I've been reminiscing about a memorable trip I took over a long weekend in 1996 to see the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.
This blog post is a thank you note to my best friend, Curtis Fears, who shared that trip with me.
I have known Curtis for more than forty years. That's a long time! We grew up on the same block in Joplin, Missouri. Only a year apart, we are also the oldest children in two large families. We went to school and church together. Our parents are still great friends to this day. We moved from Joplin in the mid-70s; Curtis and his family moved to St. Louis a few years later. Between the moves, school, starting careers, weddings, and raising families, we naturally drifted apart.
But, ironically, it was the Civil War that brought us back together. We reconnected in 1994 when my family visited Curtis and his family after we took our kids to Six Flags. We realized we had a mutual interest in history, especially the Civil War; hardly a day has gone by in the past 19-plus years that we haven't corresponded by e-mail, phone, or in almost-daily chess moves!
Owing to our shared interest - and the great blessing of that friendship - Curtis and I have taken several "history vacations" together.
Our first was in 1995 when Curtis invited me along for an already-planned trip with 10-15 other men to visit the Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi. We got up (VERY!) early on a Saturday and drove from St. Louis to Vicksburg. There had been bad rain in Vicksburg for several days and they almost closed the battlefield to visitors due to mudslides! Oh noooooo! All that way! But they kept it open and we had a great day at the park, saw the USS Cairo, and spent the night in the Balfour House, a wartime building turned into a bed-and-breakfast. Great trip!
And we couldn't wait to plan the next! And thus, our trip in 1996. I was living in the Chicago suburbs then. Curtis came from St. Louis to Chicago, we flew into Baltimore early the next day, rented a car, drove to Fredericksburg, and spent days visiting the town, the battlefield, the nearby battlefields of Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, and other sites. In addition to the history, a great memory was our dinner there the first night at the great Irish Brigade Tavern.
We both came home loaded with books. We also both took a lot of photos...on film! Can you believe it? (Curtis is an EXCEPTIONAL photographer and everything I've learned about taking better pictures I've learned from him).
Some of those from the Fredericksburg battlefield are below.
|Cannon mark the position of the Confederate right flank at Fredericksburg - Photo by James M. Schmidt|
|The famous Stone Wall and Sunken Road provided cover for Confederate soldiers during the Battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville - Photo by James M. Schmidt|
|Confederate dead after the Battle of Chancellorsville (May 1863) close to the same section of the wall shown above (National Archives)|
|Fredericksburg National Cemetery - Photo by James M. Schmidt|