Custer State Park in South Dakota

Custer State Park in South Dakota
We saw a LOT of these guys at Custer State Park in South Dakota!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum, Staunton, Virginia

Staunton Virginia proved to be a very interesting area.  Among the must visit places there was the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum.

We learned quickly that this presidential site was nothing like some of the stuffier "library and museums" we have been to in other places.  It is more independent and had a more casual feel, which we liked!

We walked in to the gift shop area, where you purchase your ticket.  A very friendly fellow said hello to us, and asked where we were from.  After chatting, our new friend sold us our tickets, and advised us to visit the museum and wait for the next house tour.

I enjoyed looking at the political buttons displayed, and other artifacts in the museum.

Woodrow was born here, and only spent a couple of his first years here, but his widow would come to the area to create a memorial.

After seeing the museum and the home, we went back to the main visitor center to see the film.

After the film, we talked to some of the other guests, and the nice fellow who sold us our tickets.  It seemed everyone had been visiting presidents homes and historic sites!  I learned that a home Abe Lincoln's grandfather lived in was near by!

This was our fifth presidents home that we toured on this trip!  I did mention to the staff here that we passed on Mt. Vernon to come here (fighting DC traffic to see Washington's home lost to the easy roads in Virginia, and seeing this Wilson house and the theater in town).  They seemed impressed.

And, speaking of Woodrow Wilson homes- it seems that he find them everywhere!  See here, and here.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Rockport Indiana

I grew up not too far from Rockport Indiana.  I remember going here some when I was younger.

I went back recently to see the cool sights associated with Abraham Lincoln.

I remember exploring the small cave like areas by the river when I was in high school.

Here are some random photos from my recent trip, including the area where Abe Lincoln took off for his first trip to New Orleans!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Lincoln Pioneer Village, Rockport, Indiana

This postcard was sent in 1942!  Check out my previous post about this place....  The Village still looks very similar.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

William A. Frassanito- Gettysburg Author

Before I move on from Gettysburg, I wanted to mention local legend and author, William A. Frassanito.

Mr. Frassanito has written several books, mostly on photography relating to Gettysburg.  He wrote a great volume that came out in 1971 where he looked at the photographs taken of the Battlefield in Gettysburg shortly after the Civil War battle.  He examined the photos and tracked down the sites of the pictures now (in the late 1960s early 1970s).  Like a photographic archaeologist, he retraced the locations in the pictures to their modern locations.

He was also able to estimate the dates the photos were taken.

Some were easier to figure out than others.  Some included obvious visual clues such as buildings, or well known landmarks.  Also, as bodies were not left on the battlefield long, the photos showing bodies were the ones taken VERY shortly after the fighting.

After Frassantio's first book, others followed.  New vintage photos were found.  New discoveries were made about some of the pictures from the earlier editions.

So, a few weeks before our planned trip, I picked up some of his books and read them quickly!  He has done some amazing research.  I searched around for more info....  I found that, though generally very reclusive, William Frassanito is easy to find while in Gettysburg.

So, while we were in town, we tracked down the author at his favorite night time hang out.

I hoped to get my books signed, and maybe ask a few questions.  Well, William was extremely kind, and we ended up chatting for a couple of hours.

I expected to find an intellectual man, possibly a bit uptight and quiet after reading the books.  I figured he would be a pleasant, but methodical professor type.

Well, I found a very relaxed cool guy who enjoys a relaxed conversation, talking about history or other topics.  He was casual, and comfortable with a random stranger like myself, and he enjoyed telling stories.

I must admit that I was honestly a little shocked at his generosity with his time, and his friendliness.

Our conversation was scattered (my favorite kind of conversation).  William talked about his time in Vietnam, his books, his life in Gettysburg, and other topics.

We compared notes as my father was also in Vietnam, and I have taken a recent interest in Gettysburg.

William asked about my interest in Gettysburg, and the Civil War... and indirectly in genealogy.

I answered his questions as best as I could...  As we talked though, I felt a little embarrassed at my lack of knowledge on most of these topics.  Without being critical, I felt that William was politely encouraging me to be more active in these very personal pursuits. 

Its funny, there is so much to learn, and to absorb while in a place like Gettysburg.  We met some great folks, like William, who contributed to our visit, and no doubt contributed to how I see my own life.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Civil War Adventures of a Blockade Runner by William Watson

While we were in Gettysburg, someone mentioned William Watson's book, "The Civil War Adventures of a Blockade Runner" to us.  This is probably my favorite book written by an actual participant in the Civil War.
Watson actually served as a soldier for the Confederacy, but he was injured.  After that, he got a boat, and started trying to get items in to southern areas.
I do get the vibe that Watson was an honest person, trying to conduct business in an honest way- well, at least as honest as a blockade runner can be.  He encounters people who he can trust, and some that he can't.  He hires a captain early on to handle his boat, and that captain ends up being a very bad employee.  He deals with co-owners of his ship and cargo who, at times have unrealistic expectations.  He also frequently deals with Yankee ships that are out to get him!
Actually reading about William Watson's business dealings is a fun part of the book.  Getting and selling cotton, hiring crew, etc. all become interesting topics.  Navigating the sea and avoiding other boats is exciting too, but really all of his actions require strategy!
Cotton, which was very much in demand at that time, almost becomes a character in the book.  At one point, cotton pretty much sinks his ship!
This is a fun to read book from an era that I can't get enough of.  The characters and events are vivid and interesting (there are some great stories involving a priest, a lottery, and more).  I would love to see this book get movie treatment, but I doubt that will ever happen.

Monday, November 23, 2015

General Lee's Headquarters, Gettysburg, PA.

 I found these two postcards, both showing General Lee's Headquarters in Gettysburg recently.  Both are unused.  We saw Lee's Headquarters on our recent trip, but the building is currently not open- though I am sure it will be the next time we are in town!

The top card notes-

General Lee with his splendid army, advanced along the Chambersburg Pike, and for a short time occupied this picturesque little stone house, fronting on the Pike (now the Lincoln Highway).  It stands on Seminary Ridge midway between the Seminary buildings and the old tapeworm railroad cut.  One of the rarest collections of Gettysburg relics is on display here.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Jenny Wade House and Monument, Gettysburg, PA.

This postcard was sent from Gettysburg in 1960!  The Jenny Wade story is a sad one....

It says on the back-

Miss Jenny Wade was killed the morning of July 3rd, while attending to household duties in a little brick house on Baltimore Street near the National Cemetery.  She was the only citizen of Gettysburg who was killed during the battle.  The house is now used as a war museum, and shows hundreds of marks of bullets and shell.  The monument marks the last resting place in the Citizen's Cemetery.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Wills House, Gettysburg, PA.

"THE WILLS' HOUSE, PUBLIC SQUARE, GETTYSBURG, PA. was the home of Judge David Wills, who was host to President Abraham Lincoln on November 19th, 1863, and it was here that the President penned his immortal address.  The room is now open as a museum."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

General Meade's Headquarters, Gettysburg, PA.

This postcard went through the mail in 1951.

It notes, "General Meade with his staff arrived upon the field at Gettysburg from Tarreytown at midnight on the first day of Battle and established his headquarters on the west side of Tarreytown Road, in the rear of Cemetery Hill.  From this point he directed the battles of the second and third days.  The homely little cottage, still preserved, shows the marks of shot and shell."

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Devil's Den- Gettysburg, PA

This undated postcard says-

All visitors to Gettysburg see this natural landmark which, during the battle here, furnished shelter for Confederate sharpshooters who were picking off the gunners at the batteries on Little Round Top.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Spangler's Spring, Gettysburg, Pa

This postcard notes exactly on the back-

This spring at the fot of Culp's Hill, furnished water for the wounded of both armies, when at the close of hostilities on the night of the second days' battle, both the Blue and the Grey sought here, together, a draught for their disabled comrades.  A neat structure of granite now incloses the spring and all visitors to the field stop to drink from its historic waters.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Appalachian Brewing Company- Gettysburg, PA

I did want to mention another great place in the Gettysburg area with GREAT FOOD- The Appalachian Brewing Company!

We met an old friend who lives nearby here, and they said this was a place we had to try before leaving.

The burgers were great, and they have their own great root beer!  We took some with us for the road.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Ragged Edge Coffee in Gettysburg, PA

About a block from our hotel in Gettysburg, we found Ragged Edge Coffee!

I did want to take a moment to tip my hat to these guys, they were great!  We stopped by a mediocre pastry place early on our trip, and we were SO happy to find this place right afterwards.

They had great coffee, a great atmosphere, AND they had a selection of SIGNED BOOKS BY LOCAL AUTHORS!!!  I picked up some signed books by Jeff Shaara, who seems to be friendly with this great coffee spot!

We loved this place, and it was a great place to stop in the morning before venturing out to the museums and battlefields!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Eisenhower National Historic Site- Gettysburg, PA

We did a tour at the former home of Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower while we were in Gettysburg!

As you know, this particular road trip focused on the Civil War and Presidents.  Well, Gettysburg was a big winner this time- as there is more history here than just the Battlefield.

Eisenhower wanted his home and farm to maintain its beauty- he insisted that no parking lot be built here.  So, the National Park Service now buses visitors from their visitor center to the home.  It is actually very nice and convenient.

At the home, a guide gives a pretty thorough overview of the place, telling of the Eisenhower's desire to return to Gettysburg (Dwight trained here during his military time), how they bought the property, and how photographers would try to get pictures of the family at the property.  Luckily, a kind neighbor helped the Eisenhowers maintain their privacy.

Our guide talked about how visitors from outside of the US often come to Gettysburg to see the Eisenhower home.  If they have time, they may tour the Battlefield.  Americans come to see the Battlefield, and if they have time, they may add a visit to the Eisenhower site.  All (including a couple from England) agreed with this observation.

We spent a good amount of time touring the home here.  You are welcomed by a guide once inside.  A page with information on the rooms of the house is also given, and then you can tour the home and property as you wish!  I really enjoyed this, as you could pace yourself at your own speed.  Also, photos were allowed here!  I personally enjoyed the opportunity to see several of Dwight's original paintings!

Oh, I also wanted to mention that other points of interest for President Eisenhower fans are all over Gettysburg!  Our Battlefield Guide pointed out some to us on our Battlefield Tour!  Again, this is a great town for not just Civil War fans, but for all fans of history!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Cyclorama- Gettysburg, PA

Here are just a few of the photos I took of the Cyclorama in Gettysburg.

There is so much to say about this amazing painting.  Briefly, about 20 years after the Battle of Gettysburg, Paul Philippoteaux created the Gettysburg Cyclorama (it took him and five assistance a year and a half to complete).

There are actually four versions (two are still around).  This one has been restored and is now carefully displayed in Gettysburg.

This panoramic painting is, according to Wikipedia, 42 feet by 377 feet!  As I looked at it, I could see no seem lines.

The Cyclorama is exhibited almost as a show.  You enter from stairs under the round room and see the mammoth painting surround you.  You find a spot, and then hear narration as lights behind the painting enhance the events.

After the show, you are allowed a few minutes to admire the round work of art before the room is cleared for the next visitors.

This is one of the attractions in Gettysburg that has developed a life of its own.  Sure, while in Gettysburg, you MUST see the battlefield, but this is the other "must see attraction" in town.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Dobbin House- Gettysburg PA.

Most of the literature I read before going to Gettysburg said that you HAD to eat at the Dobbins House on your trip to town.

I agree.  The food was excellent, and we loved the dark, candlelit atmosphere in the tavern area.  There was a lot of wood used here, and it feels very 1860s.

They have some relics on display from the Battle, and there are other historic displays.  Plus, the Dobbin House is cool about letting people explore and check things out.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Farnsworth House- Gettysburg, PA.

The Farnsworth House is one of the must visit places in Gettysburg.  It is mentioned everywhere when talking about the town.

We had a very nice meal in the Sweney's Tavern part of the Inn.  The food was good and fresh, and there are a ton of movie memorabilia on display from the film "Gettysburg"!