Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Heart of the Confederacy

We have spent several days anchored in this great little spot where the James River loops around Jones Neck Island - what was an idyllic little anchorage on Friday afternoon turned into quite the thoroughfare on Saturday and Sunday though for bass boats, water skiers and wake boarding boats with Gypsies and September Song holding front row seats!!! While we took a bunch of wake from the boats buzzing on either side of us, they also provided us with tons of cheap entertainment as we got to witness one spectacular wipe-out after another - one that happened right next to us we were even asked to judge (we gave it an 8 on a scale of 10)!!! The best part of the weekend though was we got to spend time with our nephews Levi and Luke. Levi showed up on Saturday afternoon after driving his jet ski about 30 miles up the James River - it was really fun to see him come bombing into the creek on that beast of a machine - man can that thing fly!! Now of course we only go 7-8 knots so 50 mph looks amazingly fast to us especially but that's fast to be traveling on the water I don't care who you are!
Levi Arrives by Jetski
Levi is at the apprentice school at the Newport News Shipyard so we got to hear all about his work on nuclear submarines and "stuff" - way cool!! We had a blast hearing about his new life on his own and the crazy things a college kid does - oh those were the days!!! Then on Sunday, Luke and his better half Laura (yes all you General Hospital fans from the 80's, there's another Luke and Laura couple!) pulled up to the boat in Luke's 16 foot bow rider after having taken a wrong turn and traveled up the Appomattox River for about 20 minutes (sorry Luke couldn't let that one slide by - but we hear it is beautiful up there and it was a great day for a boat ride as it was stoking out - can you say 99 degrees!!!) They showed up with snacks and cold beer - did we say we love them? We all had a great afternoon catching up and cooling off in the water (I even broke down and dove in - I'm trying to get over my aversion to brown river water!!) Thanks guys (and Laura) for making the trips - it was awesome to see you all!! (God, now I even sound like a southerner....)

Yesterday we and September Song braved the 100 degree weather for a trip into Richmond to explore the heart of the Confederacy! We found a place not only steeped in history but thoroughly charming as well. We started off at the Civil War Visitor Center at the old Tredegar Iron Works - Richmond was the industrial and political capital of the Confederacy and the Iron Works, as the largest iron producer in the South and situated right on the James River with five railroads leading out from the city to various parts of the state and points south, was a large cog in the industrial engine that fueled the Confederate War machine.
Tredegar Iron Works and Civil War Visitor Center
These same iron works also were largely responsible for helping the South rebuild after the war. As such Richmond was a prize that was fought over during most of the Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression as it is often referred referred to here in the South) with battles being waged from 1861 through 1865 by the union forces in an attempt to capture Richmond. Many momentous battlefields where Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and then Gen. Robert E. Lee held off the Union forces of first Gen. George B. McClellan and then Gen. Ulysses S. Grant surround Richmond - far too many for us to view in a day! It was not until the city of Petersburg fell after 10 months of resistance that Richmond was evacuated and Union soldiers finally entered Richmond on April 3, 1865 - on April 9th Lee surrendered to Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse right outside of Richmond thus ending the War between the States. To say that for a history nut and especially a civil war history nut Richmond is the mother lode is no exaggeration!!
Statue of Abraham Lincoln and His Son Tad, Who Visited Richmond Three Days After Lee Surrendered

Due to the heat instead of traversing the Canal Walk which winds 1.25 miles along the James River and along several of the locks which make this part of the James River unnavigable (that and the 50 million rocks that are strewn across the river at this point), we set off in our air conditioned car to see the sights (thanks again to Doug's sister for not only letting us use one of their cars but from ferrying it here from Norfolk)!! We saw what from afar looked like the capitol but upon closer inspection turned out to be a building with a single sign "Newmarket". Not having any clue what that was and given the building's splendor our curiosity was piqued - Doug jumped on his new iphone and found out that it wasn't any historical building at all but rather the headquarters for a large multinational corporation - now that's what I call a building you'd want to work in!!!
From there we headed over to the Virginia War Memorial and were given a tour by a wonderfully energetic 88 year old volunteer named Jack - he told us he was too old to chase the ladies so had to find something to do once his wife died at 84 so he volunteers at the War Memorial and several other places in Richmond - hope I am vertical at his age let alone have his amount of energy and charm!!! The Memorial was undergoing lots of construction to make it even more striking than it already is - there are the names of all the VA war dead from WW II, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf etched on glass and marble walls with a beautiful marble statue of a woman. It is a poignant reminder of how many have died fighting for our freedom over the years.
Statue at the Virginia War Memorial
One of Two Walls of Names

Next we drove into Hollywood Cemetery which is one of the prettiest cemeteries I've ever seen as it sits perched atop the James River with its rolling hills and views out over Richmond and the rocky river (seems this part of the James while not navigable for boats like Gypsies is good for kayakers and swimmers out for a day in the sun!!).
The Rocky James River
Sunbathers on the James River
Too bad visitors are the only ones appreciative of such views! Here we found the Confederate War Memorial as well as the graves of many Confederate war heroes, including Gens. George Pickett, J.E.B. Stuart (who died during the Civil War), Fitzhugh Lee and President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis and his wife Varina. It truly was like stepping back in time to see the Confederate flags proudly flying and to see how many of the dates on the headstones were during the Civil War - there was even a separate section of the cemetery for confederate officers!
Confederate War Memorial
Fitzhugh Lee Gravesite
J.E.B. Stuart Gravesite
Jefferson Davis Gravesite
George Pickett Gravesite
Once we finally found our way out of the cemetery (should have stopped for a map I guess), we drove through some residential sections of the city with wonderfully eclectic houses and came upon Monument Avenue which is like no other street I've ever seen anywhere!!! It is a several mile long avenue lined with wonderful hard wood trees with a grass strip and monuments to Confederate war heros and others down the center in roundabouts. The entire avenue is lined with beautiful stately homes - of brick and white pillars, off-white italianate and every so often an entirely unusual design but beautiful nonetheless.

Many of the statues were of Confederate heroes (Lee, Stuart, Stonewall Jackson and Davis) but several were non-military - one is for Arthur Ashe, Jr. and another to Matthew Fontaine Maury, nicknamed the pathfinder of the seas and the father of oceanography. At each statue Bob and I would get out and walk around the roundabouts snapping pictures of not only the statues but the wonderful homes, churches and scenery that graced each site - we do after all have an obligation to our blog readers to capture as much of what we see on film as possible so you all can live it through our eyes (we of course also want to be able to relive our adventures in the future which pictures allow you to do)!!!!
Jefferson Davis Memorial
Robert E Lee Monument
J.E.B. Stuart Monument
Stonewall Jackson Monument
Matthew Fontaine Maury, Pathfinder of the Seas
Arthur Ashe Monument

Hot, hungry and thirsty after a morning of so much history and sightseeing sent us scurrying off to the Shockoe Slip area of the city (an area down by the water of converted old brick tobacco warehouses) in search of sustenance. We went straight for the Tobacco Company which is a really cool bar/restaurant that Doug and I had been to before a long time ago!!! We sat at the bar, sampled some local brews and had a great lunch.
Lunch at the Tobacco Company
Pausing only long enough to snap a few pictures with the Tobacco Co Indian and add a few cocktail napkins to our collection (they had really cool ones - we pick up a few at each bar we hit!),
Bob and Stephanie Pose Next to the Tobacco Company Indian
we set out again to finally see the real capitol building which was designed by Thomas Jefferson. Set up on a hill with a brick walkway lined with flowering gardens leading to it, the white capitol building shone majestically in the sun!
Capitol Building
On one side stood a beautiful statue of George Washington
Statue of George Washington
and on the other was the Executive Mansion where Jefferson Davis lived and worked during his term as President of the Confederacy.
Executive Mansion
While there is plenty more to see and do in Richmond, we called it quits for the day and headed back to the peace and quiet of the boats (the weekend was over so we lost all of the bass boat and skier traffic and had our peaceful anchorage back to ourselves!)

While we still had a car, Doug and I made a provisioning run that afternoon and were quite a sight lugging all that "stuff" down to the dinghy and then dinghying out to Gypsies. But even with several cases of beer and a liquor store stop, Hobos kept us afloat and we are now good to go! Doug has been down in the engine room all morning trying to get our fan belt and alternator on our port engine to behave - the plan is to later today head back down the James and anchor back in the Chickahominy River which we loved. The water down there was really clean for swimming and there is a cool sand bar and beach to hang out at (especially for sun pig and of course the September Song boat dogs!) Given the 100 degree continuing temps, jumping in the water sounds really good right about now!!

No comments:

Post a Comment