Burnside Bridge, Antietam Battlefield, Sharpsburg, VA. I'm on the Confederate side of the creek. The tree to the left was there at the time of the skirmish, oh, if only trees could talk!
The Bloody Road, Antietam Battlefield, Sharpsburg, VA. At the time of the battle in 1863, there would have been crops on either side of the road blocking the sunken road from view.
Caisons with Ammunition boxes at the Bull Run Battlefield, Manassas, VA.
St. Louis from the air. The Gateway Arch is to the lower left, and the big red thing toward the upper right is Busch Stadium!
Our week started at 12:10 AM Monday morning, we left with a bus load of kids for the airport for a 7:00 AM flight. The kids were so wound up that no one slept on the bus. We boarded the plane and some of them got a little nervous, out of the 33 kids we had only 5 or 6 had ever flown. Austin was one of the "never flown" kids and when we taxied down the runway his eyes were as big as silver dollars. He loved it, though. We had a layover in St. Louis, and on the descent we saw Busch Stadium and the Gateway Arch out the window. Austin flipped, he's a die-hard Cardinals fan. We left STL at 11:30 and arrived in Baltimore at 2:30, there's a time change so the flight didn't really take that long; a couple of hours.
We left the airport and loaded on the tour bus to begin our week. We were all exhausted, but kept going. Our first stop was Bull Run Battlefield. I did find out that the Union Army named the battles after a city and the Confederates named it after a creek or landmark. I guess people liked the Rebs names, because most of them stuck. To the Yankees, this was the Battle of Manassas. We left the battlefield, went to supper, then checked into the hotel. Some of our kids went to see the new Indiana Jones movie, but most of them just went to bed. I had been awake since 7:00 AM Sunday morning and this was now 9:00PM Monday night. I opted not to go to the movie, so did Austin, he was so tired he wasn't feeling very well. A shower and a good night's sleep perked him right up, though.
We left Manassas and headed for Harper's Ferry, WV. This is the neatest little town, if you have the chance to see it, GO! It's at the convergence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers and the site of the John Brown revolt. I had no idea it was an arsenal/armory and they made guns there. Since it was in West Virginia, it was the gun supplier for the Confederates....see why Johnny Boy picked that place to stage his rebellion. He wanted to cut off the gun supply to the slave owning states.
After Harper's Ferry we went to Antietam Battlefield (Battle of Sharpsburg for you Yankees). It was really interesting, but I'm a history buff. I only wish we'd had more time to see it, but we did get to stop in a couple of places. If you read about the Battle of Antietam it will probably mention the cornfield and the Bloody Road, I saw those.
From Antietam we went on to Gettysburg, PA for supper, then checked into the hotel, which had a pool. It was nice to let the kids swim and wear themselves out because we herded them back upstairs at 9:00 for showers and bed and no a single one complained.
Wednesday morning we headed out to the Gettysburg Battlefield. I had no idea it was so huge and that lots of the fighting took place in the town. There are some old homes that were built in the early 1800's that still have bullet holes in the brick from the Battle at Gettysburg. It was amazing to know we were standing on the same places that had once seen the worst battle in American History. So many lives were lost at Gettysburg. Once again, it is worth the trip, but plan on more than one day to see it all....in fact, if you want to see it all you'd better just plan for a whole week! It's a beautiful little city, too.
Wednesday afternoon we hit the Smithsonian in DC. The Natural History museum is a neat stop, but we didn't have very long. We left that one and went to the Air and Space Museum. It's pretty cool, but I really wanted to go to the National Gallery of Art, which we didn't have time to do. :( We had supper then got on the bus for night tour of the monuments and memorials. Unfortunately, a really bad thunderstorm rolled in while we were at the Lincoln Memorial, so we had to cut that trip a little short. We found out the next morning it was the worst storm they'd had in about 23 years.
Thursday's agenda was a guided tour of Arlington Cemetery and the memorials, which was really neat. The changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknowns was very moving. These guys are dedicated! We also saw the grave site of JFK and Bobby Kennedy. We went to the Vietnam Memorial (where I found a cousin's name on the wall and got a rubbing and took pictures), WWII Memorial, FDR Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Korean War Memorial, and a sashay by the White House. George and Laura were home, but we didn't get invited in since they were entertaining the Israeli heads of state. I guess 33 kids and 10 adults from Arkansas just weren't important enough!
We were supposed to go to Mt. Vernon Thursday afternoon, but the storms had been so bad around that area that the power was still out. Someone mentioned tornadoes in that area....I guess we took the weather with us! We went, instead, to the Holocaust Museum, and even though our kids were only 11, 12, and 13 years old, they were stunned by the cruelty suffered by some at the hand of the Nazis. We got to ride the Metro (subway) from near the White House to the Holocaust Museum, which was very cool for the kids.
After leaving the Holocaust Museum, we went to Alexandria for supper at King Street Blues BBQ then a walking "legends" tour of Old Town Alexandria, VA. We saw George Washington's "city" home when he was in the DC area and not at Mt. Vernon, we also saw the boyhood home of General Robert E. Lee. A couple of the streets are still cobblestone, and most of the sidewalks are brick from the early 1800's when there was a brick factory in Alexandria. It was very interesting.
Friday was our last day in DC. Since we didn't have much time we opted for a trip to the National Zoo instead of the National Archives and Supreme court. It was more fun for the kids in our age group than the Archives or Supreme Court would have been, although, many of them wanted to see the Archives just to see where National Treasure had been filmed.
The plane ride home was eventful from Baltimore to St. Louis. About 40 minutes from the St. Louis Airport we had to fly through a line of thunderstorms. It was very bumpy, and our landing in STL was the hardest landing I'd ever felt. Our flight from STL to Little Rock was delayed an hour because of the storms, but we made it back to Arkansas around 8:00 Friday night. What was even better was pulling in our driveway just after midnight. The trip was fun, and I'd love to go back and see more....maybe someday, but not with 33 kids.