August 31, 2011

8/30/11 – Appomattox Court House NHP

Well, as usual, my memories of US history have some pretty big gaps.  Must be the filing system.  I remember Appomattox.  I remember that’s where Lee surrendered to Grant.  I didn’t know there was a Court House involved.  Also, I didn’t know that the Court House didn’t really refer to the Court House, but to the name of a village called “Appomattox Court House”, named before the Court House was even built.   (Who would do that?)  I also thought there was a battle.  There really wasn’t, just the threat of one that Lee knew he couldn’t win.  It wasn’t the end of the war, but it was precursor to the end.
We met some people from (­­­I-don't-remember-where-but-George-would) in the parking lot, and compared notes about travelling for awhile.  Eventually we went up to the Visitors Center together, which was actually the Court House (see previous paragraph.)  Upstairs we watched a movie, then wandered around the exhibits.  I didn’t pay as much attention to the museum exhibits as usual because we were still conversing with the folks from the parking lot.  Sometimes you have to make a choice between friendship and information. 
After George got his passport stamp, he and the volunteer got to talking about where we’d been.  She asked if he had many of the commemorative trading cards.  This is the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, so all the national battlefields and parks related to the War Between the States were supposed to hand out these informational cards to anyone who got a passport stamp.  This was the first we’d heard of it.  And, although George was a little annoyed about the ones he’d missed, we are NOT going back! 
Outside, we wandered through the reconstructed village. 
We went over to the McLean house where Generals Grant & Lee met to sign the surrender.  
Grant didn't capture the confederate troops but paroled them to return home.  They printed 30,000 parole forms in 2 days!  The next morning 5,000 Federal troops lined the state road to receive the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia as they stacked their arms.  The ceremony was described as "Honor answering honor."  Pretty cool, huh?

 The living history program started at the Court House (the real court house that’s now a visitor center—surely you remember that first paragraph?) where a Ranger told us that it was now 1865 and “Pvt. Andrew Frakes” of the Union Army would tell us a little about the surrender and what it was like afterwards.  She also told us that we couldn’t take pictures until the program was over and he would pose for us.  I don’t know why—I like the candid ones better than the posed ones.  But this "likeness" isn't bad...
 The man playing Pvt. Frakes really stayed in character.  We cracked up when he said some of the ladies must have lost some of our clothing because we weren't dressed proper.  (It's August in Virginia and most of us were wearing shorts or capris, not appropriate attire for the southern lady in 1865.)
This plaque marks where General Lee's headquarters were.  Please note that the word "northern" uses the southern phonetic spelling.

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