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The Great Derb Birthday Civil War Battlefields Tour
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June 09, 2015, 10:29 AM
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2015-06-07al[1]

As noted yesterday, I spent last week, Sunday to Sunday, driving around looking at Civil War battlefields.  Here are a few more quick follow-up notes.  I may attempt a proper write-up later, when I've caught up with mail, email, Twitter, blogs, news, etc., etc.

It was an empty-nester family trip, i.e. Dad, Mom, and Toby, the Hound of the Derbyshires.  Setting up the motel bookings, I was pleasantly surprised at how many places now accept pets, usually with a nominal $10 or $20 surcharge.  For reasons I don't understand, the only exception was Richmond, Va., where it's hard to find a surcharge less than $50.

I've had emails from kind and generous readers in Virginia saying that if they'd known we were headed down there, we'd have been welcome to stay with them.  This we appreciate very much.  The warmth and hospitality of Americans is still, after 35 years in the U.S.A., striking and delightful to these Old Worlders.  However, if you have any kind of public profile, it's not wise to advertise your absences from home in advance.  You never know who's listening.  Heartfelt thanks to all who made the offer, though.

Other readers are curious to know where we went.  Well, bear in mind that:

  • We only had a week, so couldn't cover much ground.  We restricted ourselves to the Eastern Theater.
  • We actually had less than a week for battlefields.  Mrs Derb's interest in the Civil War is, shall we say, somewhat less than mine.  (She stopped getting out of the car for battlefield inspections round about Spotsylvania Courthouse.)  It was my birthday and we'd agreed to do whatever I wanted to do; but for her sake, in one of those compromises that keep marriages going, I agreed to a couple of side trips to Philadelphia and Richmond to look at places of general historical interest, which she does like.
  • On the overall scale of Civil War Buffery, I am the merest beginner.  (As I was reminded at each Visitor Center.  Do you have any idea how many books have been written about every single battle?) I therefore concentrated on the big-name sites.
That all said, the battlefield itinerary was:
  • Gettysburg.
  • Harper's Ferry.
  • Antietam.
  • Fredericksburg area. (Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse.)
  • Cold Harbor & Gaines Mill.
  • Petersburg.
  • Sailor's Creek.  (And yes, that's the approved spelling.  The older "Sayler's," favored for example by David Eicher, has been debunked.  Readers of iSteve please note:  Nobody ever seems to have spelled it "Sailer's Creek.")
Finishing up of course at Altogether a very successful, enjoyable, instructive, and often moving experience, which I recommend to anyone interested in history.

Thanks to the National Park Service employees (and in one case, the Virginia State equivalent) who were uniformly courteous, helpful, patient, and well-informed.  I'm not a fan of the federal government in a general way, but seeing the Park Service people at work almost reconciles me to paying my income tax.  Almost.

And a shout-out to the Radio Derb fan from Michigan who spotted me at the Burnside Bridge over Antietam Creek.  "Hey, aren't you John Derbyshire?  I love the podcast!"  Thank you, Sir.  I love Radio Derb fans right back; and I love even more how impressed Mrs D. is when this happens.