My Civil War journey started when visiting friends in Charleston where I learning the war began with a battle at Fort Sumpter in the harbor. Since then I’ve been to dozens of battle fields, museums, and memorials because the story drew me in. All the while my admiration for President Lincoln grew and grew. Finally today I visited the site where Lee surrendered his Confederate Army to Grant thereby symbolizing the end of the war. What an odyssey. What a galvanizing event. What a tragic story!
Appomattox Courthouse was a small settlement in the middle of nowhere. That’s where Wilmer McLean moved to get away from the Civil War after the first battle of Bull Run took place on his farm in Manassas, VA. McLean wanted nothing more to do with the war and moved to where he thought he’d be out of harm’s way. Ironically and unbelievably the war found him again in Appomattox Courthouse where two generals were looking for a neutral place at which to negotiate the South’s surrender. They found his home, occupied his front parlor and signed documents which ended the Civil War.
My next general stop was in Lynchburg, a town I wasn’t too familiar with except by reputation as being ultra-conservative. The Lynchburg Museum at the Courthouse was easily my favorite visit as the museum occupies a grand historic building, has a variety of very good exhibits, and a friendly staff. The new six-block Riverfront Park along the heart of Lynchburg was well done. Apparently it’s now used as the preferred city event gathering place. “Closed” was the most common sign I encountered: Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest home, Point of Honor, and the African-American History Museum. For what it’s worth, the Old City Cemetery was … alive!
Believe it or not there were still plenty of places I still had to visit. The National D-Day Memorial caught me by surprise by how big and impressive the facility is. The Booker T. Washington National Monument was a good find because I’m fascinated by anyone who can start life as a slave and rise to great heights. In Roanoake I walked around Center in the Square while taking note of all the things I couldn’t visit because they were closed: History Museum of Western Virginia, O. Winston Link Museum, Science Museum of Western Virginia, etc. Lots to do! Next time.
On my way home I drove past lots of places that were on my list and which I wouldn’t visit this trip: Natural Bridge Caverns, James River Visitor Center, Lee Chapel & Museum, and more. I’m glad Beth suggested I spend more time visiting local sites or I’d never have learned of the richness of Virginia.