Ladies bear weather

Published 12:06 am Monday, March 16, 2009

NATCHEZ — The cold and rain wasn’t enough to keep the women from the Ladies Civil War Academy from camping out at Historic Jefferson College over the weekend.

The academy is a weekend event that trains female Civil War re-enactors how to perform the duties women would have been performing in that time period.

Many of the women from the academy then go on to take part in large-scale Civil War re-enactments.

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On Sunday afternoon this year’s academy was breaking down camp and heading back to the real world.

In one corner of the camp a woman was packing her damp sleeping bag and in another a woman was preparing to fill in the fire pit they cooked beef stew on the night before.

Vonda Spiess, camp coordinator, said the academy is a way for women of the present to have some connection with the women from that part of history.

“Ladies become thoroughly engrossed with this,” Spiess said.

This year’s attendees learned how to dress, sew, cook, quilt and crochet all the way women would have been doing those same jobs during the Civil War, Spiess said.

“We appreciate our past,” Spiess said. “And we spend time researching that past so that we can preserve it out here.”

Vicky Ratliff was the only Natchez resident at the weekend’s event, and said she wouldn’t consider missing the weekend.

Ratliff describes her husband as a major “Civil War buff,” and that’s what eventually got her interested in the Ladies Academy.

“It’s certainly not glamorous,” Ratliff said taking a break in a rocking chair. “But you meet so many amazing ladies. And there are always so many new things to learn.”

While this year’s academy was Ratliff’s 10th, for some this past weekend on the grounds of Jefferson College was a first.

Victoria Sappington said she was excited to spend her first weekend with the academy.

“It was a great experience,” she said. “There’s so much out here to learn, and so many people to meet.”

And for Patricia Salassi meeting new friends is the best part of the entire event.

“There’s a great sense of camaraderie with all the ladies,” Salassi said. “That’s what keeps us coming back.”