(C) 2002-2014 J. Watson All rights reserved
RV Travel notes from
the traveling gran'ma and gran'pa
Vol 23 No 1 June/July, 2013
|Heading north from North Carolina -- first stop was Williamsburg to revisit the
Governor's Palace, Capitol Building and of course the College of William & Mary
campus. Then on to enjoy the beauty of "small town America" and former
battlefields in New York, Maryland and West Virginia. Much of the trip is off the
Interstate highways in pleasant farming areas
Dear Gals...Your guys... Our grandkids...
(Now that half of you can vote – should we say grand people?)
…and other special folks
SELINSGROVE, PA June 20, 2013
We left home about four weeks ago and are having a
great time – first visiting family and now a bit of
On the way north we took a couple of days to visit
Colonial Williamsburg. The restoration was being
visited by the end-of-school-year student groups but
was generally not crowded. The plantings were off
their spring flush but were still colorful. We toured
the Governor’s Palace and the Capitol building and
saw the fife and drum corps parading along Duke of
Gloucester Street. We always enjoy the restoration.
The next day we enjoyed an organ recital at the
College of William & Mary chapel in the Wren
Building – it’s an every Saturday morning event. The
Wren Building is the oldest academic building still in
use in the US. It goes back to about 1700 when it
became the core of the campus.
(From Williamsburg, VA we headed north to visit family
in Maryland and New England. It's a long time
between visits and we enjoyed.)
Combat did take place here and just 200 feet from us,
in the campground, is “Gun Position #6”, above, to fire
on flank movements and protect the south end of the
fort. It is a high position near the top of the hill about
a ⅓ of a mile from the Murphy Farm fortifications.
In fact, Harpers Ferry was a “war zone” before the war
started. John Brown, an anti-slavery activist, in 1859
went to Harpers Ferry with a band of 24 men and took
over the US arsenal, which was situated along the
river, now a grassy area, right above. The arsenal is
long gone but much of the town is now part of the
National Historical Park. This was a protest against
slavery. He just walked into the gun factory as the
Army was unprepared for an assault. Things changed
a couple of days later when forces from Washington,
DC arrived. A month later he was hanged, at the
building to the right. He had sparked a chain of
events that led to the attack of Ft. Sumter in South
Carolina -- the start of the war.
From a strategic standpoint, Harpers Ferry was crucial
as it was a rail center located at the confluence of the
Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. Troops positioned
on the high overlooks of the city controlled the supply
lines necessary for victory. Harpers Ferry was under
control of both the Union and Confederate forces --
changing 8 times during the war.
Also, another part is Murphy’s farm, right, site of some
of the battles. Our RV park abuts the farm and we’ve
enjoyed walking around it. We’re led to believe that
the area is now pretty much as it was back 152 years
ago, before the carnage. The overlook from the farm
of the rivers was a good vantage point, and therefore
both sides fought fiercely for it.
Not mentioned very much in the history books is the
largest capture of US troops before WW2 that was just
a mile or so from our camp site – 12,500 Union troops
were taken. This was at Bolivar Heights, right, in
September, 1862. This is rugged country and the
cannons and other equipment had to be hauled up
steep cliffs. This was the tail-end of the Harpers Ferry
battle in September ’62 and was just before the battle
So, y’all have a good summer…
On the road. We’ve generally been off the Interstates
and on the roads that take us thru the small villages,
which in my opinion is the true Americana. Places like
picturesque Stockbridge, Massachusetts, home of the
Norman Rockwell Museum and studio, right.
Rockwell's art was often on the covers of the Saturday
Evening Post, which was a widely read magazine
Then a bit north through Pittsfield to Williamstown, MA,
a small village that is home of Williams College. We
revisited the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.
This small gallery is “big league” with works of Degas,
Homer, Monet and other masters. It’s expanding
because they lack proper exhibition space as you can
see, right. Much of the collection is properly displayed
and we enjoyed.
We continued north to Rutland, Vermont and then
headed over to Lake Champlain. It’s a beautiful area
with hills and curvy roads; some roads seem both too
narrow and too curvy when driving a motorhome.
The lake was a major thoroughfare of boat traffic of
goods and passengers going from Canada to New
York in the mid to late 1700s. They’d go by land a few
miles over land from Lake Champlain to Lake George
and then to the Hudson River and down to New York
City. As there was tension between the French and
Brits a string of forts was constructed and this is a
location of the French & Indian War (aka in Europe as
the Seven Year War). Fort Ticonderoga was at the
heart of the war and was controlled at various times by
the Brits & French. A private foundation now runs it.
Ticonderoga is at the lower end of the Adirondack
Mountains (NY) State Park and is a beautiful area.
(You may recall that our family camped at Lake Placid
in the heart of the park.)
Continuing south we stayed overnight at Bouckville.
So what’s Bouckville, NY about – it has a population of
only 600? The village is so small that there is only a
blinking caution light so you hardly need to slow
down. We walked along the tow path of the now
abandoned Chenango Canal…but what it’s really
noted for is that it is the location of the largest
Antiques and Collectibles Show in New York State!
They get over a thousand dealers selling their wares
for one week in August. Numerous antique shops line
the main road but the village is sleepy this time of year
We cut south a few miles and then took a casual route
thru more small villages and open country, off the
interstates, to Watkins Glen in the Finger Lakes
region of New York. We traveled along the shore of
Lake Seneca. (You may recall hearing that I spent a
summer here at boot camp, now the location of
Sampson State Park.) This is wine country and there
are endless vineyards. Do you remember when our
family camped in the area? There are many small
dairy farms that appear to be successful and not much
else except an occasional fire station and grange hall.
There are far more wineries now than there were
when we family camped in the area. You know of the
road races that are held here every fall. (We worked
with the man who waved the green starting flag of the
first race here and at Sebring, too.) It’s moved from a
small town event to worldwide fame. We continued to
the area of Civil War battles.
HARPERS FERRY July 7, 2013
Next, the Antietam National Battlefield of the Civil
War. This 1862 battle had the most casualties in one
day in US history – over 22,000. Can you imagine?
(The D-Day, landing on Normandy in 1944, had about
9,000.) They say the scene of this carnage is
generally unchanged – it’s rolling open farmland. The
“roll” was a handicap to the soldiers as their line of
sight was limited and they could not get an overview of
the battle. It is difficult to imagine a bloody battle in
such a beautiful area.
Eight thousand Union troops stormed through a corn
field (there's still one there) -- it's hard to envision this
in an area that is so tranquil today. At the "sunken
road" there were 2,900 casualties in less than five
hours. Looks like a peaceful country lane, and it
probably looked much the same before the fighting.
This was in Sharpsburg, MD, the first major battle of
the war to take place above the Mason-Dixon Line..
The Union victory, though frail, gave Lincoln the right
psychological opportunity to issue the Emancipation
Proclamation. This not only freed the slaves but
stopped the expected formal recognition of the
Confederacy by France and England.
In the wake of this battle there was a heroine, Clara
Barton, whose activities later sparked the creation of
the American Red Cross. She and thirty men provided
food, lanterns and other assistance to the wounded on
the battleground. There was little professional help for
the suffering and most had to rely on other soldiers or
compassionate volunteers from nearby communities.
The stench of death lasted for months.
Just a few miles from the Antietam site is Harpers
Ferry National Historical Park. Harpers Ferry, MD,
was important in the war as it was the nearest
railroad hub to Antietam and to supply the massive
troop concentration was a huge job.
we’re doing this Civil War
Years ago we visited Fort
Fisher, Gettysburg, etc.
Now we’re seeing sites of
battles that preceded
those. We’ve been here,
right next to the historic
park for the past week.
As you may have surmised
|Harpers Ferry at the confluence of the
Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers
Maryland is on the left, Virginia to the right and
the photo was taken from Harpers Ferry, WV