Harpers Weekly

American Civil War Correspondent and Special Artist
James Allen Davis

 

Jill Forbath

Jill witnessed her first reenactment and began to reenact all on the same day at St. Catherine's Military Academy in Anaheim, California.

Reenacting looked like just what the ten year theater director and playwright would enjoy -- acting without script memorization and reaching out to the public with important educational information in a social context.

After a year of hoop skirts and corsets, that fatigued her physically and spiritually, she petitioned her significant other for the opportunity to be a vivandiere (Mary Tepe) on the field in their newly formed unit.

With a "period correct" uniform, broad brimmed hat, and a haversack she learned the ropes at the side of the unit's surgeon, Captain Duncan left, and bandaged soldiers and emptied canteens up and down Southern California reenactment battlefields; from Fresno to Chula Vista.

Previously an American Civil War Society member, Jill regularly attended school functions interacting with the students to show them that not all women during the American Civil War were Scarlet O'Hara types.

Jill has written two brief playlets portraying a moment in the life of a vivandiere on the field and a woman soldier dressed as a man in a field hospital available for students to perform while dressed in appropriate costuming and props.

She continually wrote period letters, prepared white sheet strips with "blood" for use in battles, and kept her uniforms and accoutrements ever-ready for action on the field and off.

 

Jill has been seen on The History Channel's "Sex and the Civil War" series putting money down her corset and unsheathing a union sword and ended up on the cutting room floor, fourteen hours of shooting later, for the John Cusack, Catherine Zeta Jones and Julia Roberts' film, America's Sweethearts.

Additional Information:

"Vivandiere", French and Latin, meaning 'hospitality giver'. Vivandieres served as nurses, mascots and sutlers and often carried a trademark cask filled with brandy, whiskey, or wine. Their uniforms consisted of jackets copied from their units with feminine touches of lace or braiding, a knee-length skirt and pants. Most wore hats to shield them from the sun and boots to protect their legs and feet. (A good many vivandieres also carried weapons -- more for self-protection from their own soldiers than for protection from the "enemy".)

Below, Jill appears on a flyer for the Drum Barracks Civil War Museum in Wilmington, California and, inserted picture, is ready for the trolley to Banning House.

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