Mount Vernon

Today (7/12/2017), I headed into Mount Vernon to catch up with some dear friends from high school who made the sacrifice to drive a few hours to see me and suffer the heat to visit with me.  Because of morning commitments, they were going to be later in the day, so I made the hour drive a bit early so I could do some research before they arrived.  When I arrived, however, I discovered that the research area had been moved from Mount Vernon itself to a library across the street–closed to the public until November, except by appointment only.  (My second time to be stuck in that situation.)  But, once again, the helpful people at customer service made arrangements for me to be able to go over to the library.

The study room 💗

After going through intense security (having to be buzzed in at two different entrances), I arrived at the new facility.  I’m sure I could have spent hours, but I only had about an hour before my friends arrived.  The librarian gave me a list of databases and helped me navigate their collection.  Right away, I found an amazing collection of George Washington’s memories of the French Indian War, and found it is still in print, so I ordered it from Barnes and Noble.  I also found a hardcover collection of the writings I had spent hours in Williamsburg reading online (Though this one ran almost $200–But, I discovered my home library may have it.)  While I didn’t really find anything new, per se, I found amazing resources to peruse at home, so it was definitely a great stop.

Part of the farm area

Then, it was off to Mount Vernon.  While it has been a while since any of us were here, there was so much I remembered and loved.  The grounds are beautiful, the wharf was neat to see, as were the gardens and farm area (though the walk back up was rough).  My favorite Mrs. Washington wasn’t there, which was a disappointment, as she is always a highlight.

But, the thing that struck me the most was the tour itself.  I jokingly called it the turbo tour.  While they had narrators in every area of the house, we actually spent less than a minute in any room.  We were shuffled along, catching only scattered pieces of information as we hustled through.  Yes, it was cool to see, but we wanted to learn.  I don’t know if I’m romanticizing my previous visit, but I feel like we lingered longer last time–that we had an actual guide who took us around.

A handsome George–around the age he is in my book

As we walked out, discussing the turbo tour, one of my friends pointed at the line, and said, “Yes, but imagine how long we’d have to wait if each group got an individual tour.”  I don’t know–somehow, I feel there has to be a better way to get the information.  Perhaps that’s what the Premium Tour covers.

All in all, it was still a good day, and as Jenny Roberts commented on Facebook, “That place is where history really hit me once.  Standing in the dining room, it became very real to me that George Washington himself had stood there, too!”  I’m hoping more people can slow down long enough for it to hit them too.

 

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.