Thursday, May 31, 2012

Our Adventure in Maryland

We were looking at the maps and the brochures we had picked up trying to decide where we might want to go or visit in the State of Maryland. One of the suggestions in the KOA booklet was the Antietam National Battlefield which is only seventeen miles from Harpers Ferry. Since we have not visited a Civil War Battlefield, we thought that might be a good choice.

Even the plantings and flowers out in front evoke the Civil War era --

There was a small museum inside with some artifacts. This drum was the property of a 13 year-old Union Army drummer boy--

After having checked with their website, we planned our visit to arrive in time to see the hour-long film that is only shown at noon every day. Narrated by James Earl Jones, it uses letter, journal and diary entries to tell the story of the battle in the troops own words. This scene showed Confederate troops wading across the Potomac River as part of General Lee's attempt to move the war out of Virginia and into the north.

It's hard to look out over this bucolic farmland and realize that in a period of little more than twelve hours 23,000 men will be killed, wounded or missing. At the time of the battle in September of 1862, these fields were planted in corn. We bought a set of CDs at the gift shop that we listened to as we drove from place to place to learn about the different parts of that long bloody day.

This line-up of artillery illustrates part of the manufacturing edge that the north had. The first one on the left is a 10-pounder Parrott Rifle and the second is a 3-inch Ordnance Rifle. These rifled artillery pieces were more accurate and could fire farther than the two 12-pounder Napoleon bronze cannons on the right. The Napoleon cannons were left from the Spanish-American War and were the only artillery the Confederacy possessed. Because of the hilly terrain on the battlefield, artillery played an important role in the battle. There were more than 500 artillery pieces used that day!

As a nurse, I was very interested in this stone monument erected in tribute to Clara Barton, known as the "Angel of the Battlefield."


The red cross at the foot of the stone is made from bricks of the chimney or the home where Ms Barton grew up in Massachusetts --

Not only did Ms Barton bring assistance to wounded soldiers, she also brought bandages, lanterns and food to the Antietam hospitals.

There must be a least a hundred different statues and monuments scattered around the various parts of the battlefield. It seems that each state that had troops who fought here, has erected some kind of tribute. There are some states that have multiple monuments, one for each of the units that fought here.

For instance, this monument is at the edge of the infamous bloody cornfield pays tribute to the 1st Texas Volunteer Regiment who lost eight color-bearers who were trying to protect their flag.

This one is for the Fourteenth Brooklyn Infantry unit from New York --

This sunken farm lane, bordered by rail fences was the scene of a bloody ambush of Union troops. 2200 patient Confederate soldiers (later reinforced by additional troops) used it as a breastwork to hold off the attacks of a combined Union force numbering nearly 10,000. 

Mathew Brady had cadre of photographers that ventured to the Civil War battlefields to document "the great spectacle of war." They took photographs of the dead "lying in rows along the road like ties of a railroad, in heaps like cordwood mingled with the splintered and shattered fence rails." For the first time in history, the horror of war was brought home to the public. I think the sight of all those horrible pictures -- which are displayed at the museum and throughout the battlefield -- made me feel quite heartsick about all the carnage.

This monument to the Irish Brigade was especially poignant to me. In the gift shop I saw recruiting posters for the Irish to volunteer to serve in the Union Army side-by-side with the signs that were in the store windows saying "No Irish Need Apply!" Sounds like our present day immigrants volunteering in hopes of earning their US citizenship...

Forry and I were both taken by how rocky the fields are. This is a field of corn planted around the rocks...

How would you like to try to plant around rocks like these?

Or these, just scattered throughout the grain?

The Ranger at Harpers Ferry had told me about the Field Hospital Museum that has been set up not too far from the Antietam Battlefield. The Pry farm was one of the places that wounded were taken from the field (there were so many wounded, that almost every house and barn became a hospital).

Not only was the house and barn used for wounded soldiers, the Union Army camped on Pry land for several weeks following the battle, eating all of the farmer's crops and animals. Though Pry tried to reclaim his losses from the US government, his family eventually lost their farm.

There are displays of Civil War era medicine throughout the house. The parlor is set up as it may have been for a field surgery. The table is set upon empty ammo boxes so that the doctor could work upon the soldier's wounded foot. Most likely only officers were treated in the house.

The common soldier was taken to this large barn and treated there.

On our way back to the RV campground, tired and hungry, we once again crossed over the Potomac River. I could picture those Rebel soldiers wading back across after the Union Army had foiled their attempt to invade Maryland.

Though the battle pretty much ended up in a stalemate, President Lincoln was encouraged enough about thwarting General Robert E Lee, that he felt it was time to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Day at Harpers Ferry

This morning we drove into Harpers Ferry to drop off a letter at the post office. The present-day towns of Bolivar and Harpers Ferry sit up on the hill. There are some really neat old houses that are still occupied.

This one is for sale. It would be an interesting "fixer-upper" --

This church steeple can be seen from all over town --

After we got back from the post office, we picked up the camera and the water bottle and went to down the road from the KOA campground to the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park which is in the three states of Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.  The town of Harpers Ferry sits at the confluence of the Potomac and Shanandoah Rivers and has flooded out many times over the years. The National Park Service now owns all of the buildings in the Lower Town and has renovated the insides to look as they may have done in the 19th century.

Our first president, George Washington, established Harpers Ferry as the site of the new country's first armory in 1790. There were eventually twenty brick buildings along the river that manufactured arms.  Between the time the first buildings were constructed in 1799 and the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the armory produced over 500,000 muskets, rifles and pistols and employed, at times, over 400 workers.

One of the renovated buildings houses many of the machines used at the United States Armory and Arsenal. This is an early rifling machine that bored the gun barrels --

And lathes for making gun stocks --

In March of 1803, the Armory was visited by Meriwether Lewis who obtained the "items needed for survival on the transcontinental expedition that he and William Clark were preparing to undertake. For protection and acquiring food, armory gunsmiths provided Lewis with modified Model 1792 contract rifles bearing Harpers Ferry lockplates, along with spare parts and tools, including a simple grindstone, to repair them. Lewis also obtained powder horns, pouches, bullet molds, knives, tomahawks, and an innovative portable iron boat frame, which he planned to cover with animal skins and use for transport beyond the Great Falls of the Missouri River."

Fifty-six years later, the weapons stored at the Armory lured the abolitionist John Brown to Harpers Ferry. In October of 1859, Brown attempted to seize the 100,000 rifles and muskets stored here in the first step of his attempt to rid the nation of slavery.

John Brown thought he could raise a slave insurrection and had ordered these pikes for the slaves to use as weapons. His raid on Harpers Ferry was foiled by local militia and US troops under the command of Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee who seized Brown and captured or killed nearly all of his raiders. Brown was later tried and died on the scaffold but his actions further divided the nation over slavery.

One of the museum buildings portrays a watchmaker's shop --

While another of the buildings houses a Civil War museum (Harpers Ferry exchanged hands between the Union and Confederate troops eight times!). This case showed fragments of hollow cannon balls with their contents --

The brick building down the street is the fire hall where John Brown made his last stand. The building, while intact, has been moved four times. The railroad now runs where it stood during his raid.

The National Park Service has done a great job of restoring the buildings in Lower Town. In addition to the various museums, there is a bookstore with an incredible collection of Civil War books.

This is the confluence of the Potomac and the Shanandoah Rivers. Thomas Jefferson stopped here with his eldest daughter Patsy in October 1783 on his way to Philadelphia to serve as a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress. No town existed then, only the Potomac and Shanandoah Rivers crashing their way through the mountains in a drama that Jefferson declared "perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in Nature."

Remnants of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal opposite Harpers Ferry --

This is actually a portion of the Appalachian Trail, We walked across the Shanandoah River on this foot bridge that goes alongside the train bridge

The foot bridge takes the Appalachian Trail over to the tunnel on the Maryland side, then there is a spiral staircase back down to the trail at ground level.

The Potomac River was quite muddy as it approached the confluence --

It was quite warm again this afternoon and after walking around Lower Town and over the river, we were quite glad to return to the bus shelter and await the shuttle bus back to the Visitor's Center. (There are very few parking spaces in Lower Town, so the Park runs a shuttle bus from the parking lot up by the Visitor's Center every 15 minutes or so.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

West Virginia, Here We Come

It never cooled off enough last night to even shut off the fans (it's usually cool enough about 5 AM when I make a trip to the bathroom, for me to shut them off...).  Knowing it was going to be a hot -- and humid -- day, I got up at 6:30 and started putting the lounge chairs in their carrying cases and putting them away in the car. By the time I got all the chairs and the little table put away, I was dripping wet and it was only a bit after seven! We finished up all of the putting away and cleaning up and draining tanks, etc. that it took since we had been at Rainbow Acres for a week and a day and were on the road a little after 11:30 AM.

Sally, our GPS unit voice, took us down a whole series of two-lane roads through the treed country-side --

Until we got to Interstate 95. It was only moderately busy as we merged into the traffic, but the closer we got to the Washington DC area, the busier it got until it was pretty much bumper to bumper. Except for one area of road construction, traffic mostly moved  along fairly rapidly.

As we drove through the north central portion of Virginia, the land seemed to be more open with lots of pastureland --

The hills beyond the valleys we were driving through were almost a smokey blue --

And in the distance you could see the Blue Ridge Mountains (actually just more hills...!) --

We went by a whole bunch of wineries and then actually saw a field of grapes (that I almost missed getting a picture of!) --

As we drove towards the confluence of the Potomac and Shanandoah Rivers where Harper's Ferry is located, we began seeing rocky cuts along the road that I think may be limestone?

And finally, a Welcome to West Virginia sign! Harper's Ferry is just across the border inside West Virginia. I understand the Harper's Ferry National Historic Park actually lies in three states, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland!

The Harper's Ferry Road is about six miles of narrow two-lane, very curvy, no-passing road with 35 to 40 mile an hour speed limits. Evidently one young punk got tired of following us (there were no passing lanes or even turn-outs). When we got to the corner of Campground Road where you turn into the KOA, they pulled up alongside and as they sped past, they threw a water balloon at the window. Of course, there was a loud splat. As I had no idea what it was they had thrown, it scared the you-know-what out of me! Fortunately there was no damage done...

After we had registered at the office and paid our bill, the KOA guide wanted us to ride in his golf cart to see the site we had been assigned (30 amp and H2O only as we're just staying three nights) before we moved Auntie Violet there. It was awfully narrow and we probably wouldn't have been able to put out all of our slides or the awning. He called the office and got us another site -- a much better one with 50 amp and sewer as well. And then he came back and said there would be no charge for the upgrade! Now, that's customer service!

Thunder was rumbling all around as we were setting up. It started to rain and just as we finished and went inside, it started to pour. Evidently, there are Severe Thunderstorm warnings all the way up to Philadelphia and New York. We had about a half hour of the storm before it moved on.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Just Thinking...

What a difference a day makes! Last evening when we were walking around the campground, it was incredibly noisy and busy. There were golf carts going in every direction and kids on bicycles racing up and down. There were lots of parties and the "good ol' boys" were having a great time.

This evening it is very quiet and still. Many of the rigs who came in for the long weekend with young families packed up and left early this afternoon. A good share of the more permanent RVs are dark tonight and there are no longer cars parked by them, so I am assuming they have gone back to their regular homes as well.

We have started thinking about our next couple of stops. We normally aren't too much for planning or making reservations a long way ahead. We will often call the day before, or even the day of, a stop to see if there is a space for us. But, it doesn't seem to work as well to do that here on the East Coast. We've also been trying to plan things so that we can add all of the New England state stickers to our map. Our goal is to have been in all of the 48 continental US states by the time we return to Washington State later this summer.

We've made reservations to spend a few days at the Harper's Ferry KOA in West Virginia, then move on to eastern Pennsylvania for a week's stay. We were attracted Homestead Campground in Green Lane, Pennsylvania because of the campground's information that you could take a train from near-by into historic Philadelphia. Sounds like it costs $1 to park at the train station all day and another dollar for Seniors to ride the train. I like the sounds of that.

Back in another life, I was fortunate to have had a Fellowship with the Public Health Service in Washington DC that enabled me to spend a month in the city. Forry was able to spend a portion of the time with me and we did a great deal of exploring on the weekends. We were also in DC several times during my years with the National Rural Health Association, so we are not really feeling like we want to spend any of our time there.

We do want to explore the New England states. We have good friends who have retired to a farm in Maine that we are anxious to see. I am also very much looking forward to seeing Niagara Falls. It does seem that even if we spend a week or more in a state, we barely get a taste of it. There are so many things to see in this wonderful country of ours!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Just Hanging Out...

We stayed around the campground today and rested up. I was up early and this is what it looked like outside. There didn't seem to be a soul out and about and it was really foggy!

We were out walking this evening, checking out some areas of the campground we hadn't been in. There are a lot of summer fairly permanent set-ups. Many of the lots are quite large and are fenced and somewhat landscaped.

There seem to be quite a few of these little gazebo-type structures around --

This is the area down the hill from the camp sites where the beach is at the river --

Many of the sites on that side of the camp have beautiful views of the river --

Here's another of the screened in gazebos -- we've seen people in the evenings playing cards, eating or just visiting in them. I guess it's a way to enjoy the outdoors without dealing with all the bugs!

The Cardinal was back this evening. I caught him sitting in the neighbors half whiskey barrel. I think he was trying to figure out just what kind of critter that white thing was...