I’m home. Again. For three days again. And then it’s on the road again….
Here’s a report on the weekend.
I left here on Thursday morning. I left early, intending to spend a couple of hours at Cedar Creek on the way. Just as I hit Winchester, it started to rain, so my stop at Cedar Creek was just to see whether I could buy a pin (they don’t sell them). I remain absolutely horrified and repulsed by the decisions made by the Cedar Creek Foundation. Maybe it’s a good thing it was raining.
I got to Culpeper at about 4:00 (it’s a 7.5 hour drive of nearly 450 miles to Culpeper) and tracked down Mike Block, who is a trustee of the Brandy Station Foundation. Mike was my good right arm this weekend, and I couldn’t have done it without his help. We had to finish up getting permissions from landowners to go on private property. Once we finished that, I had dinner with Ken Ramsey, who was filling in for Bob Maher as the official representative of the Civil War Education Association. Never mind that Ken lives here in Columbus and that we could have dinner together any time. We had to go to Culpeper to do so. I then did an overview and met the tour participants.
Friday, we hit the road. We began the day atop Pony Mountain, which was an important signal station for both sides during the entire war. It has a spectacular view. From there, it was out to Kelly’s Ford, followed by a hike out to the Pelham marker at Wheatley’s Ford. Once we did that, we covered the Battle of Brandy Station. We must have hiked the crowd five miles, much of it through fields. I told the participants to wear long pants due to ticks, but one particularly adventurous woman did all of this hiking in capri pants and a pair of sandals. I was impressed. We took folks on a number of parcels of private property, and they got to see things at Brandy Station that only a tiny percentage of visitors ever see, including a picnic lunch at the Graffiti House and being the first tour group to spend time on the latest land acquisitions at Fleetwood Hill. One of the highlights of the day was a visit to Auburn, the John Minor Botts house. I’d never been on the grounds before, and it’s a cool spot that probably saw more cavalry fighting than any other house in North America.
My friend Karl Fauser joined us Friday, and Karl did a fabulous job of documenting the day. His photo essay can be found here.
I would be terribly remiss if I didn’t mention the absence of Bud Hall. Bud was supposed to be with us, but a family situation prevented him from being there. This tour was at least as much his as it was mine. What I know about that battlefield, I learned from him. My tour is based on his. The contacts that got us onto private property were his contacts, developed over a quarter of a century. He was definitely missed. I can only hope that we did him justice there.
When we got back, Ken and I had dinner again, and while at a local place getting ice cream, I ran into old friend Melissa Delcour, who lives just outside Culpeper. Melissa was also supposed to be with us for the weekend, but she’d also had something come up that prevented it. It was great to see her, and we made plans to have dinner together last night. I was asleep by 10:15 after a LONG day in the sun.
Saturday, it was off to Trevilian Station. I had something happen on Saturday that has never happened before, and which, to be honest, weirded me out. We had a father and son along with us for the entire tour, as they have an ancestor who fought with the 5th Virginia Cavalry in all three of the major engagements that we addressed. The son is 17, and a nice young man. His mother was along, too, as the family was going somewhere after the weekend of touring. The mother is such an overwhelming helicopter parent that she insisted on following the bus 35 miles to the Trevilians battlefield, just to make sure that the area met with her approval. My first stop on this tour is at a place called Ellis Ford, which is the next ford on the North Anna River to the west of the one that Sheridan used, as the ford he used, Carpenter’s Ford, is under Lake Anna, and Ellis Ford is good for illustrating the crossing. The Ellisville Road gets little traffic, and I have had numerous busloads out there, often standing in and along the road. The mother evidently didn’t like the fact that we were in the road, and after she finally left, she evidently lectured her husband on the dangers of being in the road last night. Fortunately, she only stuck around for one stop on the tour, or I would have insisted that she leave, because it was distracting to the group. Also, she consistently tailgated the bus, which was unsafe and which Tommy the Wonder Driver found very disconcerting. I’m not sure whether to be amused by this ridiculous, outrageous conduct or horrified by it. All I could think of was, “that poor kid.”
The tour was great. I’ve long been extremely comfortable with leading that tour, as I’ve done so many times. We hit all of the spots on my standard tour, which includes about a dozen stops. Ed Crebbs, a former president of the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation came by at lunchtime to talk about the preservation effort at Trevilian and do a little fundraising, and was very successful in his efforts. I added a new stop today, at the Exchange Hotel Civil War Museum in Gordonsville, which was the first time I’ve gotten there early enough in the day to stop and take the group in to see the museum (the Exchange Hotel was a hospital for most of the Confederate wounded from Trevilian Station). It was very warm and humid, and it’s also exhausting having to be “on” all day, so it was a tiring day. We got back early, and I grabbed a shower and had a delightful dinner with Melissa Delcour at a delightful restaurant in downtown Culpeper called The Hazel River Inn. I was again asleep by 10:15 or so last night.
One of the highlights of the day yesterday was having my friend Scott Patchan along. Scott and I spent a lot of time discussing lots of interesting things over the course of the day yesterday, including his very intriguing theory about Sheridan’s lack of active participation while serving as the commander of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps. I was really glad to have Scott along, and I really enjoyed chatting with him. It’s been a while since I’ve last seen him, and I enjoyed it.
This morning, we covered the September 13, 1863 Battle of Culpeper Court House. We had two stops, at Greenhill, where much of the fighting occurred, and at the train depot in Culpeper, where the battle ended. Our final stop of the day was the Culpeper National Cemetery. There are battle dead from Brandy Station and Trevilian Station there, and it just seemed like the ideal place to end the tour. We were back at the hotel by 10:00, and I hit the road almost immediately.
Some of the tour participants mentioned going to visit the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park, so I decided to do the same, for a very quick visit to add a pin to my hat. I drove over to New Market, bought the pin and some maps of several different battles and then headed north. I got off I-81 at Tom’s Brook and took the Valley Pike (Route 11) north all the way up to Kernstown. Towns like Strasburg are just gorgeous, and I really enjoyed going past all of the many battlefields that line the Valley Pike between Tom’s Brook and Winchester (Kernstown, Fisher’s Hill, Cedar Creek, Tom’s Brook, among others). And then home.
I’m home until Thursday, when I hit the road again, this time for Mark Snell’s retreat from Gettysburg seminar at Shepherd University next weekend. It’s going to be another week of cramming five days’ worth of work into three before I finally get to rest.
I’m going to bed early again tonight, only in my own bed this time.Scridb filter