Halloween at the Heights: Artillery in Harpers Ferry

Firmly on the other side of the government shut down (ahem, for now) and before the government sequester sets in (sorry Sesquicentennial 2014), this past weekend was our annual jaunt to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia for Artillery Weekend.

Let me rephrase.  Artillery Weekend!

Taking a step backwards, this weekend I learned that the rumored government sequester (or as so many of my Virginia friends are calling it, the Seeeee-questor) is rapidly approaching.  Here’s how a park ranger described the sequester this weekend: “The government cuts funding from the National Parks and eliminates public events like this.”  We saw the sequester rear its ugly head at Gettysburg, when Antietam wasn’t able to send an artillery piece to the event and we only had three guns instead of four.  Rumor has it that a lot of park events are in jeopardy for next year because there’s no guarantee there will be any money to fund them.  It sucks.  It just really, really sucks.

fire heightsBut, we had Artillery Weekend!

Harpers Ferry.  Ahh, a vile little town with a sordid history full of murder, siege, battles, explosions, floods, and fires.  The town changed hands, like, six times during the war.  John Brown raided the town in 1859 and tried to take over the US Armory and Arsenal to arm the slaves and incite a slave revolt.  The townspeople blew up the Arsenals.  The Confederate Army stole the Armory machinery.  Half the town was burned to wipe out supposed sharpshooter nests.  The railroad bridge was blown up.  The town was shelled.  The “Harpers Ferry Cowards” was the largest number of US soldiers taken prisoner until WWII; the surrender ceremony took place on what is now Bolivar Heights Battlefield.

The Baltimore Light Artillery was present for the actual Siege of Harpers Ferry.

This weekend we only had one gun, also known as my least favorite artillery piece on the planet, a 3 inch ordinance rifle.  I know.  Beggars can’t be choosers.  But give me a Napoleon or a Parrot any day.

Prior to going to the Ferry, I’d gotten an email reminding me to dress warm.  Which is fine, because let’s face it, I always dress warm.  When I get to Day job in the morning, I’m trudging into work wearing two sweaters and a jacket, whereas most of the females I pass are wearing capris and sandals.  Still.  No, I’m sorry, I wear a sweater in the winter time.  I’m fairly sure my thyroid is, at this point, just taking up space in my neck.

When I think cold, usually I think Cedar Creek, a battle which took place in October 1864.  The last time we went to aus heights 2 reenactment there was 2006, but I distinctly remember sweating profusely during the day and freezing my tail off at night.  You have to have a little crazy in you to agree to wander about a battlefield in 30 degree weather.

So, there we are.  Crazy and Mrs. Crazy.  I brought my heavy wool cloak and, though my girth is blocking it, we were standing near the fire.  I say “near the fire” because I’ve never been so terrified as when I was, literally one week into reenacting, when my mentor told me her contact lenses melted to her eyeballs because she was by the fire for too long.  That sound you hear is me walking to the car and sitting inside, rather than sitting by the fire.

You may notice that little pile of blankets.  You see, some of the other guys in the Baltimore Light Artillery were sleeping outside that night.  That little pile of blankets was someone’s bed.

As we notoriously established during this year’s Gettysburg event, I’m old.  And weak.  And I sleep in a hotel room.  Actually, this time we had no choice, because we brought The Rowdy Boys with us–which is a whole separate blog post entirely.  Imagine that silhouette chasing two small children down a hill, while the short blond one says, “Beat you!”  Yikes.

us heightsI’ll admit, I had a minor meltdown when I realized The Hubs had forgotten to pack my dress.  The dress I wanted–and thought was in the bin–was the Gettysburg dress.  Striped.  The dress I’m wearing is too big and, regrettably, unhooks if I move the wrong way.  Not striped.

The Hubs said, “It’s the same dress.”

My brain, at this point, exploded.  “No, it’s not the same dress.  There’s a picture of us in the living room of me wearing the striped dress.  This is not a striped dress.”

The Hubs: “No.  But it’s the dress you wore.”

In 2006, Hubs.  I last wore this dress in 2006.  I wanted to lash out irrationally at him or call him names that would make his mother blush.  Instead I said, “I’m not going.  I’m going to stay in the room and write.”

Obviously that didn’t fly.  Because the threat “I’m just going to stay here and write” never seems to work on people.  “I’ll eat that entire pie” is believable.  “I’ll throw out all your underwear before I’ll wash it again” slows him down.  It’s like when I was a kid.  Please.  Please just send me to my room because, really, that’s where I wanted to be in the first place.

I went to the event anyway.  I refused to wear my hat, as demonstrated above, but I was there.  I was charming.  My childrenflag were reasonably well-behaved.  It was standard as events go, no out of control shenanigans like at Gettysburg.  Harpers Ferry is always a high point in the year, since the BLA has done the event since 1986 (obviously, I wasn’t there in 1986 because I was four) and because The Hubs and I lived in the Ferry for eight months after college.  Sure, we had no money and ate Long John Silvers and pizza rolls.  But it was fantastic!  It was the kind of fantastic you can only do when you’re twenty-two because you’re carefree and rebellious.

Yes.  I just admitted that the extent of my rebellion has been living at a National Park and volunteering with their living history department.  My parents were bored during my teenage years.  I was sitting in my room writing the entire time.

Speaking of writing, that didn’t happen for me this weekend.  Well, I wrote a paragraph in the car on the way to the Ferry.  Other than that, I just carried my notebooks around with me and made idle threats of writing, then instead fell asleep with my eyeliner on.  Will this affect my prior, anti-NaNo stance?  We’re in the home stretch before NaNo starts…and I’m still on the fence.  As usual.  Every single year, last-minute decisions and lots of hemming and hawing before just going it.  We’ll see what happens on Friday.

If you didn’t make it out to the event this weekend (and I know you didn’t, because you didn’t say hello to me), if the sequester doesn’t leave us all in a standstill, rumor has it that you might catch us at Antietam, Spotsylvania, and/or Monocacy in 2014.  Maybe Gettysburg, maybe not.  There’s a ton of 150th events to be had!  Time to start saving up my diem to carpe in style.



    1. It was great!! As for NaNo….I’m trying to motivate to write a blog post on how I’ve decided to NaNo. I’m a Rebel. I’m just…really lazy. We had KFC for dinner on paper plates. I’m surprised I’m not collecting dust today, I’m so lazy…

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