I mentioned this book recently; here's a cover photo, since it doesn't appear online:
Did I call it a Centennial book? Close: it was published in 1969, by Walter H. Miller of a company by the same name, located in Williamsburg VA (perhaps why I found it in Fxburg), in "Co-operation with Gettysburg National Military Park." Mr. Miller took the photos that form the contents of the slim volume; "Text by National Park Service Historian."
The final edition of this past week's trip account, in re a storied field of honor and storytellers.
Awoke Sunday morning in Berryville VA to clouds and cool and rainy prospects. HES suggested we dispatch our plans and drive home to Michigan. I replied, 'let's!' We had arranged a rendezvous at the Antietam VC and needed to do that first.
Coming thru Sharpsburg on the Shepherdstown Pike, one is struck by how many structures are period, and it immediately puts you in the right frame of mind. You make a left in town, curve around a non-vintage partystore, and drive up the hill towards the Dunker church, turning into the VC parking lot.
Let me interrupt with an editorial: National Park Service, do not--I repeat, do not!--redo the Antietam VC. It's made of beautiful stonework; it calls up great memories of past visits; it has its own historicity; it is just fine, thank you.
Walking in, I immediately recognized our host, but since he was occupied with another guest the other ranger on duty greeted us. I was very pleased to meet John Hoptak of fame including this blog. When Mannie (this blog) freed up, he was most gracious; I know this for fact as HES was taken with his friendly demeanor. We chatted and then adjourned to another location where Mannie provided some requested materials on Michigan units. Had a good discussion, which will form a forthcoming post. Then we emerged into the atmosphere and took our poses by the 'bloggers' cannon':
BTW, I'm the one with the shirt-tail out.
Bade each other fond farewells. Per Mannie's suggestion, we drove to two locations, yielding pics from the observation tower (look closely in the left of the cannon photo for it in the background) and overlooking Burnside's Bridge:
Some of the horses weren't willing to stand still while the talk went on; perhaps they could still sniff something in the ground...
We didn't make it to any specific Michigan locations due to time and weather. For one site, here's an excellent post with a beautiful picture of the Michigan State historical marker on the 17th Michigan "Stonewall Regiment": Antietam on the Web.
A short but worthwhile visit: meet two compatriots, revisited familiar hallowed ground, saw vistas that provide insights traversing a century-and-a-half. Will go back for a tour and reacquaintance with our fearless ranger/s. Oh, and Michiganders, alumnus Mannie said to tell you "Hi!"
Your reporter and His Esteemed Spouse (credit to Civil War Interactive) passed thru Fredericksburg on a beautiful Saturday after time on the Peninsula (my thoughts and prayers to tornado victims in Virginia y'day). The town was buzzing, Mary Washington U. students everywhere. Given our limited time and a desire to please both yours truly and HES, we lunched, shopped (more about that below), and then drove across the Rappahannock bridge to Chatham. Our last visit in the mid-70's was almost contemparaneous with the owner's donating it to the Nation. Now it's open, park HQ, and a great visit.
These signs tell the story:
Three presidential reviews of Union troops occurred in this field:
I loved this depiction, showing the house on Stafford Heights across from town:
These gardens were quite impressive to HES, who knows gardens. Done in the 1920's, their beauty masks wartime use as a temporary burial ground for Union soldiers who died in the house during use as a battlefield hospital.
On the river side are war-witness catalpas and black locusts:
Is this the tree Walt Whitman mentions (NPS) as the location where the pile of amputated limbs accumulated?
With this my first visit to the Heights, I learned: this pic reveals a dramatic descent to the river that can't be imagined:
A diorama inside the house vividly demonstrates how Union engineers encountered terrain issues in constructing a river crossing:
This nearby sign, adjacent to a lifesize pontoon, portrays the crossing challenge faced by Union troops at water's edge:
The location, according to the ranger, is yards upriver from the vantage point of the photos. We drove by it later on the River Road to see/imagine the spot where the 7th Michigan bravely crossed, but the river is yards away, vegetation covers the ground, and no parking is available. Little did I know that staying on the west bank would have yielded a marker: scroll down to bottom NPS 2.
While shopping I found several booksellers and looked for something unique. Found a slim thing entitled Gettysburg Cyclorama, essentially pictures, for a few bucks, pub'd around the Centennial if my sense is accurate. Can't find it on Amazon; will have to take pics and do a later post.
We did not tour the battlefield. Not our goal; wanted to see something new since our last visit in the 70's. Had our eyes opened as if we had been on battleground.
Back home after no wi-fi the past couple days so able to pick up with the traveblog. It will have a most interesting conclusion (in a few days).
Berkeley plantation is situated on the north bank of the James River. In addition to its fame as the home of a signer of the Declaration of Independence and two U.S. Presidents, it's the site where the Army of the Potomac cloistered after the Seven Days' Battles in '62. "Taps" was composed here. It was known then as Harrison's Landing after the signer (Benjamin V) and first of the two Chief Executives (William Henry).
Here's the landing:
Couple more Presidential connections: this is where Lincoln stepped ashore to confer with McClellan after the Seven Days; and Bush issued last November's Thanksgiving Proclamation from these grounds--Virginians cite it as where English colonists firstheld a Thanksgiving over a year before the landing of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts.
The house would have made an impressive HQ for the Army's top general:
The A/C unit is not period.
Here's an artifact from Stuart's attack on the base via Pelham's horse artillery:
It's quite a beautiful setting and strange to imagine tens of thousands of troops refreshing here for a campaign that resumed by evacuation:
Like all good tourist hosts, Berkeley has a gift shop--with several Civil War items. For $6.30 I came away with John Coski's 1989 The Army of the Potomac at Berkeley's Plantation: The Harrison's Landing Occupation of 1862. (Whew, the title is almost as long as the monograph.) Good little book; period pictures that make a mind's eye comparison more than just fanciful; notes and bibliography. Nice treasure, along with photos from the visit.
Today's edition of the travelogue is from Historic Jamestown. Wait a minute, you say: isn't that a century or two before the Civil War?
Yes, but to my amazement there are Confederate earthworks just steps from where James Fort was located and is today marked by a stockade. Here are a couple shots:
Because the 17th century site was thus covered by 19th century dirt, archaelogists onsite (and the rest of us) benefit today from that inadvertent protection. A note about archaelogy: there have been so many discoveries since the mid-1990's, the whole place is much different. I have a Kodak shot from the mid-70's and all there was, as I recall, was the church building and historic bell tower and some foundation stones. Now, the entire complexity of the village is evident--the full story is being told--the visitor center is much, much better--and there's a new structure portraying the archaelogy story itself.
Definitely worth a visit. And the drive on the Colonial Parkway is its own experience. There's also a drive past the VC out onto Jamestown Island, very naturalistic, and markers describe the location of a Confederate fort there.
One final Civil War note: the famed John Smith hailed from Lincolnshire, England. Clearly he was a man of Union sympathies.
Been in the Virginia Tidewater region for several days and stopped in at the bookstore next to Colonial Williamsburg this evening. Like a moth to a flame, yours truly and a bookstore with an extensive history selection.
The Civil War section at this Barnes+Noble is pretty good. After all, Eric W's book Glory Enough For All is there as proof. I always look now for books having some Michigan connection and found one that I had to have. I won't get into it here now--will save that for a couple of months. It's Gettysburg Heroes by Glenn LaFantasie, which appears to have just been published. Yes, cheaper via the web but had to have it now. Not because it's another Gettysburg book (oh, please!) but due to a chapter on a native Michigan general who met a cruel fate. And, curiously, Eric W has something online about that too!
Yes, this is all pretty cryptic, but the real point of it is this: you can find Michigan Civil War connections in uncommon places.
Here are some photos related to the two Richmond Battlefield sites covered in the last two posts. All are from the NPS VC.
NPS has a model of a pontoon bridge with an actual size repro pontoon. I guess it's there because of Grant/Meade having to cross so many rivers so rapidly to try outflanking Lee. Hadn't ever seen one life-size, so a nice visual aid.
This is a diorama of the entire Tredegar site. Not a good pic, but it should remind those who are regular museum-goers of many such displays. I always find them fascinating and have since I was a runt.
This is the key to the diorama; you have to twist your head to match them, since that's the way I took the pics (sorry!).
This is a typical display in the NPS museum, third floor. Dramatic visuals help tell the story of Richmond's antebellum standing and its end-of-war devastation by its own defenders.
I don't have any of the outside since it rained so much, and I photography is not permitted in the American Civil War Center. Here's one from Virginia.org taken on a much brighter day:
Since I got it off the web it doesn't appear to have a copyright, and the chamber of commerce would much prefer it to what I would have shown.
A confession: before yesterday I did not know there were two visitor centers at the site of the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond. Today, I'm a lot wiser.
After touring the NPS VC, I asked the ranger about getting parking validated to escape the fee, which is based on time spent. He said the Park Service didn't do that; I needed to go to the American Civil War Center next door. I said, "What?" He explained there is another, private, CW museum on site, with admission of $8 per adult, but free parking in exchange for admission.
I know. You think I'm clueless. I'd read about "Tredegar" and simply thought that a new museum had opened on the site. Perhaps attention to detail is something I should work on.
I almost didn't spring for the $16 but lovely spouse said she'd like to see it. I know. You think I'm married to the greatest woman, who would do two Civil War museums in the same day. If we hadn't, we'd have missed something truly wonderful. Precious spouse said "this put it all together for me for the first time -- it's the best Civil War visitor center/museum we've ever been to." High praise, indeed, from someone who has valiantly trekked along on many a day.
I'll let it explain its mission: "The Center is a place to learn about the Civil War—its causes, its course, and its legacies. It is a place where the people who decided America’s future will tell their stories. Here, all of the main stories—Union, Confederate, and African American— get significant space together for the first time. By understanding these three perspectives on a subject that is still divisive almost a century and a half later, we can begin to see the war differently—as a shared national heritage." And believe me (and my spouse), it does just that. We spent a solid two hours, for there are loads of information of varying levels. Several excellent movies on regular loops. Artifacts. Special tactile ways of learning. And learning is the real key, getting better educated about the complexity of the War beyond the fighting and the casualties. Oh, believe me, they're covered. But put in full context and history, not ignoring slavery or draft riots or desertion and taking on old myths with real data.
The saddest fact I learned: since opening in October 2006 only 33,000 visitors have come through the doors, somewhere less than 2,000 per month. It's right off of I-95 as it threads through Richmond, so anyone going up/down the east coast can easily take it in. I hope that the new President, Christy Coleman, can perform a miracle similar to what she did for the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.
See, there is a Michigan connection.
Do yourself a big favor: don't pass up the American Civil War Center next time you're in the neighborhood. Even the most die-hard will find it immensely worthwhile.
Is on the scene. In Richmond VA, that is. Went to the NPS Richmond Civil War Visitor Center today, a good choice in rain that was on and off and on again all day, sometimes of the deluge variety.
The VC is located in a building of the famed Tredegar Iron Works along the north bank of the James River in downtown Richmond. Great location, and great to see the site and vintage structures reused for commemorative and instructional purposes like this. The VC itself is three floors: main floor has some exhibits and artifacts, along with the book store; top floor has more detailed exhibits and a "Voices" feature on both east and west walls that allow the visitor to hear views of people of the time (and a hand-out is available of each, worth taking); lower floor is where a 20-minute movie of the '62 and '64 Richmond campaigns is shown, along with a couple other exhibits (pontoon boat repro; flag staffs; weaponry).
Movie is pretty good; heavy emphasis on the military, featuring reenactors to attempt an eyewitness experience; requires at least a general notion of the War, however. I'd be curious to see views of differing ages on it.
One of the voices/hand-outs in the 3d floor exhibit is of Lt. Charles Hayden of the 2d Michigan during the Peninsula Campaign. A reader of this blog will remember a review of For Country, Cause and Leader, edited by Stephen Sears, based on Hayden's diary. Book store is decent size, and you can obtain info and brochures on the surrounding battlegrounds.
By the way, Richmond itself makes an interesting place to visit. It has some areas near the NPS site that are undergoing redevelopment and others that sure need it. Then, just a few blocks away, is a part of the city that is thriving.
This VC is worth seeing especially given the price: $0.00. Parking is not free, however, unless you pay a visit to the museum right next door. That's right--there are two adjacent centers. Thus, tomorrow nite, a review of the American Civil War Center.