Monday, June 19, 2023 - Today, we drove from Cheatham Navy Annex to the Champs Camp RV Park at A. P. Hill Army Base in just about two hours. The roads were good overall, and we did get a little rain upon arrival. Not bad though. It was very easy to access our spot and we found that we were parked right next to a couple who have been full-time RVers for over 23 years. They also had been parked right next to us at the Elizabeth City Coast Guard Station. It is a small world. This Army post is very quiet. Not much in the way of troop movements and activity. We did not drive around the post since we were driving so much to see the Civil War sites, Montpelier, and Monticello. FYI: A.P. Hill was a general for the Confederate army during the Civil War. His name was Ambrose Powell Hill. He fought at Fredericksburg and several other battles in the immediate area.
We decided to just stay around the local area today and then drive to Fredericksburg tomorrow to check out the Civil War Battlefield. This would eventually include Chancellorsville, the Wilderness Battlefield, and Spotsylvania Courthouse too. In total, over 105,000 men were killed, wounded, captured, or were missing at these battles. All four of these battles would take place within a 17 mile radius over the course of roughly eighteen months from December 11, 1862 until Spotsylvania Courthouse on May 21, 1864. The amount of bloodshed and carnage cannot be described in words. Many soldiers simply marched in formation to their deaths. In some cases, terrible decisions by leaders contributed to the massive loss of life. It was a terrible price to pay to maintain the unity of the country and to finally address the huge issue of slavery in our country.
Tuesday, June 20, 2023 - We drove to Fredericksburg (about 30 miles from Fort A. P. Hill) and had breakfast at the Metro Diner. The food was very good and the service was excellent.
FREDERICKSBURG: We then drove to the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center. The Visitor Center is located right at the main battle site. We watched an excellent video and then walked the center to see the displays and learn about the battle. What we learned is that the far superior in numbers Union Army of the Potomac (120,000 for Burnside and 80,000 for Lee) got their butts kicked by the Confederates because Lee had his troops on the high ground in what was likely their best defensive position of the entire war. There was a natural sunken road to protect Confederate sharpshooters and also a rock wall that had a great view of the open field below. Then, above them and just behind were the confederate artillery pieces. The artillery shot over their ground troops at near point-blank range at the Union troops marching in columns up through the open field below. Gen Burnside, the Union general in charge, needed a victory and thought that his superior numbers would prevail. They were cut to pieces before ever reaching the confederate lines. It was a massacre and the Union lost over 12,500 casualties while the Confederates lost approximately 6,000 people. The Union Army finally retreated and Lee was exuberant about the victory.
CHANCELLORSVILLE: We drove to Chancellorsville to the Visitor Center where we watched a very good video on the battle. It gave us a great overview of what had happened here. The Chancellor Family had a large house that gave the name to the area of Chancellorsville. It was not a town, but a series of open fields surrounded by groves of trees. The Union general in charge, General Joseph Hooker, had superior forces and was in a good position to defeat the Confederates. Lee and Stonewall Jackson devised a risky plan to march 12 miles to flank Hooker's troops and attack from behind. This risky flanking maneuver worked and the caught Hooker's troops by surprise; they broke and began a retreat towards Lees forces. In the confusion, Stonewall Jackson was shot and killed by his own troops. This was a tremendous loss to Lee. Also, Chancellorsville became the second victory for the Confederate forces under Lee. Lincoln said, "My God! What will the country say?" Feeling optimistic, Lee decided to go on the offense and began to move north to a place in Pennsylvania called Gettysburg.
THE WILDERNESS: After Lee's defeat at Gettysburg, he decided to move south back to the area near Chancellorsville where they would engage the Union forces on May 5 and 6, 1864. He decided to meet the Union forces at a place that would be less known to the Union forces more challenging to the North called, "The Wilderness." Lots of forest and few open places to engage in face-to-face battles, so these face-to-face battles occurred in the forest. Ulysses S. Grant was now in charge of the Union forces. Beginning at The Wilderness, there would be eleven months of near continuous battle before the end of the war. Grant would be relentless and he chose to pursue Lee at all costs. Fighting in the dense forest was horrific. The battle of The Wilderness was one of the longest continuous battles of the war. During this battle, Gen James Longstreet was leading a flanking movement and was mistakenly shot by his own troops. He did not die, but was out of action for the remainder of the war. This did not help Lee. At one point, Lee chose to lead troops from Texas into the battle at Widow Tapp's Field, but the Texans stopped their march and would not proceed until Lee would return to the rear lines. The Texans lost 85 percent of their 2,000 men in the battle. The Union forces had over 14,000 casualties and the Confederates had over 9,500. It became a war of attrition. The Confederate army moved farther southeast to the Spotsylvania Courthouse area.
SPOTSYLVANIA COURTHOUSE: On May 8th, the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse began and this battle would continue for another 13 days. Devastating battles occurred over these 13 days and cost the Union Army over 18,000 casualties and the Confederates lost over 12,000. More Union forces were lost at Spotsylvania Courthouse, but the battle was considered a stalemate. Lee began to see that the South did not have the resources to maintain the fight for much longer. After several more battles between Spotsylvania Courthouse and Richmond, Lee decided to surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. The battles in this small area were horrific and determined the outcome of the war.
We did not finish the driving tour until nearly 7:30 in the evening. We headed back the the RV at Fort A.P. Hill near Bowling Green. By the way, Fort A.P. Hill is named after Ambrose Powell Hill who was one of the Confederate generals at Fredericksburg and other major battles in the area.
Wednesday, June 21, 2023 - The rains have come and we are planning to stay at or near the RV today to relax and work on the blog. Yesterday was a very taxing and long day. So much information to absorb and a lot of driving too. We decided that we needed a rest and this gave us time to "catch our breath."
Thursday, June 22, 2023 - today our goal was to travel to and visit James Madison's plantation and home at Montpelier. While were on our way to Montpelier, a one and half hour drive, we decided that we could also visit Monticello where Thomas Jefferson live too. It would make for a long day and a lot of miles, but it would save us making a special trip to Monticello and taking an entire day. We had heard that we could take the RV to Monticello on our way to the Lynchburg area, but we are sure glad that we did not do this. The roads were narrow with lots of turns and the RV parking at Monticello was not designed with what we tow around in mind.
MONTICELLO; We drove to the Visitor Center at Monticello. We bought our tickets to tour the home, but we did not spend the extra $50 each to see the upstairs rooms too. We chose to take the self-guided tour of the first floor and this worked out very well for us. It was raining. This made it a little harder to do what we wanted to do, but it all still worked out well. We started out by looking at Mulberry Row which is a long line of essential buildings located behind the house and in front of the garden area. Mulberry Row is a long row of slave dwellings and crafts shops. Blacksmithing, spinning/textiles, stables, and a whole host of slave managed activities occurred on this row. Beyond the row of craft buildings lay the garden area. Not just flowers, but food items grown by the slaves for the use of the Jefferson family and the slaves themselves. If you keep walking along Mulberry Row, you will have a short open space of about 100 yards and then you will come to the Jefferson Cemetery where James, Dolly, and many more family members are buried. Jefferson died at Monticello and is buried right next to the house. Strangely enough, Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, was 83, which was 50 years to the day after the first day of independence. To make this even more unique, John Adams, who was the second President of the United States, died on the same day at 90 years of age. Jefferson was the third President of the United States. A little bit of trivia, but James Monroe also died on the 4th of July in 1831 at the age of 73. After George Washington, the next four presidents were John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and then James Monroe. Adams, Jefferson, and Monroe all died on July 4th.
MONTPELIER - Montpelier, the home where James Madison grew up and achieved so much success in his life is a very unique place. A typical southern plantation with open fields all along the entry to the home high up on a hill. You access the house through the Visitation Center where you can view a video about the home and the man himself. The house was originally built by James Madison’s grandfather and his father then inherited the home. It was about half its current size at that time. Later, James built another half to the house and, effectively, made it into a duplex with his parents on one side and he and Dolly on the other side. Later, after his parents passed, he took out the walls between the two halves and made the house into a single family dwelling. James Madison and Dolly owned slaves who worked the plantation. His wealth and the work of the slaves allowed James the time to read about governments around the world and to create what would eventually become the Constitution of the United States.
Friday, June 23, we departed for the Lees Lake RV Park campground.