The Historic Wayside Inn

The Historic Wayside Inn
Sign for the Wayside Inn, 7783 Main Street (U.S. Route 11) in Middletown, Virginia. This establishment first opened in 1797 and was known as Wilkenson’s Tavern. Jacob Larrick bought the inn and renamed it Larrick’s Hotel, after himself. In the early 1900s, a new owner expanded and modernized the hotel and called it the Wayside Inn. Today it’s owned and operated by Becky and George Reeves.

Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia’s Historic Triangle

Step back in time and explore the former capital of Colonial Virginia, where Founding Fathers like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and more walked the streets.

Both an actual town and open air museum, Colonial Williamsburg allows visitors to walk the same streets as legendary figures from the past and explore authentic and reconstructed Colonial-Era buildings. You need a ticket to enter the buildings and museums, but you can walk the streets and enter the shops and restaurants for free. Historical and haunted tours are plentiful, including carriage rides!

You can also visit the College of William & Mary, second-oldest college in the United States, and Eastern State Hospital, oldest mental asylum in the U.S. and now an art museum.

In many ways, Colonial Williamsburg reminds me of Tombstone, Arizona, another attempt by a living community to reconstruct history. Like Tombstone, Williamsburg got left behind when its moment in the sun passed. Its historic buildings were modified and fell into disrepair over the decades after Virginia’s capitol was moved to Richmond in 1780.

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A Lost Cause

Monument to Jefferson F. Davis in Hollywood Cemetery, 412 S. Cherry Street in Richmond, Virginia. Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) was most infamously known for being the first and only president of the Confederate States of America, from 1861 to 1865. A Mississippian by birth, Davis also served as a U.S. Congressman, Senator, and Secretary of War. He spent his twilight years at Beauvoir in Biloxi, Mississippi and was buried in Louisiana. In 1893, his body was re-interred in Hollywood Cemetery.

A Lost Cause

Battle of Valcour Island

A roadside sign marks this little-known naval battle on Lake Champlain, which delayed the British advance for months and allowed American colonists time to rebuild their forces and eventually win the Battle of Saratoga.

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The Battle of Valcour Island was fought on October 11, 1776 between American naval forces commanded by Benedict Arnold and British naval forces commanded by General Guy Carleton in Lake Champlain near Valcour Island, New York during the American Revolutionary War. The battle was a tactical British victory, but delayed their overall military campaign until spring.

Roads in Northern New York were too primitive in the eighteenth century to move large numbers of troops and supplies by land, so control of Lake Champlain was key to gaining access to the Hudson Valley. Controlling this corridor was key to the British plan for linking their forces in Canada with those in New York City, severing New England from the rest of the colonies.

The Americans cobbled together 16 vessels to oppose a naval invasion. Benedict Arnold had experience as a ship captain, so he was put in charge of the American fleet. In August 1776, he sailed to the northern end of the lake, where he encountered a much larger British fleet. On September 30, he retreated to Valcour Island with 15 ships, while one left to be resupplied. On October 11, a British fleet of 5 ships and 22 gunboats appeared north of the island and sailed south to cut off the American’s retreat.

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A Trip to the White House

Home to our chief executive, the White House is a treasure-trove of historic artifacts and artwork rivaling the country’s best museums.

I recently had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour the White House in Washington, DC. Its simple neoclassical architecture and humble name hide the beauty within. Inside is a treasure trove of history and art rivaling the best museums in the country. Getting in, of course, is difficult but only requires submitting a request through your Member of Congress. Tours are free and security is tight–I couldn’t even bring my regular camera and had to settle for using my cell phone camera.

The self-guided tour starts in the East Wing, which was built in 1942, and goes past the presidential movie theater and a small gift shop into the ground floor. Visitors are allowed to view but not enter the Vermeil Room, China Room, and Library, before heading upstairs.

On the ground floor, visitors walk through the East Room, which is a large open hall, to the Green, Blue, and Red rooms (all decorated in their respective colors), through the State Dining Room, to the Entrance Hall. The Cross Hall, where the President sometimes holds press conferences or makes announcements, was roped off during our visit.

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Ox Hill Battlefield Park in Fairfax, Virginia

This small park preserves the spot where a Union general fell during the American Civil War.

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The Battle of Ox Hill (aka Battle of Chantilly) was fought on September 1, 1862 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny and Brig. Gen. Isaac Stevens and Confederate forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson in Fairfax County, Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was technically a draw. Union forces retreated, but succeeded in stopping Jackson’s advance. It concluded the 1862 Northern Virginia Campaign.

After being soundly defeated at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Union Maj. Gen. John Pope faced pressure to turn and attack Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. To retain the initiative, Lee directed Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps to flank Pope and cut off his army’s lifeline to Washington, D.C. Jackson’s exhausted men, however, moved uncharacteristically slowly.

Pope sent two Union divisions under Maj. Gen. Phillip Kearny and Brig. Gen. Isaac Stevens, totaling approximately 6,000 men, to block Jackson’s advance. On September 1st, though severely outnumbered, Stevens’ division attacked Jackson’s corps on Ox Hill. The attack was initially successful, but Brig. Gen. Jubal Early’s brigade counter-attacked and drove them back. Stevens was killed leading his men in a spirited charge.

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Robert E. Lee’s Greatest Military Blunders

By many accounts, Robert E. Lee was the greatest Civil War general, certainly for the South but arguably on both sides. But Lee’s record is not spotless, and he had his share of grave military errors. When Lee was in command of the Army of Northern Virginia, he racked up a total of 209,000 casualties (55,000 more than Ulysses S. Grant, who’s been derided as a “butcher”). Lee’s aggressive tactics were responsible for more than one bloody affair, in which he needlessly sacrificed the lives of his troops with no gain. The following were some of Lee’s biggest military blunders:

Cheat Mountain

Before Robert E. Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia, he was overall commander of Virginia’s militia. In 1861, the Confederacy’s prospects were dim in western Virginia, and President Jefferson Davis sent Lee to rectify the situation. That resulted in the “battle” of Cheat Mountain on September 12, 1861. Heavy rains, inexperienced troops, and quarreling generals resulted in a lost opportunity as 5,000 Confederates retreated from 3,000 Union soldiers camped on the mountain, earning Lee the nickname “Evacuating Lee” and “Granny Lee”. Lee’s failure to coordinate Confederate forces in western Virginia lost control over that strategic region, leading to West Virginia separating in 1863 and joining the Union cause.

Battle of Malvern Hill

In the summer of 1862, Union General George McClellan stood outside the Confederate capitol of Richmond with an army of over 100,000 men. Lee was given command of the Army of Northern Virginia, and he took aggressive action to drive McClellan from Richmond. At the Battle of Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862, Lee ordered an attack over an open field against the Union line, which was well supported by artillery. Despite murderous artillery fire, Lee continued to order reinforcements into the meat grinder, even though he was not present on the battlefield to observe the results. The Confederates suffered 5,650 casualties to the Union’s 3,000.

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