I have just spent two enjoyable weeks travelling around Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia with my Dad and my brother Jo, who have both become interested in the American Civil War. This daguerreotype (taken at Gettysburg) shows the members of the Lost Brigade:
(from left to right): Major Screwup, General Malaise and Private Parts.
In addition to Gettysburg, We visited other Civil War sites at Antietam/Sharpsburg, Manassas/Bull Run, Petersburg, Richmond and the Shenandoah Valley. For me it was a crash course not just in the Civil War, but also in a broader history of the USA, because we also took in some sites that were not directly related to the Civil War. All throughout the trip we drove through some amazingly beautiful countryside but the most picturesque by far was the Skyline drive along the Blue ridge mountains. We spent an evening there staying in some very beautiful accomodations in Shenandoah National park. Other non Civil War highlights include a fantastic crab sandwich at a place in Maryland, and the “Stalacpipe Organ” at Luray Caverns in Virginia.
Spontaneous trips can go wrong at times, but although we freestyled it the whole way, we had a wonderful time, and enjoyed each other’s company immensely. About the only disaster of the trip was when I spilled a chocolate malted milkshake into my lap at a diner (I can’t remember now exactly where it was). I scurried off to the rest room to clean up my pants, now covered in chocolate, and Dad came to help me. Hilariously, a stranger walked in on the sight of a middle aged man with soiled pants off, being helped by an elderly gent.. and immediately skedaddled back the way he’d come in. Dad and I looked at each other, and burst into laughter. God knows what tawdriness this gentleman thought we were up to, but the expression on his face was of utter horror.
I enjoyed visiting Yorktown, historic old town Williamsburg and Jamestown, which was the site of the first permanent English settlement in the United States (dating from 1607), and the original capital of the colony of Virginia. The city was abandoned last century and there isn’t much left above ground these days apart from a ruined church and a museum housing the artifacts dug up by an ongoing archeological excavation.
But the place was vividly brought to life for me by a living history guide we met inside the national park. He was dressed in early 1600’s garb, and told a group of us the history of the site, and fielded questions as he stayed very much “in character” as an actual historical figure known as John Rolfe, who was the husband of Pochohontas and was instrumental in establishing the tobacco trade. I found out later that the guide is actually one of his descendants.
I’m always a sucker for people bold enough to play act in silly costumes!
After about a week of touring around, we then headed back to my Brother’s home in Columbia Maryland for some quality time with his family, which included quite a bit of time drawing cartoons with my two nephews.
But we also managed to fit in some more US history field trips, including a visit to Fort McHenry in Baltimore, which withstood a massive British naval Bombardment during the War of 1812 and inspired an onlooker to write the National Anthem. Also, after 15 years in this country, I finally had a chance to visit the nation’s capital; Washington DC. The highlight of the visit for me was the marvellous monument to Abraham Lincoln. Seeing Honest Abe sitting in his chair after I had just spent several weeks absorbing the history of the Civil War, and the legacy of that particular President, gave the visit more meaning than it otherwise might have had. After a few weeks of blazing humid heat it is certainly refreshing to be back in the cooler climate of the Bay Area.