“They call us the Fighting Fiskes,” said Jonathan “Pappy” Fiske at the Heritage Festival in Troy last weekend.
Pappy and his family participate in at least 20 re-enactments a year, from Rome, New York to Chickamauga, Georgia. Last weekend they camped two nights on the field at the Heritage Festival as part of the Civil War re-enactment. Theirs was one of several tents that were set up in an encampment modeling the Civil War period.
In addition to Pappy, the Fiske’s include family members Jody Fiske, Pappy’s wife; Jonathan “Bud” Fiske, Jr., their youngest son; Heather Clark, their oldest daughter with her two daughters Hannah and Rachel. Friend Katie Brooks was also camping with them.
According to the Fiske Family, they have been doing re-enactments for seven years.
“Our fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Paulette Conrad influenced us,” explained Heather. “She took the fifth grades to Gettysburg every year.”
Both Heather and Bud had her and she was even Pappy’s teacher years before that.
“You know how many years ago that was?” laughed Pappy.
“She was a great teacher,” continued Heather. “I had her for third and fifth grades.”
“She was very hands on with her classes,” said Bud. “She turned me on to reading. I read a book by Gary Paulson called The Rifle. Then I read every other one of his. First time I ever liked reading.”
“Her favorite movie was Gettysburg,” said Heather. “We spent months learning about Gettysburg.”
When they went on their class field trip Bud remembers how much he loved the wax museum. He thought it would be cool to wear all those uniforms.
Today, that’s what the Fiske Family is doing. But actually, it’s what they have always done – camping.
They were always a camping family as far as Heather can remember.
“We didn’t take vacations, said Heather. “We went camping in the cow pasture. In the morning the cows would rub against the camper.”
The only thing new for them when they started doing the re-enactments was the clothing. They make some of their own period clothing. They buy the men’s pants from sutlers or the Regimental Quartermaster in Gettysburg. A sutler is a Civil War “store.” The men’s pants are wool, the shirts are cotton, and the dresses are cotton. Their clothing is all period correct.
During the Civil War period, women wore seven layers under their dresses – petticoats, slips, under slips, hoop skirt, pantaloons, corset, and corset cover. This amounted to about 60 to 65 pounds of clothing, plus thigh high stockings and boots or shoes.
“That’s why women were known to have fainting spells and carried fans,” said Jody.
“They carried vinaigrette with them,” added Katie. “It’s what we know as smelling salts.”
Jody is the camp cook. They bring their own food to cook. They are very self-sufficient, as they have always been. Their tents, utensils, cookware and furniture are all period correct.
“Everything you see here is period correct,” said Pappy. “And we only attend Civil War re-enactments.”
Pappy and Bud participate in the battles at the re-enactments. They are part of the 141st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Bradford County. They have been training raw recruits for re-enactments.
“In the re-enacting world there are very few accidents,” explained Bud as he demonstrated a battle line up and how the men were positioned with their rifles aimed.
According to Pappy, they have quite a reputation for training very quickly and their recruits have been complimented on how well they act and handle themselves during re-enactments.
“Whenever we sign up for these re-enactments,” said Pappy. “They write down The Fighting Fiske’s!”
Pappy’s and Jody’s granddaughters Hannah and Rachel have been a part of the family re-enactments for their whole lives.
Hannah says her favorite thing about the re-enactment is that she gets to sleep on a cot. Rachel gets to sleep on an authentic hospital field bed that Pappy made. When asked what her favorite thing is, she said, “ I get to sleep on my bed.”
The Fiske Family had a cook fire going all weekend. They prepared breakfast lunch and dinner on that fire. As festival attendees walked through the encampment area the Fiske’s constantly offered people whatever food they had prepared. Visitors gathered at their camp, listening to their stories.
“Stir the pot; get a cup of soup,” said Jody as visitors followed the delicious aroma coming out of the huge cast iron soup pot.
“They are a very welcoming family,” said Dan Wagner. “A very giving family.”
“We love talking to people,” said Jonathan “Pappy” Fiske. “Sharing the living history.”