2012 Road Trip Catch-Up: Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania and Chancellorsville

Fredericksburg, Sunken Road

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.

Fredericksburg, Sunken Road

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.

Fredericksburg, Sunken Road
A portion of the original wall.

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.

Spotsylvania, The Bloody Angle
The Bloody Angle

Spotsylvania, The Bloody Angle

Old, Knobby Tree

Spotsylvania Battlefield
Upton’s path.

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.

Upton's Assault on the Muleshoe

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.

Stonewall Jackson's Final Words

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.

2012 Road Trip Catch-Up: Manassas National Battlefield Park

Manassas National Battlefield Park

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

We start the day with a family breakfast and spontaneous mini-college reunion. We meet Tony, Laurie and her five-year-old daughter Beatrix for breakfast–so great to see Laurie and finally meet her (not-so) little one, adorable with personality to spare. During our meal, Karen’s college roommate pops by for an impromptu and very brief meet-up. Rebbie is days away from moving to Hawaii and just happens to be in Manassas at the same time we were. Thanks to Facebook postings, we’re able to get together for a quick catch-up over coffee.

We say our goodbyes to Laurie and Beatrix and follow Tony over to the Manassas Battlefield National Park visitors’ center to begin our personal guided tour. As we stand over-looking the Bull Run battlefield, he gives us a run-down of the First Battle of Manassas. Throughout the hour we’re there, other visitors wander over and eavesdrop on Tony’s lecture.

Manassas National Battlefield Park

Manassas National Battlefield Park

Stonewall

Manassas National Battlefield Park

Farm on the Manassas National Battlefield Park

Second Manassas BattlefieldNext, it’s time to see the sights of Second Manassas. We all climb into the car and drive from one battlefield to another as Tony tells the tales of what transpired in 1862. Tony really knows his stuff and communicates the history like a master storyteller, bringing the past to life. As a veteran himself, Tony’s first-person perspective of battle are given a certain amount of gravity. Four hours and as many stops later, we can’t believe how time had flown by. This has been a phenomenal way to immerse ourselves in history and we can’t wait to do it again, hopefully sometime soon.

After saying goodbye to Tony, we head back to the gift shop to buy postcards and walk the first battlefield, shooting photos in the light of late day. Next stop, Fredericksburg, our base for the next few days on the Civil War battlefield tour.

Our hotel is located in the historic section of Fredericksburg and we enjoy walking the streets (the same trod by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson) and window shopping on our way to dinner. We score big at yet another local/sustainable/organic eatery, Foode, a small, vibrant restaurant with fantastic food and an impressive beer and wine selection. Jan and I have the BBQ chicken, served over tasty mashed potatoes, and crisp green kale with cherry tomatoes and lemon. So good.

On our way back to the hotel, we walk over a bridge to get a peek at the nearby Rappahannock River, which is looking very low. After treating ourselves to ice cream at a local shop, we spend a quiet evening writing and reading.