ECW Weekender: The Places We Return

This weekender is a little different…. Instead of sharing somewhere new to visit, let’s reflect on our favorite places to return to.

Yesterday (Thanksgiving) I was in downtown Fredericksburg for an event. My route out of downtown took me past the National Cemetery and Sunken Road. I checked the clock; plenty of time before my next engagement. The sunlight was perfect and I’m not sure how many more perfect end of autumn days we’ll have, so I decided to stop.

For a while, I was the only one there. The silent cemetery, deserted cannons on Willis Hill,  compassionate statue of Kirkland, bullet-shot Innis House, and sentinel wall.

I had been to Sunken Road several times already this year and I know I will be back again around the battle anniversary. It might seem like an odd place to go on Thanksgiving to some people, but for me it was a chance to return to important historic site on a beautiful day. And I started thinking about the places we return.

Why do we go back? Perhaps to research. Stand where an ancestor stood. Perhaps to feel alone and think. To feel small and humbled by the magnitude of what happened in the past.

I suspect most of us have a battlefield or historic site that is significant or special. A place we always return or always want to return. If you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear in the comments about the historic place that you return to visit and spend time.

As a final thought, perhaps stopping and returning to Sunken Road was the right thing to do on Thanksgiving morning. As I spent time at the Kirkland statue and walking through the cemetery thinking about sacrifice, a quote from General George S. Patton came to mind and seemed to frame the experience: “We should thank God such men lived.”

Where is the historic site that you always return or are planning to return?

About Sarah Kay Bierle

I’m Sarah Kay Bierle, historian, editor, and historical fiction writer. When sharing history, I try to keep the facts interesting and understandable. History is about real people, real actions, real effects and it should inspire us today.
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6 Responses to ECW Weekender: The Places We Return

  1. There are several places I’ve revisited over the last two years, and all for different reasons. This past August, I visited Antietam, Manassas, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg for a second time to share the experience with my husband who didn’t go with me on the first trip. I’ve been to Vicksburg twice, once for the battlefield and second for the cemetery because I was looking for a specific Union soldier who died there. And this weekend, I’m visiting Camp Moore in Louisiana for the second time this year, again to share it with my husband but to order a memorial brick for a soldier I’ve been researching. There are a few battlefields I want to visit again because I realized that I didn’t actually SEE all of it. Fredericksburg, for example. I only visited the Sunken Road, but not the Slaughter Pen. Same for Winchester, Chancellorsville, and Manassas. We saw the “big” stuff, but I learned there’s so much more than just the area around the visitor’s center. I wish I didn’t live so far from all these amazing places.

  2. Donald Smith says:

    I always return to Drewrys Bluff. I grew up not far from there, and occasionally worked there as a seasonal ranger for Richmond National Battlefield. The Confederate fort on the bluff looks out over the James River. There’s a Columbiad (a replica, I think) mounted in the fort, pointing down the river, just as one was during the Battle of Drewrys Bluff during the Peninsula Campaign.

    The James River flows through so much American history. Sitting at the Columbiad and looking downriver, you can’t help but ponder it all. Plus, the site’s visitation nowadays is pretty low, so it’s often quiet.

    • Harvey Coggin says:

      I grew up in Corinth and made many visits to Shiloh in my youth. I now live in Kentucky but enjoy any chance I get to return to Shiloh. Such a beautiful setting that has not been overrun by residential and/or commercial development. I see and learn something new every visit.

  3. Chris Barry says:

    For me it is to Culp’s Hill and the 65th NY monument there, where my great-great grandfather Corporal Timothy Carroll fought, and where I bring my APUSH class every year, and to Cedar Creek, where the 65th NY fought hard, Sergeant Timothy Carroll was wounded, and Lt. Col. Thomas Higginbotham, commander of the regiment was killed.

  4. Sarah,
    I return to Gettysburg year after year. There’s always something new to discover. This year, and my second 2019 visit, I hiked to the Lost Avenue. It was exciting to have been to a location few visitors find. In 2020, I’ll be there three times!! It’s always new!!

  5. Pingback: Week In Review: November 25-December 1, 2019 | Emerging Civil War

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