Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Very Bailey Spring Break, Part II -- Jamestown and Gettysburg

After enjoying Williamsburg, we took the short drive to Jamestown to see the replica ships and the environs of America's first English colony (est. 1607), home of John Smith, Pocahontas, and all that.  The kids loved it. The replicas are exact, the historical actors are spot on and very informative, and the Fort and Indian village provide a great education.  Add a lovely setting, and you have the makings of a hit.  Here are a few more pictures.

We all had fun exploring the interior of the largest ship, the Susan Constant.

I have no idea how they kept track of all the ropes.  They are innumerable and seem to go every which ways. Who knows which one does what?

Aldy manning the cannon.  Needs to lower it a bit or he could sink us.

The tiller, which is not attached to a wheel at all -- just a stick that moves back and forth above deck.  Who knew that America was colonized before ships had steering wheels?

Alden loves ships, particularly battleships and aircraft carriers, but even an old sailing ship makes him feel right at home.  Is that a contented smile or what?  I think he may be a navy man before it is over.

Wicciups of the Algonquin tribes that inhabited the area.

Alden got lessons in canoe making, the OLD fashioned way -- with rocks, shells, fire and a downed tree.  The kids loved these hollowed out logs.

The Fort at Jamestown, faithfully reconstructed. Just a postage stamp of a foothold in a whole new world.

You can't believe the steps they had to go through just to fire a gun.  Too bad that is not the state of technology these days -- would lead to less shooting victims, I am sure.

From Jamestown, we headed up to Gettysburg, PA.  Kate has been pestering us to visit for nearly two years, ever since she saw the Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War, and given that she was almost half way through The Battle Cry of Freedom, it was pretty hard to deny the request.

Not that we wouldn't have come anyway.  Gettysburg is one of those special places where our country and freedom hung in the balance, and prevailed by a hair's breadth and substantial . . . Providence, fate, luck, or whatever you want to call it. Irrespective the label, it teaches the same thing . . . Freedom and this amazing land are fragile and precious, and like all things rare, unique or valuable, are purchased at great cost.  So much more I would like to say, but if Lincoln decided that three paragraphs (one only a sentence long) were enough, who am I to write more. Instead, just a few photos to give you a sense of the place.

 We found this map to be very helpful in orienting ourselves. The battle actually started the first day, on the other side of the town, but Confederate forces soon chased Union lines back through the town and up to Cemetery Hill, which would be the same spot where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address a few months later.  Here is evidence of the battle in the town (see the original bullet holes in the wall).

We hired a guide through the visitor center, who provided a nice overview tour (even driving our car for us).  He explained that these cannon had a range of two miles, as far away as the far tree line. This is near Cemetery Hill, one of the early turning points, where the Union forces first stopped Confederate advances and thus laid the scene for the two days of battle to follow.

Here is a view of the Peach Orchard and Big and Little Round Tops, the site of the next big turning point, where the unbelievable heroics of the Massachusetts and New York infantries kept determined Confederate charges from taking over these vantage points, which would have rendered the entire Union front vulnerable to capture or if lucky, a pell mell retreat.

This is the Devils Den, where Confederate soldiers repeatedly pressed up hill against Union positions, making it a blood bath.

Alden and Keegan scrambling about on the Devils Den. I'm sure every one of the soldiers on both sides were just this innocent and beautiful at one time.  What happens, I wonder, to change us so, and leave kids like this, just a decade on, lying in pools of blood, heaped among rocks, in a place far from home?

The scene of Pickett's Charge, on the third and final day of battle. Imagine 12,000 men, screaming and running towards you, across this mile long field.  Lee thought the Union lines would be weak at the center (the low spot in the lines) and so sent his entire force at once across this great divide between the armies. Before the day was out, 7,000 o f those 12,000 would be dead or wounded in this place.  So many, on both sides, that their graves, later placed on Cemetery ridge, were only marked by numbers, or headstones like this:

Such was the site that greeted Lincoln, as he delivered these words:

Next up, Washington D.C.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Very Bailey Spring Break

Well, over spring break we decided to take the brood back to where it all began for us:  Washington D.C., where Kathleen and I spent the first two years of our married lives together.  I was worried that our boys would be too young to appreciate it all, and would make the trip less than it ought to be, but there was no need for concern -- they made the whole trip worth while for me before we even got there.

We were in the plane, out on the runway when the pilot revved the engines, and the plane began shooting down the runway faster and faster. At that precise moment when the nose lifts off the runway for the first time, both boys simultaneously threw their arms high into the air and shouted WHOOHOO! in true roller coaster fashion. The laughs and smiles all around made the trip worth it right there, and provided a healthy perspective-changer for many, me included -- I mean, we were flippin' FLYING after all, and none of us should ever take that for granted.

Unfortunately, the wonder of flying wore off a little too quickly, but thank goodness for Apple and its Apps!  Flying (and driving, and lines, and museums, and  . . . . you get the picture) with kids has become soooo much easier.

Our first stop was Norfolk, VA, home of the battleship Wisconsin (this was Alden's deepest desire for the trip) and within a half hour of Jamestown, first English settlement in North America; Yorktown, the end of British rule over the colonies, and Colonial Williamsburg, where the first assembly of elected representatives in North America met, and where Patrick Henry declared "Give me liberty or give me death!"  Here are some photos from the first couple of days:

The Mighty Wisconsin -- Alden was just a little excited.

Its guns are so big, it is hard to describe, but putting them up next to an apartment complex gives you some idea. . . .

Another perspective. 

Big Guns, Big Bullets, Buku Powder.

Family on deck, headed for the 5 inch guns.

The boys next to a ship to ship missile launcher

This would be a big (aka Cruise) missile launcher.  One of the volunteers told us that when Wisconsin went to the Persian Gulf with her sister ship the Missouri to be part of "Shock and Awe," she was the only ship to return with un-launched cruise missiles (six of them). Speculation, unconfirmed, is that those babies carried nukes.

The Wisconsin was part of a nice maritime museum with lots of models. Keegan found one that fit him perfectly.

This 18 pound cannon was the big gun of its day. A Frigate would carry anywhere from 36 to 54 of them.

Alden, Keegan and a model of the USS Kearsarge.

Family and Flag

From there, it was off to Colonial Williamsburg, and lots of walking, living history.

The Governor's Mansion.  British authorities did not like to skimp.

We arrived just in time to hear a very nice fife and drum routine. They certainly looked and sounded authentic.

These Colonial actors were everywhere. Don't know how many people they employ, but it sure made the experience more memorable.

The Courthouse, where they are announcing that the British, headed by Benedict Arnold, will be coming, without colonial troops around to head them off.

Imagine Keegan being the one that ended up in the Courthouse stockade . . . He was actually very reluctant to try it (memories from a past life, maybe?) but was a good sport in the end.

The detail on the houses was wonderful, and I especially loved the brick.  

We headed over to the Colonial troop training camp, where we learned to fire a cannon (Drummer Hoff, anyone?) and the critical steps to keeping all of your limbs in the process.

The Boys next entered boot camp, where they learned the fine art of drilling and bayonet stabbing.  Keegan hadn't really been taught left from right yet, so you can imagine how the drilling went. He made up for it in earnestness, though.

Typical Street Scene.

The boys with some of the historical actors that wander about talking to people as if they were neighbors down the street. They weren't quite sure what to make of that.

Here is the House of Burgesses, where Patrick Henry declared, "Give me liberty or give me death!" and where Jefferson and Washington, George Mason and John Randolph, formulated their views on liberty.  

It is a beautiful building, with stunning brick. The left side is where the burgesses met, the right is where the Governor's officials sat in state and heard what the Burgesses desired.

Here are the boys sitting near where all those important people may have walked and talked. I love this act of remembering, and revering.  It feels like the glue that holds us all together, even when we should fly apart at the seams.  

Last but not least, the room as it may have been when they sat to deliberate. Humble and small, but think what has grown out of this room. Pretty amazing. 

That is it for this post. Next up -- Jamestown, and then Gettysburg.