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Fort Douglas Day: Civil War interpreter will bring passion to life

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 1 2015 2:07 a.m. MDT

Amanda Jones, co-president of the Ladies and Civilian Auxiliary of the Utah Civil War Association,  talks with a church group in her Civil War-era clothes in Coalville  Thursday, June 14, 2012. Jones will be part of a Fort Douglas 150th birthday celebration Saturday.
 (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Amanda Jones, co-president of the Ladies and Civilian Auxiliary of the Utah Civil War Association, talks with a church group in her Civil War-era clothes in Coalville Thursday, June 14, 2012. Jones will be part of a Fort Douglas 150th birthday celebration Saturday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

COALVILLE — Amanda Lee Jones is stripped down to her underwear and is standing unabashedly in front of a group of women.

Her composure is due to her Civil War-era underclothing, which makes a typical modern-day power suit worn by female executives look downright immodest.

There's not a patch of skin showing on her legs or arms because in those days, it would have been shamefully risque.

Jones, co-president of the ladies and civilian auxiliary of the Utah Civil War Association, is passionate about this divisive period in U.S. history, devoting hours upon hours of her free time to be a living history interpreter at a host of events.

On Saturday, she will join other volunteers participating in Fort Douglas Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. as part of the military installation's 150th birthday celebration.

Amanda Jones, co-president of the Ladies and Civilian Auxiliary of the Utah Civil War Association,  talks with a church group in her Civil War-era clothes in Coalville  Thursday, June 14, 2012. Jones will be part of a Fort Douglas 150th birthday celebration Saturday.
 (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Amanda Jones, co-president of the Ladies and Civilian Auxiliary of the Utah Civil War Association, talks with a church group in her Civil War-era clothes in Coalville Thursday, June 14, 2012. Jones will be part of a Fort Douglas 150th birthday celebration Saturday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Featuring a Civil War encampment, vintage military equipment, cannon firing demonstrations and host of other attractions, the event at 32 Potter St. is one of many being held this year to commemorate the establishment of Camp Stephen A. Douglas on Oct. 26, 1862.

A native of Kentucky, Jones grew up experiencing hundreds of Civil War re-enactments, tagging along with father and siblings to events on weekends.

"When other people were going camping or fishing, we were doing re-enactments throughout the summer and into winter."

The storied and tragic time captivated her as a young girl, and her devotion to the period has not been waned by the momentous events of her life — marriage and motherhood.

"It's a great time, a fun time," she said. "I love sharing this."

Amanda Jones, co-president of the Ladies and Civilian Auxiliary of the Utah Civil War Association,  talks with a church group in her Civil War-era clothes in Coalville  Thursday, June 14, 2012. Jones will be part of a Fort Douglas 150th birthday celebration Saturday.
 (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Amanda Jones, co-president of the Ladies and Civilian Auxiliary of the Utah Civil War Association, talks with a church group in her Civil War-era clothes in Coalville Thursday, June 14, 2012. Jones will be part of a Fort Douglas 150th birthday celebration Saturday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

The Heber City woman said her father, a dentist, plays a doctor on the battlefield and she assists by being his field nurse. She'll travel to Arizona, where he lives, to help him out on events, and he comes to Utah to help with her presentations. Her two younger brothers continue to live in Kentucky and still participate in re-enactments as well.

"To me it is a family tradition. I really enjoy it. It's our father-daughter time and he's really been such an inspiration to me. I have those moments you cherish with your dad."

On Thursday evening, Jones visited with women of the LDS Relief Society at the Coalville Stake Center, dazzling them early on with a rousing performance on a Hammered Dulcimer, including "I Wish I Was in Dixie," an 1850s song that became the de facto anthem of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Jones told the group she is self-taught on the Hammered Dulcimer — a must because the stringed instrument requires the absolute attention of the musician making chords  come to life by hitting the strings with small mallets or hammers.

Amanda Jones, co-president of the Ladies and Civilian Auxiliary of the Utah Civil War Association,  talks with a church group in her Civil War-era clothes in Coalville  Thursday, June 14, 2012. Jones will be part of a Fort Douglas 150th birthday celebration Saturday.
 (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Amanda Jones, co-president of the Ladies and Civilian Auxiliary of the Utah Civil War Association, talks with a church group in her Civil War-era clothes in Coalville Thursday, June 14, 2012. Jones will be part of a Fort Douglas 150th birthday celebration Saturday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

The instrument during the Civil War was owned only by the rich and privileged, she said, and played during socials, teas and dances.

Later, Jones put on a "ladies fashion show," demonstrating the arduous and complex task of what it takes to get dressed as a Civil War-era lady — which is why they had to rely on "mammies" or their sisters to help them.

With co-president Rachel Crane on hand to assist, Jones slipped into a boned corset that was laced up tightly. In a matter of moments, the woman's waist was transformed.

The undergarment was often worn so tightly by women they were permanently deformed, Jones said, all so they could appear to have the tiniest, most attractive waist and appear more buxom than reality.

She added that even the short-term effects of wearing such a restraining device soon become apparent.

"You can't run, you can't eat," she said. A small weight gain of just six pounds can make fitting into the corset impossible.

Amanda Jones, co-president of the Ladies and Civilian Auxiliary of the Utah Civil War Association,  talks with a church group in her Civil War-era clothes in Coalville  Thursday, June 14, 2012. Jones will be part of a Fort Douglas 150th birthday celebration Saturday.
 (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Amanda Jones, co-president of the Ladies and Civilian Auxiliary of the Utah Civil War Association, talks with a church group in her Civil War-era clothes in Coalville Thursday, June 14, 2012. Jones will be part of a Fort Douglas 150th birthday celebration Saturday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

The underpinnings, or drawers, made of cotton are actually open from "Africa to China," she said with a impish grin, because of the necessity to be able to cope with the heat that comes with the hoop skirt topped by numerous layers of petticoats. The more petticoats, the wealthier the woman and the fuller the dress. Crane then helped Jones into a "light" summer dress made of 8 to 10 yards of fabric.

To top off the outfit, Jones donned a hat. Such an accessory was critical to fashion back in the day.

"You just weren't dressed if you didn't have a hat going out," she said.

Counting fashion shows, other presentations to school groups and re-enactments, Jones said she participates in 20 events each year, and interest in them continues to grow, especially in the West.

For Jones, having the opportunity to educate the public about the Civil War is a privilege she says she cherishes, especially as a Southerner.

Amanda Jones, co-president of the Ladies and Civilian Auxiliary of the Utah Civil War Association,  talks with a church group in her Civil War-era clothes in Coalville  Thursday, June 14, 2012. Jones will be part of a Fort Douglas 150th birthday celebration Saturday.
 (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Amanda Jones, co-president of the Ladies and Civilian Auxiliary of the Utah Civil War Association, talks with a church group in her Civil War-era clothes in Coalville Thursday, June 14, 2012. Jones will be part of a Fort Douglas 150th birthday celebration Saturday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

"The American Civil War was one of the most defining moments in our history. As Southern as we are, imagine how different our country would be if the South had won and how grateful I am that they didn't," she said.

Few people are well-versed in the complexities of the war, she said, and instead rely on inaccurate depictions commonly portrayed in movies. Jones said the a typical textbook  in secondary education seldom devotes more than a page and a half to the war and it is usually from the victor's point of view.

"Only 5 percent of Southerners owned slaves when the war first broke out. It wasn't all about slavery; it was about states' rights and wanting to be separate."

She said she hopes people get a little bit of that knowledge when they watch the presentations. Her efforts, she said, are rewarded by what is captured in the eyes of children, as boredom or dread transforms into enlightenment.

Amanda Jones, co-president of the Ladies and Civilian Auxiliary of the Utah Civil War Association,  talks with a church group in her Civil War era clothes in Coalville  Thursday, June 14, 2012. Jones will be part of a Fort Douglas 150th birthday celebration Saturday.
 (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Amanda Jones, co-president of the Ladies and Civilian Auxiliary of the Utah Civil War Association, talks with a church group in her Civil War era clothes in Coalville Thursday, June 14, 2012. Jones will be part of a Fort Douglas 150th birthday celebration Saturday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

"It sparks something in them. If we don't educate our children, interest in the Civil War is going to die off. Who will carry on these traditions?"

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

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