Thursday, October 24, 2013


Richmond, Virginia is an old city. Living in the Midwest, we can often overlook the fact that when we consider "old", say early 19th century, the east coast has places 200 years older than that. The locality we know as Richmond is a case in point. There was a settlement in the vicinity in 1609. The present city was founded in 1737.The James River runs just south of the downtown. Carole lives in a suburb and commutes about 15 minutes into downtown Richmond.

It's rather ironic that, in 2001, we visited Richmond for her post-high school graduation Civil War battlefields vacation. We stayed at a luxury hotel right off capitol square in downtown. (The hotel is still there. I forgot to photograph it when I was there.) This was the view from our hotel window in the morning.

The white speckles on the tree in the foreground are magnolia blossoms. The actual capitol building is in the upper center.

We were in Richmond to visit the Museum of the Confederacy. At the time, they were mounting the biggest exhibit assembled to date, of Robert E. Lee memorabilia. We knew nothing of this museum, in fact, the article where we noticed the exhibit called it an "unknown gem". Given the feelings provoked by the Civil War, a museum dedicated to the Confederacy could be a lightning rod for all sorts of ideas. As 'Northerners', we have our own feelings about this time in US history. Carole had done some research on the war and felt that Robert E. Lee's personal conflict was not as examined as it should be. She really wanted to see this exhibit, so we amended our travel route and added Richmond to the itinerary.

The exhibit was incredible. Lee was a much decorated and respected general when the war broke out. It's well-known that he chose to go with the Confederacy because Virginia, his home state, seceded from the union. It did not make him happy. He fought against people he considered friends. I remember seeing letters from Lee to friends where he talked about his anguish. I believe there were uniforms, weapons, paintings and Lee's death mask. We came away from the exhibit with a new-found appreciation of just how much the war took a toll on Lee personally. And we found the museum to be simply a repository for items from that conflict. They don't really get into the whys or the ramifications of the war. They present what they have as 'this is what this is'. It really is a gem of a museum and I would urge you to go visit if you're close by.

It's a three block walk from the Virginia capitol building. The park surrounding the capitol is very nice. In 2001, I took this photo as we walked from our hotel to the museum.

The steps lead to a statue of George Washington. In 2013, the fountain is still there.

The steps still lead to a statue of George Washington.

There's a small statue of Poe sitting off to the side. I don't remember seeing this before.

We did not take the capitol tour in 2001 as we were there for one specific reason. There is a new entry to the capitol building and it advertised tours. I didn't take the tour either as I was in downtown for two specific reasons; to see where Carole works and to visit the museum again.

I'm a big one on maps and certainly appreciate when an area is presented visually.

I entered the area of the capitol from the upper right of the map and walked to the lower left. Carole can see the building from her office area.

There is so much history here. I encountered this memorial plaque as I was walking to Carole's office.

This talks about the fires set by Confederate soldiers in April of 1865 as the Union army closed in on the city. Carole mentioned that several of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, were meeting in Richmond at a time when the British army was approaching the city. Thanks to some fast thinking, the army was delayed just enough to get those men out of Richmond and to Charlottesville, 70 miles west of Richmond. Had they not been warned to leave, the Revolutionary War might have been a mere skirmish. It's easy to forget that part of Richmond's history as so much was tied up in the Civil War. To rectify that, Richmond developed the Richmond Liberty Trail.

This is painted on the sidewalk. This is self-guided and goes all over downtown Richmond. There is no real beginning to the trail. I must have seen a half-dozen of these on the sidewalk in my walk. Further research indicates this trail overlaps with two other walking trails, both self-guided. It's so easy to forget that the US history here predates items with which I'm familiar.

I wanted to visit Cold Harbor Battlefield while I was there. In 2001, we visited Tredegar Iron Works, which is the 'official' starting location for Civil War tours in Richmond.

But, on Wednesday, when I set out, I copied one direction wrong and ended up in an area that didn't seem right. After driving around for an hour, I never did find the battlefield and felt that I could get myself horribly lost so, when I found I-95, I headed back to Carole's. It was only when I was looking through our 2001 trip that I found the battlefield map we'd picked up. I should have brought it along.

When you combine the history from Revolutionary War days with Civil War days, there is a lot to see. It appears Carole is going to be settled in this area for the foreseeable future, perhaps this is now her home. With enough visits, I can maybe get around to all these places. And the walking is good for me.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


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