We began our four day Memorial Day memorial tour on a Friday at Manassas National Battlefield Park. This was where the first major land battle of the American Civil War, most commonly referred to as the First Battle of Bull Run, took place. On July 21, 1861 the two armies converged on the rolling hills near Centreville, Virginia. Spectators came from Washington expecting an easy victory for the North to bring a swift end to the Southern rebellion. The battle seesawed throughout the day but in the end it was a Southern Victory. It was also the place where the legendary Southern general “Stonewall Jackson” received his famous nickname. It was the beginning of a war that would almost destroy a nation and eventually claim more than 600,000 lives.
Saturday, we visited Harpers Ferry in West Virginia. A visit to Harper’s Ferry is like stepping into the past. Historical reenactors and musuems bring the history of Harpers Ferry to life! It has a multi-faceted history being the place of the first interchanable manufacture, location of John Brown’s raid against slavery (a catalyst for the Civil War), a civil war battleground, and home to one of the first integrated schools, Storer College, dedicated to educating former slaves in higher education.
If history isn’t your thing Harper’s Ferry is beautiful. It sits nestled between hills at the convergence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying, “The passage of the Patowmac through the Blue Ridge is perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in Nature.” There is even a rock named after him, Jerfferson Rock, where he took in the view above lower Harper’s Ferry and said, “this scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic”.
Sunday after a stopping in Shepherdstown West Virginia for a farmers market (Sheperherdstown is such a COOL little town), we headed over to Antietam National Battlefield. The Battle of Antietam is also know as the battle of Sharpsburg. The North tended to name battles after the closest creeks, rivers, or streams and the South often used names of towns or railroad junctions. Antietam was the bloodiest one day battle in American history with over 22,000 casualties.
This was our third battlefield in three days and, to be honest, Thing One was…Over. It. I kinda don’t blame him it was a sweltering hot weekend and after awhile all the battles start to run together with the same tragic theme. However, Thing Two couldn’t get enough if you can’t tell from the pictures! He loves history, war history in particular. This was his opportunity to wear his kepi in the correct time period. (God only knows how he feels about that!) After completing the Jr Ranger program, we took the self-guided tour through the battlefield and then ended our day at an old fashioned ice cream parlor, Nutter’s, for some crazy good ice cream. In fact, I’m still thinking about it!
It seemed fitting that we finished our Memorial Day memorial tour on Monday with a visit to Gettysburg National Military Park. While Anitiem was the bloodiest one day battle, Gettysburg was the bloodiest overall battle with over 51,000 casualties over a three day period. It was also a major turning point in the Civil War and the place where President Lincoln made his famous Gettysburg Address.
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” – Abraham Lincoln
It was an unforgettable Memorial Weekend and to any who serve or who have served and their loved ones, thank you.
Love and Laughter,
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