Civil War


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The Carter House

Having been drawn to Franklin, Tennessee, since reading The Widow of the South, we came to Nashville with plans of spending time in Franklin.  Today (12/26/17), we made a power trip to three main sites.

We started chronologically at the Carter house.  We planned to arrive around opening time (9:00 AM) to explore a bit before the 10:00 Slavery tour (held on Tuesdays at the Carter House and Thursdays at Carnton).  Since the tour was just my mom and I, and I had a good grasp on the legislation involving slavery, we got a unique experience.  Christy shared with us some of the things she felt were the most interesting in her vast research on slavery and specifically on the slaves at the Carter House.

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Slave Cabin moved in from another plantation in the area

She started with slavery’s origin in Africa.  While I knew there were huge losses during the Middle Passage, I wasn’t aware just how many lost their lives.  12.3 million slaves left Africa on slave ships and only 10.7 million survived.  That’s roughly 17%.  Another surprising statistic was that only 450,000 came to America–less than 4%.  The rest were sent to the Caribbean or South America where they were often worked to death.  One thing that made American slavery unique was allowing some slaves to stay together in family units–something Carter did.

While Christy rightfully stressed that even the best slavery was still slavery, the Carters seemed to be one of the best.  They worked alongside their slaves in the field and protected their slaves with them in the day of the Battle of Franklin.  Their 28 slaves were not only able to live as family units (and were listed as family units instead of most valuable to least valuable), but several were also left 200 acres of land a piece in Carter’s will.  The families (both names Carters as the slaves took the Carter’s name) have also remained close through the generations after slavery.  We got to see a picture, probably from the 1890’s) of the mom’s and babies of both the black and white Carters standing together–just two moms and their boys who grew up and stayed best friends all their lives.  It was neat to see Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners sit down together at the table of brotherhood” before Martin Luther King was even on the scene.

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Visible damage in both the smoke house and the field office

After the Slavery Tour, we stayed for the traditional house tour.  Adam did an incredible job of explaining the carnage of November 30, 1864.

He started with a conflict between John Bell Hood (Confederate) and William Tecumseh Sherman (Federal).  The two had been engaged in conflict before Sherman began his famous March to the Sea.  When Sherman set out, Hood tried unsuccessfully to lure him back into the area, but Sherman continued on.  Hood then decided to take Nashville, both for a morale boost and supplies.  Sherman sent Schofield to cut Hood off, leading the two to embark on a race to Nashville, where only around 8,000 federals were guarding the area.

Hood and Schofield, both with around 30,000 men, each outmaneuver the other.  Finally, Hood gets around Schofield.  He has Schofield  trapped, and both sides know it.  Hood gives strict orders to block the road, and not leave any way for Schofield to retreat.  He then prepares to accept Schofield’s surrender in the morning.  But, in the fiasco of the century, the order is dropped, and the Confederates bed down for the night on either side of a wide open road.  Schofield is somehow able to march his men right through the sleeping Confederates, a testimony to either his stealth or their exhaustion.

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View of the Carter Property

Around 4 AM, Federal Brigidier General Jacob Cox knocks on the door of the Carter house, looking for a place to rest for a few hours–his own men are as exhausted as Hood’s.  Fully believing his men will be able to retreat across the river, he tells Fountain Branch Carter there will be no battle–the men are just exhausted and need a place to rest.  Fountain Branch asks about leaving, but Cox recommends staying, as he can’t guarantee the safety of their house or belongings if he leaves.  However, when Cox’s scout wakes him up around 4:30 AM to let him know the bridges are badly damaged and none of the promised pontoon boats have arrived, leaving them trapped, things change.  Cox awakens his men, sends engineers to repair the broken bridges, and orders the rest to entrench.  They know Hood will wake up, discover they’ve left, and be hot on their heels, madder than a hornet.  They build lines of defense:  the first, a two mile trench from river bank to river bank with the city of Franklin behind.  They then build a secondary line of trenches near the Carter house.  The third line (advanced guard) is about 1/2 mile south.  Now, they wait.

Wagner (Federal) had ordered Opdycke and two other brigades to utilize their men for an advanced line of observation.  Opdycke, however, argues with this command and Wagner finally tells him to “fight wherever you d–n well please!”  Obdycke takes his men back to the Carter house–a move that will prove providential for the Union (and bring recognition to Opdycke).  Opdycke’s men who left the advanced guard go in to rest.

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View showing the distance between the cellar (right) and the front door (left)

As expected, Hood’s men start arriving around 1 (They will be seen by Mrs. McGavock over at Carnton as Franklin is mostly fields with only 750 actual residents.)  Schofield expects Hood to see the entrenched Yankees, observe the lateness of the day, and wait–hopefully allowing the bridges to be repaired or the boats to arrive.  Yet, at 4:00 PM, as it’s beginning to grow dark on Winstead Hill, Hood’s men step off.

Hood’s battle plan is brilliant and initially effective.  Attack the advance guard, and push them back to punch a hole in the middle of the Union line.  Then, pour his men through the gap to flank the Union.  Initially, his plan works.  The Union advance guard makes a full speed retreat.  The first line of defense can’t fire because their own men are coming between them and the Confederates, who punch a hole straight through.  Surprisingly, the flanks hold.  The weak links–rookies from Ohio and Missouri, who were put in the second line to keep them from screwing things up, are now fighting like the devil.  Opdyke’s men, now rested, hear the commotion and come charging in without orders.  Running to the fray, they charge straight up to confront the Confederates.

What follows is hours of the most brutal hand to hand combat in the war.  While the family, their slaves, and their neighbors the Lotz family crouch in their basement, soldiers are cut down with grape shot (canister), bludgeoned with guns, bayoneted, or bit (yes, actually bit.)  Men used everything they could get their hands on to hurt each other, and bodies piled up 6-7 deep or were used as human shields.  In some places, soldiers couldn’t even fall to die because the number of dead around them held them up.

After fighting finally died down around 9:00 PM, the sun rose to 10,000 casualties–7,500 of whom were Confederates.  There were six generals dead and another 7 captured, making this a significant loss.  One out of every four soldiers were killed in the 5 hours of fighting.  Carter described having to shovel a path from the cellar to his front door through the bodies (57 of them) and carrying a bucket for brains.

The bridges were finally finished, and Schofield’s regiment would cross the river to reinforce Nashville, where a mere two weeks later, Hood would try another assault which also fails, and he is chased back through Franklin–a town that will be indeliably changed.

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The Lotz House

Finishing the battle tour, we rushed over to the Lotz House where we had the privilege to take a tour with Thomas Cartwright–leading expert on the Battle of Franklin.  He shared much of what we heard at the Carter House, but understandably focused more on the Lotz family–particularly the daughter Matilda Lotz who became an internationally famous painter.  He explained the Lotz’s held their daughter’s birthday party the night before the battle, oblivious of events about to unfold.  The next day, the area is overrun by federals, and Matilda’s pet calf is shot in front of her.  Tom attributes this experience to the fact that Matilda will make her international reputation painting with kind faces.

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Artifacts from the Lotz House–I think there had to be a good story here

In addition to the horrors of losing a pet, Tom asks us to imagine being Mr. Lotz trying to rush his wife and three children 150 paces over to the Carter cellar.  It must have been nerve-wracking!  Tom also shows places where blood stains the floor of the Lotz house and cannon balls damaged both floor and ceiling–in fact, so much of the house was destroyed that it took Lotz four years to repair a house it’d taken him only three years to build.  Tom also points out that Lotz, a master carpenter, was obviously in a hurry to get his family out of the cellar, as there are hammer marks in the repaired areas of the floor.  Another disturbing fact is that the nails in the floor are horseshoe nails.  Knowing that six horses were left dead in the Lotz yard, and how many nails per horse shoe, it is interesting to see the same number of horseshoe nails holding together the patches in the floor.  Another indication of how desperate the area must have been left after the battle.

One connection to the slavery tour, Tom shared that Mr. Lotz’s slaves weren’t field hands, but skilled laborers.  In fact, he paid $2,500 a piece for two slaves who were also skilled carpenters.  When slaves were generally between $500 and $1,500, to pay $2,500 a slave indicates these were incredibly special slaves.  Definitely a fascinating tour!

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The McGavock’s Carnton Plantation

From the Lotz House, we rushed over to the McGavock Plantation at Carnton, one of many houses used as a hospital for Confederate soldiers.  This was the site we especially wanted to see, as it was the setting of The Widow of the South.  It truly did not disappoint!  The McGavock plantation is huge and lovely.  While the owner after the McGavocks sanded off the bloodstains on the bottom floor because they bothered his daughter (understandably!), he did leave the stains on the second floor.  These are by the windows on the South side, so doctors were able to utilize the light.  Additional tables were set up in the yard to continue to operate.

When you realize the Battle of Franklin left 10 wounded men per citizen, one can understand how every house in town became a hospital  What made the McGavock farm different is the family themselves.  Our tour guide quoted an eye witness who recounted seeing Carrie McGavock sitting on the stairs writing a letter for a wounded soldier who knew he was going to die.  Carrie’s described as having most of her overslip torn away for bandages, and her sleeves and skirt about 3/4 coated in blood.  The McGavocks were offered the opportunity to leave or to sequester themselves in one room on the second floor.  Instead of running or hiding, the McGavocks jumped in to help out, even with their young children.

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The McGavock Family Cemetery

But, the McGavocks involvement didn’t end with just offering their house as a hospital for months.  They also donated a portion of their land, next to their own cemetery containing both the McGavock’s and the McGavock slaves, to provide a cemetery for Confederate soldiers who had been buried shallowly on the battlefield, then washed up in a torrential rain.  While they had help cataloging the bodies, which are arranged by state, they also spent the rest of their lives answering letters from relatives who thought their men were here and caring for those relatives when they visited the graves.  Carrie McGavock also mourned these men as her own three children who had died young as she daily walked through the cemetery.

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One side of the Confederate Cemetery

Though our feet were killing (3 one hour tours, and one 90 minute tour), we thoroughly enjoyed our experience and hope to return in warmer weather.

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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.

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!