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.
Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, was about 45 minute drive from our “home” in Colonial Beach. The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park is the second largest military park in the…
Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, was about 45 minute drive from our “home” in Colonial Beach.
The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park is the second largest military park in the world. During the Civil War four pivotal battles, Battle of Fredericksburg, Battle of Chancellorsville, Battle of the Wilderness, and, Battle of Spotsylvania Court House were fought in the area resulting in over 100,000 casualties.
The boys in front of the Fredericksburg Visitor Center where they earned another Jr. Ranger badge.
Looking for bullet holes at the Innis house on the Sunken Road.
Considered one of the best military strategists in US history by historians, Civil War legend, Stonewall Jackson, was accidentally shot in the arm by his own men at the Battle of Chancellorville. Upon hearing about the wounding of Jackson, General Robert E. Lee is quoted as saying in affection, “Jackson has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right”. Jackson survived his left arm amputation but he died 8 days later of complications from pneumonia. This stone, located on the Wounding of Stonewall Jackson Trail, was placed in his honor not far from the place where he was mortally wounded.
Later a more formal monument was erected.
Atop the stone sat two flags bound together by not just a satin ribbon, but, by blood.
George Washington Birthplace National Monument was only a few miles from our campsite and a perfect place to spend an afternoon learning about the first president’s early years. George Washington spent the first three years of his life here at the plantation at Popes Creek before his family moved to Ferry Farm near Fredericksburg, Virginia. During his lifetime Washington made many trips back to Popes Creek to visit family and friends. The farm stayed in the Washington family until it passed to the government for preservation.
Thing One was disappointed to find out that this wasn’t the real house where George Washington was born.
However, he was thrilled that the ranger let him play the harpsichord and the ranger was quite impressed with his playing.
The foundation of the actual house where George Washington was born sits a few feet away from the restored brick house.
As a teenager George Washington studied the trade of land surveying. One of the activities in the Jr. Ranger book was to “survey” the foundation of his birth home.
Most of the afternoon we just walked the grounds and took in the beauty.
The Washington family burial ground is also on the property. Although, Washington isn’t buried there. He is buried at Mount Vernon.
At the end of the day the boys took their Jr. Ranger pledge.
Lastly with all the mudslinging going back and forth between parties, which only promises to get worse as we close in on election, I found this quote from George Washington’s Farewell Address quite timely.
“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” – George Washington, Farewell Address September 17th, 1796.
Perhaps he should have gone into fortune telling instead of politics.
It was a perfect spring day when I took the boys to Yorktown, the last stop of the historic triangle. Like Historic Jamestown and Jamestown Settlement there are two sites…
It was a perfect spring day when I took the boys to Yorktown, the last stop of the historic triangle. Like Historic Jamestown and Jamestown Settlement there are two sites to visit, Yorktown National Battlefield and Yorktown Victory Center. Unlike Jamestown Settlement you don’t need a full day to visit Yorktown Victory Center and admission doesn’t cost you your right arm like Colonial Williamsburg.
The Yorktown Victory Center is hands-on. There is a museum, a Continental Army encampment and a 1780’s farm where historical interpreters describe and depict life of the soldiers and civilians of that time.
The boys, of course, liked the war camp.
The equivalent to a light bulb.
The equivalent to a smart phone.
Yeah, I prefer my maps app. I won’t even talk about what we learned in the medical tent.
The battle at Yorktown was the last major battle of the Revolutionary War and Yorktown National Battlefield is a place to ponder the events that sealed America’s victory.
We stopped along the 7 Mile Battlefield Tour Road to explore the earthworks.
And look at the artillery.
Heading back to the truck after one of our stops we discovered something terrible.
A tick on Thing Two.
Then as we buckled up, I saw one crawling up my thigh. You would have thought I had found a stowaway cobra.
After sweaters were shaken out and bodies checked, we headed to our last stop on the 7 Mile Battlefield Road, Surrender Field, where British troops laid down their arms. I don’t know if it was the ticks, the setting sun, or PMS but, I’ll admit, I got teary-eyed looking across the field and then annoyed when all the boys could do was talk about ticks falling from the trees like paratroopers.
Maybe I should have listened to them because on the way home we found no less than 8 more stowaway ticks looking for a free meal. I think my skin may have thickened (no pun intended) at the medical tent talk because I ordered, “flick those intruders out the window” and I focused on one thing, getting this beast of a truck safely back to our campsite where I could collapse in Brent’s arms and cry about the ticks.
Historic Jamestown, located a few miles from Jamestown Settlement, is the location of the original Jamestown colony. There isn’t as much to do at the Historic Jamestown as there is…
Historic Jamestown, located a few miles from Jamestown Settlement, is the location of the original Jamestown colony.
There isn’t as much to do at the Historic Jamestown as there is at Jamestown Settlement. There aren’t any boats to climb on. There aren’t any Indian huts to explore. The fort is a little more than an outline on the ground.
You can look out at river, the former lifeline to England, and imagine what it would have been like to be John Smith waiting for supplies to arrive.
You can see the spot where Pocahontas and John Rolfe where most likely married.
You can see graves of the early settlers who braved the New World for better or for worse.
You can imagine the defeat felt by the Powhatan indians as they were pushed out of their lands.
You can walk where the first Africans arrived as slaves in 1619 and think of the devastation that would follow.
You can sit and take in the significance of the spot where the United States, the great melting pot, began.
Historic Jamestown is a beautiful and moving place.
Assateague National Seashore is most well known for wild horses. Very few things make me as excited as horses!
Especially wild horses!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I have wanted to visit Assateague National Seashore, since I read Misty of Chincoteague as a child about 25 years ago. Since we hit the road full time in our RV last October, seeing the wild ponies of Assateague Island had been at the top of my list of things to see.
Assateague Island is divided into two sides, the Virginia side and the Maryland side. We decided to go to the Virginia side because the entrance was closest to our campground and you pass over Chincoteague Island, where they have the yearly pony round up, to get there.
I was antsy with anticipation the entire drive babbling on and on about finally getting to see the wild horses. Like a kid on Christmas Eve….
I. Could. Not. Wait.
We drove onto the island, our eyes peeled for wild horses. Finally we spotted them faaaar across a marsh in a fence.
In. A. Fence.
Not only were they behind a fence, they where were so far you could hardly tell them from a deer even with my zoom lens.
This was not what I had imagined nor seen on the internet. I had seen pictures spotted horses roaming freely in campgrounds and on white sand beaches. Thanks Google for getting my hopes up.
We went to the visitor’s center and I asked about the wild horses. I was told they keep them in corrals, albeit very large corrals, on the Virginia side. They only roam free on the Maryland side.
I stood there staring at the park ranger my eyes full of tears.
It wasn’t awkward in the least.
I stammered out a thank you and left, my childhood dreams crushed.
We may not have gotten up close to the horses but we did get up close and personal with some horseshoe crabs.
We also came across some pony tracks ice cream at Island Creamery on Chincoteague.
But no free roaming wild horses.
The highlight of the morning was the Assateague Lighthouse.