I am a travelling man at heart. I cannot sit still in one place for very long before my need to go, to see, to explore starts tickling me to scratch the itch to travel. I decided to relieve the itch by taking my exchange student Jan and grandson Kyle on a tour through American History. We went left out May 5th and returned May 9th.
The first place we headed to was a 140 year old German Restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. We had an authentic German lunch. Our exchange student Jan is from Germany and he attested to its authenticity. We forbade him to order a cheeseburger and french fries. From there we visited the “Y” bridge on the “National Highway” of US 40 in Panesville, Ohio. The bridge actually intersects in the middle of the Muskingum River in the confluence of the Muskingum and Licking Rivers. It was originally builst in the late 1800’s as a “Y” covered bridge and rebuilt in 1974 to continue bridging all three pieces of land at the confluence.
Off to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, we visited the Civil War site, Battle of Gettysburg. We got to visit the newly opened visitors center where we viewed a movie about what led up to the Battle of Gettysburg, the battle itself and the different players involved. President Lincoln with his Gettysburg address and Robert E. Lee as the commanding General of the confederate enabled the boys to understand the significance of the 22 year old General Custer; youngest General at the time. While here we saw the cyclorama that was painted and used in Boston, Massachusetts shortly after the battle. It has been restored and is hanging in the theater of Gettysburg.
From Gettysburg, we went to the Battle Field of Antietam in Maryland. We watched a movie of the story where the commanding General McClellan beat Robert E. Lee in battle. He also “rested” and let Robert E. Lee and his army cross back south over the Potomac River. President Lincoln was so upset by this failure of General McClellan he actually went to Antietam and asked McClellan if he could borrow his army because he had a war to win. Due to this incident, Lincoln eventually fired McClellan who later ran against Lincoln for president in 1863.
Kyle, Jan, and I went on to visit Haper’s Ferry, West Virginia where John Brown, a self appointed abolitionist. He planned to end slavery by himself bytaking over a U.S. Arsenal in Harper’s Ferry. This act got many people killed, himself hung, and according to some, started the Civil War. The boys got to see where this happened. They also got to see the rock on the mountain where Thomas Jefferson stood and viewed the confluence of the two great American Rivers: the Potomac and the Shenandoah. Jefferson wrote about this experience in his journal. In Harper’s Ferry, the boys crossed (the first time of this trip) the infamous Appalachian Trail.
We visited the Ohio canal and Towpath. This Chesapeake and Ohio canal and Towpath was saved and became part of the National Parks system because of the work of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. Justice Douglas came and visited the Red River Gorge in Kentucky in November of 1967. He ended the dam project proposal in the Red River at North Folk just upstream from Bowen.
Washington, D.C. was our next stop. There we saw the statues of great men and women, walked the Great Lawn of The Mall. On this visit we went to the Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Roosevelt Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, WWII memorial, see the White House, visit the Washington Monument, Korean War Memorial, and see the U.S. Capitol Building. We visited the Arlington Cemetery. We visited the graves of President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy, Robert Todd Lincoln (s0n of Abraham Lincoln), and the guard and tomb of the unknown soldier. We also visited the grave sites and Pentagon Tombstone of all the people killed during the plane crashing into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Most importantly, we visited the grave of John David Morton who lived and went to school in Powell County (our county). He went to PCHS and died in combat in Afghanistan.
We went on to Mount Vernon. This was the home of President George Washington in his adult years. We visited the Pope Plantation and the Tide waters of the Potomac. We also saw the place that George Washington was born. There we watched a film that talked about Washington’s early years and his family.
Next, we went to the Stratford Hall. The Stratford Hall plantation is where Robert E. Lee was born and grew up. The 1,900 acre estate was the same place where the only two brothers that signed the Declaration of Independence was born and raised; Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee.
The Civil War Battlefield at Chancellorsville, Virginia was our next stop. At this site, Robert E. Lee beat the Union so bad that it gave him the courage to go on to Gettysburg. Lee knew he had to win a major battle in the north. We visited museums and saw a lot of marble and bronze art.
We went on to visit the home of President James Madison who is known as the father of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He was the only sitting President that picked up arms and fought while serving. He did so in the War of 1812.
The home of Thomas Jefferson was our next stop. Jefferson was the third U.S. President. We also saw the Plantation of President James Monroe; the fifth President. His home was near Thomas Jefferson’s.
The most incredible visit was to Appomattox Court House where Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant that ended the Civil War. During this visit, we saw and understood how this chapter in U.S. History played out. We stood in General Lee’s camp on the east side of town and General Grant’s camp on the west side of this little town. After this event happened the town was abandoned; therefore we saw it much like it was in April 9, 1865. We visited the McClean home about 300 feet from the Courthouse. We stood in the room where both men signed the agreement. We saw where Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, stood near General Grant while the signing took place. We were reminded that five days after this signing, President Lincoln was assassinated in Washington, D.C. at the Ford Theater.
We traveled across the Blue Ridge Mountains, across the Shenandoah Valley, saw the Allegany and back across West Virginia on our way back home. I know I enjoyed the trip, but I feel it really sparked a great respect and interest in history in my grandson Kyle. He lapped up all that he learned on the trip and really intrigued to learn more.