Monday, April 8, 2013

History Comes Alive

Judging from my presence on my blog, you would probably think grad school has eaten me. While that sometimes seems at least partially true (I do not even want to think about what I have to complete over the next month…therefore I won't), an alternate explanation for my absence is that I moved away from my friends and my most recent set of kids, and now I must have nothing interesting to write about, because if you look at my previous posts, you'll see that's all I ever posted about. This explanation may seem a little extreme, but let's be honest here: how many posts can I really get out of the things I am reading (which is all I ever seem to do)? After posting a few pictures of BOUS (Books Of Unusual Sizes), my blog would become so boring that even I would steer permanently clear of it. I suppose I could self-publish my book reviews on here, but most of the time I like to forget about those as soon as I turn them in, and I am not sure they are fit for public consumption.

Last week something interesting did happened in my life, and so I am choosing to ignore the grading that is glaring at me (which will probably bury me so deeply under its massive bulk that I will emerge blinking, pale and blurry-eyed, into the sunshine right around the time I turn 50), and post a few pictures to update my sorely neglected blog. My Civil War class toured the battlefields of Harpers Ferry, Antietam, Gettysburg, and Cedar Creek under the guidance of guest instructor Dr. Steven Woodworth, who has written this book and this book, both of which I own, and both of which I got signed while I had the opportunity (yep, I'm a TAD excited about this).

Anyway, the afore promised pictures…

Harpers Ferry. The day was crisp, blue, beautiful…and FREEZING. The wind was so bitterly cold that I'm just glad I still have my toes.

One of the prettiest sights in America: the Shenandoah River, the portion that wove along the hills on which was fought the battle at Harpers Ferry in 1862. Who knew?

Where the Shenandoah and the Potomac meet and become just the Potomac. The beauty of the spot is dampened when you remember that very near this spot was where the first man killed in John Brown's Raid was shot. 

With my friend Andrea, standing near Jefferson's Rock, the spot with the view that he claimed was worth the trip over the Atlantic for. The view was pretty, but you'll have to trust me on this one since we are conveniently covering the entire thing.

By the Sunken Road/Bloody Lane at Antietam. Andrea is a Yankee (from NJ), so we're reenacting the scene—her on the attacking side while I am just above the lane on the other side of the fence. We had marched, shoulder to shoulder, across the Cornfield earlier that day, and there's nothing quite like reenacting things on the spot they occurred that give you a perspective on what it might have been like (minus, you know, the presence of bullets flying around you and the haze of gun smoke…).

Some of us in front of the visitor's center. It's a cannon…you have to take a picture!

On to Gettysburg! The view from Little Round Top, the rockiest place on the East Coast in my humble opinion. I can't imagine running up that hill in full gear under fire. It was hard enough to walk carrying nothing on a peaceful day.

Behind Sharpshooters Rock is this famous picture taken by Matthew Brady's photographers in the days following the battle. I include this because…

We had to recreate it!

On Sharpshooters Rock, sharpshooting, with Little Round Top in the background. Yet another reason I wouldn't have wanted to be on that hill.

Longstreet defenders grew tired of him not having a memorial at Gettysburg, since everyone and their third-cousin-farmer-from-the-middle-of-nowhere has one, and so they raised money to right this wrong. Their motto was "it's about time!" which is ironic, because that's what Lee probably said when the real Longstreet finally reached this spot on July 4, 1863. They didn't raise enough money to put it on a pedestal, so it holds the distinction of being the only monument at Gettysburg that is on the ground. It also holds the distinction of being the ugliest. The front of the horse is disproportional to the rest of it, and the neck is thicker than its hindquarters. I don't know that this monument does very much to contradict the work the Lost Causers did to Longstreet. Poor guy.

In front of the Virginia monument…of course.

Lee and Traveler, Virginia heroes. 

Standing at the point where Pickett's Charge began, overlooking the field they had to cross.

The other side of Pickett's Charge, looking back over the ground they covered.

On the stonewall that separated the charging Confederates from the Union line. We marched the route of the Charge, shoulder to shoulder as Lee's men would have done. It took us over 11 minutes to get from one end of the other, including nearly 3 minutes between the road and the wall, ground that would have been entirely exposed to Union guns. Imagine that journey under constant fire. After doing that, I'm amazed any of Pickett's men survived to either be taken POW or to retreat. 

Group shot with Little Round Top in the background.

We stayed at the Gettysburg Hotel, in the heart of the town. I got the brilliant idea to try to do a panorama of the circle that all of the main roads converge onto. Apparently this is what happens when you take a panorama of moving cars. Ha! The hotel is the building that has the bus parked out in front of it. It was Eisenhower's national command center (or something like that) for a time. Also, the building across from it (the brick building on the far right, half of which is cut off) is where Lincoln stayed when he was in town to give his address.

Final day of the trip—Cedar Creek. This is the view from the Belle Grove plantation. The Shenandoah Valley is so pretty!

The Valley, once more. This was at the far end of the Union line, where the Confederate attack began. In a battle in which Early and Sheridan were the opposing generals…well, can I root for both sides to lose? I really am not a fan of either one. 

One of the highlights of my trip—I was kidnapped by some buddies! I hadn't seen them in over two years, but you'd never have known that from the fun we had. I was staying six miles from their house (Abby tried to convince me to just stay AT their house, because, why not?), so I was thrilled they made it over to the hotel and then decided that I needed to spend the rest of the evening with them. It's hard to believe how tall they've all gotten!

Shout out to Apple: all of these photos were taken on an iPhone 5. I love that camera. 

The trip was tons of fun, and I wish I didn't have to get back to real life this week (did I mention the grading I have to do, and really should be doing at this moment?) I vote we do it again, only this time for a month! Lowlights were the colder temperatures, which made for some uncomfortable moments when the wind swept across these wide open areas, and the fact that I ate beef one night and promptly broke out in a rash. Apparently I'm allergic to some types of beef. Ironically, one of the guys on the trip had offered to switch his chicken for my London Broil, and I nearly took him up on it. I would have saved myself so much itching and discomfort had I only done so! Oh well, such is life.