Friday, October 15, 2010

Talking Spirits XII

Monday I promised there would be more pictures from last Sunday's "Talking Spirits" tour. I had planned to get pictures uploaded and processed for this week's Thursday Thirteen, but between one thing and didn't happen.

This was the twelfth year for this annual event, held at Forest Hill Cemetery here in Madison. Forest Hill dates back to 1858 and was laid out as a pleasure park. Families once journeyed here on weekend afternoons for picnics, up until around WWII. With it's hundreds of shade trees and winding paths, it is still a pleasant and quiet place to walk.

Talking Spirits is a "living history" tour, in which actors portray former citizens of Madison who served their country in some capacity, or were affected by war in some way. Though the Civil War has been featured most often, there have also been tours focused on WWI, WWII, and there was even one year that featured a cast spanning the Civil War to Vietnam.

Visitors are guided through Forest Hill Cemetery where they learn about the cemetery's history and about some of the graves and people buried there. Along the 90-min to 2-hour tour, there are five or six stops where visitors "meet" some of those who lived--and served.

Within the grounds of Forest Hill are two Civil War graveyards, Soldiers Lot (where Union troops were laid to rest) and Confederate Rest (where POWs from Camp Randall were buried). Confederate Rest is the northern-most Confederate graveyard in the US.

The tour began with a short introduction in Catlin Chapel before moving across the road to Soldiers Lot. This is where many local troops killed during the Civil War were buried, including about a half dozen unknown soldiers. There are also eight children buried here, orphans from the Soldiers' Orphans Home, founded by Cordelia Harvey. We "met" two of these children on this year's tour, William Blount and Emma Billow. Emma suffered a long, lingering illness, while William was taken ill quite suddenly one day and died before the next morning (although they did not say, my guess would be polio).

Atlas Brewster as William Blount and Destiny Sabljak as Emma Billows. Sabljak's father, John Sable, writes the scripts for the annual tours. Both youngsters were on last year's tour as well.

A teddy bear leans against the grave of Emma Billows.

Unknown actress as Alice Whiting Waterman (I did not get a program this year as they ran out early), instructs vistiors in the history of Confederate Rest and how she came to care for the neglected graveyard. You can read more about her in this post from 2006.

Lt. Alfred Lamson was captured at Gettysburg and spent ten months in Libby Prison, before making a daring escape. After months on the run, he was again taken prisoner, but managed to escape once more. You can read more about him in this post from 2006. After the war, he and his wife moved to Madison, where they grew strawberries and other produce. I think the actor here is Brian Belz, who has participated in previous tours.

Tom Lodewyck reprising his role as Lieutenant Colonel Henry Harnden, another favorite character featured during the 2006 tour. You can read more about his exciting capture of Jefferson Davis here.

As you can see, Lodewyck is an exceptional actor and storyteller who really gets into his role.

The final vignette of the day featured Col. Cassius Fairchild and wife Mary. These two characters were previously featured during the 2007 tour, and I think they were portrayed by the same actors.

This scene is set after the war, when a wound Fairchild received during the Battle of Shiloh was fatally reopened. He died just ten days after he and Mary were married--talk about a short honeymoon!

I hope you enjoyed coming along on this year's Talking Spirits tour with me.

(ETA: Thanks to John Sabljak for letting em know that the actress who portrayed Alice Waterman is Jennifer Poppy.)


Alice Audrey said...

Mr. Al says, "Cool!" and "That's the cemetery to do it in." Apparently they had it for one year, right before we left, and neither of us knew about it.

Heather said...

My thanks to Mr. Al! Sorry you guys missed it the last year you were here. I did not hear about the tours myself until the 4th or 5th year they held them. I think the only year I've missed since then is 2008, when I was sick and it ended up being rained out anyway (which, I confess, made me feel better about having to skip it).