Tag Archive | Civil War battlefields

Planning for the Grand Tour of the South – 2012

Jon suggested that I include a post on the planning process for our vacation, so here I go…

We made the decision to visit the South because I wanted the opportunity to get back to see some of the more historical areas of our country. When you live in the Northwest, history is either the history of Native American settlements (which tend to be rather sparsely documented, due to the transitory nature of a lot of these settlements, and the fact that the tribes did not have a written language), or history of European settlement in this area that goes back at the very most about 150 years. In our city, the oldest building we have was built by George Pickett (of later Civil War fame) in 1856.  After that, there really aren’t any other homes until the 1880s. The Pickett House has been extensively remodeled/updated (although many years ago, and now it seems very dated – think flowery wall paper and old carpeting), and the Northwest weather has taken its toll, causing the home to smell significantly of mold. Oh my, I’ve already gotten off topic!

The George Pickett House – 1856

Interior of the Pickett House – Note the Floral Wallpaper

Jon, without my intervention, would plan every vacation to California, so I put my foot down several months ago and said that our next trip would be to Civil War Battlefields! Jon, although he loves history, wasn’t all that excited about a trip of exclusively Civil War battlefields (I’ll keep working on that though), so there had to be other historical interest in the places we picked. That wouldn’t be difficult, considering anyplace with Civil War battlefields will have other historical sites too. We settled on seeing Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. I had been to Savannah before, and loved it, and had been to Charleston for one afternoon, but have always wanted to see more. We originally planned to fly into Charleston, but plane tickets there were running about $650 per person! Savannah was about $100 less per person, but still pretty pricey! So, we settled on Atlanta, where we could save almost $300 per ticket and rent a car for $240 for nine days.

As for the rest of the itinerary… We pondered the Biltmore Estate for awhile before we decided to drive out of our way to see it. Asheville isn’t really on the way to anything from Atlanta (unless maybe you are heading to Knoxville, Tennessee), but the Biltmore is one of those ‘bucket list’ places for tourists, especially history nerds like me. Plus my mom was enthusiastically encouraging the Biltmore detour, since she has always wanted to see it too!  And Andersonville National Historic Site. I know many of you will find that morbid, but you can’t be a Civil War buff without having an appreciation for all aspects of the war, and certainly the Civil War was bloody and gruesome even without POW camps. I had an interest in seeing it when my mom and I visited Georgia in 2004 and didn’t, so I figured I shouldn’t pass it by again.  I knew that would be a lot of driving, but Jon says he likes to drive!  And I’m always willing to drive too, although he rarely lets me.  So with those being the four corners of our exploration route, we were set!

As for lodging – obviously, I would love to do a trip where I stay in all historic hotels in the historic areas of all the cities I visit. Spa massages and gourmet meals would be on the wish list too… But until I get that anonymous benefactor, we’ll have to continue to compromise. We decided we would stay just outside downtown Charleston, and in the historic district in Savannah. While researching hotel options, I also found a neat historic hotel that was reasonably priced in Americus, Georgia too, so that went on the list too.

Jon isn’t that great about deciding what he wants to visit, but I knew that if I did too much of one thing, he would start to rebel. I could do every historic home tour I come across, but for Jon, he gets trompe l’oeil and antique furniture burnout. So I tried to find a mix of different things along the way. Native American history sites, Civil War stuff, and some nice antebellum architecture thrown in too.  And National Parks.  With some good food and wine. And some ghosts. So I researched, and gave Jon some options, and he said he didn’t care, so I picked! For the most part, we stuck with the original plan even! Except I planned to go swimming more (but it was the rain that changed my plans)! So stay tuned for future installments of the 2012 Grand Tour of the South!

The Civil War: Strange and Fascinating Facts

I recently read The Civil War: Strange and Fascinating Facts, by Burke Davis.  It is a collection of short stories and musings on the Civil War.  It is one of those books that is a hodge-podge (I love that word) of random information that the author came across while researching for another book, and couldn’t use.  But of course, us history nerds don’t want random trivia to go to waste, so what better place to compile a bunch of random facts than a book about random facts!?

The Civil War: Strange and Fascinating Facts

Davis does a great job of choosing some of the more obscure trivia from the war.  He details friends of men from north and south, and one horse who had four brothers shot and killed on his back.  He tells stories of military inventions, and descendents of famous Civil War figures who went on to their own fame.

However, some of his stories are widely known.  Like the fact that the Civil War began on Wilmer McLean’s farm in Manassas, Virginia, and ended on the same man’s farm at Appomattox Courthouse (the man moved after the first battle to get away from the fighting).  Or the story of the H.L. Hunley, the first submarine to sink an enemy vessel.  Of course at the time that Davis wrote this book, in the 1960s, the Hunley had not yet been found on the seafloor, recovered, and placed in a museum.  So I can give him a break for that one, since the story of the Hunley was probably not as widely known 40-some years ago.

That leads me to a few problematic time references.  Several times in his stories, Davis makes reference to Civil War descendents (usually sons, but once a widow) who are still alive.  It took me aback several times thinking “but the war was 150 years ago”!  Once I realized that the book was first published in the 1960s, the references made more sense.  And it would be difficult to update them to modern day, since the story explores these Civil War connections in the modern day (by modern day, I mean the 60s, when the book was written).

All in all, it’s an interesting book for the Civil War buff.  You aren’t going to learn anything deep about a battle or a man, but it’s worth a read for the interesting trivia that he has uncovered.  Enjoy.