Wednesday, 25 July 2012
We begin our day with coffee and pastries at Hyperion Espresso, a popular corner cafe with plenty of outdoor seating, followed by a walk through the historic downtown. We make the short drive to the Fredericksburg battlefield and do the loop walking tour along the sunken road and stone wall, a scene of unbelievable carnage during the war. While most of the wall is a reconstruction, a portion of it dates to the original period.
Standing at that point, imagining the Confederate soldiers hunkered down behind it while waves of Union soldiers were cut down trying to cross the field in front is one of the more sobering and moving moments of our Civil War tour. Afterward, we hike up to the Federal cemetery on the hill above and then drive around the remainder of the park, stopping along the way at points highlighted in the guide book.
Next stop, Spotsylvania, where we hike to the site of the battle of The Bloody Angle, a wide open meadow between tree lines, yellow with late season wildflowers, and dotted with monuments to fallen regiments. Of particular note is the deteriorated remains of Confederate earthworks, another scene of bloody fighting lying now as a scene of calm and beauty.
Karen and I walk through the forest, tracing the route Colonel Emory Upton followed with his men on the charge, up the 200 feet of open field they had to cross toward the Muleshoe. Here is a true time-traveling moment, since the terrain is virtually unchanged since that day in 1864. Eerie and awe-inspiring.
Back in the car, our final stop of the day is Chancellorsville, which doesn’t offer as much to do, though we do make a point to see the spot where Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded.
Just as well. By this point, we’ve had our fill of battlefields, war and Civil War history. Hot and tired, we turn back to the hotel, driving along scenic byways all the way home. One last evening walk through downtown Fredericksburg to a recommended dinner destination, La Petite Auberge. Unfortunately, we don’t get the ambiance of the indoor garden since we’re seated in the restaurant’s unimpressive lounge, but the food is good. I have soft shell crab amandine, which is delicious. The creme brûlée, less so.