Categories
Historic America

Northern Virginia Campaign: Visiting the Battlefields

Fought between the Union Army of Virginia and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia 160 years ago in the summer 1862, the Northern Virginia Campaign is widely considered to be Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s most successful military campaign. The Second Battle of Bull Run (aka Second Manassas) was its culminating and most famous battle, but the two armies fought over a half dozen skirmishes and minor battles over the course of four weeks. 

Only a few of these battlefields are preserved and open to the public. Many are simply marked with a roadside sign or nothing at all. The four parks that preserve and interpret battles from the Northern Virginia Campaign are Cedar Mountain Battlefield in Culpeper County, Manassas National Battlefield Park and Battlefield Heritage Park in Prince William County, and Ox Hill Battlefield Park in Fairfax.

Cedar Mountain Battlefield, at 9465 General Winder Road (off James Madison Highway) in Culpeper County, Virginia, is open daily from dawn to dusk. Cedar Mountain is an excellent example of private organizations coming together to preserve a historic site. Beginning in 1998, the American Battlefield Trust and Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield have acquired and preserved 498 acres. 

Categories
Historic America

Northern Virginia Campaign – Battle of Cedar Mountain

Fought between Union and Confederate forces 160 years ago on August 9, 1862, the Battle of Cedar Mountain (aka Slaughter’s Mountain) was a brief but bloody affair in Culpeper County, Virginia. The battle touched off the Northern Virginia Campaign, widely considered to be Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s most successful military campaign. 

The Northern Virginia Campaign culminated in the Second Battle of Bull Run, in which an entire Union army was nearly destroyed. This paved the way for Lee’s invasion of Maryland and the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day in American history. The campaign resulted in over 25,000 total casualties.

In June 1862, President Abraham Lincoln pulled Union Maj. Gen. John Pope from the Western Theater to consolidate scattered Union forces across northern Virginia, to buy time for Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan to bring his defeated army back to Washington, DC. Pope boasted “I have come to you from the West, where we have always seen the backs of our enemies.”

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Photography Roadside America

Stanley Theatre

The Stanley Theatre, 261 Genesee Street in Utica, New York, was built in 1928 as a “movie palace” and seats 2,963. It was designed by Thomas W. Lamb in a unique Mexican Baroque style, with terra cotta and tiled mosaics. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and today functions as a performing arts center.

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Photography Roadside America

McDonald’s Franchise Museum (demolished)

I grew up in Des Plaines, Illinois, so when a movie about Ray Kroc called The Founder (2016) came out, I’ll admit I watched eagerly for any mention of my former hometown. Ray Kroc was born in Oak Park, Illinois and he opened his first McDonald’s franchise on Lee Street in Des Plaines in 1955.

I passed by the McDonald’s museum hundreds of times, but never visited (it was actually a replica built in 1985). Unfortunately, by the time the movie came out, the museum had closed and was slated for demolition. When I visited a few years ago, the old sign and part of the arches had already been removed. Demolition was completed in August 2018.

Categories
Historic America

Flames on the Mohawk

Tracing Revolutionary War battles in New York’s Mohawk River Valley.

During the Revolutionary War, the Mohawk Valley in central New York was the scene of brutal fighting between patriots committed to American independence and loyalists committed to remaining under the British Crown. Many settlements and homesteads were raided and burned. Stone houses became “forts” where civilians and militia would take shelter during these attacks. You can still visit the sites of these battles and skirmishes today, though several are marked only with a small sign.

Siege of Fort Stanwix

The Siege of Fort Stanwix is among the most well-known Revolutionary War battles in the Mohawk Valley. British General John Stanwix ordered construction of this fort in the summer of 1758 to guard a portage connecting the Mohawk River and Wood Creek. Colonial troops under the command of Colonel Elias Dayton occupied and repaired the fort in July 1776 and renamed it Fort Schuyler. British forces besieged it from August 2-22, 1777, but were demoralized by a colonial raid on their camp and withdrew. It burned down in 1781.

Categories
Photography Roadside America

Madame Oar’s

Sign for Madame Oar’s and Tzer’s Gentlemen’s Club, 84 Court Street (U.S. Route 11) in Binghamton, New York. In Rocket Center, which features a neat Raygun Gothic sign. Madame Oar’s promises “…Heaven on Route 11” … Somehow I doubt that.

Categories
Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: Capt. Richard McRae

The “Cockade Monument” in Blandford Cemetery, 319 South Crater Road in Petersburg, Virginia, is dedicated to Capt. Richard McRae (1787-1854), commander of the Petersburg Volunteers during the War of 1812. The Volunteers fought on the Canadian frontier and helped defend Fort Meigs. They conducted a sortie against a British battery on May 5, 1813, but Capt. McRae, who was sick, did not participate. The Volunteers wore distinctive red, white, and blue ribbons, or cockades, on their hats, leading President James Madison to call Petersburg the “Cockade City”.