Pix: The Coach at Dead Horse Hill.
Yes, another damned battlefield.
Paper presented and university travel funds  running out, The Coach and I packed our bags and headed out of the old confederate capital. Our next destination: Hagerstown, MD, to stay with The Coach’s college roommate and his wife. Their house – complete with a swimming pool – was going to be our ‘staging ground’ for trips into DC and NYC.
Mapquest – that notorious liar – told us that it would only take three hours to get from Richmond to Hagerstown. Since our friends wouldn’t be home from work until 6, 6:30 p.m., at best, we had lots of time to kill. Originally, we were going to check out some of the Confederate sites in Richmond, but a quick look at the NPS.gov website persuaded us to stop at the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. This site, located halfway between the two capital cities, was billed as the bloodiest land in the United States:
Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania–this is America’s battleground, where the Civil War roared to its bloody climax. No place more vividly reflects the War’s tragic cost in all its forms. A town bombarded and looted. Farms large and small ruined. Refugees by the thousands forced into the countryside. More than 85,000 men wounded; 15,000 killed–most in graves unknown.
Now, when I said “persuaded us” I really mean “persuaded me to be nice to The Coach and let him go to a battlefield or two.” I thought that we’d go see the movie at Fredericksburg, poke around the battlefield, then go see the movie at Chancellorsville and poke around that battlefield, then leave. Three hours at the max, you know.
Sadly, that was not the case.
We got to Fredericksburg and watched the film. That was okay. Then The Coach abandoned me (yet again) while he took a tour of the most important part of any visitor’s center: the john. Eventually, we made it outside where we walked along the Sunken Road and saw a house that had been shot up during the war. We yacked a little about how you never, ever give up the high ground – and how stupid it was to keep sending soldiers into an unwinnable battle. We also took a 45 minute drive around this battlefield, using the park map as a guide.
That doesn’t sound too, too bad, right?
It wasn’t until after we watched the film at the Chancellorsville visitor’s center that my three hour “in and out” plan hit the skids. Now, we already knew that we didn’t have enough time to see all four battlefields and I had already given up hope of seeing the grave of Stonewall Jackson’s amputated arm. But then we picked up the audio tour CD’s for two of the battlefields. I had thought that each one would be about an hour long (like the ones we had used in the past at other battlefields). Yeah, no. Each of the audio tours is at least three hours long. If you want to see the whole park, you’re going to need a couple of days.
What do you geek?
Not a three hour car tour through a battlefield
Self photo taken while abandoned in a battlefield museum
I guess I have a grown up version of ADHD because sitting in a car for three hours, driving around and looking at signs is just not my idea of a good time. Honestly, I believe that battlefields are better seen from bicycles and by foot – not by sitting on your hind end in a car. Plus, the Mustang’s passenger seat is not designed for people with short legs; after about two hours, my legs fall asleep and I need to get out for a walk .
As for the roads in Chancellorsville? Yeah, some of those back roads were just not suited to my Mustang’s low profile. The Coach drove my car through a creek that crossed a road. If that wasn’t bad enough, he also took my car off-roading down a gravel road full of potholes. So, when they call this “America’s Battleground,” they weren’t kidding: The Coach got an earful about how the Mustang needed survive the trip (as well as the next four years).
Ah, the art of marital compromise, crushed by battlefields and a Friday night rush hour around D.C.