Friday, September 23, 2011

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground, Day 4

The word for today: rain. It rained most of the day. It is raining up and down the eastern seaboard, I believe. Rain is a good thing usually, but not when you're on vacation. However, you make the best of it.

Mom and I fortified ourselves with a good breakfast, did some more shopping, and then went to the Manassas National Battlefield Park. As soon as we walked into the visitor's center, a park employee told everyone that a tour of Henry Hill was starting. We had our umbrellas, so we headed outside to join the tour. It was nasty out, but at least it wasn't storming. Besides the soldiers had it a lot worse, right?

The tour was very informative. The topic was the first battle of Manassas and the taking of Henry Hill. Among the things we learned: why there are two names for this battle - Manassas and Bull Run; that there was a civilian killed during this battle; an 85-year-old woman in bed in her own home - which just happened to be in the middle of what became the battlefield; how General Thomas Jackson got the nickname "Stonewall;" how green both the troops and their leaders were - on both sides; and how the Confederates won this battle.

This house stands where Mrs. Henry's house stood. Her house
was destroyed and she was killed when a Union officer
fired cannon shots at Confederate soldiers who
were firing from inside and around her home.
Henry Hill looking toward the back of the Henry home.

Henry Hill looking toward the Visitor's Center.
This area was where the Union line was located.

After the 45 minute tour (Did I mention it was in the rain?!), Mom and I went back to the Visitor's Center and walked through the exhibits there. I found this one especially poignant:

"I had a dim notion about the "romance" of a
soldier's life. I have bravely got over it since."
attributed to a solider at the first battle of Manassas

Of course we visited the gift shop! The gentlemen working there tried to sell me a printed certificate with my ancestor soldier's name and unit on it for only $10 for the first certificate and $5 for each one after that. Also, for $40, they would get my ancestor's military records for me. For $105, they would get the military records AND search for any other information about my ancestor... but no guarantees that they will find anything. Yeah, right. I believe I have done all of that already on my own with help from my genealogy friends!

We left the visitor's center and tried to drive around the park to see other sites, but Manassas is really not a "driving" battlefield. It is a "walking" battlefield, if you know what I mean. And we had walked about as much in the rain as we wished to at this point. So we started driving toward our next stop: Ranson, West Virginia.

It is not a far drive... about 38 miles. But it is through the mountains... it is raining... I'm sleepy, and there is no where to eat lunch or even just pull over for miles. Not a good combination. Finally, right at the West Virginia line, there is a convenience store. Thank goodness! Just in time. I get some juice and a snack, and I'm awake again. Of course, just a few minutes later, we arrive in Charles Town, and there are places to eat! We grab a bite and check into our motel.

I thought that went very smoothly... right up until some strangers used the hotel key they had just been given and was able to walk right into our room! Yes, the motel gave someone else our room. They did call and apologize, but then we discovered, quite by accident, that our keys no longer worked. So back down to the front desk I went to get them re-keyed. The clerk didn't even apologize! Other than that, it's been a smooth stay.

We had planned to go to Harper's Ferry tonight and take a ghost tour. However, with the rain, we didn't know if we would. The company's website said that even in the case of rain, they would still tell us the same stories... just in their offices instead of around town. Lo and behold, the rain stopped! We were able to do the full tour, outside, walking around the historical town of Harper's Ferry with nary a drop of rain falling on our heads! Yay! The tour was... OK. A little corny and not even close to scary. Or even spooky. However, the guide was dressed to perfection for the role, and the lantern and walking stick were the perfect accompaniments!

Tomorrow we visit Harper's Ferry National Park and Antietam National Battlefield. Here's hoping for no rain!

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