Wednesday, May 2, 2007


After spending half the day in trekking up and down Maryland Heights, plus some wandering around Harper's Ferry, we headed up the Shenandoah Valley to Winchester. Neither of us had ever been there so our first stop was the town Visitor's Center. She suggested a few sites downtown and gave us brochures for the driving tour, though we took them knowing we didn't have that kind of time as Winchester was not our last intended stop of the day. The first site suggested was the old courthouse (below) but it was closed which seemed very odd because it was 4 pm on a Tuesday. Next to our parking spot was some sort of chamber of commerce building that happened to be having a Kunstler exhibit. We walked the halls a bit but ran into no other people and were starting to wonder why anyone would visit Winchester.
The next stop was amazing. It was Stonewall Jackson's Headquarters. I went in not expecting much after the two earlier letdowns but this is truly a gem. This made our day. They have an amazing collection of Jackson stuff and Civil War stuff in general. Unfortunately they did not allow pictures inside so I can't share pics with you. One room was setup just like it was when Jackson was there. Apparently he liked the house so much that he described his room in great detail to his wife and those letters were used to replicate the room later. Jackson liked the desk so much that after he left the owner packed the desk away, quite literally the last person to use that desk was Jackson. His prayer table was also there. My loyalties are not with the Confederacy, so I don't want you to think I'm gushing over artifacts of my beloved Confederacy, I'm gushing over fascinating artifacts of the war. That stuff was cool enough but then our guide also showed us the chest that held the diplomatic papers that were being cared by Mason and Slidell when the whole Trent Affair erupted. Mike and I left thinking that it was sad that this place didn't list some of these gems in its brochure, it might get a few more visitors. Our guide said she thought they average about 20 people per day. I wonder how a place stays open with that sort of attendance. It was an amazing place that I'd gladly visit again.

Our next stop was the Stonewall Confederate Cemetery inside of the Mount Hebron Cemetery. Winchester was fought over a ton, locals said the town changed hands 74 times. That equates into a lot of fighting and a lot of dead. The Confederate section had monuments for each state, some simple but some pretty ornate. This also was land that was part of one of the five major battles in the Winchester area. Turner Ashby is also buried here. In the future I might do a post that deals with all the various monuments in this cemetery, there were a lot, too many to post today. Across the street from the Confederate cemetery was a National Cemetery. This also had quite a few monuments. Some were placed in an area that had a bunch of dead from that state. Others were monuments that commemorated the battles. I guess in the absence of a huge battlefield park to dedicate monuments a national cemetery seemed like the next best place. Below is the Pennsylvania monument. It reminded me of the Wisconsin state monument at Shiloh, which is a favorite of mine.
Next stop, Front Royal and Skyline Drive.

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