Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens consists of over 1,077 acres of gardens, woodlands, and meadows in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

The land that Longwood Gardens is on was at one time inhabited by members of the Lenni Lenape tribe. In 1700 a Quaker family named Peirce purchased the property from William Penn and established a working farm on the land. Almost 100 years later that same family began planting an arboretum on the farm in 1798. By 1850 the site was known as one of the finest collections of trees in the nation and one of the first public parks. In 1906 the farm was bought by Pierre du Pont so he could preserve the trees which were slated to be sold for lumber and from 1907 until the 1930s Mr. du Pont created most of what exists today as Longwood Gardens.

Today the Gardens consists of 20 outdoor gardens and 20 indoor gardens with 4.5 acres of heated greenhouses known as conservatories. It contains 11,000 different types of plants and trees and many fountains.

Longwood's main conservatory is one of the world's greatest greenhouses. The conservatory spans about a half mile and is home to 5,500 type of plants. Included in the Conservatory are the Palm House, Mediterranean Garden, Orchid House, and many others.

The main displays in the Conservatory are rotated frequently and during our visit the theme was “Lilytopia”. A display of over 10,000 cut stems of lilies from all over the world were on display. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival

Gettysburg, PA

It seemed like a good idea at the time. We enjoy going to Bluegrass festivals and this is one of the premier festivals in the country – so I ordered the tickets, made the camping reservations and here we are – trying to stay dry and warm. Granite Hill Campground has been hosting festivals twice a year since 1979 – this is the 62 festival. The lineup of bands is fantastic. The weather – not so much. The first day of the festival – Thursday was perfect – sunny and about 75 degrees. Yesterday it never got above 60 and there was a heavy mist all day that just chilled us to the bone. We had moved our chairs from the grassy hill close to the stage to under the big tent so we were relatively dry but still cold.

 I think we made it through 3 bands before we called it quits and headed back to the motorhome to drink hot chocolate and listen to the bands on the radio - the music is broadcast on FM inside the campground. It rained all night and today, Saturday, it is still 60 degrees, cloudy, wet, icky. The weather does not seem to bother many other people – but I guess that maybe those folks that live around here expect this weather this time of year. It remains to be seen how long we will make it sitting in our chairs before the RV calls us back today. At home we had spring weeks ago and summer is in full swing now so we expected for it to be at least semi-warm here. No such luck.

We are making major changes to our travel plans as we were going on north and looking at the forecast it is calling for temps in the low 50s and rain and more rain all week – with flash flood warnings up - not good tourist weather. So tomorrow instead of going to Johnstown, PA (to see the site of the great flood of 1889) and then on up to Erie, PA - our next campground will be Monte's Mom's driveway in Coatesville, PA and we will be there for the next 3.5 weeks – so lucky you – blogs will probably be very sparse. On the bright side - I am thankful that we had not planned to be camping along the Mississippi River right now.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Of Chips and Colts

Hanover, PA

“Utz Are Better Than Nuts”

The area of Southeastern Pennsylvania is home to many companies that make – those foods that are at the top of the food triangle – junk food - potato chips, pretzels and other snack foods. We started today with a tour of Utz in Hanover, PA. Picture taking was strictly forbidden so – I only snuck one photo.

Utz, started in 1921 in the kitchen of Bill and Salie Utz with an investment of $300. They could produce 50 pounds of chips an hour. In 2011, Utz is distributed to 13 states and to Costco and Sam's Clubs nation wide and is the largest independent privately held snack brand in the U.S. Utz produces one million pounds of potato chips and 900,000 pounds of pretzels each week. And so many other snack foods that I cannot begin to name them.

After snarfing down our measly little free bag of chips – the size bag that you get with a sandwich – we headed down the road to Hanover Shoe Farms.

If you have ever been to a harness race or seen one on TV you have undoubtedly seen horses with the name “Hanover” as part of the horse's name “Donato Hanover” “Blaze Hanover”. These horses have been bred at Hanover Shoe Farms. Hanover was originally founded in the early 1900's and is today the leading breeder of Standard Bred horses. What we found amazing is that visitors are allowed to wander at will, unaccompanied through several of the barns and out among the paddocks where the older foals and their moms and the stallions – who are kept far from the mares - are. This is something that would never happen in the world of Thoroughbred race horses. This time of year is when the foals are being born and although we did not see any mares actually in labor we did see several colts and fillies that were born yesterday and today. 

All in all – it was a nice day away from the ravages of the Civil War.

Gettysburg National Military Park

Gettysburg, PA

For once, I'm not going to bore you with some long drawn out history lesson. Instead, I'll try to toss out some little known but interesting facts – it might still bore you but you will come away knowing something that you did not know before.

  • At the time of the battle there were approximately 653 cannons on the field – 372 Union and 281 Confederate.
  • Today there are 370 cannons on the battlefield but only one of those can be documented as having seen action at Gettysburg and one of them was not manufactured until 1866 so did not see any action during the Civil War.
  • There are approximately 1,320 monuments, markers and tablets.
  • In the 1920s and 30s two grass airstrips existed on the battlefield.
  • A trolley line and three amusement parks once existed on a portion of the battlefield.
  • During World War I, the area of Pickett's Charge was home to Camp Colt, a training camp for tanks. The commander of Camp Colt was a young Army Captain by the name of Dwight D. Eisenhower.
  • Casualties at Gettysburg – 51,000 – included dead, wounded and missing. Actual dead believed to be around 7,000.
  • Horses killed at Gettysburg – 3,000
  • Mary Virginia Wade was the only civilian killed when a random minie ball traveled through the kitchen door and hit her as she was kneading bread dough.
  • The Armies withdrew on July 4 1863 and the people who lived in the area were left to deal with the dead and wounded.
  • The last human remains found on the battlefield were found in March, 1996 (yes 1996 not 1896).
  • There were 64 recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor for actions during the Gettysburg battle. The last of these medals was awarded in 2010 – 147 years after the battle.
  • 115 Union Officer and 40 Confederate Officers at Gettysburg were graduates of West Point.

We have been to Gettysburg a few times before and never fail to be amazed at what transpired here. At the new museum that opened in 2008 movie they show about the battle is good but, we were underwhelmed by the museum itself and if you have ever seen the cyclorama – a fantastic job has been done on the restoration but – the with the new setting they have placed it in – there is no way to follow the flow of the battle – you can only see what is right in front of you. Oh well – still glad we went – and I imagine we will be back again.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Pamplin Historical Park – The Breakthrough

Petersburg, VA

Less than a week ago we were at the place where the Civil War started. Today we are at Pamplin Park, where, on April 2, 1865, one week before General Lee surrendered to General Grant, the Union Forces broke through the defensive lines of the Confederate Forces, ended the siege of Petersburg, forced the Confederate evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, and started the Confederate retreat toward Appomattox.

Although we had been in the Richmond/Petersburg area several years ago to tour Civil War sites, we had not heard of Pamplin Park before this trip. WOW – is this place impressive. This 422 acre privately owned park has many things to see. For starters there are 2 museums – The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier and The Battlefield Center. Then there are the Tudor Hall Plantation buildings and other historic homes and a recreated Confederate winter encampment and defensive line fortifications. It is all extremely well done. When you enter the first building you are provided with a recorded audio walking tour to listen to – or not – that takes you through the entire park. If you are ever in this area and are interested at all in U.S. History, I strongly recommend a visit to Pamplin Park.

The remaining original earthworks have been greatly reduced in size due to erosion and other natural factors in the 146 years since the end of hostilities. This is not true only of this place but of many Civil War battlefields. The picture of the recreated fortifications shows just how massive they were “in the day” and what the attacking forces had to overcome.

The grounds here are very wooded. In reality, there would have been zero trees for miles around. The trees were cut for many reasons, a few being: to make sure the enemy did not have concealment to hide in, for building of huts (as the Armies wintered over here during the siege), for construction of fortifications, and for use as fuel for fires. I'm sure the list goes on and on.

I just had to include this copy of a letter written to my Great Grandfather. He was at Appomattox Court House on the day of surrender. He was probably here in Petersburg during the siege, somewhere close to Lee's HQ as he was a courier for the Chief Medical Officer of the Army, Lafayette Guild. I would assume that Guild would have been in close proximity to Lee.

As we are not going to Appomattox Court house I will include this information here.
I mentioned in the Ft. Sumter blog that approximately 620,000 Americans died in the Civil War. Here are some interesting statistics:

At least 618,000 Americans died in the Civil War, and some experts say the toll reached 700,000. The number that is most often quoted is 620,000. At any rate, these casualties exceed the nation's loss in all its other wars, from the Revolution through Vietnam.

The Union armies had from 2,500,000 to 2,750,000 men. Their losses, by the best estimates:
Battle deaths:
Disease, etc.:
The Confederate strength, known less accurately because of missing records, was from 750,000 to 1,250,000. Its estimated losses:
Battle deaths:
Disease, etc.:
Do NOT get your hopes up - we are not done with the Civil War and other U.S. History on this trip.  Trust me - you are going to love it!

Petersburg National Battlefield

Petersburg, Virginia

We have stopped for a few days in Petersburg, VA to do, what else, but tour battlefields. So here, without further ado, is a very condensed story of the Siege of Petersburg.  I won't make you suffer through a day by day account of the entire 9.5 months.

From early May until mid-June 1864, 4 major battles of the Civil War were fought at The Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, North Anna River and Cold Harbor. At each of these battles General Grant's objective was to break the Confederate lines and to take the Confederate Capital of Richmond. At each battle – he failed as General Lee's lines held. Grant knew that the key to ending the war was the taking of Richmond so to that end he marched his army south of Richmond to the south side of Petersburg, set up a 30 mile long perimeter, and thus started a nine and one-half month siege of Petersburg.

Petersburg is where four railroad lines from the south met before continuing to Richmond. Most of the supplies to Lee's army and to the city of Richmond funneled through this point. Grant effectively cut off all supplies that normally would have been flowing in to Petersburg and Richmond from the south. The Union forces constructed over 30 miles of earthworks that matched the over 30 miles of earthworks constructed by the Rebels that protected Petersburg and Richmond to the north.

One of the great fiascoes of the Civil War occurred six weeks in to the siege in July 1864 when Union Soldiers under command of General Burnside (the man whose main claim to fame is that sideburns are named for him) decided to construct and explode a mine underneath the Confederate line and thus open the way in to Petersburg and on to Richmond. The mine was 511 feet long and at the end branches extended to the right and left and added 75 feet to the total length of the mine. Keep in mind – this was all done with picks and shovels and makeshift tools. When digging was complete the mine was charged with 8,000 pounds of black powder. The powder was ignited at 4:30 a.m. with the resulting explosion killing or wounding 278 Confederate troops. The crater was approximately 170 feet long and 80 feet wide. And now came the debacle – as Union troops rushed into the crater and were now below the Confederate Soldiers who started pouring shells and bullets into their opponents. By 8:30 that morning reinforcements had been sent in to the crater and now over 15,000 Federal troops were in or attempting to get in the crater. By the time all was said and done, the Union Army had suffered 4,000 killed, wounded or captured as against about 1,500 for the Confederates.

Once again a frontal assault had failed. But, the siege would continue until April 2 and would win out in the end.

And the battlefields just keep on coming...Tomorrow – The Breakthrough at Pamplin Park.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Charleston Harbor

Charleston - End of Day 4

The only way to get to Fort Sumter is by tour boat.  The nice thing about this is that they provide a good tour of Charleston Harbor.  Here are just a few pictures from the tour.

 That brings to an end our stay in Charleston, SC.  We had a great time but are ready to mosey on down (actually up) the road.  Until next time...

Ft. Sumter – The Start of the Civil War

Charleston – Day 4 continued

One Hundred Fifty years and 22 days ago the War Between The States started right here at Ft. Sumter. At 0430, April 12, 1861 a mortar was fired from Ft. Johnson and exploded over Ft. Sumter signaling the other Confederate batteries to open fire. 

At 2 pm on April 13, after the Confederates had fired over 3,000 rounds, the commanding officer of Ft. Sumter, Major Anderson, agreed not to surrender but to evacuate the fort to Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard. On April 14, Anderson personally lowered the flag and evacuated the fort on steamers provided by Beauregard. 

Of the approximately five hundred and eighty men who participated on both sides at Fort Sumter, not a single life was lost. Interestingly, Anderson had been Beauregard's artillery instructor at West Point.

Union efforts to retake Charleston Harbor began on April 7, 1863. The South held the fort until it was finally evacuated on February 17, 1865. For almost 2 years, 46,000 shells, estimated at more than 7 million pounds of metal, were fired at Fort Sumter. During that time Confederate losses were only 52 killed and 267 wounded. About 500 slaves were “employed” at the Fort and used to strengthen and repair the fort's defenses. There is no record of how many of them were killed or wounded. 
Exactly four years to the day after he'd lowered the flag in surrender, Major, now General, Robert Anderson re-raised the flag in triumph.

5 days short of 4 years later, after the loss of over 620,00 lives, General R.E. Lee surrendered to General Grant and thus ended the Civil War. However, this is not the last you will hear from me of the Civil War. 

Ft. Moultrie – Or – A Big Surprise For These FSU Seminole Fans

Charleston, SC – Day 4

In its 171 year history, Fort Moultrie has defended Charleston Harbor twice. The first time was on June 28, 1776 during the Revolutionary War. The 30 canon of the fort drove off a British fleet mounting 200 guns. In December 1860, just a few days after South Carolina seceded from the Union, the occupying Union forces left Moultrie and joined the forces at Ft. Sumter. The Confederate forces occupied the fort and for two years during the blockade of Charleston Harbor the fort was bombarded by Federal forces and reduced to rubble but with the help of Confederate forces at Ft. Sumter, the Confederates were able to hold back the Union Attacks. During WWI and WWII the fort was updated with new modern weaponry including anti-aircraft guns. Fortunately, these new weapons were never called upon to defend our shores.

Now for the really important part of the Fort's history:

Perhaps the most spectacular tradition in all of college football occurs in Doak Campbell Stadium when a student portraying the famous Seminole Indian leader, Osceola, charges down the field riding an Appaloosa horse named Renegade and plants a flaming spear at midfield to begin every home game.

So imagine our complete surprise when we found, immediately outside the gates of Fort Moultrie, the grave of Osceola.

On October 21, 1837 Osceola was captured when he arrived for supposed truce negotiations in Fort Peyton, FL. He was imprisoned at St. Augustine, FL. Osceola's capture by deceit caused a national uproar. That December, Osceola and other Seminole prisoners were moved to Fort Moultrie. 
Osceola died of malaria on January 30, 1838, less than three months after his capture. He was buried with military honors at Fort Moultrie.

Next stop – where the Civil War began - Ft. Sumter.