Friday, July 06, 2012

Farewell Virginia: It's been fun

We left Charlottesville on Monday to spend time with friends in Montclair. John indulged my desire to get to sites I haven't seen.

See, I was here.  Marker outside visitor's center at Chancellorsville
Tuesday we went to the Chancellorsville battlefield, wandered through the visitor's center and caught the movie. Because the battle was one of movement, John picked up the CD and we took the driving tour. The tour wound through large swathes of rural/suburban Virginia. Though we spent at least a couple of hours and were assisted by a map with written directions, it was a bit confusing to keep track of movements, positions and scenes of fighting. The driving path mostly focuses on Stonewall Jackson's famous flank march.  It is well marked and winds through what is still mostly wooded terrain. Nicely preserved, well presented, Chancellorsville is managed by the National Park Service and the cost is only two bucks.

John and I walked out to see the large monument to Jackson's accidental shooting by his own men, and happened upon a tour led by a park ranger.  She indicated that markers commemorating Jackson were plunked down on the believed site of the incident in the 1870's and again in 1904.  However, an interview with a member of the 14th North Carolina, the unfortunate authors of this famous "friendly fire" incident indicated the locations of these markers were likely incorrect.  Based on this later testimony, the ranger said,the site of Jackson's fatal wounding was likely close to contemporary storm drain located behind the visitor's center.  Of course as we drove about the march route and encountered numerous storm drains, John wondered aloud which soldiers each one memorialized.
1904 marker indicates spot where Stonewall Jackson was wounded, with inscription below.

Thomas J. Jackson memorial storm grate  marks the more likely spot where the 14th North Carolina fired their ill-fated volley that mortally wounded their commander in chief.
Three-inch ordnance rifle marks the Confederate gun lines firing from Hazel Grove.

Wednesday the fourth,  John and I drove down to Manassas and stayed near the visitor's center.  Frankly the weather took its toll on us.  Having spent plenty of time outdoors in temperatures ranging from 95-100+ degrees off and on most of the previous week we'd had enough.  Thankfully the visitor's center is located right on Henry House Hill where most of the climactic action for First Manassas is located.  The visitor's center is okay with lots of period artifacts.  However, most interesting are the pictures of battle participants or their close relatives with  a couple lines regarding their experience in the battle and their subsequent lives.  Some are quite moving, and it adds a human face to man's most terrible proclivity. We also watched the inevitable movie, narrated by Richard Dreyfuss.  The battle is, again, one of movement and on this day we were just too cooked to move much, but trails toward the Sudley Ford crossing and Stone Bridge sites are available for exploration.  The cost for three day pass to Manassas is three dollars.
Equestrian statue of former VMI instructor, Stonewall Jackson

Gun line marks the spot where Jackson's brigade stood like a stone wall. Looking back at Federal positions.
I'm finishing this post from the comfort of my home computer early Friday morning.  We traveled most of the night and I am, shockingly, having a little trouble with sleep.  It's good to be home, mostly because the heat of Virginia was ridiculous.  I saw almost everything I hoped for, and a little more while I was in Maryland and Virginia, and enjoyed myself immensely.  I'm sure if I lived there I'd have become a National Park Service ranger working one of the battlefields.  My desire to see those sights and touch the history was overwhelming.

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