Tag Archives: history

Camera: Williamsburg

Williamsburg, Virginia, is a living historical site. Buildings have been reconstructed or built to be an authentic replica of the colonial-period Williamsburg. It is the original capital of Virginia, the original seat of the state government. Below, visitors gather outside the Capitol to hear a wonderful, live reading of the Declaration of Independence.

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Visitors can tour the beautiful Capitol building with a tour guide costumed in colonial clothing. The tour is totally worth your time!

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Government officials met here to debate and vote. The large chair in the center is the Governor’s seat.

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Below is the church of Williamsburg, Bruton Parish Church. Parishioners included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Martha Custis (future wife of George Washington), and Patrick Henry. The building also served as a hospital during the Revolutionary War. It is one of America’s oldest churches, established in the early 17th century.

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The stone baptismal font was brought here from Jamestown around 1758. It is said to be the oldest Christian relic in the United States, as it was brought here from England.

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The Governor’s Palace:

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The Governor of Williamsburg decorated most of the first floor of his mansion with excessive weaponry. His goal was to instantly intimidate any and all visitors.

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A glimpse into the Governor’s Palace:

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Camera: Appomattox

One of our final stops in Virginia was Appomattox. Here, the Civil War formally ended. This place is beautiful and authentic, allowing visitors to get a clear glimpse of the profound events which took place here.

This is the McLean House, where General Robert E. Lee and General Ulysses S. Grant met to determine the terms of surrender.

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The historical meeting occurred in the parlor of the McLean house, with Robert E. Lee at the desk below:

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and Ulysses S. Grant sat at this desk:

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One of the terms of Lee’s surrender was to provide assistance for the Confederate soldiers returning to their homes. A printing press, such as the one below, was set up in the tavern. For each Confederate soldier, a parole slip was printed, and with that slip of paper, Confederate soldiers were able to return to their homes unmolested.

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Below are some recovered parole slips:

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This cannon at Appomattox is the site of the last “official” shot of the Civil War:

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Brigadier General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain received the Confederate surrender of arms. In a poignant display, Chamberlain and his troops saluted the Confederate soldiers as the filed past on the land below.

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Camera: Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg was a battle site featured in the film Gods and GeneralsThis was a huge win for the Confederate army, and a virtual slaughter of the Union army.

Here is the site where the Irish Brigade of the Union Army made repeated attempts to overtake the wall from which the Confederate army slaughtered them. At that time, all the trees in this photo were not there, and the Union soldiers continually tried to attack over a wide open area. Ironically, and tragically, the Confederate regiment on the winning side of the stone wall was also an Irish one.  It was a tragic battle for the Irish men who hoped to return to Ireland and gain freedom from England. Instead, the men cut one another down in a devastating battle. The Union’s Irish Brigade was demolished from over 1600 to a mere 256.

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This home has stood here since before the Battle of Fredericksburg. All of the house, and its interior, are still riddled with bullet holes from the Civil War crossfire.

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Here is the statue honoring Richard Rowland Kirkland of South Carolina. After a gruesome day of battle, all of the Union’s wounded lie moaning and crying out on the battlefield. Union soldiers could not retrieve their wounded for fear of being picked off by the Confederates behind the stone wall. The moans and cries for water from the wounded never ended, and Kirkland could no longer stand it. Without protective fire cover or assistance, Kirkland crossed the wall and began giving water to the wounded Union soldiers. It was a beautiful demonstration of compassion in the midst of a terrible battle.

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Chatham House was used as Union headquarters and a hospital. From this great height across the river, the Union battery had cannons trained on the city of Fredericksburg.

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A neat feature of this mansion is the graffiti from wounded Union soldiers. Men signed and wrote on the walls as they were being cared for, and these were re-discovered during the restoration of the home. Below is a signature from a soldier in Michigan’s cavalry:

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The tree trunk below belongs to a Catalpa tree that pre-dates the Civil War. Struck by countless bullets and shrapnel, the tree began to “heal” itself by growing over its wounds. The result is an extremely knobby, gnarled, interesting tree with quite a story to tell.

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I’ll leave you with this final image – this is a portion of the original stone wall at Fredericksburg, stones holding the blood, sweat, tears, and shrapnel of the most heartbreaking of wars.

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Camera: Antietam

The next stop on my family’s historic travels was Antietam, site of the single bloodiest day of battle in the Civil War. The loss here, on both sides, was devastating, and I could feel that weight as we toured the grounds. Since visiting Gettysburg years ago, this was the next battlefield that I most wanted to visit.

Here is the site of the Confederate cannon near Dunker Church:

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A memorial to Clara Barton, the founder of the Red Cross. Two bricks from her childhood home were used to create the red cross on her memorial. She was a dedicated, fearless nurse on the Civil War battlefields.

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Here is a portion of Antietam known as “The Bloody Cornfield”. It was strange to reflect on all the horror, violence, and death that took occurred in a place that is now so beautiful.

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A majestic memorial to the Union soldiers of my home state, Indiana, rises on the far side of “The Bloody Cornfield”.

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“The Bloody Lane” (you’ll find the adjective “bloody” is used quite frequently in descriptions of Civil War sites) leads to the Sunken Road. Here, Confederate soldiers created a great trench that allowed them to remain hidden from the Union army. When the Union soldiers neared the edge of the trench, the Confederates stunned them by popping up and shooting. In the photo below, my dad demonstrates how the Confederate soldiers would not have been seen well by the view from the cornfields above:

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Here is where General Burnside’s troops attempted multiple times to cross Antietam Creek and flank the Confederates. During the failed attempts, the Confederates strengthened their flank, and the result was disaster for Burnside’s soldiers. After heavy casualties, Burnside’s troops finally managed to capture the bridge. The bridge then became known as “Burnside’s Bridge”.

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Here is the site of the last portion of the Battle of Antietam:

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The hauntingly beautiful Antietam cemetery. Only Union soldiers could be buried here. Confederate soldiers were placed in a different cemetery.

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Camera: Harpers Ferry

This past summer, my family did a tour of historic Virginia. That may sound incredibly boring, but we are history people. Also, my brother got to choose the vacation, and that’s what he chose. Touring battlefields. In the high heat of July. With no lunch breaks. Just healthy snacks. Yep.

In all seriousness, it was a great vacation. Dad planned everything perfectly for a tour that began in Harpers Ferry, continued through major Revolutionary and Civil War sites, and ended in Lexington. Harpers Ferry is a beautiful town, its historic preservation adding to its charm. I’ll warn you: parking is extremely limited, but the walk around town, into the shops and museums, and a meal at a riverfront restaurant is so worth it. This is also the town where abolitionist John Brown had his famous raid, which historians agree sparked the secession movement and civil war.

Located at the point where the Potomac River merges with the Shenandoah, Harpers Ferry has seen its share of extreme floods. The old Hardware shop near the river has a post (to the left of the pipe) marking all of Harpers Ferry’s worst floods:

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This monument marks the site of John Brown’s original “fort”. Harpers Ferry is settled on the hill beyond.

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Harpers Ferry’s bridges were destroyed in the Civil War. Their ruins remain:

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See the old ad etched onto the face of the mountain above the bridge?

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Where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers meet:

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The ones who came before…

Every once in a while, my grandparents will uncover things, photographs or letters or small objects, that they didn’t remember having.  A few months ago, they uncovered some old photographs.  By old, I mean that they are of my great-grandmother as a young woman, back when she taught in Bulgaria, before she was forced to flee her homeland for the United States.  I cannot stop looking at these photos.  My great-grandma died when I was 13, so I have no way of finding out who all of these people are or what became of any of them, if she even knew that.  I’ve blown them up and have them framed in my room, and the curiosity will not go away.

My great-grandmother is in the front row, second from the left, with the dark kerchief tied over her hair.

In this one, my great-grandmother is the third from the right, wearing a long, dark gown with her hand up to her chin.  Pretty impressive for early photography, considering how long they all would have had to hold these positions.

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