Civil War


The Washington Monument

I spent today (7/28/17) visiting dear friends who live in the Harper’s Ferry area.  I have eased back into my second week of my grant, and had wanted to head back to the Winchester area to see if there was anything else I needed to see.  However, the rainy day was a damper on plans to explore some other areas.  Still, my friend suggested we explore the Washington Monument, so we headed over to Washington Monument State Park in Middletown, Maryland.

The history

This hidden treasure is the first monument to Washington, erected by the people of Boonsboro, Maryland, on July 4, 1827.  At the end of the day, they had stacked stones to create a 15 foot monument on a 54 foot base.  (It was later raised to 30 feet.). They read the Declaration of Independence, and the monument received a gun salute by veterans of the Revolutionary War.  While the monument did fall into disrepair over time, it was used as a signal tower by the Union army during the Civil War and was preserved and restored by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in 1936.

Our view from the top…😩

The ranger at the Museum explained that this area loved George Washington, who had crossed many times through surveying and the French-Indian War.  He explained that Route 40 was actually George Washington’s idea (pushed through Congress by Jefferson) for the National Road because he’d been travelling the Indian trails through here so much.  So, though I wasn’t expecting to literally “walk where Washington did,” I had the experience of seeing his trails and the simple way he was honored by the people of a small town who had loved him.  It was a blessing indeed.

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The Handley Library in Winchester, VA

I set out today (7/11/17) to find the library recommended to me by the Culpepper Library. (I also ran in by the Culpepper Library to copy some family tree info for a friend.  I had been scanning the shelves looking for things on Washington and ran across a book on his family.  I messaged him to see if he was aware of it, and was able to get him information for his upcoming family reunion!  Amazing God timing!)

The Handley Library in Winchester is an incredible building architecturally.  I headed down to the archives and started looking through their collection of Washington items.  While I didn’t find really anything new, (though I got to see some cool things), I learned that they have a French Indian War Organization whom I decided to try contacting.

Site of Fort Loudoun

When I stopped by the headquarters of the Organization, however, I discovered it was located at the site of Fort Loudoun, which George Washington designed and oversaw.  Unfortunately, there isn’t anything left of the fort but a filled in well–it now has houses on the site–but, they had an audio tour with some good information.

Jackson Headquarters

As I was heading to the Fort, I had noticed a sign for the Stonewall Jackson Museum in Winchester.  Since he’s my favorite Civil War General, I decided to swing by.  I’m so glad I did.  The site, known as Jackson’s Headquarters, was used by Jackson from 1861-1862.  The house itself was built in 1854 and first belonged to a dentist, but he sold it to Col. Moore (Great Grandfather of Mary Tyler Moore).  When Jackson came to town, he first stayed at the Taylor Hotel, but he had become famous (the whole “Stonewall” incident), so people were constantly trying to see him, and he never got anything done.  Col. Moore knew of the situation and had planned on vacating the house, so he offered it to Jackson.  Jackson moved in November of 1861, and his wife came the next month.

When he leaves in January for the Romney Campaign, his wife goes to live with the Grahams, so when he returns, he’ll go to her there and use the Moore’s home as his office.  Incidentally, the wallpaper in his office, which Jackson described vividly enough that it was able to be reproduced, and when they found the original, it was the same design.  Mary Tyler Moore paid for the office to be wallpapered again.

Jackson, seen through a cannon wheel

Jackson came close to quitting the war in this room as well.  He and General Loring had secured Romney (despite Loring’s delays and complaints over the conditions his men were enduring.)  Jackson left Loring to keep Romney secured.  Though the men were safe, Loring was frustrated with Jackson, felt vulnerable, and went over Jackson’s head to the War Department to have his men recalled.  Without consulting Jackson, the War Department ordered Jackson to recall Loring.  Jackson was furious and promptly resigned (asked for a transfer to VMI).  Joseph Johnston talked him out of it, however.  Still, Jackson was proved correct when the Union forces regained Romney as soon as Loring’s men had left it.

The Museum is also unique in that it has the Battle flag of the 33rd Virginia (Stonewall Brigade).  When battle flags were surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse, a soldier managed to keep this one hidden.  Another amazing artifact is Jackson’s prayer book.  The curator explained he has lots of personal notes inside, but they’re not opening it.  That’s disappointing to me–I would love to have read Jackson’s notes and prayers.  She explained that Jackson’s habit was to pray three times a day.  He used to hang a handkerchief on his tent so his men knew to leave him alone.

Manassas

While I only got the abbreviated tour (I got there at 3:30, and they close at 4), I absolutely recommend this site!

From Jackson’s headquarters, I finished the drive to Manassas, where I will spend the evening before heading to Mount Vernon tomorrow.  It was perfect at the end of the day to see where Stonewall became Stonewall.

 

The Culpepper Library

I spent today (7/10/17) at two different libraries, again looking for primary source information on Washington.  I started out at the Culpepper Library, which I was surprised to find located in a shopping center!  But despite its unusual appearances, I received a lot of helpful information.  First, the librarian pointed me to another library I will have to check out tomorrow (it was an hour and a half away…), but she also helped me find a few accounts I hadn’t seen before.

View of Ferry Farm

First, I was interested to read an account of Ferry Farm and discover the house looks very different from the way they’re reconstructing it, so I’m sending the information I found over to them.  I’m sure they have done extensive research, it was just interesting to me.  Additionally, I found out that in the trial of the two indentured servants who had stolen George’s clothes while he was swimming, it was, in fact, two Women!  You have to wonder what they were thinking.  Apparently, from the records I’d found, one of them gave evidence that it was the other’s fault, and that girl got 15 lashes on a bare back.  Still, I think it’s hilarious and wonder how old these two ladies actually were.

I also found some anecdotes from others who knew George as a young man.  One described the fact that George could outrun anyone in the county, though another kid in town who was an excellent runner liked to boast he could “bring George to a tie.  But, I believe he was mistaken;  for I have seen them run together many a time; and George always beat him easy enough. ” Another man talked about how fine a rider George was, and how good a judge of horses.  A final man mentioned that strength ran in the Washington family, as his dad’s gun was so heavy that “not one man in fifty could fire it without a rest.”  He mentions Washington throwing rocks over the Rappahannock (determined to be 115 yards in length–or over a whole football field), so I’m sure this is what gave rise to the Silver dollar over the Potomac myth.  Definitely fascinating reading, though.

Washington’s letter–this original is an amazing part of the special collection at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville

From there, I made my way to the Special Collections building at the University of Virginia.  I checked out a box of Washington’s papers.  What an amazing privilege to hold Washington’s own description of the ambush in the French Indian War.  His writing is incredibly small (Picture left shows an eraser for comparison), and there was no transcript, but I got to read his description of the engagement I wanted.  Here’s what he said:

“When we came to this place we were attacked (very unexpectedly, I must own) by about 300 French and Indians….(After accounting their number and that they had 60 killed and wounded officers, including his General who would die three days later)…I had four bullets through my coat and two horses shot under me.  It is supposed we left 300 or more dead in the field.”

Another interesting passage to me was a letter he wrote to a close friend during the American Revolution.  He writes very candidly since this letter is being hand delivered and not going through any post riders.  His purpose is:

“to make you sensible of the real situation of our affairs, and that it is with difficulty, (if I may use the expression) that I can by every means in my favor keep the life and soul of this army together–in short, when they (Congress) are at a distance, they think it is but to say “(unreadable)” and everything is done–as in other words done (unreadable) without considering or seeming to have any conception of the difficulties and perplexities attending those who are to carry these resolves into effect.”  (Mar. 2, 1777 to Robert Morris)

It resonated because I could clearly understand how our current military men must feel when D.C. is making decisions that they have to carry out, having no real concept of what conditions are like or what it costs those men.  A good perspective.

The Statue slated for removal

I ended the day driving by the statue of Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park (formerly Lee Park) voted to be removed.  It had come to my attention on Twitter that there had been a march protesting the removal of the statue, so I wanted to go see it before it was gone.  I had posted on Facebook about the statue and had a lengthy conversation about how these men are perceived and whether or not there should be statues to them.  Having family in the South and knowing the character of these men, I love that they’re honored.  But, to some of my African American friends, they represent a system of slavery that led to unspeakable horrors for their ancestors.  I was again reminded of the need for good honest dialogue in order to mend the wounds that still run deep!

 

Washington’s Birthplace

After church at Crosswalk this morning (7/9/17), I set out from Williamsburg to take in two spots from Washington’s youth:  his birthplace, where he lived through age three, and his boyhood home, where he lived until he was a young teenager.  Both were incredible to see.

When I arrived at the birthplace, I learned that it had been the intention of George’s father Augustine to secure farms for all of his sons, not just the first one as was traditional.  He had the Pope’s Creek plantation first, then acquired Mount Vernon, and finally Ferry Farm.  Because of these acquisitions, George only lived at the Pope’s Creek Plantation until he was three, but often returned often during his youth. The house was in the family until 1779 when it burned in a fire on Christmas Day.

The reconstructed house–where they thought it stood.

While there is an outline of original house, the house on the property was built for the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birthday.  They built it on the spot they assumed was the original, but later archaeology confirmed a different location.

Our house tour was given by the lively Chris Kennedy, who told Washington’s whole story in rhymed verse–very fascinating information and delivery.  Kennedy stated that the stories about Washington (like the Cherry tree incident) were not meant to be taken for real events, but rather served as moral examples to the character children should acquire.  Chris said that the point of the Cherry tree story is to teach children (and grown ups as well) to admit when they’ve made a mistake.

Washington’s view out to the Potomac River

Chris also shared a bit of the Washington family history.  Washington’s dad’s first wife Jane died, leaving 3 kids.  Augustine’s second wife Mary gave birth to five more, of which George was the oldest.  As I mentioned, Augustine Washington was actively working to acquire farms for each of his sons, but when he died, all of George’s prospects changed. Now, he couldn’t go to England to study (a fact that would hinder his advancement in the British Army).  Additionally, Mary pulled George out of school at the age of 11 to help her run the Ferry Farm (she decided not to remarry–her property would be affected.  Additionally, with her older step sons (both in their 20’s) running Mount Vernon and Pope’s Creek, she felt she and George could manage Ferry Farm–George’s inheritance.)  George wanted to be in the British Navy, but his mom wrote letters so they wouldn’t take him (I’m curious to find what these say!)  Instead, she reluctantly sent George to his half brothers’ farms to learn.

The cradle came from the Washingtons, so it could have been George’s.

It is at his brothers that George does his first survey:  his brother’s turnip garden. His brother introduces him to Lord Fairfax, the richest man in Virginia and Lawrence’s father-in-law, who will hire him on as a surveyor.  George had always imagined he’d be a British officer and played with toy soldiers as a boy, but because of his lack of education, he was looked down on, even when he was able to join the militia.  George worked first as a farmer, then as a surveyor. Because of this, he knew much of the land, a fact that would advance him in battle later.

The bridge (reconstructed) over Pope’s Creek

Another tragedy struck when Lawrence died.  His widow inherited Mount Vernon. (George was next in line after her.)   George asks her to rent it to him, and she does. Shortly after, George receives a commission in the British army. His job?  Take letters to Ft. Duquesne.  Along the way, the French ambushed the company and an unarmed French nobleman was shot. Washington took prisoners so he’d have a chance to explain the situation (at Ft. Necessity.)  But, George still became the fall guy. (Apparently, he signed a confession he couldn’t understand because his translator had died–a good lesson in not signing something without reading it!)

Washington’s parents’ coats of arms

Later, General Braddock was advised by George to fight behind trees. Braddock ignores George’s advice and gets caught in an ambush where he and other officers are killed. The virtually leaderless soldiers flee to the woods. Washington is able to lead them out by a trail he knew as a boy. George himself had bullet holes in shoulder and hat. He did, however, learn that the British only want to hear what they want to hear instead of how to best protect their men.  That knowledge will help him with the attack on Trenton in the American Revolution.

Entrance to Ferry Farm

From Washington’s birthplace, I headed out to Ferry Farm.  I was surprised to enter this formerly 600 acre plantation by means of a dirt and gravel road. I knew that Augustine Washington had owned an iron works 6 miles down the road, which was probably the reason he chose this spot–that and it was near Fredericksburg, which was a bustling tobacco port. But, Ferry Farm was to be George’s property.  I found out when I went in the main building that George’s mom finally sold this property and moved to Fredericksburg in 1772. She sold it to Mercers, who rented it out. Later, a soldier in Civil War wrote a letter home in which he stated they had torn down Washington’s house for firewood. After that, Youth For Christ bought the property for a boy’s home. In 1996, the Kenmore foundation (Washington’s sister’s home) purchased it. Finally, in 2008 archaeologists found foundation of the house, and they are currently rebuilding on original site.

The Visitor Center

At the visitor center, I received an ipad to take a tour around the grounds.  There is a series of 10 flags which mark various points on the property.  At each point, you can listen to historical information as well as hear from the archaeologists.  Here are a few of the nuggets I gleaned along the way:

1.  When George moved here from Mount Vernon, he left a plantation for urban life–the city is obviously very different from the country.

2.  George’s first survey was of brother’s turnip patch. When Lord Fairfax enlisted him as a surveyor, this gave George a substantial salary.  Additionally, surveyors got to see the land first for claiming.

3.  Some slaves came with the property, some the Washington’s already had, and some came from Africa. One of the beads found on the property marked a chief.  I was reminded of the story of Cinque on the Amistad.  I wonder what his story was.

 

4.  Archaeology tells a lot about the family.  Since all of the estates were separated when Augustine died, Mary, who is 35 at the time and has 5 children, is left in charge of all the plantations. One thing archaeologists found is a punch bowl that Mary had mended–this shows that while they were comfortably situated, Mary is still being frugal.

 

5.  Being at the crossroads of trade, George undoubtedly conversed with people coming and going, which would improve his gentlemanly standing.  Also, from his surveyors wages, he paid for his own dancing and fencing lessons and to go to the theatre–which I think is both cool and hilarious.  He also learns cards and billiards, joins the masons, and is taught tea table manners. He learned gentlemanly behavior both at Ferry Farm and from Lawrence and the Fairfaxes.

6.  Archaeologists found over 115 wig curlers on Ferry Farm.  (George didn’t wear a wig–he liked his own hair better….)

The Rappahannock–this is the river Washington threw things across, though stones, not silver dollars

7.  Two court cases draw very public scrutiny of the family.  First, in there’s a trial in which one slave kills another–there wasn’t much information on that.  The other court case concerns George swimming in the Rappahannock and 2 indentured servants steal his clothes (I also think this one is hilarious!)

Construction and archaeology

Though it was unfinished, I’m glad I made a stop here, and will enjoy seeing the progress they’ve made the next time I come!

Mom and I at Dad's marker in Arlington

Mom and I at Dad’s marker in Arlington

Because my mom had a funeral to attend in Manassas, we decided to spend the day (7/13/15) and visit my dad’s grave in Arlington and take in Manassas Battlefield.
It was a damp day in Arlington, but we stopped to put stones on my dad’s headstone and spend a bit of time. Since I love Arlington, I had wanted my dad to be buried there, and because of his military service, we were able to arrange it. It has worked out well, since I have had the opportunity to visit almost every year since he’s been gone.

From Arlington, we headed to Manassas. Since this is one of the battles I teach (First and Second Bull Run for the northerners), and a battlefield I had not yet visited, I was excited to see what I could find.  We started in the visitor center, but had only a few hours before the funeral, so we skipped the movie and exhibits and decided to spend our time outside since the rain had stopped. When he found out I teach in Indiana, the ranger told us we had to head down to Brawner Farm to see where our Indiana boys had received their baptism by fire.

Brawny Farm

Brawner Farm

So, off to Brawner Farm we went. This was one of the locations involved in the Second Battle of Manassas. The regiment there was the 19th Indiana, lined up beside the boys of the 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin–known at this battle as the Black Hat Brigade. They were named such because their commander John Gibbon wanted them dressed, equipped, etc. like the regular army. Their uniforms consisted of black hats, long frock coats, and white gaiters. (Note: There were over 200 different uniforms at Manassas). This stylishly outfitted group later became known as the Iron Brigade when Antietam rolled around.

The 19th Indiana, however, showed their mettle here against the Stonewall Brigade. (This is where my loyalties become torn. Indiana has been my home for about 24 years, but Stonewall Jackson has been my favorite for about as long.) The 19th Indiana had a 60% casualty rate in this engagement. They were driven into woods at dark after being flanked by Jackson’s Virginia regiments. For 1 1/2 hours, the two groups had exchanged musket fire across about 100 yards. The day ended with Union casualties numbering 1025 and Confederates racking up 1200 on this first day of Second Manassas. They would continue to fight two more days!

Visitor Center at Manassas Battlefield

Visitor Center at Manassas Battlefield

We rushed back to catch the tour for First Manassas. The ranger explained that Lee’s goal here was to draw Pope into battle before McClellan could join him. So that we could understand some of the events here, our guide gave us the background on the men who would fight here.  Just after Ft. Sumter, on April 15, Lincoln had 20,000 men in his current army and requested 75,000 soldiers for a 90 day enlistment. By that time, Jefferson Davis had already raised 60,000 troops, and, starting in February after the states seceded, trained them for his new nation, and had requested 100,000 men  for a year enlistment. Definitely a different perspective on how events would transpire.

By May of 1861, Davis had requested another 400,000 troops and had 200,000 answer the call within 30 days. He had to turn 200,000 away because he didn’t have enough guns and uniforms yet.

Memorial to Soldiers

Memorial to Soldiers

By the time soldiers arrive at Manassas, there are roughly 280,000 Confederates against 160,000 Union, many of whom were militia–some untrained and most with no discipline.
Because of Lincoln’s 90 day enlistments, he knew he had only 90 days to score a big victory and convince those troops to stay. He chose Manassas Junction because it was the junction of two railroads–the Orange and Alexandria Railroad and the Manassas Gap Railroad. One went towards Richmond and one towards the Shenandoah Valley. Definitely a strategic way to win!
On the downside for the Union, Manassas Junction was only 25 miles from Washington D.C.! This was usually a 20-22 hour trip, but Jackson’s men marched 35 miles on foot in around twelve hours, a feat (ha!) which earned them the nickname Jackson’s foot cavalry.

Artillery

Artillery

The ranger then shared about some of the Union officers. Irvin McDowell had been promoted to General, an interesting choice since he had only led 12 people before. Now, he gets to command 35,000 volunteers including a regiment each of marines, army, and artillery with the rest militia and volunteer. McDowell expressed concern to Lincoln about the lack of training his men had. Lincoln replied, “You’re all green together.” Lincoln knew he only had 90 days, so he didn’t have time to wait until these men were trained, but it does make me more sympathetic to all McClellan’s training for which he’s been sharply criticized. As it stood, Lincoln had reason to be concerned: Some soldiers in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey artillery got to day 91 and went home. That’s exactly what Lincoln had been worried about.

Approaching the Henry House

Approaching the Henry House

Another General, Robert Patterson (Not to be confused with Robert Pattinson) led the Army of the Shenandoah and 18,000 men to Winchester to meet Joseph Johnston who led an army of 11,000 Confederates. Patterson’s sole job was to hold Johnston. P.G.T Beauregard heard that the Union army was headed for him at Manasses and that Patterson was headed to Richmond from Confederate spy Rose Greenhow and turned all the info he learned over to Jefferson Davis who passed in on to Johnston. Johnson, outnumbered, thought he couldn’t leave to help reinforce Beauregard. He said he needed a miracle to get out. His miracle came through Patterson’s ignorance.

Patterson contacted Winfield Scott for advice.  Patterson thinks Johnston has an army of 40,000. Johnston, however, had Jeb Stuart who knew exactly what Patterson had. Patterson told Winfield he needed to move back because he was facing superior force.

The Stone Bridge

The Stone Bridge

Scott  said, “Fine, Don’t lose Johnston.” But, the nervous Patterson moved back 7 miles instead of keeping Johnston in view. Johnston leaves immediately and takes troops by train–the first time trains were ever used to transport troops. During the battle, Union soldiers would hear trains bringing fresh troops all day long. This was a big factor in the Confederate victory!

Beauregard knew by the location of Bull Run Creek that there were only a few places to cross. He put 16,000 of his 22,000 men at various places to defend the fords where the Union would have to cross. Now, they were ready.

Confederate Colonel Nathan Evans was guarding the Stone Bridge, when he realized the forces coming were a diversion, so he sent most of his men to where McDowell was heading. He left 900 Confederates to try to stop the 13,000 Union troops coming at them. Understandably, they don’t last long.

The Henry House

The Henry House

McDowell makes a big mistake then. He stops giving orders for over an hour since Union troops are winning. This gave Jackson time to reorganize. At 2:00, McDowell commands to move the off the ridge and closer to the Henry House. This would move them into an ineffective position. His officers, Ricketts and Griffin were upset and argued with Barry, who refused to listen since McDowell had given orders. Because of this, they lost their distance advantage and had no infantry support. The Confederates had already realized that the Henry House would have been a great place for sharp shooters, so they’d taken it over. Inside the house was 84 year old Judith Henry, her children, and a slave girl. They had tried to leave previously but had gotten scared and refused. When sharp shooters continued to fire on the artillery men, Ricketts ordered the 2 northern most guns to turn and shoot house. The cannons open fired for 15 minutes. Judith Henry was mortally wounded and died 3 hours later. Her daughter Ellen got out with nothing but loss of hearing from the explosions, and Lucy, the slave girl also got wounded.

Judith Henry's and other Henry family graves

Judith Henry’s and other Henry family graves

The Confederates had retreated about 300 yards. Generals Bee and Bartow found their regiments were so shot up they couldn’t even find them in the chaos of men. Additionally, Bee’s men were panicking (Remember, this is their first battle.). Stonewall served as a rallying point for Bee, who would declare, “There stands Jackson like a Stonewall. Rally behind the Virginians.” Some soldiers wrote home that Bee was berating Jackson for not being involved, but this was most likely just jealousy that Jackson’s men were “fresh” (disregard that 35 mile hike in around 12 hours) and they’d been shot. Bee would later die trying to take cannons.

"Stonewall" Jackson--ha was actually in the treeline behind the statue when he got his name...

“Stonewall” Jackson–he was actually in the treeline behind the statue when he got his name…

Griffin then decides he wants to move his artillery without orders to engage the Confederates. Meanwhile, Sherman had 4 regiments waiting for orders. None came. Griffin gets his howitzers into position in order to flank Stonewall’s line without being seen. The Confederates are less than 200 yards away from the guns. Finally, the 33rd Virginia comes out of the tree line in their blue uniforms. Griffins had already fired two shots at the Confederate guns and turns to fire on the soldiers. Barry sees this take place from a distance. He orders Griffin to turn the guns back. When Griffin argues, Barry assures him that’s his infantry reinforcements. (Gun crews are unarmed.) Griffin finally turns his guns. The men in blue march within 50 paces and fire a volley, killing most of the gun crew. The rest run, and the guns are captured. Griffin will get wounded and captured and Johnston eventually lets his wife  visit him. He’s then sent to prison in  Richmond. After release (trade), Griffin comes back to Second Manassas as a general. He’ll end up dying in that engagement.

Attack on the guns

Attack on the guns

Seeing that the guns were captured, the 14th Brooklyn came to reinforce the guns. They charged, took back the guns, and chased the 33rd Virginia into the treeline. They made it halfway through the 2nd Virginia and were running through regiments causing havoc. Jackson ordered a counterattack. The 33rd and 2nd Virginia both have critical losses. Finally, the 14th is slowed down and has to retreat. If they had had infantry support, they could have possibly taken Jackson’s line. Jackson, realizing this, would refer to them as the red legged devils, due to the red pants of their uniform.

Our guide finished at the Stonewall Jackson statue. Most of the area around the statue saw brutal hand to hand combat. Eventually, Jackson will engage his whole regiment. Addressing them before they leave, he tells his men to use the bayonet and yell like furies. This will be the birthplace of the “Rebel yell.”

Confederate Cemetery

Confederate Cemetery

Jeb Stuart comes in at this point and starts the route. The Union army is exhausted and starts retreating back to Centreville. As they go, one gun flips over on the bridge and blocks it, leaving about 11 Union pieces to the Confederates.
Definitely great information!

After the funeral, we returned to get a few more pictures of areas important to the Second Manassas before heading for home. It was an incredible experience to see this battlefield!

More Rhododendrons

More Rhododendrons

Since our plans for an early morning trek to Cades Cove were dashed by the area being closed to motor traffic, as it every Wednesday and Saturday from early May to late September (I’m sure this is cool for bikers and hikers, but it eliminated our possibility of seeing wildlife, who like to hide well before 10:00.), we decided to start the day with retracing our steps around the short loop of Roaring Fork Road.  We wanted to see the beauty of the flowers in the sunlight.  We drove around for a short time and were overwhelmed again by the beauty of this little area.  In the hectic world in which we live, a little peace and beauty go a long way. After we were done, we decided to head into Dandridge to check out some places special to Davy Crockett and see the second oldest city in Tennessee.  Because I teach history, we thought it would be a good idea to see what was available.

Bush Bros Cafe, Museum, and Store

Bush Bros Cafe, Museum, and Store

Mom had discovered that the Bush’s Beans Museum (Bush Bros Cafe, Museum, and Store) was located along the way in Chestnut Hill (so small, you need to put Dandridge in the GPS to find it). We decided to stop, and I’m glad we did.  We did not check out the cafe, though I’m sure it had great food.  Instead, we headed to the museum and gift store.  After browsing through the collection of–what else?–canned goods, along with braided rugs, general store candy, stuffed Duke dogs, and various other souvenirs, we toured the museum.  Since this was just a side stop, we didn’t spend a lot of time, but it gave me a new appreciation of Bush’s Beans.  I didn’t realize they had been a major supplier during the World Wars, had created staples to help out in the Great Depression, and were otherwise great citizens helping out their community in a variety of ways including buying shoes for the school children of their community.  It really is an amazing story of this company that now corners 80% of the bean market!

Jefferson County Courthouse

Jefferson County Courthouse

From there, we headed to the Jefferson County Court House–part of Historic Dandridge.  We made our first stop the Courthouse, where there is a small town museum, seemingly displaying anything old the town had to donate from Confederate currency to weaponry, to books, eye glasses, family Bibles, etc.  The museum is currently being rearranged, but there is definitely an interesting collection there.  We headed down to the visitor center and picked up some brochures from the kind, mostly deaf man who misunderstood everything we said, but gave us free postcards and a variety of information.  We had been recommended by the greeter at Bush’s Beans to check out the Tinsley Bible Drug company (Words I never expected to see in the same sentence.)  This little drug store boasted an old-fashioned lunch counter where you could grab a small meal or an old-fashioned Milkshake.  Mom and I chose to try the chocolate peanut butter shake.  You know a milkshake is homemade when no two taste alike, and even though mom and I got the same shake, they tasted slightly different.

Hopewell Church Cemetery 1785

Hopewell Church Cemetery 1785

On our way to the drug store, we had noticed a neat old cemetery.  We found out it dated back to the American Revolution era, and was the original cemetery of the Hopewell Presbyterian Church–the oldest church in Jefferson County.  Unfortunately, the gravestones are so worn or are just regular stones, so there’s no way of telling who’s buried here (though they may have some kind of burial records somewhere.)  The cemetery itself was small, but beautiful with lovely flowers and stone benches.  Definitely a peaceful place! One of the proprietors at the courthouse had recommended we check it out (as she was a lover of old cemeteries herself.)  I’m sure there was more to see (There are 38 stops on the Dandridge walking tour), but we wanted to check out more about Davy Crockett, so we headed to Morristown to the Crockett Tavern.

Crockett Tavern

Crockett Tavern

The Crockett Tavern was actually smaller than we were anticipating, but well worth the $5.00 admission fee.  Located on the site of Davy Crockett’s boyhood home, the site boasts a reconstruction of the tavern Crockett’s parents owned.  Our guide was a wonderfully knowledgeable woman whose name I missed.  She took us through the house and shared a great deal of information about all things Davy related.  It was interesting to learn about things like the fact that his father actually indentured his children out to pay his debts.  Davy was indentured to a number of people and did everything from tending cattle to working on a shipyard.  While any of these trades could have taken him off the course of being an American hero, they did serve to shape his character and give him survival skills that would be incredibly useful in his later life.  One sad story was of Davy’s sister who was indentured to a farmer at age 14.

Covered wagon

Covered wagon

Apparently, she got pregnant by someone on the farm and was sent to live with a Baptist pastor and his family.  Unfortunately, both she and the baby would end up dying within the year.  Our guide also shared a number of fun family tidbits about Davy’s political career, as well as his break with Jackson over the Indian Removal Act.  It’s a bit surprising, given the fact that Davy’s grandfather was murdered by Native Americans, and he helped fight alongside Jackson against the Creeks, but Davy was against kicking out the Native Americans.  He thought they were well enough assimilated.  This stance cost him his political career, though interestingly enough, shortly after Crockett’s defeat, his son John Wesley would take office.  Crockett, however, moved to Texas, and the rest, as they say, is history.  She also shared the theory that Davy did not die on the wall of the Alamo, but rather was captured and shot.  One of those things we may never know.

General Longstreet Museum

General Longstreet Museum

Our wonderful tour guide did us the kindness of calling over to the General Longstreet Museum in Russellville to see if Linda would be willing to wait on us for a little while.  (It was 4:30, and the Museum closed at 5:00)  She said that she had to leave for church at 6:00, but would be glad to stay to let us in and show us around.  True Southern hospitality. In the first room, we discovered that Longstreet was told about this place at the depot and ran a telegraph line from the depot to the house.  (It should be mentioned that the house has been added onto, and is not even in its original location, though much has been done to preserve it in the condition it was.)  Linda shared many stories of Longstreet’s life and military experience.  One fun thing for us to learn was that Longstreet had an artillery commander named Peyton Manning.  (After whom the football star is named, not Walter Payton as it’s traditionally believed.)

Longstreet and his staff help man the guns of Captain MB Miller in the apple orchard, painted by Dale Gallon (Photo Courtesy of the Civil War Talk)

Longstreet and his staff help man the guns of Captain MB Miller in the apple orchard, painted by Dale Gallon (Photo Courtesy of the Civil War Talk)

Another cool story Linda told was about a painting that hung in the hallway.  At Antietam, Longstreet led his command with a slipper on his right foot due to a boot blistered heel.  Both Linda and I loved the fact that painter Dale Gallon knew the history and included it in the picture (Shown right.)  Linda also shared that, despite current belief, Longstreet loved Lee and would not have maligned him intentionally.  The two disagreed–especially at Gettysburg where Longstreet had advised Lee to push Meade’s men to them instead of marching towards them in Pickett’s charge.  Lee, unfortunately, didn’t listen.  Longstreet had his own mistakes, though, and this didn’t change his respect for Lee.  He wrote his memoirs well after the war, so he may have embellished details more than he would have imagined.

General Kershaw's Office

General Kershaw’s Office

Finally, Linda shared with us about Longstreet’s wounding in the wilderness.  It sounded a lot like Stonewall Jackson’s, and was fairly close to the same place (4 miles away) and only four days past a year from when Jackson was shot.  Longstreet was also shot by friendly fire, though through the shoulder and throat.  His arm would never recover and later pictures show it either tucked in his jacket like Napoleon, or supported by something.  He was sensitive enough after the wounding to cover his face with his hat to shield him from the view of his men, and he assured those who saw him that he would be back, but it was a long time coming.

The museum also boasts a display from the Nenney family, who lived in the house until the 1960’s.  Finally, the museum has purchased and moved the office used by General Kershaw, a general under Longstreet, to this location.  He had used The Green family’s office (originally located about a mile away) as his during the war.  All in all, we learned a great deal and look forward to seeing the continued restorations made by the Museum.  Having had a full day, we headed back to the resort to pack for home where I will pack again for my next great adventure:  Poland!  Stay tuned!

Lincoln Hearse 150th Anniversary

Lincoln Hearse 150th Anniversary

Today (5/2/15) marks the end of an era.  While there were Civil War related happenings that occurred after today, the celebration of Lincoln’s funeral trail arriving in Springfield, Illinois, represents the end of a glorious 4 years of remembrance.  As a reenactor, I have thoroughly enjoyed having the Civil War so close to our thoughts during this time.  I’ve attended national events, visited battlefields and museums, and watched movies (including this week covering the Lincoln assassination and showing The Conspirator) and TV shows focused on the period, and attended countless other events.  With today’s event, that aspect will begin to fade.  For that reason, despite the busyness of the season for me and the struggles of coming off chemo and preparing for surgery for my friend, we decided to make the 3+ hour trip to Springfield–to be there for this once in a lifetime event.

We arrived in Springfield just as the horses were pulling the hearse down the street followed by a procession of reenactors.  But, we still had to park, so we actually arrived just as the formal program was beginning.  It was truly a beautiful beginning.  Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield opened with prayer, recognizing the fact that when Lincoln left Springfield to travel to Washington D.C., not knowing if he would see his friends and neighbors again, he left them in the care of God.  He explained that while many lost a president, residents here lost a friend.  A number of other speakers followed–each with a pearl of wisdom.  Governor Bruce Rauner shared about Lincoln’s role as a uniter of races–a relevant topic in light of recent events.

Reenactors outside the Old Statehouse

Reenactors outside the Old Statehouse

The military commander shared about Lincoln the soldier, and not only the way that he followed instruction, but the way that he led.  Lincoln was represented by a number of members of the armed forces from Illinois who also represented fallen comrades in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The ambassador from San Marino to the U.S., Paolo Rondelli presented a Lincoln coin that had just been created in Italy.  Interspersed with these inspiring speeches was the music of a number of different bands and a choir.  My favorite was when the choir sang “Amazing Grace” shortly after the invocation.  The man beside me began singing along, I did as well, and before the end of the first verse, many of the crowd had joined in. It was a powerful moment.  What I loved most about this time was that each speaker painted a different picture of Lincoln.  As our group would later discuss, Lincoln was a man–he did many things I agree with and admire, and a few that I don’t, but all in all, he was simply a man.  A man who as Secretary of War Edwin Stanton said, “Now (he) belongs to the ages.”

From the opening program, we headed over to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.  It was an amazing experience, well worth the $15.00 combined ticket with Union Station (which I got for $8.00–Teacher perk…)  The museum really focuses on Lincoln’s entire life.  It starts with Journey 1, where visitors will track through Lincoln’s early life, his boyhood, jobs, courting, etc.  In the section called Journey 2, Lincoln’s political life comes to life and death, for here we trace Lincoln’s career as a young Senator, through his presidency, and finally to his funeral.

Entrance to Journey 1

Entrance to Journey 1

Each area offers incredibly lifelike wax figures portraying scenes in Lincoln’s life, but also shows artifacts from the period and gives information on Lincoln’s journey during that time.  My favorite section of the display was a series of political cartoons published about Lincoln.  I had seen about 4 or 5 of them, but there were probably 50 completely vilifying Lincoln.  I’ve long told students that political cartoons back in the day were brutal, and the ones about Lincoln are exceptionally cruel.  Just another opportunity to see a different side of Lincoln.

The dual ticket from the Museum also offered entrance to Union Station where there is currently a display called “From History to Hollywood.”  This display boasts sets and costumes from the movieLincoln.  What was most interesting to me in this section was the wardrobe of Mary Todd Lincoln (costumes.)  I learned that Sally Fields is exactly the height of Mary Todd, though she had to gain 20 pounds to play the role.  Standing on the floor beside the costume resting on the steps, I towered over the top (I’m 5’9″).  How short was Mary Todd?!  About 5 feet tall–Imagine that next to the 6’4″ Lincoln.  They must have looked fun in pictures, though I don’t recall any of the two of them beside each other.

Lincoln Home draped in mourning

Lincoln Home draped in mourning


With sore feet, we headed to the Lincoln House, but, when we found out that the next tour wouldn’t leave until about an hour and a half later, we decided to just enjoy the outside and head out of town.  We made one final stop at Lincoln’s tomb to see where all of the family is buried, except Robert, who is buried at Arlington–I’ll have to look him up next time I’m there.  The monument tomb has to be the coolest burial place.  Not only is the monument huge and imposing, there are replicas of numerous statues of Lincoln with details of where the actual statue stands.  The walls also bear transcripts of famous speeches Lincoln made–incredible to read.  Finally, the sarcophagus for Lincoln is beautiful and surrounded by the flags of states where he or his ancestors had lived.  Just an amazing and appropriate place–and indeed, the perfect place to lay to rest this season of Civil War celebrations.

Lincoln tomb monument

Lincoln tomb monument

What struck me most is a statement Lincoln makes in his farewell to Springfield (transcript posted inside the tomb and quoted in the opening ceremony today.)  In the speech, he states, “I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington.  Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed.  With that assistance, I cannot fail.  Trusting in Him who can go with me and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well.”

What stood out to me was the fact that he had a tougher task than George Washington.  Washington merely had the task of building a nation (merely!)–Lincoln had the task of reconciling a nation that had splintered before he ever stepped into office.  And yet, he managed.  With faith and trust in God, he saw our nation weather devastating losses, brought an oppressed people to freedom, and kept our nation from splintering, all while undergoing untold personal losses–the death of three of his children and its affect on both him and his wife.

Close up of Lincoln Memorial

Close up of Lincoln Memorial

One of my students asked me this week how the nation would have been different if Lincoln had never been assassinated.  The ripples, I explained, would be vast.  With easier reconstruction, racial reconciliation might have been easier, perhaps even eliminating the need for the Civil Rights movement, as segregation might never have happened.  But, he also might not have been quite so loved.  Lincoln had been horribly unpopular in wide circles, but with his assassination, the tide turned, and people flocked to pay their respects.

But, regardless of what might have changed, the fact is, 150 years later, we are still touched by the legacy of a man who held fast in difficult times and saw our nation through.  His example of steadfastness in the midst of adversity is incredible.  May we strive to do the same today–to bring reconciliation to long held wounds, to hold fast to truth and integrity, and to seek to leave a legacy for those who follow behind us!

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