United States of America · 8 Days · 22 Moments · June 2017

Stephen Ambrose Civil War Tour


24 June 2017

Our final post - great Civil War tour experience - we had a Civil War era musician join us after our final dinner last night. All the food we had was just awesome with historical twists with each dinner. These two pics are from our hotel the last 3 nights outside Richmond, VA. Heather and I went walking on the golf course next to the hotel night before last where they were playing "night golf" - I gotta try that!
We then went to Appomattox and I took some pics of some interesting personal stories including a couple from dying soldiers from battle at Appomattox in the last day including the one written by a Confederate to his mother as he laid on the battlefield. I also captured Lee's farewell address to his troops. Lee signed the terms from the desk with a white marble top while Grant sat at the smaller table. That Confederate battle flag had been at many of the same battle sites we visited on our tour. It was cool to learn how Lincoln instructed Grant to allow Lee to surrender on favorable terms by paroling everyone, providing them with food and letting them go home immediately - his was of trying to begin the healing process (which we now know actually took about 100 years). Lincoln was assinated 5 days later after getting a personal report over breakfast with his son who sat in the room at Appomattox to observe.
This morning we drove to the Confederate National Museum where we saw the jacket Lee wore during his surrender to Grant at Appomattox. Also, as I recently read an Ambrose book on Custer, I tool a picture of some interesting mementos his wife Libby donated upon her death. Zoom in to read the text on the photo's to get the whole story.

23 June 2017

We had dinner Friday at an awesome place steeped in history called the Hanover Tavern. As you can read about in the pic I've attached, this is where Patrick Henry hung out including where he opened his first law practice.
We then visited the Battle of the Crater which was a story that should be made into a movie someday. The Union miners from Pennsylvania came up with idea of digging an underground mine shaft 500+ feet under their lines and the Confederate lines to blow up a Confederate fort and try to break through the Confederate defenses at that point. After 30 days of digging, they set it off with 12,000 Union troops ready to attack. However the Union leader supposed to lead the attack was drunk so they picked another leader. The Union troops ended up in hand-to-hand fighting for a few hours before Confederate troops counterattacked which included taking many Union prisoners. The unique thing here was the Union troops included Colored troops for the first time and the Confederates refused to take them prisoners so shot them instead. Seeing this, the Colored troops fellow Union soldiers, then turned their guns on their own Colored troops and shot them allowing themselves to be taken prisoner..
This afternoon we visited Pamplin Historic Park which included a personalised audio walk-through tour where you selected a real soldier and he told you his personal story of his Civil War experience. I selected the Georgia Confederate you see in the picture and in the end learned he died near the Battle of Chickamauga of typhoid fever after writing a letter home to his mother. They also had the only life-size earthworks model I've ever seen representing the siege of Petersburg.
Later this morning we stopped a famous Union siege gun called the "Dictator" which shot a 225 lb shell 2 miles into the town of Petersburg during the siege which started in the Fall of 1864 and lasted until early April of 1865.

22 June 2017

Here's a pic of the awesome Virginia Crossings place we are spending three nights. And this morning we just stopped by the spot where Jeb Stuart (famous Confederate cavalry General under Robert Lee) was mortally wounded in a cavalry fight and died a day later. This means that as of May, 1864, Lee has now lost all his leading Generals with Stonewall Jackson, Longstreet, Ewell and now Jeb Stuart.
We then visited both the Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville battlefields. One pic shows the primary area of fighting at Fredericksburg called the "sunken road" with a waist-high stone wall the Confederates hid behind. And then I took a pic of the plaque showing that same view the day after the battle. This is where the Union suffered a tremendous defeat with the loss of about 12,000 compared to the Confederate loss of about 4,000. The statue recognizes Richard Kirkland, a Confederate soldier who jumped into no-mans land to provide water to the dying Union soldiers. Once the Union soldiers figured out what he was doing, they quit firing at him. Reminded me of the Hacksaw Ridge story... The last 2 pics are of the Old Mountain Road which is where Stonewall Jackson was accidently shot by his own men while on an evening reconnaissance ride in front of the Confederate lines. He died a few days later of pneumonia after having his left arm amputated.
We visited the Chatham House today which had been visited by Washington, Jefferson and then Lincoln. It sits across the river from Fredericksburg, VA which was shelled by Union cannon sitting in both sides of the backyard - the view of which can be seen in the pic including a pic of what that same view looked like after the battle of Fredericksburg. The incredible gardens in the front yard was replaced with hospital tents and Union graves in December of 1862. The house was used as both a Union HQ and hospital - holes had to drilled in the hardwood floors to drain all the blood from the amputations...

21 June 2017

Had ice cream in downtown Gettysburg at the Cannonball Malt Shop - and yes, that's a real cannonball embedded in the brick above their sign. Had dinner at the Dobbin House, an Underground Railroad house which was the oldest building in town - great food...
We also stopped at the Gettysburg Cemetary where Lincoln delivered his famous "Gettysburg Address". That's the tall white monument. We then went to the house he stayed in the night before putting the finishing touches on his brief speech at the desk in the bedroom picture. The main orator prior to Lincoln spoke for 2 hours and Lincoln's speech only took about 3 minutes. I took a picture of an article that was published the next day in a pro-Democrat newspaper (Chicago Times) - zoom in to see how the journalist summarized the Gettysburg Address - pretty funny... Only 10 sentences but very powerful words...
This morning we walked in the same footsteps General Picketts men took on their famous "Picketts Charge" against Union forces. That grass field is about 1 mile across and they slowly made that charge getting shelled and shot all the way. The charge started with 12,500 Confederate infantry and was down to about 3500 by the time they got within 200 yards of the Union line. A small group led by General Armistead broke through the Union line fighting hand-to-hand combat up to the line of Union cannons before they were driven back and retreated. That memorial is where General Armistead fell and died right in front of Union General Hancock (who had just been wounded himself) - they were best friends from their West Point days. Armistead"s last words to a Union soldier who was trying to help him was to tell General Hancock how sorry he was they had to meet in battle like this... I got some great video clips of our mile walk retracing Pickett's charge...

20 June 2017

We visited Gettysburg battlefield today which included pics from the Confederate lines looking across the field where the famous Pickett's Charge occurred. We also have pics from Little Round Top looking down into the Devils Den and infamous wheat field which was reported to have so many bodies you could walk across the battlefield afterward without touching the ground. I also included a pic of some dead Union soldiers fron Devils Den after the battle - we saw these same rocks... General Warren saved the day (and maybe the war) for the Union on Little Round Top. If Longstreet had attacked in the morning like he was supposed to the Confederates could have taken the day. We are going to walk the path of Picketts Charge tomorrow with our guide...
We had dinner at the Herr Inn which was built in 1815. The Confederates set up their cannon in the yard which caused the Union cannon to return fire and damage the building on the first day of the Gettysburg battle. That picture of the letter is the request after the war for reimbursement from the Federal govt. for repair of the damages. The Inn was a Confederate hospital for 3 days during the battle with amputated limbs thrown out a window into a wagon to be buried. And that old picture is what the road and Inn looked like back then. The first shot of the battle was right down the road from this Inn. The owner also showed me a secret hiding place under a stairwell they could hide runaway slaves before the Emancipation Proclamation (which happened shortly after the battle at Gettysburg) based on the politics at that time.
Visited the Shriver House at Gettysburg this am. These pics are taken in attic which the Confederates took during the battle and had 2 sharpshooters who removed some bricks to create two shooting holes to shoot Federals on Cemetary Ridge. We could see where the Federal bullets had hit the brick wall on the outside (see small holes in brick). CSI (the TV show) did an investigation in the attic many years later which proved at least two Confederates had been shot through those holes in the attic based on the blood stains and patterns in the attic. The owner of the house, George Shriver, was in the Union cavalry at the time and was able to come back to his house on leave a few months after the battle but was latter captured and ultimately died as a prisoner in Andersonville, GA. Heather and I plan to visit his grave when we visit Andersonville soon.

19 June 2017

Also visited Harper's Ferry today - famous John Brown abolitionist scene and later a huge Stonewall Jackson victory which included 12,500 Federal soldiers taken prisoner
Antietam Battlefield today - bloodiest single-day in US history. A current pic of the sunken road or "bloody lane" and a pic of it after the battle. Also a pic of the famous Stone Bridge from after the battle and a current day pic - with the same tree on the left-hand side of the bridge. Hundreds of Federal soldiers were killed trying to cross that bridge.

18 June 2017

Visited Manassas (also known as Bull Run) today. This was the first major battle of the Civil War with volunteers from both sides and civilian spectators. Chaotic battle with untrained soldiers but in the end the Union army was retreating back to Washington with civilians in a panic. This was where General Thomas Jackson earned his nickname "Stonewall" Jackson. There was also a second battle here just one year later which was also a Confederate victory. We got to see the trench locations where the Union army broke the Confederate line and were then repelled. That picture of the blue jacket was a 17 year-old Confederate (Lt. Nelson) fatally wounded in the left shoulder (note hole in the jacket).

17 June 2017

Our visit to the Smithsonian Air & Space museum Saturday afternoon (pre tour time). That's the actual Enola Gay plane - wild to look in the cockpit and think about what that crew experienced dropping the first-ever atomic bomb...
Heather in front of a Focke-Wulf 190
First pic of our trip as a test case for using journi app.