Friday, June 3, 2011

Stonewall, Cont.

Yesterday was Manassas, which I loved because of the Jackson statue and his general presence in the battle there. Today, however, was all about Jackson for me. I started off in Fredericksburg--which, by the way, is a very neat area--and saw the battlefield there. I didn't do the driving tour because I was trying to be in Richmond by 3 (made it by 3:30!), but I did walk around the immediate area for awhile, and I drove across the river to see the Chatham house.

My train of thought just branched off in several directions and I don't know where to start.

First, I didn't upload pictures tonight so pictures will come tomorrow.

Second, Chatham house is not particularly significant for any one thing, but it is a beautiful house on beautiful land and oh man. I fell in love with it. Apparently it's the only house that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln ever both visited.

Third, I read Gods and Generals over spring break which goes over the battle of Fredericksburg so this one was still pretty fresh in my memory. I remember having a hard time picturing the battle and the terrain while reading but seeing it in person it all clicked. It was so cool. It felt like I knew the battlefield and like I knew where everyone was.

I decided to go to Chancellorsville, too, which is about 15 miles from Fredericksburg. The visitors center is placed right next to the spot where Stonewall Jackson was wounded by friendly fire. How tragic! There are two monuments for him. One is just a boulder that soldiers put in place almost immediately so no one would forget, the second is more formal and was dedicated shortly after the war. How amazing to have the admiration of so many people. I did the Chancellorsville driving tour but was a little disappointed in the signage and the tour compared to how well organized they've been at other battlefields so far.

I was also TERRIBLY annoyed by the cemeteries. All of the national cemeteries only bury Union soldiers. I get why, technically, but it still seems wrong somehow. The national cemetery at Fredericksburg was on my walking tour, but I was driving through Fredericksburg for over 20 minutes before I found the Confederate cemetery and then there was no parking. It seems like all the soldiers that fought in the war should be given respect and to ignore the Confederates in commemoration doesn't seem right.

Anyway, after Chancellorsville I went to the Stonewall Jackson shrine which was in a very small non-town. All that's there is a small white building. It wasn't even the home on the land, it was an outbuilding. The home isn't standing any more. But the outbuilding where Jackson died still has the bed he died in right there in the room. And the same clock that was ticking when he died is still there, ticking on the mantel. Which I think is amazing to think about. I almost cried when I drove up to the house (because it reminded me of when I almost cried when I read about it). It just reminded me that what I read wasn't just a story, it had actually happened. Whenever I realize that is sort of startles me into realizing the magnitude of what I'm seeing.

I went on to Richmond and hurried into the Civil War museum and went through it. The museum is spectacular, really. It's new and pretty to look at but it's set up in an old iron works building. It's also an interesting concept--they have it set up so that every aspect of the war is told through the Union perspective, the Confederate perspective, and the African American perspective. So it's three battles: the battle for union, the battle for home, and the battle for freedom. They thread it all the way through, and I do think it's interesting, but I thought there were a lot of gaps, especially in the parts about reconstruction. There was also less focus on the timeline and individual events and more focus on the broader theme of events at the time. Different compared to the other museums I've been to so far, but a little strange, too.

They had some films going that were a little cheesy and I only sat down to watch one of them all the way through.

I missed the film at Chancellorsville and I kind of regret it.

I really do love this trip. It's so neat to actually see everything. And every gift shop I go into adds another book or five to my list. A full car means I can't buy anything now, and no mailing address means I got order on amazon. All probably for the best. But it's killing me a little. I've also wanted tshirts from the last few places but have restrained myself there, too. If I get anything it's a postcard.

Tomorrow is the Museum of the Confederacy, Hollywood Cemetery, and maybe something non-Civil War just to take a break from it for a little bit. And tonight is early bedtime! And no alarm clock.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you're having a good time! I like your bit about how seeing things "startles me into realizing the magnitude of what I'm seeing."