Friday, May 20, 2011

Appomattox Court House & Lexington, Virginia

Thur, May 12 - Sun, May 15th

Interesting t-shirt. Thursday we toured the Appomattox Court House battlefield. They had a Union Private in costume and character visiting with the crowd at Clover Hill Tavern. He was explaining what had happened in the days following the battle and was very entertaining. This is Clover Hill Tavern and the rooming house behind it. Once the surrender had taken place, per Lee's request, there were almost 30,000 parole slips printed up here over a five day period, and handed out to the confederate soldiers. They guaranteed them safe passage home, including free travel on and free food at any Federal facilites along the way.

There was an excellent guide who took us on a walking tour of the grounds and described the progression of the battle and surrender. There were about 120 people living here at the time of the battle and it is virtually unchanged, due to the railroad bypassing them by about 3 miles and the town sort of dying out. This is the Richmond/Lynchburg Stage Road that Lee was so desperately trying to reach, for badly needed supplies that were coming in on the train.

Unfortunately, 25 year old Brevet Major General George Custer managed to capture his train supplies and take control of the road. Lee was surrrounded on three sides with his men sick and starving. This is the site of his last camp where he conferred with his officers and was going to make one last attempt to break thru, when he got word of the hopelessness of the situation and sent word to Grant asking for surrender terms. This is the Peers house, site of the last shots fired. Each time the cannons were fired, they backed up a little till they were up against the front steps. The steps still lean a little to this day.

This is the McClean home where Grant and Lee met to sign a letter listing the final surrender terms. All officers were allowed to keep their side arms and anyone who had a mule or horse, was allowed to keep it. Grant immediately had 28 thousand and some rations sent to the starving troops and made provisions for parole slips for all soldiers who signed a pledge not to take up arms against the Union again. The next day they had an official laying down of arms where 4,500 union troops lined up on either side of the road for about a half mile, while the Rebs marched thru for most of the day laying down and stacking their arms. To the Reb's surprize, the Union troops gave them three cheers and a salute. They returned the salute as they marched by in tears. Their commanding officer said, "Grant treated us nobly, more nobly than ever was a conquered army treated." There were 65,000 Union troops in the area. Grant left a national hero after 11 months of constant toil, bloodshed and death trying to defeat Lee. The war didn't end that day, but it was the beginning of the end.

This is Washington and Lee University in Lexington, said to be one of the prettiest campuses in the nation. It started as Augusta Academy near Greenville in 1749 and was re-established as Liberty Hall Academy at Timber Ridge in 1776. In 1782 it was moved to Lexington when it was endowed by George Washington with $50,000 worth of stock the State of Virginia had given him, and it was renamed in his honor. After the Civil War ended in 1865, Robert E. Lee took over as president of the university, on the same day he signed his oath to the Union. When he died in 1870, it was renamed Washington and Lee University. Students today still receive $3.00 per year from Washington's original endowment. Washington was good friends with Lee's father and Lee admired him very much.

This is a Japanese Dogwood on campus. There are lots of these in the area. At a distance, it looks like there are just a bunch of butterflies sitting on a bush. They are quite beautiful.

This is a chapel that Lee had built while he was president. He and his wife, parents, children and a couple other family menbers are entombed in the lower level of the chapel and his horse, Traveler, is buried just outside. His horse's skeleton was taken on tour around New York and places before he was finally buried here.

Just across the street is the Virginia Military Institute, the nation's first state military college in 1839. Stonewall Jackson was on the faculty and it is his statue between the flags, behind the cadets and in front of the main entrance to the first barracks. Around the side to the right is a statue of George Wahington at the other entrance to the first barracks. To the left, at the entrance of the second barracks, is a statue of George C. Marshall, 1901 graduate and Army Chief of Staff in WWII. There is also a museum and library on campus dedicated to him. He was later Secretary of State and is famous for his Marshall Plan to help Europe rebuild after the war, for which he won the Nobel Prize. There is an Oscar for Best Picture of 1970 in his museum honoring the movie about General Patton, who attended his first year here and then went on to West Point. I think Patton's father, grandfather and uncle went to VMI.

Another museum on campus has Stonewall Jackson's horse, Little Sorrel, stuffed and mounted among other military artifacts. It happened to be graduation weekend, so we got to watch the 1,500 cadets do their parade marching on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was a ceremony for the seniors to turn over their leadership to the underclassmen. Sunday was the annual parade to honor the cadets who were killed at the Battle of New Market, when the whole school marched out to participate in the Civil War battle. It was quite a production, all that marching, music, ceremonies and such. Graduation was on Monday with more parades, but we were warned that it would be a madhouse, so we left town. We also toured Stonewall Jackson's home and walked thru the Stonewall Memorial Cemetery. His grave is on a hill in the center of the cemetery with a statue of him on his horse.

There is a very nice free museum in the country near Steele's Tavern, Virginia. It is the homeplace of Cyrus H. Mc Cormick who invented the first successful reaper in 1841 at the age of 22. It has a a replica of the original blacksmith shop he used, a replica of the original grist mill, a museum, his home, and a nice walking trail thru the woods along a stream. At the World's Fair in London in 1851, he was given the Council Medal (their highest award) by the Royal Commission of the Great World's Fair, for his invention that mechanized farming and changed the world. His company became International Harvestor and eventually Case. He was a good friend of Robert E. Lee's and a generous donor to Washington and Lee University. This being graduation weekend, we found it amusing to see a pair underwear hanging over the statue's head. We stopped to visit with a couple from Australia just in front of the statue and shared a chuckle.


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