June 29, 2011

Fleetwood Hill

Brandy Station Battlefield

Our final lecture of the day was at Fleetwood Hill. I'll let the sign tell the story.
Here the old Carolina Road crosses the southern part of Fleetwood Hill, some of the highest ground in the area. On the slope ahead of you Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown (J.E.B.) Stuart, commander of Robert E. Lee's cavalry, pitched his headquarters tents on the evening of June 8, 1863. Nearby stood the Henry Miller House, known as Fleetwood. The Confederates used the name "the Battle of Fleetwood Hill" for the conflict now known as the Battle of Brandy Station.

Stuart was surprised when word came of a Federal attack on his outposts at Beverly Ford at first light on June 9. He sent his headquarters wagons off to Culpeper Court House and responded swiftly to Brig. Gen. John Buford's Union challenge. The strong line Stuart established near St. James Church began pushing back the Federals by late morning.

But a second surprise - and near disaster - arrived about 11 a.m. Another Union division, 2,200 men under Brig. Gen. David M. Gregg, had crossed the river at Kelly's Ford with minimal opposition and appeared in Stuart's rear. A quick-thinking Confederate staff officer opened fire with a solitary cannon from the crest of Fleetwood Hill on the Federal troopers exiting the village of Brandy Station. Meanwhile, couriers dashed off to Stuart, then a mile away near St. James Church. Stuart acted decisively. Pulling his regiments from the St. James Church area, he sent them galloping for Fleetwood Hill.

It was a race for the high ground, but Stuart's men reached the grassy crest before Gregg's. Pouring down on the other side, the Confederates hit Col. Percy Wyndham's Union cavalry brigade hard, blunting the first Federal attack.

June 28, 2011

Lunch at Kelly's Ford

Our class caravanned to Kelly's Ford on the Rappahannock for a picnic lunch and a lecture about the ford's role in the Battle of Brandy Station.

On June 9, 1863, Union Cavalry crossed the Rappahannock River at Beverly's Ford and Kelly's Ford. The two forces totaled 11,000 men and were hunting for Confederates in the Culpeper area. They planned to meet at Brandy Station before advancing on Stuart’s cavalry.

Since the fords were important river crossings, they were used frequently during the Civil War.

On this tour (5/20/2011), the river was high and muddy. You could not have "forded" it, but a modern bridge makes that unnecessary.

On previous visits to Kelly's Ford, it was pretty and serene, as seen in this picture that Frank took 6 or 7 years ago.

June 27, 2011

Plane landing at Brandy Station

The Culpeper Regional Airport is at Brandy Station next to the position where Confederate artillery stood. On the Friday that we visited the battlefield, the airport was busy with small planes landing and taking off.

June 26, 2011

A Morning on Brandy Station Battlefield

This spring's Civil War tours with Dr. Poland dealt with Jeb Stuart and cavalry battles leading up to Gettysburg. On the first day we looked at the Battle of Brandy Station.

In Spring of 1863, Stuart and the Confederate Cavalry held reviews here, grand pageants featuring thousands of horses and  riders. Civilians came out to enjoy the spectacle.

Federal forces learned that Stuart was in the vicinity of Culpeper. Union General Pleasanton sent Union Cavalry to destroy Stuart and his army.

They did not succeed, but they proved that the Union Cavalry was capable and well-trained. Both sides claimed victory.

This marker at Stuart's artillery location summarizes the battle and introduces a driving tour.
On June 9, 1863, the Civil War visited the river fords, farmer's fields and rolling hills near Brandy Station. During the intense daylong fighting that swirled all around the little town, Confederate and Union horsemen clashed in the largest cavalry battle of the war. By nightfall, the Union cavalrymen had finally proved that they could match the legendary skills of the Southern horsemen. The Battle of Brandy Station failed to stop Robert E. Lee's invasion of the North that summer, though it did delay the onset of his march towards the climactic Battle of Gettysburg in early July.

(Left) Arch reads a marker on Buford's Knoll. This sign introduces the Buford's Knoll Walking Trail, "a two-mile path that takes you past four wayside signs interpreting the 1863 fighting on Beverly Ford Road and at Buford's Knoll."

The sign goes on to advise that the hike takes about two hours and "Beware of ticks and snakes that thrive in the fields surrounding the trail."

See previous tour of Brandy Station on my CW field trips site.

June 25, 2011

A Church in Brandy Station

Brandy Station is a town near Culpeper, Virginia. This is Christ Church on Alanthus Road.

June 24, 2011

Quotes from the Professor

"Every generation rewrites history. We judge the past by today's standards."
~ Charles P. Poland, Jr.
On why he provides a framework and leaves out some details:
"You have to put up the tree before you can put on the ornaments."

June 23, 2011

June 22, 2011

Brentmoor, A Mosby Site

Warrenton, Virginia

If you follow Business 15 into Warrenton, you'll find a historical marker near the house shown here. Here are excerpts from the marker:

Brentmoor: The Spilman-Mosby House

This classic Italian Villa-style house was completed in 1861 for Fauquier County Judge Edward M. Spilman... John Singleton Mosby purchased the dwelling in 1875. Mosby, a Confederate colonel, commanded the Partisan Rangers (43rd Battalion, Virginia Cavalry), which raided Union outposts, communications, and supply lines in Northern Virginia from 1863 to 1865.

Behind Brentmoor is the town's Visitor Center. A Civil War Trails marker stands beside the parking lot. It shows portraits of well-known people who lived in Brentmoor: Judge Edward M. Spilman, James Keith, John S. Mosby, Pauline Clarke Mosby, and Eppa Hunton.

June 21, 2011

Garden Club at Sunflower Cottage

Mt. Jackson Garden Club Meeting

Last month's meeting of the Mount Jackson Garden Club was held at Sunflower Cottage in Reliance. Normally the club meets at St. Andrew's Church in Mt. Jackson on the third Wednesday of the month at 1 PM.

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June 19, 2011

On Father's Day, Remembering My Dad

My father lived from 1916 to 2000. Born and raised in Michigan, he graduated from the University of Chicago. That's where he met my mother.

They married in 1940. Mother's father loaned them a car for their honeymoon. They called in from someplace on the Upper Peninsula and were asked to come home quickly because her father needed the car due to being called back into active duty by the U.S. Navy.

At that time, the United States had not entered World War II but it had already started in Europe. (I see on one source that "In June, 1940, France fell to Germany. Obviously, this quick expansion got America nervous and the US began to build the military up.")

My dad wound up joining the Navy after Pearl Harbor and using his background in accounting to help with managing supplies. His family background was Methodist with Anabaptist roots, and he desired to serve in a non-combat role. This is reminiscent of his grandfather's Civil War service as a doctor.

Years later, his sister blamed his military service for a "nervous breakdown" that he suffered. But over a decade had passed since the war, and eventually his illness was diagnosed as manic depression (bipolar).

My dad worked for the government during my childhood, first for the Veteran's Administration and later for the Census Bureau. But by the time I reached high school, his illness had overwhelmed him and he was unable to work. After a few years of hospitalization, he recovered enough to return home, primarily due to the discovery that lithium was an effective treatment for bipolar disorder.

He never recovered a hundred percent, but at least he did not have manic episodes. The depression stayed to some extent for the rest of his life, although he was able to enjoy activities — but without the enthusiasm and genius that he had shown as a young man.

He particularly enjoyed visits from his grandchildren as well as camping and hiking. He continued to go tent camping with my mom into his 70's.

His grandchildren remember him as a caring and very clever person who could fix anything. I can remember him when he was young and strong, fairly quiet but brilliant. He was thoughtful and his mind was quick, he could organize things in ways that still impress me. No one could pack so much camping gear in a station wagon — he always put the most-needed items where you could reach them easily. He even built special wooden boxes for odd-shaped gear.

It saddened me when his brightness was dimmed by illness, but he would probably have said he was fortunate for my mother stood by him and they had many years of enjoying a comfortable life.

June 18, 2011

Museum in Fort Valley Opens for Summer

The Fort Valley Museum is open on weekends from Memorial Day weekend through October.

The museum is in the brick building on the left. It's small but is packed with information.

The valley itself is a lovely place to drive through! It's considered to be within the Shenandoah  Valley, but it's separated from the rest of the world by the Massanutten Range.

Blog Post #3000

Yes, this is the three thousandth entry in this blog. I've been posting since June 2005. Since this is an anniversary post, I'll try to tell you a little bit more about myself. In case you are wondering how it can be that there is anything I haven't covered in thousands of posts, I'm normally a private person and avoid revealing much that's personal, preferring to share photos and information about things I've seen (usually places).

The result is that you're more likely to find this blog if you are looking for a long-closed herb garden or a photo of a reenactor than if you're a long-lost friend.  So this post may help close the gap by naming the places I've lived.

I've Always Lived in Virginia

When I was born, my family lived in Fairlington, a development on the Alexandria-Arlington border. At that time it was not very old, having been built during World War II. Now it's on the Register of Historic Places. But I barely remember Fairlington because when I was three, we moved to Tauxemont. And now it's in the National Register too! (I'm feel old admitting this!)

I spent most of my childhood in Tauxemont. Our house was on Bolling Drive and it was built of cinderblocks painted white — pretty basic but big enough, and we liked it. The metal-framed windows were drafty but large and gave us a nice view of the trees. There were tall oaks and flowering dogwoods.

We had an Alexandria address although we were actually in Fairfax County. When I grew up, I moved into the city of Alexandria, a 20-minute drive from my parents' home. As a newlywed I lived in a small apartment near the train station, and after a few years we moved to a townhouse in Delray. My children spent their formative years there and attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School.  (See cute pic of neighborhood kids.)

But living in a townhouse means living very close to your neighbors, and this grew to be a problem. The folks next door had noisy fights every weekend! Eventually I moved to a single family home in the west end of Alexandria. By that time I was divorced and the kids were almost grown.

I lived there on Taft Avenue for many years. The house is gone now, replaced by a larger and fancier one.

When I married Frank, we lived in Montclair near Dumfries. We were on Spillway Lane near the lake. In 2001 we purchased a vacation chalet in Bryce Resort, and later bought a waterfront house in Glebe Harbor. We took an early retirement (actually semi-retirement) and moved to the chalet.

The chalet was a bit small for full-time living but we loved the area. In 2006 we moved to a slightly larger home in the resort which offers one-level living and a mountain view.

It's beautiful here. When we go out west, I miss Virginia and always feel glad to get back.

June 16, 2011

A Rant About Being Unverifiable

Our address is not in the USPS database. This is because mail is not delivered to our subdivision; we have a P.O. box instead. And until recently this was rarely a problem.

But more and more businesses are relying on software that performs "address verification" using the USPS database. If you are not in it, you cannot complete a transaction online! So far I've had these problems:

  • Could not take advantage of an extended payment program from Paypal
  • Could not register our iPad
  • Could not order a large item using eBay.

This is just the tip of the iceberg because the use of "address verification" is growing. So far, it has been a nuisance but I worked around it. I didn't really need the extended payment plan so I said forget-about-it. I was just trying to get some freebie that came with the program anyway. And for registering the iPad, I used the address of my investment property which happened to be vacant right then. (Now someone has an incorrect address for us, but it's their fault for not allowing the correct one.) And for the eBay purchase, I contacted the seller, canceled the order and bought the item elsewhere. So while eBay and Paypal lost out on a commission, that's not my problem. I'll just stop using them for items that won't be sent to a post office box. (Too bad, I've been an eBay customer for 10 years. I sent them a complaint but got no response.)

I've talked to our postmistress and she says there is no way we can get into the USPS database because the postal service does not deliver to our street. This is because the resort does not allow mailboxes on the roads here and the postal service has no desire to deliver to narrow mountain roads anyway.  There are several hundred residents here with the same problem, and many people in other communities do not get mail delivered to their homes.  I feel bad for the younger ones who need credit cards and other financial services. They are probably getting turned down and don't understand why. Being told you have an unverified address does not sound rational unless you have an inkling about software and databases and how they operate without actual intelligence.

A June Evening

June 15, 2011

Maymont, the Mansion

Historic Home in Richmond, VA

The elaborate mansion at Maymont Estate is open for public tours and we were happy to get out of the hot sun and see what it offered. The opulence of the gilded-age interior was almost overwhelming. The Dooleys were very wealthy and liked to demonstrate it in their furnishings. And they left their estate intact to the city, so the collection is extensive. There are even a few pieces from their summer home, Swannanoa on Afton Mountain.

There's some incredible artwork to see in the mansion, including lovely stained glass. There are even a few furnishings I would call tacky, but of course, tastes change over the years so who am I to judge?

Yes, you should visit Maymont when you're in Richmond. And there are other great places in Richmond, so it's worth going out of your way to spend a few days there.

June 14, 2011

Miscellaneous Maymont

I'm trying to finish up my photos from Maymont. It's a beautiful place and I took dozens of shots.

These are a couple I took on the path between the raptor cages and the mansion. We found the shortcut that was on the map and climbed the hill.

June 13, 2011

Raptors in Richmond

Maymont has several animal exhibits but the only one we viewed was the raptor zoo. These birds were rescues, native birds of Virginia which had been injured and brought here where they could heal in safety.

Since they were behind two fences, I couldn't get any natural-looking photos, but at least we got a good look at several very handsome birds.

As for the picture below, well, I asked Frank to stand next to the eagle statue. Let's blame his pose on the heat.


Maymont's Japanese Garden is at the bottom of the hill, and against the hillside is a delightful waterfall. Although it appears natural, it was artfully created to enhance the garden. (Did I mention that the people who built the estate had a lot of money?)

A century ago, water was pumped from Richmond's Kanawha Canal into a water tower on the hill, which still stands near the carriage house. In modern times a recirculating system was installed.

June 12, 2011

Cascades in the Italian Garden, Maymont

The Italian Garden at Maymont is not far from the entrance. As we strolled into it, we could see that we were on a hill, and a garden path descended down the steep hillside.

There was water cascading down some boulders. As we started walking downward, we could see that the water features were very elaborate.

Iris in Japanese Garden

Maymont Gardens, Richmond

June 11, 2011

Pond in a Japanese Garden

Geese and koi enjoy the pond

Maymont Gardens,  Richmond, Virginia