Thursday, May 27, 2010

Two of my Sweeties

Last night my Number One Sweetie came home from New Orleans. Overall, he enjoyed his trip and his conference. And though he didn't care for Bourbon Street or gumbo, he did enjoy having Bananas Foster in the restaurant where they were invented; said they were the best Bs.F. he ever ate.

This morning I went up to my mother's place to meet Daniel, who had brought me my niece Elizabeth for the weekend. She's going to turn 10 on June 2. Daniel is going to take his older daughter, Madison, to a volleyball tournament at Penn State. Lizzie didn't want to go; she becomes bored with so many volleyball games.

We had lunch with Mom and then departed.

On our way home, I told Elizabeth all about the Battle of Fredericksburg and then asked whether she might share my interest in stopping by the Fredericksburg Battlefield, and she said yes.   So we did.

I think I may have recounted that story before in this blog, but here's the gist of it. Fredericksburg is halfway between Washington and Richmond, the two warring capitals during the Civil War. It was a major transportation hub, sitting on the Rappahannock River and having a major railroad junction nearby. So here came the Army of the Potomac, in December, camping out on the east side of the River.  On the west side was the town. Past the town, a small, open field affording no cover. In the middle of the open field, a deep ditch. On the far (west) side of the field, a sunken road bordered by a stone wall facing the field. Above the sunken road, a ridgeline called Marye's Heights.  (You can enlarge this map by clicking on it if you have that much interest in the American Civil War.)

General Lee rushed his army to the defense, situating heavy artillery along the ridge line and infantry behind the stone wall. As one confederate put it, "Not even a chicken could have lived on that field" once the Rebels opened fire, The Rebs had 10 days in which to reinforce their position and dig in, because due to someone's horrendous mistake, that's how long it took for the Union pontoons to arrive, allowing the Northerners to construct from them a bridge over the river. This they did under heavy fire and with high casualties.

Then Gen. Burnside ordered the first attack. Predictably enough, the Union soldiers were mowed down. Burnside ordered a second attack, with the same result, and a third, and a fourth and a fifth. Men were dying at the rate of 1,000 per hour. My reference book I'm pretty sure said there were 14 such doomed assaults in all, but the film we watched said 18. Burnside's junior officers had to talk him out of ordering more the next day.

President Lincoln, when he heard of this insantiy, fired Gen. Burnside.

I thought the battlefield itself was disappointing.  The open field has largely disappeared from new construction; we never located the ditch; and Marye's Heights were not nearly as high as I had imagined.  Elizabeth showed more interest than I did.  She wanted to stop and read the plaques and to walk through the cemetery, and in general, to see the whole thing, whereas I would've been happy to walk half as far.

This is supposed to be a hill? Well, it is a bit higher, in places, than it looks.

Afterward, back in the car, I said, "Well, that hill wasn't even high enough to make me out of breath when I got to the top of it.  Well, maybe just a little bit.  Were you even out of breath at all?"

And dear, sweet, wonderful Lizzie replied:  "I was maybe a little out of breath, but not enough to get the tears out."


Anam Cara said...

Your wall is in the print by Dale Gallon, commissioned by the Army War College Class of 1996.

On December 13, 1862 a series of attacks on the Confederate army positioned at Fredricksburg cost the Union army more than 12,000 casualties. The dead and wounded littered the ground in front of the sunken road at the base of Marye's Heights.
All night long wounded and dying men cried out agonizingly. One man - Sergeant Richard Kirkland, could no longer stand the wailing. He asked permission from General Joseph Kershaw to go over the wall and give water to the wounded. At first he was denied. Eventually Kershaw relented, but he still would not allow Kirkland to display a white handkerchief a sign of truce.
Thousands of amazed men from both sides saw the young man carry canteens to nearby sufferers. The federals held their fire for an hour and a half while Kirkland performed his mission of mercy.

whole story here:
and here

William Weedon said...

That's my family's stomping grounds, Anastasia! Our family's farm was (well, it's still there and still in the family, but no more a farm) was on the Rappahannock, up beyond where the Rapdian flows into it. My middle name is Chancellor for a reason! ;)

margaret said...

I do wish they wouldn't build on these places. It's hard to believe there isn't space anywhere else.

On Monday I will ask Lady Russell if she had a banana foster :)