nightmare of the Civil War and found a way to keep going. They were all heroes.

Setting up before the event

My friends, Gary and Lana Henley

Me, with Lana, sitting on a Victorian settee in the Opera House lobby


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