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Days 106-107

Location: Bethesda, MD

Miles Driven: ~200

Total Miles: 25,206

 

In what will probably be viewed as unsurprising, I decided to stay one more day down in Newport News.  I think that was the best option given A) Added time for Chris and I to hang out, and B) Chris and I were up til 3AM on Saturday.  It was a rainy day, and we didn’t have anything planned other than to watch the Giants home-opener.

After a tease by Comcast (Chris’ TV said the game would be on, but instead it showed Atlanta/Pittsburgh), we all headed down to a local bar to catch the second half of what turned out to be a dominating win by the Giants.

Let's go G-Men!

Went back to his place to relax, and Chris’ fiancee Sundae prepared a great dinner of Mexican tortas.  Muy bien!

in football poses (I think) celebrating the win

We certainly didn’t do a whole lot that day, but I was beat around 10PM.  Left there around 8AM this morning (Monday), and got on the road towards Washington, D.C.  Glad I had the chance to hang with a good buddy from home one last time before I ship out in January.

When I hit the road, I knew I would make at least one stop along I-95N, and that’s the Stonewall Jackson Shrine not far from Spotsylvania, Virginia.  Many times before I had been driving on I-95 and told myself “ahh, I’ll check it out the next time.”  I think this was as a good a time as any (and probably my last chance) to check it out, so I took the exit off of 95 and drove the five miles down to the shrine.  I didn’t know anything about the place, so I was pretty curious after having seen this sign on so many past trips.

It turns out this shrine area was dedicated to the memory of Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson because it is the site of his death.  The site is the old Fairfield Plantation, and it is here where Jackson was brought after being shot (mistakenly by his own men) near Chancellorsville.  At the time, the site was no longer a functioning plantation, but a huge camp with Union prisoners and scores of Confederate wounded.

Jackson was here for about a week before pneumonia took its toll

It wasn’t an elaborate shrine by any means, but the place was still quite a solemn memorial to one of the finest officers in the entire Civil War.  Recognized for his brilliance on the battlefield by both Confederate and Union soldiers alike, many viewed Jackson as irreplaceable, and his death was a shocking blow to the Confederate cause.

The Stonewall Jackson shrine was not that far south of Fredericksburg, the site of two major battles during the course of the Civil War.  Having never seen it in person, I figured a visit to the battlefield would be in order, especially appropriate after the visit to Stonewall Jackson’s shrine. So I headed north to Fredericksburg, and soon was at the battlefield visitor center. 

For those who might not know, the battle of Fredericksburg took place in December of 1862, and was an overwhelming victory for the Confederates.  One of those situations (all too common in the Civil War) where soldiers (Union) made repeated attempts to attack a fortified position on top of a hill (Marye’s Heights), and were ultimately decimated…surprise, surprise.

In this region of Virginia, four major Civil War engagements took place – the battles of Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, and The Wilderness.  I learned at the Fredericksburg visitor center that the total casualties of these four battles (on both Confederate and Union sides) outnumbered the combined casualties of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, Mexican-American War, and all of the wars with native americans.  Unreal.

I first checked out some of the exhibits in the visitor center before heading out on the grounds, and found a nice display with information on the commanders at Fredericksburg:

Ever wonder where the term 'sideburns' comes from? Look no further than the man here at the bottom

After checking out some of the exhibits, I headed outside and went on the walking trail which highlighted some areas of the battle.

The Sunken Road, and the stone wall Confederate soldiers used as cover. Marye's Heights to the right

Remarkable

Brompton House on top of Marye's Heights

Minus some trees, this is the view the Confederates had from the heights during the battle

At the top of Marye’s Heights was a national cemetary.  Originally built as the final resting place for Confederate and Union soldiers who fell here, the cemetary also holds the remains of about 300 other military servicepeople up through the 1940s.   I read on the displays there are over 15,000 people buried in the cemetary, but fewer than 3,000 have been identified.  Sad.

A fitting description of the Confederate advantage at Fredericksburg

After a slow walk through the cemetary, it was time to go.  Glad I came here.  I had read about the terrible losses the Union suffered trying to take a fortified hill, but I didn’t get the full picture until I saw the landscape those soldiers encountered.  How awful.

I continued to plug away and head north towards Bethesda.  I had only about an hour’s worth of driving to go, and once I neared DC I realized that hour could turn closer to two…there was quite a bit of traffic on I-495.  No worries, though.  I made it to my buddy Matt’s place in the early afternoon.  I caught a nap, got some exercise, and then went out with him for a dinner of delicious Vietnamese pho:

Been too long since my last bowl of pho

Great to be back hanging with another old buddy.  I’ll be sticking around here in Maryland for the next several days.  The plan is to check out some local sights, as well as visit with other friends and former co-workers in the area one last time.  Great to be back.

Kind of weird – my home in NY is just five hours drive away now. 

joe

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