April 2015 – Bowling Green, Virginia

The trip north from Petersburg to our new location between Richmond and Fredericksburg was a short one, less than 2 hours.  It took more time getting to and from I-95 than we spent on the interstate between Petersburg and Richmond.  Unlike the previous RV park which was old and run-down, R&D Family Campground was being nicely maintained.  While still a small RV Park, 4 miles east of US 301, it had all the amenities we look for.  The young gentleman running the park was extremely nice and helpful and the site was an easy pull-through site with full hookups.  He was constantly busy in the park, always with something to do to improve the park.  When we pulled up they were busy laying new crushed rock for the roads and sites and he was busy with many landscaping activities that added nice visual touches.  The bathrooms and showers were in older buildings, but you could tell they had recently been upgraded with new fixtures and flooring.  We would certainly stay here again in the future.

Campsite

The weather on Tuesday was rainy and cool, unlike the trip on Monday when it was sunny and warm.  However, we knew we had a lot to see in the area and could not waste the day, so we headed into Richmond to continue our exploration of the Civil War Battlefields.  We made the mistake of trusting our GPS to take us to the National Battlefield, which is set for the the Park Headquarters rather than the Visitor Center.  We had run into this before, but usually they are close together so this has been a major problem only a couple of times in the past.  This was not one of them.  The GPS did not take us to the Visitor Center, but rather to the Headquarters which are in the center of downtown Richmond!!  We will have to use the directions given on the website instead of trusting the GPS in the future.  Fortunately, the headquarters are also the location of the Chimborazo Hospital, which is part of the driving tour of the park.  Although not the only hospital in Richmond during the Civil War, Chimborazo was the largest covering over 40 acres with 100 wards divided into five divisions.  Each ward could hold 32 patients so the capacity was over 3000 at a time.  All of the structures were built in 1861 from wood are are now gone.  The location of the hospital is now a well maintained city park with a few memorials.  The small Visitor Center at Chimborazo is dedicated to the history of medical care during the Civil War and the many hospitals in the city along with a short film. KalAtChimborazo

After visiting this site we got directions from the Park Ranger to the main Visitor Center, which is located along the James River at the remains of the Tredegar Iron Works. The Visitor Center at Tredegar Iron Works is very well done with three floors of exhibits within one of the few remaining intact buildings of the factory.  The museum does cover the significant events during the Civil War around Richmond, but also includes extensive exhibits about the impact of the war on the citizens of Richmond and the importance of the Tredegar Iron Works.  The Tredegar Iron Works was well known prior to the Civil War and as it was the major iron work in the South, it was one of the reasons that Richmond was chosen to be the Confederate Capital and consequently one of the reasons taking Richmond was so important to the Union.  During the war it produced over half of the cannons used by the Confederates, most of the ammunition, the iron plates used on the ironclad warships, and much of the clothing.  However, they was a constant shortage of materials and labor during the war limiting the production to only about half of what it could have produced.  When Richmond fell in 1865, much of the industrial section of town was put to the torch by the evacuating Confederates.  However, Tredegar Iron Works was not burned due to 50 hired guards protecting the property.  There was also a nice film about the history of Tredegar and you could walk the grounds to see the remnants.  Unfortunately, there is not much remaining today as the factory was allowed to decay for decades following its closing soon after the Civil War.  In addition, the NPS has allowed the interpretive signs to deteriorate to the point of not being able to read most of them, so we were left with scratching our head as we looked at rusted iron structures sticking out of the ground.  It was still worth visiting even if the grounds were not very informative.

GregAtTredegar

By this point it was after lunch and we had not even made it to the battlefields around the city.  So we ate a quick lunch in the truck since the weather was too wet to eat outside and started the driving tour with our CD that we had purchased. Unlike the battlefields around Petersburg, which was a single long siege in 1864, Richmond was threatened each summer during the war.  There are battlefields from the Seven Days Battle in 1862 and the Overland Campaign in 1864.  In 1863 the Union never got closer than Chancellorsville up near Fredericksburg or there would have been locations for it as well.  Since General Grant was effectively blocked by General Lee from Richmond in 1864, his Overland Campaign shifted its focused on Petersburg which was the terminus of the railroads and most of the roads supplying Richmond.  Therefore, most of the battlefields close to Richmond make up the Seven Days Battle in 1862.  However, the tour did get a little confusing keeping the two time periods separate.

The Seven Days War was the culmination of General McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign, which is itself confusing since it began with the landing of troops using Fort Monroe at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay to the southeast of Richmond.  Therefore, this campaign sees the Union troops attacking from the south and east rather than from the north and west as you would expect.  Beginning with a battle at Williamsburg, the Union troops advanced to Richmond culminating with the Battle of Seven PInes just a few miles to the southeast of the center of town.  At this battle on May 31, 1862, General Johnston was wounded and replaced by General Robert E. Lee as commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.  Over the next month, the Union consolidated its position and began surrounding Richmond, however, General Stonewall Jackson was on his way from the Shenandoah to help defend Richmond and General Lee decided to go on the offensive.  The first stop on the driving tour is at the bluff overlooking the Chickahominy River where General Lee watched the opening Battle of Beaver Creek on June 26.  The next stop is the location of this battle along Beaver Creek where the Confederates were unsuccessful in crossing the creek.  However, General Jackson was approaching from the north and General McClellan began pulling back.  At Gaines Mill on May 27, the next stop on the tour, Lee continued to press with multiple attacks against the fortified Union position along Botswain Creek.  Once again, the Confederates were technically defeated being unable to take this position, but by this point General McClellan had decided to retreat back to the James River.  Thus began a race to the River with Lee trying to catch and destroy the Union Army.  At this point we had run out of time for the day, since it was already after 5:00.  It should be noted that the driving tour of the battlefield around Richmond is over 80 miles in length and simply cannot be seen in one day.

KalAtBeaverDamCreek GregAtGainesMill

The next day we returned to Richmond to continue our tour of the Civil War Battlefields.  In close proximity to the Battle of Gaines Mill that we ended with on Tuesday, was the site of the Battle of Cold Harbor which is the most significant site close to Richmond of Grant’s Overland Campaign in 1864.  By this point in the war, the Union was in the process of simply chocking the Confederacy with its naval blockade and the taking of Vicksburg and New Orleans eliminating any foreign supplies and Sherman’s “March to the Sea” which was cutting off the lower south.  The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was limited to supplies from Shenandoah Valley.  In addition, the South was running out of manpower for new soldiers, while the North was continuing to replace its losses with fresh troops.  General Grant knew this and was determined to press his advantage.  Even though he was technically defeated by an inferior force at Wilderness and again at Spotsylvania Courthouse near Fredericksburg, he did not retreat as past Generals had, but continued to press towards Richmond.  General Lee continued to deflect Grant away from Richmond at North Anna River and other minor skirmishes and Grant continued to move south and east around Richmond looking for a way to destroy Lee’s Army.  From May 31 to June 12, 1864, these two armies clashed again on the outskirts of Richmond at a crossroads known as Cold Harbor (named for a nearby tavern). Also by this point in the war, both sides had become adept at quickly constructing defensive breastworks and the Confederates had constructed 6 miles of entrenchments between Bethesda Church and the Chickahominy River.  The most severe fighting was on June 3, when the Union army attempted a frontal assault suffering between 3000 and 7000 casualties versus 1500 for the Confederates.  for the next 9 days the armies engaged in trench warfare, but no major assaults.  On June 12, General Grant surprised Lee by again moving south to the James River, which he crossed and advanced on Petersburg instead of continuing a direct assault of Richmond.  There is a very small Visitor Center at Cold Harbor with a quick overview of the battle.  There is also a walking trail around a small part of the 7 mile battlefield where you can see some excellent remnants of the defensive breastworks of both sides.  From this series of battles and tactical defeats from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor, General Grant learned that hastily dug breastworks with supporting artillery were nearly impregnable to direct frontal attacks and he changed his tactics from direct attacks to siege and stretching Lee’s limited ability to defend all along a front stretching from Richmond to south of Petersburg.

ColdHarborBreastwork2 KalAtColdHarbor

From Cold Harbor, it was time to continue with the Seven Days Battles as General Lee chased General McClellan as he retreated southeast to the James River in 1862.  There were brief stops at Savage’s Station on the Richmond and York Railroad where there was a brief clash with McClellan’s rearguard and again at White Oak Swamp.  Finally on June 30, the Confederates repeatedly attempted to take the important crossroads at Frayser’s Farm while McClellan continued his retreat and by the end of the day had failed to take it.  Once again the Union rearguard retreated to a position on Malvern Hill, the last of the Seven Days Battles.  On July 1, the Union set up their cannon and stood in battle formations at the top of a gently sloping hill with steep hills and swamps to their left and right.  The Confederates were forced to advance up the cleared terrain into the teeth of the Union artillery and counterattacking infantry.  The delaying tactics at Malvern Hill provided McClellan sufficient time to retreat to Harrison Landing on the James River and escape.  The NPS have recreated the battlefield conditions of the time and placed cannon at both lines.  There is a 1.5 mile walk that circles the battlefield with interpretive signs that include photographs taken after the battle that show the houses that are still there today.

GregAtCemetery KalAtMalvernHill

The rest of the driving tour is of the forts along the James River that played a critical role in both 1862 and 1864.  For the Confederates they protected Richmond from naval attacks which were attempted at the start of the Peninsula Campaign in 1862.  Fort Brady, built by the Union Army in 1864 was important in 1864 in protecting Grant’s supply base at City Point from Confederate ironclad warships out of Richmond.  Although they did not sink any of the ironclads, which were turned back before reaching City Point by the Union Navy, they did provide early warning of any movements.  We also briefly visited Fort Hoke, part of the inner defensive line of the Confederates along the river.  It was partially reconstructed by the CCC in the 1930s so is more substantial then the other forts, but visitors are not allowed any access to really see it.  Finally we went on to Fort Harrison which was captured by the Union in 1964 and turned against the Confederates who had to reestablish their defensive line to cut it out.  It was the largest fort around Richmond and was a severe loss to the Confederates, but the taking of the fort by the Union was more a diversion from the siege at Petersburg and kept Lee from diverting more of his troops to Petersburg.  This fort was really interesting and confusing because after taking the fort the Union had to build new fortifications towards Richmond.  The fort only had a front wall as part of the trenchworks, so the Union had to first build a back wall (now there front wall) and eventually expand it as well.  Therefore, the remains of the fort are confusing with a massive wall down the middle of the final fort.  By this point we were exhausted and it was getting past 5:00 again, so we did not cross the river to another Confederate fort (Fort Darling on Drewry’s Bluff) above the James River.

GregAtFortBrady

By Thursday we had enough of Civil War Battlefields for a while, but I wanted to finish up with the National Park Sites in Richmond.  In addition, the weather had turned back to light rain off and on all day, so it was a good day to spend in doors.  Therefore, we headed back to downtown Richmond to the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site.  Neither of us had any idea of who Maggie Walker was, but suspected she was important to the Civil Rights Movement since the Historic Site was in Jackson Ward that we knew was an African-American section of Richmond.  We were correct in our assumption as Maggie L. Walker was a teacher and successful businesswomen, as well as, being very active in women and African-American issues.  Born at the end of the Civil War, Maggie grew up during Reconstruction in the former capital of the Confederacy.  Even though the slaves had been freed by the war, they faced many challenges dealing with the “Jim Crow” laws and other methods of discrimination.  Maggie served as a shining example of what could be accomplished by hard work and meeting the challenges head on.  Born the daughter of a former slave and an assistant cook, Maggie grew up delivering cleaned clothes in Richmond while attending public school.  She also got involved in the Independent Order of St. Luke, whose initial purpose was to provide burial costs to its members.  The mission expanded under the direction of Maggie Walker, who eventually to top leadership positions in the Order, to include a department store, a local newspaper (the St. Luke Herald), and the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, of which she was the Director until her death.  She was the first African-American woman President of a Bank.  Her home in Jackson Ward in Richmond is the site of the National Historic Site.  Thankfully, following her death in 1934 the family maintained the house in its original state until it was given to the National Park System in 1985.  This area of Jackson Ward was the home of African-American middle class consisting of bankers, businessmen, and lawyers.  Maggie used her house as a example of what could achieved by African-Americans and filled the parlor and library with expensive furniture, statuettes, china, and books.  It is still a show place today and was truly inspiring.  The rest of the house is more utilitarian since it was also the home of a growing family including their two sons and their families as well.  The house shows the effect of numerous expansions over the years.  For example, there are two staircases to the second floor right behind each other, the room off the kitchen is a closed in porch still with a window that looks into the kitchen inside the house, the bedroom (later the payroom) in the back has an elevator they installed when Maggie was confined to a wheelchair, the hallway upstairs has steps that go down and immediately back up between the stairways for no obvious reason, there is a window in one of the bathrooms that looks into a bedroom which has been plastered over, and many other strange features.  In any case, it was a unique example of the lifestyle in the early 1900s and has been beautifully restored with all original furnishings.  We were fortunate to be just about the only visitors on a rainy morning in April, so we had the pleasure of a personal tour of the house by the Park Rangers.  I was able to ask a lot of questions and learn a lot about Maggie Walker and her family.  I should also mention the movie they had about her life since it is narrated by Maggie Walker from a recorded speech she gave to a classroom.  This was a unique way to learn her life history.  After we finished the tour and movie we made an early day of it and returned to the campgrounds for the afternoon.

KalAtMaggieWalker

Friday promised to be stormy and miserable so we took the day to do our laundry and make some reservations for the future.  I now have reservations through May where we will be visiting Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston.  Our goal is to make Maine by the end of June, even though a week around each city may not be long enough. The weather on Saturday was beautiful, so it was back to Civil War Battlefields.  Having completed Richmond, the next location were the battlefields around Fredericksburg.  You may have noticed, but we are once again seeing the battlefields in reverse as we did the Revolutionary War battlefields last fall.  First we learned about the siege of Petersburg which led to the end of the Civil War in 1865.  Then we visited the battlefields around Richmond which preceded Petersburg in 1864 and included the Seven Days Battle in 1862.  Now we were headed to Fredericksburg which preceded Richmond in 1864 and includes battlefields in 1862 and 1863.  The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park is made up of four separate battlefields: Fredericksburg in 1862, Chancellorsville in 1863, Wilderness in 1864 and Spotsylvania Courthouse in 1864.  Therefore, we knew it was going to take at least two days to see all of them.  After an early start, we first had to deal with the GPS system that once again took us to the Park Headquarters instead of the main Visitor Center in Fredericksburg.  Thankfully we were able to get directions to the Visitor Center losing only about 30 minutes.  Once at the Visitor Center we spent some time in a very good museum about all of the battles, however, the main focus was on the Fredericksburg battle.  Their movie gave excellent background, details of the battle, and the aftermath.  We purchased the Driving Tour CD for each of the battlefields and even had the joy of participating in a Ranger led talk about the Battle of Fredericksburg from both the Confederate and Union perspective.  The Ranger was from Germany, learning more English and History, before returning to Germany to teach at a Gymnasium, middle and high school age students.  After the failure of General McClellan to capture Richmond in the spring and summer of 1862 in the Peninsula Campaign, President Lincoln replaced him with General Burnside.  He was also planning on announcing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 and needed a decisive victory to help sell it.  Therefore, he ordered Burnside to get him this victory, even though it was November.  Burnside took the Army of the Potomac south towards Richmond, but had to cross the Rappahanock River although the Confederates had destroyed all the bridges.  He ordered pontoon boats to make bridges, but the order was confused and not carried out which allowed General Lee to bring the Army of Northern Virginia into Fredericksburg and for General Stonewall Jackson to come from the Shenandoah Valley.  After two weeks of delay, Burnside finally was ready to make his crossing on December 11, at three locations centered on Fredericksburg.  However, his crossing came under fire from Confederate sharpshooters hiding in Fredericksburg.  Burnside then shelled Fredericksburg to try and dislodge the sharpshooters with little effect.  This was the first time in history that the US Army shelled an American city.  Late in the afternoon, a single division crossed underfire by boat to clear out the opposition.  The Union army finally crossed over to Fredericksburg in December 12-13.  Over night the Union army sacked the town, which had been evacuated prior to the battle, under the eyes of the Confederate troops positioned outside of town on Marye’s Heights and Prospect Hill.  This so inflamed the Confederates that “Fredericksburg” became a battle cry for the rest of the war.  Rather then defending the city, General Lee positioned his troops at two key defensive positions.  His main force was along Marye’s Heights which is a hill west of Fredericksburg that the Union troops would have to attack uphill across open ground with very cover after crossing a 15 foot deep canal under withering artillery from three directions.  General Jackson held a line along the ridge of Prospect Hill, south of Fredericksburg, with mixed woods and open fields.  General Burnside ordered the main assault on Prospect Hill, not being aware that Jackson’s army had arrived and believing it to be lightly defended.  The attack on Marye’s Heights was to be a diversion to keep Lee’s main body pinned down.  However, his orders were not clear and the Union sent only a single battalion to initially attack Prospect Hill which was easily repulsed.  Through the day, the Union did make a brief breakthrough of the Confederate lines on Prospect Hill, but were driven back.  The fight at Marye’s Heights was much worse.  Not only were the Union soldiers facing charging uphill over mostly open ground under artillery fire, but the Confederates were positioned behind a solid stone wall along Telegraph Road that they could hide behind and they pop up when the Union was at point blank range.  By the afternoon, the Confederates were four men deep along the wall.  The Union sent battalion after battalion up the hill and progress was measured by how close they came to the wall before falling back.  The carnage was horrendous with the Union losing between 6000 and 8000 men in one futile charge after another.  Burnside had to withdraw back north across the Rappahanock without the victory President Lincoln was looking for. The Driving Tour CD was a big help in understanding the Battle of Fredericksburg.  It took us from the pontoon bridge sites to the Jackson’s positions on Prospect Hill and Lee’s Hill from which General Lee could see the action on both battlefields.  From there the tour goes back to Fredericksburg to Marye’s Hill, however, this is also the location of the Visitor Center and we had already explored it with the help of the Ranger talk.

BlogMayreHeights GregAtChatham

Even though by then it was after 2:00 we decided to push it and visit Spotsylvaina Courthouse as well, since we had four battlefields in the area and only two days. The Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse jumps two years in the Civil War in 1864.  It is the second battle of General Grant’s Overland Campaign that will culminate in the siege of Petersburg over the winter.  It follows the Battle of the Wilderness that is also nearby, but is the subject of another day.  After a couple of days of bitter fighting in the Wilderness, General Grant needed to change the battlefield to more open terrain where his superior numbers would be more effective.  So he moved his army south and east from the Wilderness towards Richmond and General Lee had to respond.  The race was on to occupy the crossroads at Spotslyvania Courthouse.  General Sheridan’s cavalry was given the task of clearing the Confederates from the Brock Road but was bogged down and delayed by General Stuart’s cavalry.  Meanwhile, General Anderson (who had replaced the wounded Longstreet) used parallel roads recently cut by the Confederates to barely beat General Meade’s advanced infantry.  Thus ensued the initial battle at Laurel Hill on May 8.  Both sides then dug in building trenches along a 7 mile front.  Over the next four days General Grant attempted to find a weakness in the Confederate line with the only limited success of Colonel Upton’s 5000 man regiment that briefly captured Doyle’s Salient on May 10.  Seeing this result with only 5000 men, General Grant believed that a concentrated attack with 20,000 men should be even more effective.  This attack came on May 12 along the portion of the Mule Shoe known as the Bloody Angle.  The Confederate Line was constructed with a significant bulge extending a mile beyond the rest of the line called the Mule Shoe.  This made it vulnerable and this was the site of the main attack.  In bloody hand-to-hand combat for most of the day the armies fought back and forth across the Confederate line.  The Confederates were able to delay the Union long enough to establish a new and shorter set of breastworks to the south that they fell back to on May 13.  For the next week, until May 18, there were numerous attempts to break the Confederate line with heavy Union loses.  Grant again decided to move the battlefield in an attempt to catch Lee before he had a chance to establish breastworks and trenches. Since this battlefield spanned over two weeks of fighting, it was confusing even with the assistance of the Driving Tour CD.  Besides the Bloody Angle where you can still see the breastwork over which so many died, the most impressive part of the tour was a short section of reconstructed breastworks along the new Confederate line south of the Bloody Angle.  You can really appreciate the difficult anyone would have in any direct assault of these fortified positions.  It also did not help that we rushed through much of the battlefield and the fact there was no movie to introduce the battle.   All they had was a kiosk with a short series of interpretive signs that really just added to the confusion.  Even though we hurried through it, it was still nearly 6:00 before we were done.  So we went out to dinner and talked about what we had seen throughout this very full day.

GregAtSpotsylvania KalAtSpotsylvaina

Sunday was our last day at this location and we had the choice of either returning to Fredericksburg or heading northeast to George Washington’s Birthplace National Monument.  Since our next location would still be 30 miles from Fredericksburg, to our south instead of our north, we decided George Washington’s Birthplace made more sense.  Besides we were both tired after the long day on Saturday and figured the National Monument would be a short day.  The weather on Sunday was great, cool and sunny so it was a pleasant drive through the Virginia countryside.  As we expected the National Monument is not very large consisting of small Visitor Center and a replica of a typical 1700s house with outbuildings, farm animals, and fields.  I was surprised to find out that George Washington was born at this location, but only lived for three years before his family moved to their plantation at Mount Vernon.  This was the homesite of the Washington family which dates back to the late 1600s and four generations are buried in the family cemetery.  However, by the time of Washington’s birth in 1732 the family owned many properties including what would become Mount Vernon and his uncle’s family continued to occupy this farm.  The original house burned down in 1791, shortly after the Revolutionary War, and was never rebuilt, so a replica of what was believed to be a typical wealthy Virginia farmer was constructed in 1932 in time for George Washington’s 100th birthday.  They have since located the original foundations for the home, which is close to the replica, and you can see from the outline it does not resemble the replica at all.  They have furnished the replica with period pieces and allow visitors to view the interior every hour through the day.  The grounds are beautiful consisting of a combination formal and herb garden, outbuildings including kitchen, washroom, and barns.  The farm itself is a demonstration farm for the 1700 time period, although we did not see any activity, except for the cows, sheeps, and hogs.  We also took a short drive to the family cemetery and wharf area along the Potomac River.  After lunch, we explored the woods around the house along a 1.5 mile Nature trial.  It was a pleasant day at a beautiful location along the Potomac and Popes River in the Northern Neck of Virginia.  As expected we were back early to get ready to move on Monday.

BlogReplicaHouse GregAtCemetery KalInCedarGrove

April, 2015 – Petersburg, Virginia

We choose a campground about half way between Petersburg and Norfolk/Virginia Beach as there were National Parks that we wanted to visit in both directions.  Thankfully, we had already stayed in the same area last spring with our pop-up at Chippokes Plantation State Park where we visited Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg, so we should be able to see the rest of the National Park sites in the area in just a week.  The drive from Greensboro, North Carolina was the longest pull we have taken since getting to Florida, being over 4.5 hours.  Thankfully, all but the last 40 miles was along I-85 which meant we had plenty of rest areas that would accommodate our RV easily.  The weather was cool and windy, but not too bad.  The access to Big Bear Family Campground outside of Ivor, Virginia was on narrow roads over 10 miles north off of US 460.  While paved, the roads got continually more narrow with no shoulders and no center lines.  We were just beginning to worry that the GPS did not know where it was going, when we arrived at the campgrounds.  The campgrounds themselves are old and all dirt and grass in a wooded lot.  The campground is not very large, having no more than 30 sites, they all have full hookups and either 30 or 50 amp electrical hookups.  Initially the owners drove me around in their golf cart to show me the sites they had available in the wooded 30 amp area.  I had trouble figuring out the sites since it appeared campers had been parking in every conceivable direction and he even gave me a couple of options on some of the sites on how we could situate the RV.  All of these sites were back-in sites with trees everywhere that were going to be a great challenge for me.  In addition, few of the sites were very level which made me worried about being able to level the camper.  After deciding on a site that I thought would work, especially since I would be able to come through another site without having to back up, he took me to the small 50 amp sites.  These sites are all side-by-side in an open field with the hookups between pairs of RVs.  They had one spot available on the end of the line that would be a breeze to pull into and out of.  Since it was fairly level without trees to contend with, I immediately jumped on the opportunity.  Very quickly we were pulled into the site and within an hour all hooked up and relaxing after the long day on the road.  (Notice how pulling the RV for 4.5 hours in the truck is now a long day!) After the past week of staying in the campgrounds, we were ready to get back to being tourists.

Campsite ViewOutFront

Selecting the farthest location first, we set out on Tuesday to find the Cape Henry National Memorial.  While we knew the memorial was not very big, with no Visitor Center or NPS rangers, I was surprised that it was not available in our GPS unit.  The closest I could find was the Cape Henry Lighthouse on Fort Story, so we proceeded there.  The lighthouse is located on Fort Story, which is an active military base for the training of special forces units.   Read this as “VERY SERIOUS”.  While we knew we would have to enter at the Visitor’s Gate, we did not expect the level of scrutiny and inspection we would receive before being allowed on the base.  We had to present our drivers licenses, car registration, and proof of insurance, agree to the search, and then open all doors and compartments for their inspection.  The only thing missing was dogs to sniff for explosives!  Thankfully, they do allow visitors to the lighthouse, but nowhere else!  We were told to stay on the main road to the lighthouse and to go nowhere else and were restricted to only 4 hours.  While not part of the National Memorial, the lighthouse is unique.  It is the oldest brick lighthouse still standing being built in 1792, just 10 years after the Revolutionary War.  It is no longer being used, having been replaced by a more modern lighthouse just a few hundred yards away.   We decided not to pay their “entrance fee” to climb the lighthouse, figuring we could see all we wanted to see from the outside.  The Cape Henry National Memorial is located just a couple hundred yards up the road from the lighthouse, so we just walked over to check it out.  I can understand why the National Park System does not have any rangers working the site, since it consists of nothing more than a cement cross commemorating the First Landing of the colonists that would choose a more defensible location for the colony of Jamestown further up the James River in 1607.  There is also a memorial and statue of Admiral de Grasse, the commander of the French West Indies Fleet that kept the British from reinforcing and possibly evacuating the British troops under General Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781.  Through his actions, General Washington was able to force the British to surrender, thus essentially ending the Revolutionary War.  All together, it took less than an hour to visit and explore all the Memorial and lighthouse had to offer.  Since it was now just past noon, we decided to go out to lunch at a very neat place that Kal saw on the drive in, “Taste” at Bayville Farms on Shore Drive.  They served very interesting “healthy” sandwiches and sold a lot of organic and natural foods mostly from the local area.  Seating was outside with easy jazz playing on their sound system.  We were still back at the RV by 3:00.

BrickLighthouse

On April 1, we headed into Petersburg to explore the Petersburg National Battlefield.  We knew that the Battlefield was fairly large during the end of the Civil War when General Grant finally defeated General Lee and captured Petersburg and Richmond leading to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.  What we did no not realize was how extensive the battlefield was since it was not a single battle like most of the other battlefields we have visited, but a 9 month siege!  Back in the summer of 1864, General Grant was determined to defeat Lee’s army and finally capture Richmond.  He first tried to capture Richmond directly in the spring of 1864 and was technically beaten at a couple of battles that we will see next week north and east of Richmond.  However, unlike his predecessors, Grant did not retreat to resupply.  Instead he continued to press the Confederates towards Richmond.  Then he surprised Lee by going south of Richmond on the east side and attacking Petersburg.  At the time Petersburg was the third largest city in Virginia, but more importantly, all of the railroads from the south and west terminated in Petersburg instead of Richmond, as well as, much of the shipping.  All of these supplies for the Confederate army was then moved north to Richmond.  Consequently, Grant intended to take advantage of this situation by taking Petersburg, thereby cutting off the supplies to Richmond and Lee had to try and defend both cities at the same time which stretched his forces very thin.  In addition, the Union army outnumbered the Confederates by over 2 to 1 so he was able to keep pressure on Richmond as well as Petersburg.  Finally, Grant’s headquarters were at City Point where the James River and Appomattox Rivers come together.  He created a massive supply depot to resupply his army through ships from the north by way of Fort Monroe on the Chesapeake Bay to be taken by railroad and roads all along the battlefront from Richmond through Bermuda Hundred to Petersburg.  They even built a military railroad from City Point to their positions at Petersburg.  As I said, Grant’s move to Petersburg surprised Lee when the Union attacked the entrenched positions on the northeast side of Petersburg, which were very lightly defended since Lee was concentrating his forces to defend Richmond.  Even though the attack began at 7 in the evening, by dark they had captured over 1.5 miles of trenches and forts.  If they had continued they could possibly have captured Petersburg right then, but they decided to wait until the next day.  This allowed General Beauregard to reinforce his position and soldiers were soon brought south from Richmond.  Missing their opportunity, Grant shifted his objective to laying a siege on Petersburg, by cutting off all five railroad lines and roads into the city.  After four years of war, both sides had learn the huge advantage in defending from entrenched positions.  So massive earthworks were more the rule than soldiers lining up across open fields to fire at each other.  It was remarked that the area to the east and south of Petersburg resembled a “prairie dog” town with all the trenches, redoubts, and forts for both sides.  Over the summer, there were untold number of skirmishes and a few major battles while the Union continued to make its way to the south of Petersburg.  By the time the fighting ended for the winter, they had managed to take all the railroad lines except the South Side Railroad on the west side of Petersburg and all the roads except the Boydton Plank Road to the southwest.  Both sides waited out the brutal winter living in crude wooden shacks on the battlefield with occasional skirmishes but no major action.  By March, General Lee knew that the situation could not continue, so he mounted an offensive to break through the Union lines on the east side to destroy and hopeful hold their railroad cutting off supplies to the southern troops.  He hoped Grant would have to pull back his forces relieving the pressure to the south and west.  The offensive lasted only a single day before the Confederates were forced back and Lee’s army was doomed.  At the battle of Five Forks to the southwest of Petersburg, General Sheridan’s calvary was able to gain access to the South Side Railroad on April 1, 1865.  Following up on this victory, Grant ordered a general assault on Petersburg which created a breakthrough of the Confederate lines to the southwest.  Only an heroic stand at Forts Gregg and Whitmore slowed the advance enough for night to fall and Lee abandoned Petersburg and Richmond over night.  General Grant continued to chase General Lee for the next week before they ultimately surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse to the east. As you can see from this description, the Petersburg National Battlefield covers a lot of ground and there was no way we would be able to see it in a single day.  Although we found out that April 1 was the 150th anniversary of the Union victory at Five Forks with a special ranger talk and celebration, we decided not to attend.  In the first place, it was over 20 miles away from the main Visitor Center in Petersburg and second, this battle was at the end of the siege and I wanted to see the battlefield in more chronological order.  Instead we watched the movie about the siege (which was very good), took in the museum, and purchased the Driving Tour CD which added a lot to the experience.

At the Visitor Center are the remains of Confederate Battery 5, which was the initial battery captured by the Union army on June 15, 1864.  From here they continued rolling up the Confederates through Battery 8 and 9, finally stopping on the banks of Harrison Creek, which are the next three stops on the tour.  At Battery 5 we took a short walk to the “Dictator” which is a huge mortar that was used to drop shells into Petersburg throughout the siege.

KalAtBattery5 GregAtDictator

Confederate Battery 9 was especially interesting, because they have reproduced the battery showing all the steps in the construction of these earthworks.  Along with a brochure describing the operation, you can see what the battery would have looked like new instead of after eroding for 150 years.  VERY IMPRESSIVE!!  There is also a loop trail that takes you to the railroad bed constructed by the Union army to move supplies from City Point to the battlefield. which was a nice walk in the Virginia woods in the very early spring.

Battery9

The next two stops on the Driving Tour are for the Battle of Fort Stedman where the Confederates mounted their offensive on March 25, 1865 attempting to break the Union supply line and Fort Haskell that was instrumental in stopping the advance.   While there is not much left of the earthworks at these two forts you can see from the lay of the land the difficulties encountered by the Confederates in taking and trying to hold Fort Stedman.  You can even still see the remains of the trenches that connected the two forts along the road as it goes down and then back up through the ravine between them.

The last two stops on the Eastern Front of the Driving Tour are for the Battle of the Crater.  The first stop at Fort Morton, which is completely gone due to farming, you look over a steep ravine at Elliott’s Salient, the location of the battle.  The Union forces used the ravine to organize their soldiers prior to the explosion that would start the battle.  A group of Pennsylvania coal miners had convinced Grant that they could dig a tunnel under the fortifications using the side of the ravine as their entrance, pack the tunnel with gunpowder and create a hole in the Confederate line at Elliott’s Salient.  Beginning in late June, the miners dug a 511 foot tunnel into the hillside.  The Confederates knew suspected this was going on and dug their own counter tunnels to listen for digging but were too shallow and never found the tunnel.  The miners used an ingenious system to supply fresh air to the diggers that was well explained on the interpretive signs.  You can still see the mine entrance and a couple of places where the mine has collapsed over the years.  At the end of the tunnel they dug two perpendicular shafts of 75 feet in both directions.  Gunpowder was then placed in these galleries and on July 30 the fuse was lit.  This part of the operation worked perfectly with the resulting explosion throwing dirt, soldiers, and cannon high into the air creating a crater that was 170 feet long, 100 feet wide, and 30 feet deep.  The Union troops moved into the gap created in the Confederate line and this is where the attack fell apart.  Never having seen an explosion of this magnitude the Union soldiers were as much in awe as the Confederates and spent time looking at and into the crater.  When they finally advanced, most tried to go through the crater instead of around it and since they had no ladders could not get back out.  Many others tried to use the crater for cover from the counter-attacking Confederates and found themselves trapped as well.  An terrible massacre followed and the Union lost another opportunity.  Although the crater is no longer 30 feet deep, it is still a very impressive hole in the ground and well worth many pictures.  By this point it was about 3 in the afternoon, so we exited the Driving Tour right at the highway leading out of town and planned to return for another day.

KalAtCrater

On Thursday, we continued our tour of the Petersburg National Battlefield where we left off with the Western Front which is primarily to the south of Petersburg.  This part of the front has more to do with the battles and Union fortifications that were built to cut access to the Jerusalem Plank Road to the southeast, the Weldon Railroad to the south, and ultimately the Boydton Plank Road to the southwest and South Side Railroad to the west over the fall of 1864 and spring of 1865.  Unlike the stops in the Eastern Front which are all within the boundaries of the National Battlefield, the National Park only owns the individual locations of the critical forts, so you are driving on county roads through the outskirts of Petersburg.  I was very surprised to learn that the National Park Service owns and maintains only the Union forts, except for one Confederate fort.  We learned from a local that the Confederate forts and fortifications still exist, but are either privately owned or public parks.  The Civil War Trust is working to purchase those still in private ownership.  Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to visit these locations and had to contend, for the most part, by those administered by the National Park Service.  We could have spent another couple of days exploring the entire battlefield.  The drive down the Plank Road was interesting since you could still see the remains of the trenches dug by the Union to connect the forts or both sides of the road.  We did stop at Fort Alexander Hayes which is a Petersburg City Park, but there was not much left of the earthworks.

South of Petersburg, along the Western Front Driving Tour, is the Poplar Grove National Cemetery, where the Union soldiers were moved to a year after the siege.  During the siege, soldiers that died on the battlefield were buried in either shallow pits or mass graves.  In 1866, this location was chosen to move the bodies which involved a tedious search by over 100 men of the entire battlefield.  Since most of the soldiers were buried with no grave markers, very few were ever identified.  This was also the burial location for those Union soldiers that died through the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.  While there is a National Cemetery for the Union soldiers, the Confederate soldiers were re-interred in Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg.

KalAtCemetery

The most impressive location on the Western Front Driving Tour were the remains of Fort Fisher and Fort Welch.  Fort Fisher is the largest fort constructed by the Union to hold the western end of their line over the winter.  It is easily three times the size of any of the other forts we saw on the battlefield and is in amazing condition.  You can still see the earthen ramps in each of the corner bastions used to mount the cannons, a few of the platforms used by soldiers to shoot over the walls, and the bombproofs or ammunition bunkers in the interior.

GregAtFortFisherKalAtFortFisher

Fort Welch is a short walk from Fort Fisher and is actually part of Pamplin Historical Park rather than the National Park.  Once again, Fort Welch is in amazing condition and although not as large as Fort Fisher, you can easily see the series of trenches and redoubts along the line between the forts.  This is also the location that the Union Breakthrough occurred on April 2 towards Fort Gregg and Whitworth.

GregAtFortWelch

The last stop on the Western Front is the only Confederate fort outside the main park that is owned by the NPS. There is not much left of the fort, but then there never was much to the fort since it was never finished.  From this location and then from Fort Whitworth to the north, the Confederates were able to slow the Union Breakthrough enough for night to fall, giving General Lee the opportunity to escape to the west.  Fort Whitworth is privately owned (I think) and you can see the advantages of being controlled by the National Park System.  While you can still see the earthworks of Fort Whitworth, they have been greatly eroded over time with trucks driving along the top of the them!!

FortWhitworth

From here, we drove southwest along the Boydton Plank Road to the site of the Battle of Five Forks.  This battle is located about 10 miles southwest of Petersburg and signaled the end of the siege.  All during the siege, General Sheridan’s cavalry conducted raids to disrupt supplies along the Boydton Plank Road and tear up track along the South Side Railroad, but the cavalry could not hold any of these locations alone.  In addition, the heavy losses sustained by the Confederates in the attempted offensive at Fort Stedman in March and continued efforts to attack Richmond, left the Confederates unable to defend this far from the city.  The trenches and redoubts did not extend this far from town.  In fact, we visited the White Oak Road Battlefield about 2 miles northeast of Five Forks which was at the end of the established fortifications.  Confederate forces were pinned down at this location by Union infantry to keep them away from the fight at Five Forks.  This battle began as another raid along the Boydton Plank Road to the Dinwiddie Courthouse.  On April 1, 1865 General Sheridan moved his cavalry towards the crossroads at Five Forks where five roads came together.  The only importance of the crossroads was the road to the north led to a depot on the South Side Railroad, which the Confederates needed to protect as the last supply line into the city.  General Warren’s 5th Corps joined the attack at Five Forks beginning with the north end of a hastily constructed defensive position along White Oak Road.  This position extended east to west with the crossroads at the center.  It was interesting to learn that two divisions of Union cavalry on this east end missed the end of the line and proceeded north behind their lines before they were informed and circled back to the crossroads.  This meant they were now attacking the Confederate positions in the rear and with Warren rolling up the eastern end, the battle was soon won by the Union.  This left unopposed access to the South Side Railroad which motivated General Grant to call for an all out assault the following day and Lee to evacuate Petersburg and Richmond the night of April 2.  Since these were temporary structures there is not much to see today.  However, the Visitor Center is a new building that is very nice, with a small museum and short video about the battle.

GregAtFiveForks KalAtFiveForks

By this point it was too late to travel north of Petersburg to the last location of the Petersburg National Battlefield at City Point, so we left this for another day.

After two days driving and exploring the Petersburg National Battlefield, we wanted something a little different, so we headed back to Virginia Beach to visit Fort Monroe National Monument.  With all the military bases in the area and our experience earlier at Fort Story, we were concerned that Fort Monroe would also be an active military base.  However, it was closed in 2005, so now it is private residencies and open to the public.  Our first impression of the fort was jaw-dropping.  With all the buildings that made up Fort Monroe outside the fort itself blocked any view of the fort itself.  Our first view of the fort was crossing a water moat on a one-lane bridge through a VERY narrow entry into the interior of the fort.  This was the only fort we have been to where you actually drive into the fort.  We did not realize at the time that this was the largest stone fort built in the US and is large enough to contain a small town, surrounded on all sides with a water filled moat.  We also learned that it is one of the newest additions to the National Park System, the bill being signed by President Obama in 2011.  Therefore, it is still a work in progress and most of the interior, which is filled with barracks and other housing, are private residences.  We do not know if they are privately owned or rented from the Government.  For these two reasons there is not very much for visitors to do or see.  Fortunately, the Casement Museum, built within the casements of the fort, has a long history and is the center for the National Monument.  The Casement Museum is very well done and we spent over two hours inside.  They take you through the entire history of the fort using mannequins, artifacts, and detailed explanations of each phase of its history.  By use of the mannequins in period clothing along with furniture and artifacts they do a very good job of showing what life was like in each period.  The location of Fort Monroe, or Old Point Comfort, on the Virginia Peninsula protects the lower reaches of Chesapeake Bay which provides access to Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg during the Colonial Period and Richmond during the Civil War up the James River.  The Chesapeake also provides access to the harbors at Baltimore and Washington D.C.  The colonists at Jamestown established the first wooden fort somewhere in the vicinity (the exact location is not known) in the 1600s.  Following the war of 1812 when the defenses were unable to keep the British from using the Chesapeake to burn Washington D.C., a stone-brick fort was begun in 1819.  The final phase of construction was done in 1834 with the assistance of First Lt. Robert E. Lee that was stationed there as an Army Engineer.  It became known as “The Gibraltar of Chesapeake Bay” and played a major role during the Civil War.  Fort Monroe was the only fort not captured by the Confederates and provided a naval base for the Union Army in the South just miles from Richmond, the Confederate Capital and the naval blockade of southern ports that eventually extended from the Atlantic to the Gulf.  Notable actions during the Civil War included the following: In May of 1861, Major General Butler, commandant of the fort, declared escaped slaves were to be considered “spoils of war” since the Fugitive Slave Laws did not apply to the southern states that were no longer part of the United States.  This was two years before the Emancipation Proclamation and Fort Monroe became a magnet for escaped slaves who called it the “Freedom Fort”.  In March of 1862, it was the site of the Battle of Hampton Roads between the CSS Virginia and USS Monitor, two of the first ironclad warships.  This signaled the end to wooden warships and proved the importance of the ironclads.  Later in the spring, Fort Monroe was the staging area for General McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign to capture Richmond and the rise of General Lee as the Confederate Leader.  Again in 1864, it was the major supply route for General Grant once his Army of the Potomac reached Richmond and Petersburg and where Major General Butler formed the Army of the James.  Following the Civil War, the casements in Fort Monroe were used as jail cells, most notably for Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy once he was captured in 1865.  The Fort was the first to receive many changes in armaments over the years and was the location for the Coastal Artillery School from 1907-1946.  By World War II, Fort Monroe served as major headquarters of an array of coastal artillery guns and training of naval officers.  In 1973 it was designated as the headquarters for the US Army Training and Doctrine Command.  Once you exit the Casement Museum you can walk the walls of the fort which is about 1.5 miles in circumference.  Along the walk you can see the many changes in gun emplacements and observation towers over the years, however, the National Park System needs to install some interpretive signs to inform the visitor about they are looking at.  I certainly don’t know!!  We did get a number of pictures of the views of the fort from on top of the walls.  Since at least the 1930s the wall has also been used as a pet cemetery by the families living at the base.  There is a huge number of graves with headstones and other small monuments, to their dogs and cats. There are a couple of locations, including the parade field and commandant’s house that you can see inside the fort.  However, I don’t know if they are open to the public, since by the time we finished with the Casement Museum and walking all around the top it was way past time for lunch and we were starving.  We drove out along the coast to a small picnic area.  At four different locations within a couple of miles are the ruins of four batteries of the Endicott System of forts with their disappearing rifles and mortars.  At least they did not install one of the batteries within the fort itself as they did at Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens.  They had fences around all of these locations to keep the public away, so you could only view them from the outside.  I doubt there would be much to see and we had already seen a number of these forts at other locations, however, I hope the NPS invests some time and money to restore one of them for the public.  They are certainly an important part of the history of Fort Monroe.

KalAtFortMonroe KalInWind

As expected it rained on Saturday, making it a good day for laundry and cleaning the RV.  I also got some work done on this blog. Sunday was Easter Sunday, so we decided to visit City Point, which is a part of the Petersburg National Battlefield.  However, it is 8 miles northeast of Petersburg, in the present day town of Hopewell, Virginia.  Although we did have to go to Petersburg to get there, we did not have to deal with the Easter traffic in the city.  At the time of the Civil War, City Point, was already an important harbor on the James River where the James and Appomattox River come together, thus serving both Richmond and Petersburg.  There was even an extension of the South Side Railroad at City Point to Petersburg.  Once General Grant decided to lay siege to Petersburg, while at the same time keeping pressure on Richmond, he used City Point as his supply hub for the entire war effort.  Supplies would come south by ship to Fort Monroe and then up the James River to the wharves at City Point.  The Union Army constructed eight huge wharves at City Point, warehouse, and roads, and railroad lines to transport supplies and reinforcements to Petersburg, Richmond, and Bermuda Hundred soldiers during the fall of 1864 through the spring of 1865.  It was a tremendous effort to maintain supply for over 100,000 soldiers in the field.  One sign said that they could bake bread at City Point and transport it to the front line troops around Petersburg while it was still warm!!  It was also General Grant’s Headquarters, which meant there were telegraph wires to all the battlefields in the region and even President Lincoln visited it twice during the siege to talk strategies and plans for the end of the war.  Most of these structures were temporary and used for less than a year, so there is not anything left of them that has not been reclaimed by the town of Hopewell.  The only structures remaining are Dr. Eppes Plantation house and a 1983 reconstruction of General Grant’s cabin that he used as his headquarters during the winter.  There are interpretive signs scattered throughout this part of town established by the city to give more information about this period of the Civil War including the Federal Prison and the location of the largest of the wharves, that is now a small city park.  It was a quiet morning, since there were few visitors on an Easter morning and we were back at the RV just after lunch.

KalAtCityPoint GregAtCityPoint

March 2015 – Greensboro, North Carolina

The trip north from Spartanburg, South Carolina to Greensboro, North Carolina is all along I-85 so we had plenty of nice rest areas to take a break and eat lunch.  The drive was only 2.5 hours, so it was an easy trip.  However, the Greensboro campground was certainly not my favorite place to stay.  Besides being an old KOA campground (right down to the red and yellow caboose in their playground), it was situated right to the side of I-40.  We could literally watch the cars and trucks going by at all hours and even speculated why a minor traffic jam would begin every evening around 9:00.  We later figured out that the next exit on the Interstate was closed over night for paving and the detour had all the traffic getting off at the exit for the campground creating a small traffic jam.  Thankfully, the RV is well enough insulated that we could not hear the traffic unless they were a “first responder” with their sirens on, which happened a couple of times in the middle of the night.  They did have full hookups and most of the sites were pull-throughs which made our life easier, but I would not stay there in the future.  I much prefer the seclusion of a state park or COE campground, even without a sewer hookup or only 30 amp electrical.  In any case, we were only there for 4 nights, so it was not too bad.

We had already visited all the sites we were interested in the Greensboro area last fall, so we figured we would be spending a lot of time in the campgrounds.  This would involve watching some more basketball, as the round of the “Sweet Sixteen” was Thursday and Friday nights with the “Elite Eight” over the weekend.  One reason I decided to book a campground close to a major city was to guarantee good TV reception.  We did have CBS on the TV, so we were able to watch the games they covered on Thursday and Friday.  Without cable, we did not have TBS, so we were stuck with the games CBS wanted to show.  Thankfully, this did include Wichita State on Thursday night and although they lost to Notre Dame, it was a good game and we enjoyed seeing our home town team do so well.  We then had to watch Kentucky, which was a supreme disappointment,  Not only because it would do no good to root against Kentucky, but West Virginia gave up in the first half and were creamed.  Easily the worst game of the whole tournament and we were forced to watch it instead of the much better game on TBS.

On Friday, we left the campgrounds for a couple of hours to do some shopping at Camping World for LED bulbs to replace a couple of the halogen lights that had already burnt out (I sure thought they would last longer!), Lowes for some tools to do some minor repairs on the RV, and Walmart for groceries.  Then it was back to the campground for more basketball.  At least the games between Duke vs Utah and Gonzaga vs UCLA were interesting.  By this time, the weather had taken a turn for the worst with light rain most of the day and near freezing temperatures over night.

Campsite InterstateAtCampground

By Saturday, the rain had stopped but we were definitely back into winter.  The temperatures never climbed out of the 40s all day and the water hose froze up over night.  Thankfully, I had unhooked it from the trailer so it did not cause any problems except for having to thaw out the hose on Sunday morning.  Kal spent the morning doing laundry and I cleaned the RV.  We were looking forward to the basketball games that evening, only to find out that they were being covered on TBS and not CBS!!  So much for having good TV coverage.  Without cable we were not going to be able to watch any of the games.  So we decided it was time to find a sports bar as we did last fall to watch Auburn football.  We located an Applebees that was not to far away and got there just as the Arizona vs Wisconsin game started.  We sat at the bar, I ordered a beer, and we decided to try out their appetizer sampler for supper.  This was a great idea, since we got to sample 6 of their appetizers ranging from brisket nachos to shrimp/pork wontons for less than we would have spent on a meal for each of us.  We were also able to spread it out over the two hours it took to finish the basketball game.  We got to meet some interesting people at the bar, including one gentleman who claimed his son was taking him to the Final Four.  After a great meal, a couple of beers, and an entertaining basketball game and company, we got up to leave only to find out our bill had been paid for!!  The waitress would not tell us who our benefactor was, but it sure a great evening even better.  The only regret I had was we did not stay for the Kentucky vs Notre Dame game which was a real good one with Kentucky almost getting beat by a small, yet hot, team.

Sunday was spent again in the campground and since the weather had warmed up a little, I was able to put some caulk on the RV where the boot in the back seems to be shaking loose.  I will have to keep an eye on this.  Hopefully it will make it until our annual checkup in the fall back at the dealership in Tennessee.  The basketball games on Sunday were both on CBS, so we were able to see the final two teams for the Final Four in the comfort of our RV.  While we did not get out to see any sights in the area, it was nice to spend a few days without any plans other than watching basketball for a few days.  On Monday, we will have a long trip to Petersburg, Virginia where we will be busy seeing a number of National Parks.  So if you expecting more information about our National or State Parks, stay tuned.  There will be a lot to see and talk about over the next couple of months in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the Northeast.