Much of our fall 2015 trip involved visiting Civil War sites. So, it seemed fitting that we would finish up the last leg of our travels learning about the end of the war. However, we also saw a tiny bit about the beginning and sandwiched in a trip to our nation’s capital as well.
Right before we traveled to Appomattox, Virginia to see where General Robert E. Lee surrendered, we visited Pamplin Historic Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier near Petersburg. Maintained by a foundation started by the Pamplin family, it is definitely worth seeing. In the 1990’s the family was able to acquire land that had been part of the Petersburg Breakthrough Battle and the main house of a plantation that once belonged to their ancestors. The site has two very impressive museums, trails on the preserved battlefield, and the restored buildings of the plantation.
On the left is the plantation “Big House” and on the right is the kitchen and quarters for the house slaves.
Contrary to what I believed, it wasn’t that desirable to be a domestic slave. According to the living history talk I heard, they cooked and cleaned every single day of the week and were always under the watchful eyes of their masters.
The little slave children had the job of picking worms off the tobacco plants. They just went up and down the rows of a patch of tobacco all day long. If the overseeing found a worm on one of the plants, he made the child eat it. After the tobacco was harvested, it was dried in cabins like the one of the right above.
The Petersburg Breakthrough Battlefield was a huge loss for the south which brought about the Northern occupation of Petersburg and Richmond. It led to Lee’s army being cornered at Appomattox with nothing left to do but surrender. The earthworks in the photos above are the original ones left by the soldiers on the battlefield.
Next we moved on to Appomattox, Virginia where we stayed at Paradise Lake Family Campground. I would give it a grade of B – it was fairly nice, but the staff didn’t pay too much attention to details. Pieces of paper trash were laying around. The sites were close together and not all that level. There were several people who evidently lived in their trailers all year round. We were there on the off season, so it might be a different story in the summertime. It was close to Appomattox Court House, National Historic Park, Virginia where the major part of the Civil War ended.
Appomattox Court House is the name of the town where Lee surrendered. It’s called that because the county court house was there. There were a couple days of skirmishes until it became clear the Union Army had the Confederates surrounded. The surrender meeting was actually held in a house since it was on Palm Sunday and the court house was closed. It was held in the home of Wilmer McLean who had moved there from Bull Run where one of the first major battles of the war was fought. McLean said he relocated to quiet Appomattox Court House to get away from the war.
The McLean House was dismantled with the intention of moving it to another location such as the World’s Fair or a museum in Washington D.C. That never came about, so it was reconstructed in the spot it originally was. The furniture inside are replicas of the originals which were described in first hand historic accounts by those who were there. Lee sat at the desk on the left above, and Grant sat at the one on the right.
The National Park rangers gave several interesting talks around the restored little town. There were also some living history reenactors hanging around that were fun to chat with. According to accounts, Under General Grant’s commands, the laying down of weapons and the actual surrender was held with the utmost respect and dignity toward General Lee and his army.
While we were staying in Appomattox, we drove to Blue Ridge, Virginia and hopped on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day and we drove 60 miles up and back along this national road which runs through Virginia and North Carolina along the Blue Ridge Mountains. The National Park Service maintains the land on either side of the road and there are several hiking trails and stops to see along the way. I took way too many photos and with out even editing them – threw them into a video/slide show. Yes, I know it’s too long, but it does have a nice rendition of “Autumn Leaves” by Miles Davis!
One nice thing about traveling the way we do, is the wonderful people we have met in our travels. At the Paradise Lake park we had the good fortune of camping next to a great couple. John and Nancy were veterans at RVing and they gave us a lot of tips. They also gave us some good advice about places to see in our next stop, Washington D.C.
We met up with Ron & Penny and Jim & Carla, our RV buddies from home. The first day we went to Annapolis where we saw a World War II Memorial and walked around the town. We were standing around, trying to decide where to go for lunch, when this man walked by. He pointed to the restaurant in front of us and said, “I’m telling you, you’ll get the best crab cakes in town here.” So we walked into Buddy’s Crabs and Ribs. I had the crab cake which was pretty good, but the cream of crab soup was divine! Ron and Penny had the ribs, which they said were excellent. Everyone else got the soup and salad buffet which they said was fair. Funny thing was, there was a picture of the owner hanging on the wall and guess what – he was the man that had spoken to us outside.
On day two we rode around on the hop on and off bus and saw all the major sites. In the afternoon we had a tour of the capitol building.
It was under repair, but still very beautiful. And very crowded. People of all nationalities were there and I heard several different languages spoken.
In the rotunda, there are two statues from every state. Many are U.S. presidents such as the one on the left above of Abraham Lincoln. Our tour guide said that when Robert Lincoln saw this tribute to his father, he broke down and cried because it looked so much like him. Indiana’s two statues are Oliver P. Morton who was a governor and surprisingly, General Lew Wallace who we learned about in our earlier travels HERE . Roy and I got a big kick out of seeing Lew in Statuary Hall and wondered what political favors had been done to get him there.
Another statue that I found interesting was a group portrait monument of three individuals who worked to get women the right to vote: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott. They initiated the women’s rights movement and dedicated their lives to working for women’s equality in education and employment. I found it ironic that the significance of the statue was being explained to a group of Muslims by a tour guide. All the men in the group stood on one side, and the women stood on the other while the speaker spoke about the impact the three women had made.
The day we were there was John Boehner’s very last day as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Roy saw him walk out his office door and down the hall way, but I missed it.
On our third day in D.C. we went to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.
They offer guided walks about every hour and I would definitely recommend taking one. The guides are former pilots who obviously just love what they do. Each one seemed to have their own favorite airplanes to show and the stories behind them were fascinating.
I loved hearing about some of the first women pilots – doesn’t this one look like Jane Lynch?
I was amazed at how the Wright brothers developed their airplanes and then how fast that technology took off. It’s incredible to think that about a dozen years after the invention of the airplane, it had progressed enough to make a major impact in WWI.
The Enola Gay was the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan to end World War II.
After Washington D.C., we had one last stop before we headed home.
We couldn’t leave Virginia until we saw Mananas. Although there were two battles here, we focused on the first one. The First Battle of Bull Run was called the First Battle of Mananas by the Confederacy. This was the battle where all the folks from Washington D.C. came out to watch while they were picnicking. The North got beaten and the gentleman and ladies panicked as they rushed to leave the battlefield and get back to the city. The first civilian to get killed in the war, elderly Judith Henry, was shot in her house pictured above.
It was during this battle that General “Stonewall” Jackson got his nickname. Supposedly he stood there like a “stonewall” refusing to retreat. It inspired the confederates and they all rallied to win the battle.
After five weeks of being on the road, we were ready to return home for the holidays. We had plenty of stories to share and lots of new trivia to digest while planning our next adventure…
Just for fun, here are some links to some other Yates social media sites: