Tag Archive | George Washington

Circus Trip 2018: Mount Washington Tavern and Braddock’s Grave

Day 41, Saturday, August 25, 2018

Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Farmington, Pennsylvania

The Fort Necessity National Battlefield unit has more than just French and Indian War history. It has the history of a period of colonial expansion and the growth of a young United States that spans over 100 years!

We talked in my last post about General Braddock, who was assigned command in the area after George Washington’s defeat at Fort Necessity.  As he commanded troops to gain control over the French in the area, Braddock’s troops worked to extend and widen the road that George Washington had built in the area two years earlier.  Sadly, Braddock was killed in battle in July 1755 during the Battle of the Monongahela.  It was an absolute disaster for the British, with the French and their Native American allies firing on the British from nearly invisible positions in the woods.  900 of the 1400 British troops were killed or wounded (more than half of the 900 were killed).

Braddock was shot through the lung, perhaps by his own troops, and was carried back off the front line by his men.  He knew he was dying, and asked that George Washington oversee his burial; he died four days later on July 13, 1755.  Washington buried Braddock in the road that they had been building, as he feared that the French or Native Americans may steal or mutilate the body if they were to find it.  Almost 50 years later, in 1804, workers repairing the Braddock Road came upon the remains and reburied him a short distance away.  It is now marked by a monument that was erected in 1913, and there is an original section of the road there as well.  The original burial site of Braddock is marked too.

As the road was already established when Congress authorized the construction of the National Road beginning in 1806, it made sense that it would follow this route.  The Mount Washington Tavern was built here in 1830, as a stagecoach stop for travelers along the National Road.  In the evenings when the stage stopped for the night, men could get a drink in the bar room and women and children could relax in the parlor.  Bedrooms upstairs accommodated multiple travelers and were segregated by sex.  This tavern operated as a business until the railroad came through the area and rendered it obsolete.  It was purchased and maintained as a family home for the next 75 years, before being sold to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and then ultimately the National Park Service to be added to the Fort Necessity National Battlefield unit.

When I visited the tavern was open for self-guided tours, and I was surprised to find myself absolutely alone in the building.  I mean, the rooms were protected by plexiglass, but there was no ranger.

I wandered around a bit, and got the distinct feeling that this place was haunted!  I checked out all of the rooms, but did not linger!  I wonder what this old tavern has seen over the last 190 years!?  It was still so fascinating to see – we certainly take travel for granted these days!



Circus Trip 2018: Fort Necessity NB

Day 41, Saturday, August 25, 2018

Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Farmington, Pennsylvania

The French and Indian War started way back in the winter of 1753 – 1754.  The British colonists had formed the Ohio Company, and had purchased land in the Ohio Country, on the far western wilderness of the colonies.  It’s hard to imagine George Washington as a young man, but he lived and served in the British military back before he became a Revolutionary.  That winter, Washington was sent as an emissary by the British to the southwestern Pennsylvania area (then part of the Virginia Territory) to order the French to withdraw.

Of course, the French had gotten there first, and considered the Ohio River a vital trade link between Canada (then called New France) and Louisiana.  They didn’t really want the British trying to lay claim to land they already thought was claimed…  The French, who had already built a fort there, predictably told Washington to go pound sand.  The British were not deterred, and the next task for the young George Washington, just 21 at the time,  was to build a road that would lead through the wilderness of the Virginia Territory into the Ohio Country, an area west of the land now known as part of Pennsylvania, which was destined to become the new frontier.

Washington was leading a force of colonists and British Army regulars back in the spring of 1754, and he was out there in the wilderness trying to construct the road, and ultimately secure a crossing over the Ohio River, in order to open up the Ohio Country for settlement.  Accounts vary, but the French were getting more and more aggressive, because they didn’t really like the fact that the tribes in the area were trading more and more with the British, as well as these interlopers disrupting their plans to control the Ohio River.  It wound up coming to a head in May 1754, with Washington and his troops, along with a small number of sympathetic Native Americans, ambushing a small group of Canadiens, and killing their commander, Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville, in what became the Battle of Jumonville Glen.

The French then sent more troops to regain control of the area, while Washington built a fortification to protect his supplies.  Fort Necessity became the location for the Battle of Fort Necessity, where French troops under the command of Jumonville’s brother, attacked Washington’s troops at the fort.  It was raining, muddy, and Washington’s troops were far outnumbered by the French and their Native American allies.  After a rough day of battle against the 600 French troops and their Native American allies, Washington’s force of less than 300 surrendered, and signed a surrender document.  It was written in French, and unknown to Washington, indicated that he had “assassinated” Jumonville in May.  Once Washington found out that the translation he was given was not accurate, he denied that Jumonville’s death had been an assassination, but the French used this “admission” to malign the British and gain support for their cause.

The Battle of Fort Necessity is said to be Washington’s only defeat, and we all know that he went on to become the General who won the Revolutionary War.  As for the French and Indian War though, it went on for several more years.  The British assigned General Edward Braddock to lead troops in the ensuing attempt to oust the French, until Braddock was killed in battle two years later, in 1755.  He was buried under the partially constructed road, to prevent the enemy from finding and desecrating the grave.  He was found and moved to a grave near the road in 1804.  Eventually the French were defeated and western Pennsylvania and the Ohio Country (along with other disputed lands north through the colonies), became part of the colony controlled by the British.

Today, Fort Necessity has been rebuilt, as it was originally burned down by the French after Washington’s surrender.  You can see that while a beautiful grassy meadow, it wasn’t easily defended with the woods and higher ground all around.  The fort was basically designed as a place to protect the supplies, rather than a fort that would accommodate all the men that were with Washington.  They had to settle for the meager protection of the entrenchments that were built around the fort. It was interesting to see.

I did get to watch a musket firing demonstration, which I really enjoyed!  I also heard a Ranger talk about the troops that fought there.  They were a combination of regular army, and ragtag colonists who were poor, not well equipped, and just trying to make a living.

The Fort Necessity National Battlefield also contains the Mount Washington Tavern and General Braddock’s Grave.  I’ll share my visits there next!

Book Review: Never Caught

Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge, by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

You probably knew that George and Martha Washington owned slaves.  But did you know that at least of one their slaves ran away and was never recaptured? That’s right, Ona Judge was a female slave owned by Martha Washington; she ran away in May 1796 and lived the rest of her life as a free woman. What is most interesting is that the Washingtons knew where she was, and even tried to get her to willingly return to slavery – she said no.

Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge

Ona Judge was by law a dower slave; she was owned by Martha Washington and her first husband; per his will, when Martha died the slaves remained a part of the estate to be divided among their heirs. So even though George Washington is not innocent in this whole story, he didn’t actually have the legal authority to free any of Martha’s dower slaves.

In the late 1700s, Philadelphia was moving toward gradual emancipation of its slaves.  They passed a law that allowed someone newly arrived in Pennsylvania to hold their slaves for a period of six months; after that they had to free them, or leave the colony.  The Washingtons knew this, so when George Washington was elected president and traveled to Philadelphia to serve, he brought several slaves with him, but concocted an elaborate plan to rotate his slaves back down to Virginia at six month intervals.  He believed that each time a slave left the Pennsylvania colony, that reset the six month period.

Ona Judge had been rotating back and forth between Philadelphia and the Washingtons’ Mount Vernon plantation in Virginia over a period of several years during his Presidency.  In 1796, Ona Judge learned she was to be a part of a wedding gift to Martha’s granddaughter, a young woman known for her fiery temper.  It is believed that this is what made her decide to run away.

Despite repeated attempts to get her back, the Washingtons never did.  The book examines the historical record, including letters, runaway advertisements, census records and two interviews that Ona Judge did late in life.  The author tells the story of Ona Judge’s life, both during her period as a slave to the Washington family, as well as her life as a free woman.

There is much that is not known, and my only frustration with the book is that author draws it out with a lot of unnecessary repetition.  It probably would have been a more concise work of non-fiction had she not speculated over and over as to the mindset and feelings of Judge and others portrayed.  But otherwise I thought it was well researched and well-written, and enjoyed learning about this fascinating woman and the little known part she played in American history.

3 stars.

Book Review: The First Conspiracy

I recently read The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, by Brad Meltzer.  I’ve only recently started reading more about the Founding Fathers, and learning more about the Revolutionary War.  Did you know that in 1776 there was a plot to assassinate George Washington?

The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington

Records are incomplete, both because of the fact that this occurred almost 250 years ago, as well as what was likely a desire to keep it quiet at the time, so as not to undermine public confidence in the Revolutionary cause.  What would happen if people found out that the Revolution’s greatest general was under threat from his own men?

The book explores the plot, the players and the investigation of the conspiracy to kill Washington, but also has a lot of great information on the climate in the United States in the early years of the revolution.  Meltzer writes about the reasons men joined the cause, and the reasons people stayed loyal to England.  It wasn’t so easy to decide where your allegiances should fall, especially considering the economic impacts of your choice.  All of that played into this plot.

The book weaves the story into an interesting narrative, culminating in the capture of those responsible and their ultimate punishment.

4 stars. 

Book Review: Valiant Ambition

Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the fate of the American Revolution, by Nathaniel Philbrick

Despite being very interested in history, I haven’t spent much time on the Revolutionary War. Maybe it is the stockings… or the wigs… both things I have a long-standing aversion to. Just ask my mom about the time when they dressed me up as Princess Leia in Star Wars, complete with the funny buns on the side of my head. I was about five, and I don’t have much hair, so she did the hairstyle with a wig. Which I removed and refused to put back on about two houses up the street. Times have not changed…

Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution

But anyway, back to the book. As one might now have guessed, this is a book about the Revolutionary War. It weaves its way through various parts of the war, from Washington’s struggles at the beginning, to Benedict Arnold’s glorious victories early on, to later events where Washington changes his strategy and starts seeing success. And of course, it recounts Benedict Arnold’s eventual treason and defection to the British Army.

It is a fascinating overview of the long years of the war, hitting several highlights for the Northern, Central and Southern corps of the Continental Army (they were called something else, but you get the gist). It tells the story through the perspective of several officers on both sides of the conflict: Washington, Arnold, Gates, Cornwallis, the Marquis de Lafayette, as well as weaving in stories of some of the soldiers who were fighting on the front line.

While Philbrick follows a generally chronological timeline, he does bounce forward and back some as he shifts between storylines. The reader should also be aware that the book is not intended to be a complete history of the Revolutionary War, with Philbrick covering some portions and leaving others out entirely. Of course, a comprehensive history would be far outside the scope of one book, but he does seem to pick and choose which events he portrays, and some seem less relevant that others. I say that even knowing that the book is focused on Washington and Arnold…  That said, it is a worthwhile read that gave me a good general overview of some of the major points in the war that founded our country.

Extra points for the fact that the audio-book was read by Scott Brick, one of my favorite readers!

3 Stars.

Virginia 2015: George WA Birthplace NM

Day 10: Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Who loves snakes?  This girl!  That will become relevant later on – trust me…

The next morning, we got up and went downtown to take a walk (and a run for Jon) on the Fredericksburg Riverwalk. The morning was cool and crisp, and the sun was just rising. I took my camera along and was able to get down to the riverbank and take some beautiful pictures of the river with the rising light. Then Jon and I met back at the car to get ready for the day.

The Rappahannock River, bathed in morning light.

The Rappahannock River, bathed in morning light.

Our day was going to be action packed! We headed out from Fredericksburg, passing George Washington’s boyhood home, Ferry Farm, along the way. It would have been nice to stop, but we have to make choices about what we are going to see, and what we have to skip – can’t wait until retirement! We were going to see some of the Northern Neck of Virginia!

Our first stop of the morning was at George Washington Birthplace National Monument. As indicated by the name, George Washington was born here, and this was his home until he was three years old (when he moved to Ferry Farm). The home that Washington was born in was built sometime before 1718, and then enlarged between 1722 and 1726 – by the time Washington was born in 1772 it was a ten room mansion that the family had named Wakefield. Sadly, the home was destroyed by fire on Christmas Day 1779 and was not rebuilt, but there are other points of interest on the farm.

George Washington Birthplace National Monument

George Washington Birthplace National Monument

The Commonwealth of Virginia acquired the property in 1858 with the intention of restoring it, but the Civil War got in the way. The state donated the site to the federal government in 1882, but nothing was really done there until the 1920s. A historic preservation society raised the money to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birth. They had a 1/10th replica of the Washington Monument built and placed at the entrance to the site, and also built a Memorial House.

The site was established as a National Monument on January 23, 1930, and has an annual visitation of about 130,647 (in 2011).  When Jon and I walked up about 10:30 am, the place was empty. But we were greeted by a beautiful bald eagle who was sitting in a tree just above the Visitor’s Center. Talk about symbolism!

A Bald Eagle at George Washington Birthplace National Monument

A Bald Eagle at George Washington Birthplace National Monument

The Memorial Home is not intended to look like Washington’s birthplace home, as there are no surviving records to show what it looked like. Rather, it is supposed to look like a typical home from the period, constructed with hand-made bricks from the area, and furnished with period furniture. There is one tea table that is believed to have been in the birthplace home.

The Memorial Home - this is not what George Washington's birthplace looked like - it is an example of what a home of the period might have looked like.

The Memorial Home – this is not what George Washington’s birthplace looked like – it is an example of what a home of the period might have looked like.

We visited the home site and saw where the outline of the original home is marked with crushed oyster shells. Then we got to see the inside of the Memorial Home. We could tour it at our leisure, as the rooms are just blocked off with plexi-glass in the doorway so you can’t go inside. Even though it wasn’t an authentic 18th century, they did a good job of making it appear to be period.

The outline is the foreground is where George Washington's birthplace home stood.

The outline is the foreground is where George Washington’s birthplace home stood.


The interior of the Memorial House

The interior of the Memorial House

The ranger was pretty useless though – I asked her a couple of questions about the home, and she just kept saying that the home was not intended to look like the original home on the site. Even after I explained that I understood that, and I was really asking a more general question about homes of the era, she just kept repeating the same thing until I gave up. She was, without a doubt, the strangest park ranger I have ever encountered.  Sigh…

After seeing the Memorial Home, Jon and I set off to find an old cabin on the site. We had to cross a short bridge that lead over an inlet of Pope’s Creek, and then walk long a trail that led alongside the creek (Pope’s Creek is really more like a river, by the way). We saw a gorgeous Great Blue Heron out fishing for his breakfast.

Great Blue Heron at George Washington Birthplace National Monument

Great Blue Heron at George Washington Birthplace National Monument

We had just gotten across the bridge when Jon spied a snake in the brush next to the trail. He (Jon) stopped dead in his tracks and refused to go any further. He waited cautiously as I took a couple of photos and then announced that he was going back.  Apparently no cabin for me, unless I wanted to go it alone…

A black rat snake.

A black rat snake.

So back over the bridge we went, and suddenly, we saw a second snake swimming up to the bridge, and then under the bridge and out the other side! This snake was bright orange, and gorgeous! I was able to get some good photos of it too. At that point, Jon was very insistent that his exploring was over.

A copperhead! Swimming!

A copperhead! Swimming!

I did convince him that it would be safe to see the heritage sheep and cows on the farm though – they are so cute! The monument does a lot of educational programs with local schoolchildren, but thankfully we were there on a day that the farm was not crawling with kids.

Heritage cows pose with a 1/10th sized replica of the Washington Monument.

Heritage cows pose with a 1/10th sized replica of the Washington Monument.

As we were wrapping up our visit, I headed back into the Visitor’s Center to check out the exhibits, and to see if the ranger could ID my snakes. The first one was a Black Rat Snake, a non-poisonous snake that eats mice and rats and are considered very helpful snakes. However, they grow to about 6 feet long, so they freak a lot of people out. The one we saw was only about 2 feet long.

The second snake we saw was a copperhead! This snake is poisonous, although they aren’t really aggressive and prefer just to be left alone. From what I read, it is unusual to find them swimming, so I consider us lucky to see him!

George Washington Birthplace National Monument gets extra points for having fascinating wildlife! A Bald Eagle, a Great Blue Heron and two snakes, all in one visit!

Virginia 2015: Mount Vernon

Day 3: Tuesday, October 6, 2015

There are founding fathers, and then there’s THE Founding Father…  We were going to see where George Washington lived!  After Arlington National Cemetery, Jon and I made our way over to our other Washington D.C. area attraction, a place I have been wanting to see for a long time – George Washington’s Mount Vernon. It is surprisingly tucked away in nature, for as close in as it is to D.C.’s giant metropolis.

Me in front of Mount Vernon

Me in front of Mount Vernon

The land on which Mount Vernon sits was first acquired by George Washington’s great-grandfather John Washington in 1674. The first home on the site where Mount Vernon now stands was constructed by Washington’s father Augustine Washington, sometime between 1726 and 1735. There are still features of this original home visible today in the central section of the house.

The Front of Mount Vernon - see how it isn't quite symmetrical?

The Front of Mount Vernon – see how it isn’t quite symmetrical?

George Washington did major additions to Mount Vernon in the Palladian style between 1757 and 1792, but he didn’t adhere strictly to the style, sometimes pulling features from other architectural styles. The three additions added wings onto the home, and turned it from a 1 1/2 story home to a 2 1/2 story.  After Washington died in 1799, the home was owned by a series of relatives, gradually falling into disrepair since they did not have the cash required to maintain the home.

The dove weathervane at Mount Vernon - this one is a replica; the original from 1787 is on display in the museum.

The dove weathervane at Mount Vernon – this one is a replica; the original from 1787 is on display in the museum.

Washington’s great-grandnephew, John Augustine Washington III inherited the estate in 1829, and found himself also unable to maintain it. He explored the option of selling it to the government, but did not get much interest. He eventually sold it to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, who paid $200,000 for the home and part of the grounds in 1860.  That is over $5M in today’s dollars; I’m not sure how the Ladies’ Association had that kind of money! The Association set about restoring the home and outbuildings and collecting artifacts owned by the Washingtons. The home is currently restored to the period of time when George and Martha Washington lived here.

The river side of Mount Vernon - a great place to catch a cooling breeze.

The river side of Mount Vernon – a great place to catch a cooling breeze.

We were able to tour the home on a guided tour, which included part of the upstairs where George and Martha slept, and George’s study, which was his private dressing room and work room. During Washington’s day, very few people were ever invited into the study; that was Washington’s private space.  They also explained a bit about the expansion of the home, and which parts were original to the house.  I purchased the guidebook for $10 as well, so I would be able to look back long after I couldn’t remember the tour.  Since photos are not permitted inside the house – I find it hard to remember the specifics. 

I found the tour a little crowded and a little rushed.  You are shuttled from room to room, and in the room, there is a docent waiting for your to give you the spiel on that room.  I think I would go crazy repeating the same paragraph all. day. long…  I did remember this little nugget though – many of the founding fathers struggled with slavery – they wrote about it, they debated the evils of the practice, they discussed whether slaves could co-exist with whites after they gained their freedom. Washington’s own writings show a man who did not think highly of their intelligence or work ethic.  Yet he is the only one of the southern founding fathers who freed his slaves in his will; his slaves were to be freed upon his wife’s death. 

After our tour, we checked out the grounds and outbuildings. We visited the barns, checked out the dock on the Potomac River, toured the living farm site, and went into the treading barn, a unique barn designed by Washington to facilitate the threshing of wheat using horses. The round barn has an upper floor with cracks, and the horses walk in a circle on the upper floor on the wheat stalks, which causes the grains to break off and fall into the cracks.  This treading barn is a reconstruction, built in 1996.  Washington was also known for trying new farming techniques – he even had a large compost bin on the farm!

The Treading Barn at Mount Vernon - this one was reconstructed in 1996.

The Treading Barn at Mount Vernon – this one was reconstructed in 1996.


The Stable at Mount Vernon - those saddles could use a good cleaning!

The Stable at Mount Vernon – those saddles could use a good cleaning!


A modern blacksmith, using historic techniques to make nails. They make everything that they need here.

A modern blacksmith, using historic techniques to make nails. They make everything that they need here.

Jon was sick with a cold that day (he picked up the bug that was going around at the family wedding we had been to right before we left on our trip), so he parked on a bench at that point to listen to music in the sunshine, while I went off to explore Washington’s tomb (built in 1831) and see the Greenhouse, slave quarters, blacksmith’s shop and overseer’s and gardener’s quarters.  It was interesting to learn that Washington grew lemons and oranges in the greenhouse, with an elaborate radiant heat system with flues bring heat up through the floor to keep the building warm in the winter.  The greenhouse was originally built in 1787, but the reconstruction that exists today is from 1951.

The Greenhouse - originally built 1787. This building was reconstructed in 1951.

The Greenhouse – originally built 1787. This building was reconstructed in 1951.


The men's slave quarters at Mount Vernon.

The men’s slave quarters at Mount Vernon.


The livestock at Mount Vernon are heritage breeds – the day we were there we just saw a few cows hanging around in the field outside.  I did find the privy though!  And of course, had to take a picture for my historic toilet collection. 

They have heritage breeds at Mount Vernon. This bull is a Red Milking Devon.

They have heritage breeds at Mount Vernon. This bull is a Red Milking Devon.


A historic privy at Mount Vernon. Sadly, the privy is not discussed in the guidebook, so I can't tell you when it was built, or if it is original.

A historic privy at Mount Vernon. Sadly, the privy is not discussed in the guidebook, so I can’t tell you when it was built, or if it is original.

Ultimately, we saw (or at least I did) most of what there was to see on the grounds of Mount Vernon itself, but there still was more to see if we had the time or energy. Mount Vernon also contains a nice museum within the Visitor’s Center with artifacts and a 25 minute movie on Washington, and a few miles away are a reconstructed distillery and a granary. The local spirits association even pitches in on a free shuttle over to the distillery!

All would have been cool to see, but Jon wasn’t feeling so hot, and we still had some of the infamous D.C. traffic to contend with, as we made our way back out of the city to get to our home for the night. We were staying at the north end of Shenandoah National Park, to get ready for a full day of hiking and scenic beauty! It did take us a while to make it through the wall of cars, but it dissipated fairly quickly after we left the city, and we were left with a pleasant hour long drive west to Front Royal, Virginia.

Jon wasn’t feeling up to something fancy, so we dined that night at Cracker Barrel.  I had an 8 oz Sirloin with cornbread, green beans, mac and cheese and baked apples!  Jon had the Lemon Pepper trout, with biscuits, coleslaw and collard greens.  After dinner, we spent a quiet evening relaxing at the hotel.

Admission to Mount Vernon: $18.00 per person, plus I bought the $10 optional guidebook.  We ate lunch at Mount Vernon; and it was ho-hum.  They have two options, either a sit down fancier restaurant style place, or a cafeteria.  To make the most of our time, we choose the cafeteria.  They could definitely do better – I had a Pizza Hut personal pizza (Pepperoni), and Jon had a Navy Bean Soup that he didn’t like, and Greek Yogurt.  Not museum dining at its finest… 

Driving Distance for Day 3: 135 miles – Frederick, MD – Arlington National Cemetery – George Washington’s Mount Vernon – Front Royal, VA

Hotel for the night:  Quality Inn, Front Royal – the room was big but dated; the doors opened to the outside but had a chain and a deadbolt, and you had to use your key to get into the stairwell leading upstairs.  Jon didn’t like the fact that the pillows were small, but there were several.  Breakfast was good, with eggs and other hot food items. 

Gas:  Front Royal, VA was our first fill up – we paid $1.97/gallon.

Savannah and the Chatham Artillery Punch

So, I promised I would tell you how much Southerners loved George Washington back in the day.  And here’s how the story goes.

The Chatham Artillery was a local militia that was formed in 1786.  Militia members participated in the Oconee Wars between 1789 and 1793, and George Washington wanted to thank them for that service.  He came to Savannah in May of 1791, and during his visit, presented the Chatham Artillery with 2 cannon, one that was captured at Yorktown during the Revolutionary War, and one that was presented as a gift to the young country by France.

The Chatham Artillery held a ball in his honor, and what’s a ball without punch?  So they made a special punch to celebrate George’s visit.  Here’s the recipe…

Chatham Artillery Punch – For 100 People (Or Ten Admirals)
1 ½ gal. Catawba Wine
½ gal. Rum (probably Jamaican)
1 qt. Gin
1 qt. Brandy
½ pt. Benedictine
2 qt. Maraschino Cherries
1 ½ qt. Rye Whiskey
1 ½ gal. Strong Tea (probably black)
2 ½ lbs. brown sugar
1 ½ qts. Orange juice
1 ½ qts. Lemon Juice

Mix from thirty-six to forty-eight hours before serving.  Add one case of champagne when ready to serve!  This punch recipe makes 5 gallons!

Some sources on the internet say that this punch was dreamed up sometime in the 1850s.  Others say this was the punch served during George Washington’s visit.  You’ll have to decide.  Whatever the answer is – wow!  That’s some punch!

The Grand Tour – Day 4 – Charleston (Mid-day)

When I last left you, I had wanted to tour the Edmonton-Alston house, but it was still 2 hours before it opened its doors for the day.  So instead, we made our way over to the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, which was one of the attractions that Jon wanted to visit.  This building was built on the waterfront between 1768 and 1771.  It was originally built as an Exchange and Customs House, on the site of a former building which served as the community jail (Charleston officials housed the pirates in that former building before they executed Stede Bonnet and others at White Point Garden in December 1718).  In 1791, George Washington visited the Exchange while on a week-long visit to Charleston.  He addressed the townspeople from the balcony, and they held a ball in the ballroom there in his honor.  It’s pretty neat to know you are standing in a room where George Washington dined and danced and gave speeches to the people. Southerners really liked George, as you’ll see in my upcoming post on Savannah, where he also visited during his Presidency.  The ballroom upstairs is beautiful and well lit, with the original floors and beautiful windows with original glass panes.

The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon – Built 1768 to 1771 – Palladian Architectural Style

The Ballroom at the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon – George Washington Danced Here!

The ballroom also housed an interesting exhibit on George Washington and the time period in which he lived.  The exhibit was set up on panels, with all sorts of information.  Normally I find that museum exhibits don’t give me enough detail, but this exhibit you could spend hours reading!  Kudos to the curators!  Unfortunately, we were getting a little hungry, so my body wouldn’t allow for all the reading I wanted to do.  I skimmed…

An Exhibit on the First Floor of the Old Exchange

One of the most fascinating parts is the basement of the building, for several reasons.  It is in complete contrast to the second floor ballroom.  Built of brick with natural arches, it has withstood almost 250 years of hurricanes and the only earthquake to hit the south (in 1886), somewhere between a 6.6 and a 7.3 on the Ritcher Scale.  But it is dark, with an uneven brick floor and a palpable dampness.  The windows down there are small and barred.  The basement also served as the dungeon, and housed both male and female prisoners together, in deplorable conditions.  Similar to most prisons of the time period, many prisoners died of disease.  Due to the high death rate in the prison, the dungeon is said to be haunted by spirits who make the lights swing back and forth and rattle the chains on the wall.  In reality, most prisoners were not chained to the wall though – they were allowed to wander around freely in the dungeon (although many were probably malnourished and sick, so they may not have felt much like walking around).  You would also be tripping over dozens of other prisoners if you tried to take a leisurely stroll.

Also, interestingly, during the Revolutionary War, the Americans moved all of their gunpowder from the regular powder magazine elsewhere in Charleston to the Exchange Building, where they bricked it up behind a wall in the dungeon to hide it from the occupying British.  Even though the British occupied Charleston for four years during the Revolution, and used the Exchange Building for their own troops and activities during that time, they never found the hidden gunpowder.

The tour of the dungeon is a little cheesy, with the docents dressed in period clothing, but they give some good information about the history of the building.  They showed us where excavations in the dungeon revealed where the original wall surrounding Charleston was (did you know Charleston was a walled city?)  Other “improvements” to the building include a staircase that was built from the dungeon to the first floor in the 1800s, but was cut off when they were doing the most recent excavation, because it blocked the view of the original town wall.  It is kind of a stairway to nowhere, like in the Winchester Mystery House!

After our visit to the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, we asked the docent  where to eat.  She recommended the Blind Tiger Pub, which had also been recommended by the docent at the Robert Mills House in Columbia, SC, who had lived in Charleston before moving to Columbia.  We decided to check it out.  The food was fantastic – I had a Greek Gyro with fried okra, and Jon had the spicy blackened Triggerfish with blueberries and mango salsa, and served with fresh fruit.  The history of the building was also very neat too.  The building was built in 1803, and over the years, it served as a haberdashery, restaurant and pub, and was even a speakeasy during Prohibition.  Legend says that parlors opened during Prohibition where patrons could pay an admission fee to see the mythical Blind Tiger, and also get some complimentary cocktails while they were there.  Something tells me the authorities might have known what was going on…  The Blind Tiger had a neat historic pressed tin ceiling and nice historic detailing.  The service was fast and the server friendly, and it would have been nice to be around for their Happy Hour!  But no, we still had a lot of sightseeing to do – no time for slacking!

Triggerfish and Fresh Fruit at the Blind Tiger Pub