Luray Caverns in Virginia

Luray Caverns in Virginia
Luray Caverns in Virginia

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Civil War Monitor

I have picked up The Civil War Monitor lately.  I really like this magazine, as it has a more casual feel than some of the other Civil War magazines available.

The Fall issue does cover the Confederate flag controversy (as a lot of magazines have lately).  There is an update on the Civil War Trust.  They had a really interesting article on environmental factors at the First Battle of Manassas.  Another article I liked involved self exiled Confederates moving out of the US after the war, and what became of their descendants.

The Civil War Monitor does more than just give edited accounts of various battles, AND the mag is great about including interesting photos from the period.  I would love to hear from anyone else with an opinion on the best Civil War magazines out there.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

This Month's Kentucky Explorer

Kentucky Explorer just keeps putting out great issues!  This month's was another winner......

I really loved a great article in this one by Bob Thompson.  Bob gives a GREAT history of souvenir photos at Mammoth Cave!  As someone who has picked up an old Mammoth Cave photo or two, I really loved this effort!

An article from 1921 discusses Abraham Lincoln's efforts to learn and educate himself.

ANOTHER great Lincoln related article discusses Kitty Todd, Abe's wife's half sister, and her efforts to help Confederate soldiers in northern prisons get needed supplies.

An article originally printed in 1902 covers a first hand account of life in the Orphan Brigade during the Civil War.

There is a lot more to the issue, but these were my favorites!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Haunted New England books by Robert Cahill

Hey, I just thought I would give a brief mention to the wonderful series of books by the late Robert Cahill.  I know the first couple of times driving through Salem, it seemed like his books were everywhere!  I stocked up!

If you enjoy authentic ghost stories, tales of unsolved mysteries, and general New England strangeness, Cahill had a well put together, easy to read book for ya!

Plus, he had deep, real roots in Salem.  I wish I could have crossed paths with this author.  Luckily, he was a prolific writer, and we can read his stories.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

"Passing Strange" by Joseph A. Citro

I have mentioned before how, sometimes you read a book, and a subject or author comes up.  Maybe something odd is mentioned, and I make a note of it... and it leads to researching another topic or place.

Well, the book, "Passing Strange" by Joseph A. Citro kept popping up as I read other books and material relating to New England.

So I picked up a copy.

The book actually covers some of the lesser known ghost stories, legends and hoaxes.  There were many in here I had never heard of.

Some (The Eddy Brothers) are given more credit than they deserve, but this is still a nice collection of strange tales.

Others are interesting and I need to look up more info on them (The Black Flash of Provincetown, and several mysterious "triangle" areas).  There is the legend of a house that burned to the ground, but still occasionally appears in photos!

New England is such an established area, and there are so many strange legends.  This book by Joseph A. Citro is a good starting point for reading about the strange in that region!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

"Connecticut Witch Trials" by Cynthia Wolfe Boynton

Everyone knows about the Salem witch trials of 1692, but it seems that not a lot of people are aware that "witches" were put on trial and executed in other areas too.

Cynthia Wolfe Boynton's book, "Connecticut Witch Trials" covers the events that happened in Connecticut starting 45 years BEFORE the events in Salem.

Like the Salem events, records are scarce on the Connecticut Trials.  Alse Young is noted as being the first executed witch in Connecticut (and America).  The author acknowledges that there is barely any mention anywhere of this.  She also brings up the fact that it is very possible that earlier executions could have occurred, but the records no longer exist.

Considering the rareness of records, Boynton has done an amazing job of piecing together as much of the story as she can.  She includes an easy to use timeline of events and a chart of Connecticut residents accused (including their residence, and the result of the accusations).  Also, a lengthy bibliography is included.

Luckily, there were a few people who questioned the whole process of prosecuting witches, and the "evidence" used against the accused.  A governor does much to disrupt the hysteria, as do a few others.  Still, many are reluctant to question, as they do not want to also be singled out.

This book had a lot of good info in it that I will need to follow up on later.  Mentioned are sites related to the events (just like with Salem, the exact hanging locations are questioned), but at least one in Bridgeport CT. is pretty well known).  Also, Cynthia mentions several other books on the Connecticut Witch Trials, including some independently published works by descendants of those people involved in the trials (any help on tracking those down would be appreciated!)!

AND, like the Salem trials, some fiction based on the events has generated myths relating to the actual facts.  Boynton covers that topic too!

Until more journals or other records are found, I think this is a pretty complete book covering the Connecticut With Trials!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Encampment at the Henry Clay Estate in Lexington Kentucky

I wanted to quickly mentioned that I stopped by the Encampment at Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate, a few weeks ago.

This was right after we got back from Gettysburg, and we still had the Civil War on our mind.

This was a small event, but we ended up spending a lot of time there, as many of the costumed presenters had a lot of interesting stuff to talk about!

We listened to an artist talk, very much in character, about how an artist during the Civil War would sketch a scene from a battle, and send it to the employing paper.  The presenter showed several sketches he had made at reenactments.

Another presenter talked about the guns and ammunition used.  A large crowd gathered around him, who asked great questions.  I don't know if he planned on focusing his talk on accuracy and distance but the crowd wanted to hear about those topics.  he discussed them in depth.


We talked to Joy Allen Fowler who wrote a novel about a young lady during the Civil War, from a southerners view.  She said that she tried to make it as historically accurate as she could.  She says a sequel should be out soon!

We also chatted with some interesting people who were doing a dig at the site!  it seems that John Hunt Morgan's boys had a brief confrontation with some Yankees on the grounds, and bullets and other items have been found!

I think it is so exciting when you visit a site like this, and you see that a dig is going on!  AND, just like a few weeks earlier at Camp Nelson, the researchers were VERY willing to discuss their findings with anyone.



Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Gettysburg Hotel- Gettysburg, PA

We were lucky enough to stay at the Gettysburg Hotel for three nights during our recent stay in town!  These guys really hit it out of the park, as they offer a lot to their guests.

First off, the place could not be any more conveniently located.  It is right in the middle of everything.  We were within a couple of blocks of several great shops in town (the best, in my opinion, are a VERY short walk from here).

The front desk staff was on it too!  They were the ones who recommended the previously mentioned Blue and Gray Bar and Grill to us (even going out of their way to find a menu for us).  And, like at the Fulton Steamboat Inn in Lancaster, they hooked me up with some free postcards!

There was a very sweet housekeeper named Charlotte who helped keep our room in order, and said hello each morning!  We loved her!

Our room was spacious, and had a fireplace!  We had a great view too!

The hotel was a bank at one time, and there is a cool vault still there!

I could go on and on about how perfect this hotel is.  We felt very comfortable there, waving to the front desk as we came and went.  This is a friendly, helpful place.



Friday, October 16, 2015

Blue & Gray Bar & Grill, Gettysburg, PA.

The Blue & Gray Bar & Grill came HIGHLY recommended by the locals we talked to in Gettysburg.

I know, in a historic town like this, you want to eat at the historic locations.  I TOTALLY agree (more on those great places later) but this spot is tasty.

Their burgers are named after Civil War generals.  Mine was named after George Custer, and it was great.  I forget exactly what was on it, but it was worth going out of the way for.  I know some of the people in town I talked to were able to name their favorites.  Read the menu carefully though, they get pretty experimental with the food!


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Rob Gibson- Gettysburg's Authentic Retro Photographer

I have a HUGE problem with touristy spots taking crappy photos, and then trying to sell them to you later.  Some places actually try to get good photos (Rock City and Ruby Falls in Tennessee do a good job using their park's scenery in the photo's background).  Some places I have visited take a photo of you in front of a fake background, when they could turn their cameras just a little, and actually get a photo of you with the attraction in the background (Graceland and Stone Mountain come to mind).  Some should be embarrassed by the fact that they are STILL trying to sell souvenir photos using green screen!

Anyway, I appreciate a good photo from a road trip.  I always pick up vintage family photos at antique shops and on ebay from interesting locations. 

BUT, I found the coolest, greatest and most authentic souvenir photo you can get on a trip!

I read about Rob Gibson a couple of months before our recent road trip in a "Haunted" Gettysburg book.  Rob actually looks a lot like John Wilkes Booth, and he has played the assassin!


That's not exactly what Rob is known for.  Rob Gibson has a photography studio in Gettysburg.  He photographs people, usually dressed in period costumes.

I know what you are thinking.  That's not an unusual gimmick in a touristy area.  AND, you can get a novelty photo like that just about anywhere.

Well, Rob knows he is in Gettysburg, and people that go to Gettysburg care about history and authenticity.  AND, even more importantly, Rob Gibson cares about history and authenticity himself.

Using a camera from the 1860s, the same time as the Battle of Gettysburg, he takes photos using the same process as would have been used at the time of the battle.  Forget digital, forget a flash, this is REAL VINTAGE PHOTOGRAPHY!

We did make an appointment- which I think is a good idea all around.  Rob recommends this, but he seemed fine with walk ins too.  Our session was a bit over an hour.

As I mentioned before, I recently discovered my family fought in the Civil War, all for the north- so I wore blue in our photo.

Rob helped us pick out era appropriate clothes from his collection, making sure everything was authentic.  He discussed the process with us from start to finish, and even allowed us to take our own photos and videos of the process!

Mr. Gibson was very generous with his time, discussing the photos, and his many other projects.  He has photographed Bob Dylan, Roger Daltry, Ted Turner, and literally hundreds of others.  He also owns a lens that was used to photograph Jefferson Davis!  He is a humble man though, and doesn't really brag about these many accomplishments; he was happy to discuss them, but his goal is to make YOUR experience perfect!

Oh, and he made an AMAZING tintype of my wife and I.  We purchased some other prints too, and I can say with certainty that we will be back on our next Gettysburg trip!

Yes, this souvenir photo is more expensive than the usual souvenir photo, but you will treasure it MUCH more!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Gettysburg Battlefield Tour with Rob Wingert

Gettysburg.....  I don't even know where to start on Gettysburg.

We were so excited about getting to spend several days in Gettysburg.  There is so much to see and do here.  We did some research before hitting the road, and we worried that a few days would not be enough time.

This was technically our second trip to Gettysburg.  We passed through a few years before.  We thought half a day would be enough time back then.  On that day, we knew pretty quickly that we were wrong.

So, on this trip, budgeting our time was a priority.  We wanted to cover the battlefield, see the Eisenhower Farm, dine at historic restaurants, visit museums and shop for relics.

I can say that we left town feeling like we had done a lot, but still feeling a need to get back to Gettysburg soon.

I will mention some of our specific favorites separately, but there are a few things we did that we really loved that I will mention here.

Probably the best thing we did was hire Rob Wingert from the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides to show us around.  I called the Association a couple of weeks before our trip and told them about the dates we would be there, when we hoped to do our tour, etc.  I mentioned that I would really like to focus on the 52nd New York Volunteer Infantry as I found a family member that served with that group.  Rob called back shortly after that, and we scheduled a tour!

Rob VERY conveniently agreed to meet in the lobby of our hotel!  He promised to be about 15 minutes early for our scheduled 9am tour (and he was!) AND, with our consent, he kept us out almost an extra half hour!  We paid for a 3 hour tour, and got well over 3 and a half hours!

Oh, and Rob actually drove our car for us, allowing us to focus on the tour.  He was exceptionally safe and careful the entire time, and I never worried about someone else doing the driving (and I am a VERY paranoid rider)!

As requested, Rob noted the involvement of the 52nd New York, even taking us to their monument!  Oh, and just to be a nice guy, Rob brought some print outs that he found relating to the 52nd!!!

Rob was very friendly and our tour was comfortable, but he was a total pro the whole time- he kept our time together focused on the battle.  It was amazing having an expert point out the structures and landscape that we had read about.

I cannot say enough about how informative and helpful it was to tour the battlefield with Rob.  YOU KNOW Rob gets our highest possible recommendation!

AND, hiring a Licensed Battlefield Tour Guide is a great value.  I would strongly encourage anyone going to Gettysburg to do this.  For two people to do a two hour tour, it is actually cheaper to do this than to ride on the tour bus for a couple of hours with LOTS of other people!  Go ahead and pop for a third hour though.  This is Gettysburg, and you want to take it all in!  It is worth it!








Saturday, October 10, 2015

Fulton Steamboat Inn- Lancaster Pennsylvania

Sometimes we visit a city, and we find a nice hotel to stay at.  We are impressed, we like it.  Still, the next time we are in town, we will likely stay somewhere else, just to experience something different.

Let me tell you why we will be staying at the Fulton Steamboat Inn AGAIN next time we go through Lancaster.

First off, the place is a riverboat inn- on land!  It reminded me of the Titanic in Gatlinburg...  You kind of see it at a distance at first, and it seems out of place... AND AMAZING!

So yes, it is a novelty kind of hotel, but it is beautiful.  AND they play up the whole steamboat thing.  I noticed a lifeboat, smoke stacks, and touches in our rooms and lobby that truly made you feel like you were on a boat!

I mentioned before in other posts that Lancaster is a vibrant, happening city, but it is on the edge of farmland country.  The Fulton Steamboat Inn is exactly in the middle.  We were a five minute drive from a couple of malls, and at short drive from Amish businesses!


A large duck pond, stocked with koi, is on the property.  We walked to one of the gazebos and watched the ducks as we wrote postcards to our friends in Kentucky.  It was very relaxing.

Oh, speaking of postcards!  I think I have mentioned before, we always send out a bunch of postcards while we are on the road.  I forgot to get postcards stamps before leaving, so I asked at the front if they sold stamps.  The very kind front desk girl kind of looked at me in a curious way.  She then explained to me that if we used the attractive postcards of the Steamboat Inn (they were FREE!) they would actually mail them out, stamped!

Think about that for a moment.  The Fulton Steamboat Inn has free postcards of the Steamboat Inn AND they put stamps on them for you and mail them out!  If you are like us, that's a pretty big value!  Other hotels should take note!

The hotel also offers some things that I loved, as someone who does not travel with children.  The top floor is available to adults only.  The pool is also open to only adults from 10 until midnight.  I did notice that some benefits are offered to kids here to balance things out, but I didn't pay attention to that.

Oh, I wanted to mentioned that we loved the bar here too!  We aren't exactly bar people, but this cozy spot, with all sorts of nautical d├ęcor just felt right.  The food was tasty and the bar tender running the show was a lot of fun.

We will be back to Lancaster's Fulton Steamboat Inn!





Thursday, October 8, 2015

Mean Cup Coffee- Lancaster Pennsylvania

I mentioned before that Lancaster PA is simply a great town.  Well, all great towns need a great coffee shop.  Mean Cup Coffee is Lancaster's perfect coffee place.

We found this place to be flawless.  It is roomy, with plenty of places to have a seat.  The staff and the locals were friendly and jovial.  Plus, there are GIANT monster paintings hung on the walls!  You can't beat that!

ALSO, they are walking distance from the local minor league ball park!  PLEASE don't tell me there are affordable apartments near by!  I have fantasized about a coffee shop like Mean Cup, located next to a ballpark!

AND, as I mentioned before, Lancaster is a nice city, with malls, a great downtown area, history, restaurants, etc., etc.  JUST on the outside area of town, however, there are large farms, green fields, and authentic country living.  You truly get the very best of both worlds here.

Back to Mean Cup Coffee.  We loved our coffee and pastries we picked up here.  The staff could not be friendlier (I picked up a couple bags of beans to go, and they drew a cartoon on my bag!) and the whole place just felt warm.

We couldn't leave without picking up a logo shirt and coffee mug (both reasonably priced, like their coffee).  Mean Cup Coffee is welcoming and casual.  I look forward to more visits to Lancaster and more coffee from Mean Cup.  They get my highest possible recommendation.





Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Old photo at Keeneland- Lexington Kentucky

I know Keeneland just started up again a few days ago......

This photo, found with others, simply notes on the back that it is Keeneland 1972.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

James Buchanan's Wheatland in Lancaster Pennsylvania

James Buchanan's former home, Wheatland, was the third of five President's houses we would visit on this road trip.

We arrived at the Lancaster Historical Society around 10.  The kind staff there immediately sold us a ticket for a tour about to start.

I wasn't exactly sure how this house tour would work, as I heard that you had to get your tickets at the visitor center, and then go to the house.  I was thinking that Wheatland was several blocks away.  It is literally right next door!  DOH!

Our guide was informative and animated.  She talked a lot about the norms and etiquette of the time.  She talked about how young girls at social evens might send signals to the boys using their fans!

This was a very Civil War directed trip, and the Civil War was brought up a lot at this visit.

We were told that the Confederates had eyes on getting to the former President at Wheatland, and Union officers were stationed here.

AND, a very strange Civil War AND Kentucky connection occurs through Buchanan!  His Vice President, John C. Breckinridge would become the Confederate Secretary of War!

This was a great home tour, in a great town, and I hope we make it back soon!