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Anna at the Surveyor’s House (Original!)

We started the morning off (6/27/16)  back at the Surveyor’s home for the Tour. By the Shores of Silver Lake describes in great detail the miracle of the family getting to stay in the house, which is the original, though not on the original location. It was incredible to imagine the groups of homesteaders that stayed here on their trek west, occasionally in groups as large as 15!

Inside the surveyor’s home, we heard the story of Laura’s early life.  She was born in Wisconsin. Shortly afterwards, the family settled in Kansas (which was Missouri at the time), but after they developed it, they found out it was Osage Indian territory.  They had to leave their farm and everything they had made, so they came back to Wisconsin. Then, they traveled to Minnesota (Walnut Grove). They had been promised a home, but received a dugout instead.  While there, they had invested heavily in wheat, but their wheat field was eaten by locusts.  So now, Pa was in debt since he’d bought things, counting on the wheat crop to pay his bill.  He had to walk 150 miles (unfathomable!) to work on the farms the locusts hadn’t reached, make a bit of money, and come back 150 miles.

Then, the family went to Iowa where their difficult times continued. Ma gave birth to a baby boy who died.  Also, the family was living in town by saloon, so Laura skips this chapter of her life. One good thing that comes is that Baby Grace is born there.  So, once again, the family moves back to Walnut Grove.  Another tragedy strikes when Mary gets spinal meningitis (called scarlet fever in the books.)

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The Original De Smet School

Pa then agreed to go to railroad camp in De Smet. The rest of the family will follow by train.  That winter, when the Surveyors decide to go home, they offer the Ingalls the opportunity live there with use of the surveyor’s supplies!  One fun fact is that the first church service in the area was held in surveyor’s cottage.

The next location we visited was the school Laura and Carrie attended. This also is an original building moved to this site.  After being a school, it became a private residence.  Though, since it was immediately wallpapered, in restoration, they found original blackboards complete with drawing.

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Layers of the wall

One cool story we heard was about a blizzard that hit suddenly.  The teacher and superintendent were trying to make sure all the students got home safely.   They were walking single file with Laura at the end, thinking they were going in a straight line, hoping to find Main Street.  After walking a while, Laura thought it was strange that they hadn’t run into a building yet.  Just then, her shoulder brushed a building.  She called the others back, and discovered they had found the Meades hotel.  This was the last building before the prairie.  If Laura wouldn’t have found it, all the kids would have gone into the prairie and died.  Later that winter, Almanzo and Cap Garland had to go get seed wheat to feed the town. They were able to, but each family had to grind the wheat in the coffee grinder.

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The Brewster School

The final building on this property is a replica of the school where Laura first taught. She was 15 when she taught in the Brewster school. Laura moved to town to live with the Brewsters.  The Brewsters were not a family like the Ingalls and often yelled at each other.  One evening, Laura even woke up to Mrs. Brewster standing over Mr. Brewster with a knife!  For Laura, young and away from home for the first time, this was rough.  She couldn’t imagine spending all weekend with them.

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The Sleigh

On Friday, however, Almanzo came to pick her her up in his sleigh with his glorious horses.  He came every Friday, even in freezing cold weather!  Soon, Laura’s students started teasing her by calling  Almanzo her beau.  Laura decided she needed to set the record straight that she didn’t like him, so she told him on their way home. Later that week, she worried she had been too harsh.  After all, she still had 3 weekends to go.  But, Friday, Almanzo still came. His persistence seems to have paid off, though, since just 3 years later, Laura married Almanzo at age 18.  This will end her teaching career, since at this time, women couldn’t teach if they were married.

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Ma and Pa’s House on the original location

From here, we drove into town to tour the town house where the Ingalls spent The Long Winter.  Eventually, Pa would sell the homestead and move to town permanently.  They had gotten the homestead when Abraham Lincoln passed The Homestead Act of 1862 which promised 160 acres to anyone who could live there 5 years and improve the land. After selling the homestead, Pa and Ma would spend the rest of their lives here in this home.  The restoration crew was able to recreate the interior because Carrie took her first picture of Ma sitting in the sitting room.

We also heard tales of what happened to the girls since.  Laura never lived in town house.  She and Almanzo had decided to homestead. But, everything bad seemed to happen to them on their homestead–they lost a baby, had two fires, and horrible illnesses that will destroy Almanzo’s ability to walk without a limp.  They then went to Florida, but didn’t like it there and returned to De Smet for a year. Finally, moved to Missouri where they would finish their lives at Rocky Ridge farm. Laura died at the age of 90.

Rose, Laura and Almanzo’s daughter, was an impressive lady with a wealth of experience.  My two favorite things about her was that she went to Albania after her divorce and fell in love with the country (which I did too when I went.)  She would have stayed, but Communism was starting to take hold, so she didn’t. My other favorite thing about Rose (other than helping her mom with the Little House books) is that she went to Vietnam as a war correspondent at 79!

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Arlington sign (Credit:

In the afternoon, we headed into Arlington to search out information on my great, great grandfather.  My mom has an old photograph of two of our relatives standing in front of a Post Office.  She was trying to identify if it was, in fact, Arlington.  We had the survey plans for the land the Shindolls owned and a few other pieces of information from the courthouse, so we prayed for the right person to meet with who could help us find the information we needed. We followed the signs to where we thought his land was and decided to ask at the gas station using the court plot map.  Mom was headed in to ask the young girls inside, then decided to ask an older gentleman in a dusty pick-up. He tried to read the map and made a few recommendations, but wasn’t very helpful.  Another man came walking by and volunteered to help.  He invited us to his home to meet his wife who was a historian and genealogist. She recommended the drug store and the newspaper office and told us who to ask for in each place.  He took us to the plot of land he believed to be our ancestor’s then pointed us in the direction of the drug store.

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Photo of the drugstore as a meat market–not our relatives, though…

The drug store used to be a meat market, but we were not sure if it was our ancestor’s. The pharmacist also recommended we go to Arlington Sun, which we did.  Frank there was a great help.  He gave us information on the Shindoll brother who stayed (W.H.) and his family, even showing us an ad for the meat market from 1904!   Frank also told us that Carrie Ingalls had worked at that very newspaper. Looking at the photograph we had, he couldn’t identify it as Arlington.  The building was not the main post office in town as there were no buildings around it such as Main Street would have.  Frank thought it was probably one of the many rural post offices.  He explained that friends of the political party were often named post master because they essential got paid for nothing.  Mail was delivered to their houses and people came to get it.  Though he couldn’t solve the picture riddle, he was a great help!  Definitely many answers to our prayers to meet the right people.

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Ingalls’ graves (Pa’s is far right)

On our way back, we went by way of the Ingalls’ graves.  While pa’s seems to be the original, and is so worn down you can hardly read it, the others are new markers, which in some ways made me sad.

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Mary’s beadwork

Finally, we went back to the historic houses.  In the museum, we met the new director.  Interestingly, she had worked in Iowa, the location of the “missing years” of the story.  She was fascinated by Laura’s hardships there.  I asked what her favorite thing in this museum was, and she mentioned the artwork.  The Museum boasts 63 original illustrations by Garth Williams and over 2,000 original Ingalls/ Wilder artifacts.  I personally loved seeing the beadwork Mary had done!

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Discovery Center

We ended a very full day at the Discovery center.  The building is the school in which South Dakota governor Sigurd Anderson taught–even with his writing still on the board.  It had many activities for kids including dress up clothes, slates, ways to make Braille, and a template like Mary used to write letters to her seeing friends.

All in all, we had a fun, full day!

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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!

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon

Wednesday (6/11/14), we planned to see the homes of two icons in American History: George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Robert E. Lee’s Arlington. While mom and I had been, Jen had not, so we were excited to see what had changed.

Back lawn of Mount Vernon

Back lawn of Mount Vernon

We started at Mount Vernon. This vast expanse of land is not only beautiful, but offers so many experiences for the visitor. One new tour Jen and I were especially excited about was the National Treasure tour ($5.00+ admission). Those familiar with the Second National Treasure (Book of Secrets) will recognize Mount Vernon as the spot where Benjamin Gates kidnaps the president. Parts of the movie were actually filmed on location at Mount Vernon, or recreated after parts of it, so we were excited to see specifically the “tunnels” under the building. Since our tour was at 11:30, we jumped in line to tour the house and surrounding buildings. Visitors are not allowed to photograph inside the building, but it was still an awesome experience. It was especially interesting to see the bed in which George Washington died and learn that Martha never slept in their bedroom after that, but made herself a room on the third floor. Unfortunately, there’s no photography inside.

"Tunnel" exit

“Tunnel” exit

After touring the house and gardens, we met our group for the National Treasure Tour. This tour, nicknamed by our tour guide the “Hollywood and History” tour, truly lived up to its name. We started the tour on the back lawn which was the location of the party in the movie. Our guide shared how careful the crew had to be to protect the location: They wrapped the pillars with Styrofoam before hanging light wires, kept a row of firetrucks on hand for the pyrotechnic sign, and generally protected the area. The incredible part for me was the second area of the tour. After leaving the lawn, we got special access to the cellar area under Mount Vernon. I love being able to see things that are not readily accessible to the general public. This area served as a model for the movie, though no actual filming took place here–it’s too steep, too narrow, and too fragile. But, as we walked along the corridor, I noticed a stone designed like the secret door in the movie. Our guide shared that this was a replica of the original cornerstone, the original having been removed and placed in the museum at Mount Vernon.
View of Mount Vernon from the Beach

View of Mount Vernon from the Beach

One interesting fact was that the initials on the stone are L.W. after George Washington’s half brother Lawrence Washington, who was the first to live in Mt. Vernon and who named it after his commander, Admiral Vernon, in the War of Jenkins’ Ear. One fun fact we learned is that in the version of the film shown on the big screen, the initials on the stone had been changed to G.W., to make it connected to George Washington for the viewers. Those who own the DVD edition will notice that they have been changed back to the original L.W. This is because the Mount Vernon Ladies Association were upset that they had changed it for the film and demanded it be historically accurate–apparently, they have a lot of pull. And rightly so. This group was started by the women that saved Mount Vernon from oblivion. Louisa Bird Cunningham was travelling down the Potomac River and noticed the disrepair of Mount Vernon. Realizing if something wasn’t done, and soon, this great building would be lost to the ages, she wrote a letter to her daughter who challenged the women of the South, then the nation to save this estate.
Coastline where the fishing scene was filmed

Coastline where the fishing scene was filmed

They raised $200,000 to buy the property, and the rest is history, albeit one of a great deal of blood, sweat, and tears. No wonder they want to make sure it is represented accurately!

After the tunnels–sorry, no pictures could be taken there either–we headed down to the beach. This was an incredibly steep climb with a lot of stairs, but well worth it. In the movie, this is the spot of the fishing scene–how Benjamin Gates gets into the party (He definitely would have had a haul to make it up that cliff!) The beach was beautiful, and afforded a great view of Mount Vernon from the vantage point that most visitors would have first seen it. The beach was the last stop on our National Treasure tour.

The Washingtons' graves

The Washingtons’ graves

On the way back up, we decided to stop at the tomb of the Washingtons. The design and dimensions for this gravesite were described in George Washington’s will. He was initially buried in the old tomb, but it was in such disrepair that Washington wanted a new tomb constructed and the remains of the family moved into it. The new tomb wasn’t completed until 32 years after his death (1831), while the sarcophagi weren’t completed until 1837. Most prominent are the graves of George and Martha, with the rest of the family in the vault behind them. It’s an impressive site.

Martha Reading

Martha Reading

We arrived in time to visit with Mrs. Washington. This is always a favorite for us. We first saw this actress in Colonial Williamsburg where she also played Mrs. Washington. She has, in fact, been Mrs. Washington for over twenty years. She’s such a joy to spend time with because she simply embodies Mrs. Washington the way only someone with twenty years of research can do. She posed for portraits, read to the children, and recounted stories of herself and the general. If you get a chance, go see her–it’s well worth it.

After visiting with Mrs. Washington, we went on the slave tour. This tour is free with admission, though you do need to register, and it also was an incredible tour. It seems difficult to picture our founding father as a slave owner, but he was indeed. There were a few very interesting things we learned, however. First, our guide shared with us Washington’s standards for his overseers. His instructions were, “Conduct yourself with integrity, sobriety, industry, and zeal.” Interesting. He also established a system for review that allowed slaves a recourse if they felt they were not being treated correctly. Despite that, most of his slaves worked from “Can see to Can’t see,” extremely long hours in summertime!

Slave quarters

Slave quarters

Another interesting fact was that good treatment did not necessarily ensure a slave would be content. Our guide recounted the story of Washington’s slave Hercules. He was definitely a favored slave–had a velvet coat and a gold tipped cane, and even travelled with the family to Philadelphia. Yet, at the first chance he got, he ran away. I wonder what happened to him. George Washington’s attitude towards slavery also seems to have changed. He and Martha both grew up with slaves; in fact, George was a slave owner at the age of eleven when his father died. It was all he had ever known, so the idea that it was wrong was a foreign concept to him.
Arch under which Robert and Mary Lee got married

Arch under which Robert and Mary Lee got married

Yet, his ideas changed from believing it was wrong to tear families apart to believing it was wrong to sell slaves. He did not tackle the issue of slavery in the white house because of how tenuous the relationship between the states already was, and how firmly the southern states had fought against abolishment in the Continental Congress meetings. He did not want to risk tearing out new country apart. However, in his will, he freed his slaves, which was no small task at the time. His wife, however, did not free hers. Part of that was that her slaves were part of the estate, and freeing them would be the equivalent of giving away the family silver in economic terms of the time. Definitely an interesting tour.

Next, we headed to Arlington. Since Arlington has been under construction the last few times I have visited, I was thrilled to see it up and running–and that they allow you to photograph inside! Here, we heard the beautiful love story of Robert E. Lee and Mary Custis Lee. Robert and Mary had been childhood play mates and teenage friends. He eventually came courting, and apparently asked her to marry him when she reached in the cookie jar for a cookie, and he reached in and took her hand. Her father was initially against their marriage, but with his wife and his daughter in favor of it, he gave in. Robert and Mary were married under the middle arch. He was at West Point at the time, so the couple took up residence there.

Kennedy Memorial and View of Arlington

Kennedy Memorial and View of Arlington

She hated it, and when they returned to Arlington for leave, when his leave was up, he went back, and she stayed. When several weeks past and she still hadn’t returned, a concerned Lee wrote her mother a letter stating, “I seem to have misplaced my wife…” He soon got the news of the reason she had stayed: she was pregnant. While he was away, she also got violently ill and came very close to dying. This close shave made Lee decide Arlington would be their permanent home so she could be cared for while he was away. Mary Lee is an exceptional woman in her own right. A firm proponent of gradual emancipation, Mary taught all of her slave women to read, write, and sew so they would be prepared to support themselves when slavery ended. But, forced to leave Arlington when the war broke out so that she would not worry her husband, she only returned to Arlington once after the war. The Union army had intentionally buried the dead in her rose garden, which boasted eleven varieties of roses. Lee himself would never return.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Having completed our time at the house, we headed down to the Kennedy Memorial (The eternal flame) and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Watching the guard there is a solemn moment indeed. Everything he does is in counts of 21. Twenty-one steps down, turn, wait 21 seconds, twenty-one steps back, repeat. The number twenty-one was chosen for it’s representation of the twenty-one gun salute–the highest miliary honors given a soldier. For me, it is another reminder of the countless stories we have yet to learn and may never know.

Confederate Memorial

Confederate Memorial

We finished off our trip with a trip to the Confederate Memorial and then a visit to my father’s grave. I am blessed beyond measure by his military service and the fact that he is buried at Arlington, a place I so dearly love. Spending the day with such great men who had such real struggles was a vivid reminder of all we have overcome and a call to continue to fight against the evils around us.