missvirginia on Dec 13th 2009
may have belonged to…Walt Whitman. In my dreams. Not kidding either. I got home Friday afternoon and yesterday after having a Guitar Hero/Band Hero marathon with my friends, I drove back to my house in freezing rain and contemplated this class. I remembered that I hadn’t done a post on the field trip to DC which, ironically enough, touched me the most in this class.
Meeting under similar weather conditions to the one today (i.e. cold with rain), I was still super excited to see everything. Even though I am a native Virginian, it takes about four and a half hours to get to Washington, D.C. and thus, I have only explored the city (minus trips to Dulles, traveling through or past, etc) once on a field trip in 7th grade. Sad, I know. So, I was extremely excited and and the whole ride up I was chomping at the bit to finally get out of the car and race around D.C. acting like Mrs. Whitman (Sorry, Brendan ;] ). I think pictures captured my favorite moment…you know, when I started tearing up and had to fight back a break down when his haversack was revealed to us. Even his hair or glasses didn’t have the same effect on my emotions as that old, crumbly leather bag. That bag saw things we can’t even imagine, it sat on the ground, on the ferry, on the wooden boards of hospitals. Who knows the kinds of dangerous, gangrenous bacteria that lived on it because of the hospital trips. Could that bag be the a main reason Whitman’s health declined so much? Would Whitman touch the bag, then touch his eyes, nose, or mouth with the same hand and, in that infinitesimal moment, compromise his wellbeing and health? It fascinates me to think “if only that bag could talk”. I wanted to hug and kiss our Library of Congress guide (her name has left me, I’m sad to say-Laurie Ann?) and just thank her for appreciating our enthusiasm and understanding our rabid adoration for this man who some Americans don’t even know about.
Flash forward ([shoutout] to a really great show!) to last night and my contemplation must have stirred something in Whitman. I had a dream where I sat with Whitman (in his last days, think the photo of him with his caretaker in a shipyard, I think it was) and we talked. I held his hand and told him that he left an imprint on my heart a hundred and half years from when he walked the earth. He told me it was simply coincidence that it all happened. He wanted something great to happen and feels like he achieved it with my experience. I don’t remember much more from that magical dream, but when I woke up I couldn’t believe it. I told my mom and she just frowned and said, “Oh, that’s weird…and kind of creepy,” while paying bills or something. I know no one else will appreciate this except for the people who traveled this Whitmanian journey with me. So there ’tis…I hope I meet him again in dreamland, maybe he’ll tell me he’s choosing Brendan over me, and if he does, I’ll just have to smile and hold his hand.
missvirginia on Dec 10th 2009
Walt Whitman Cinepoem – Uses readings from the first two pages of the 1855 Song of Myself from Leaves of Grass.
Abstract: Throughout the semester, I used the FlipCams to film the sun rising over the Potomac, walking to and from school, to work, on my way back from brother’s house in Westmoreland, just life. Some of the footage is from my own camera that does small, short videos. There are three pictures I used from google images and one from Facebook; the Korean conflict memorial (from Facebook), a photo of a soldier in Vietnam, a photo of a Middle-eastern man holding an automatic gun, the infamous photo of the little girl running who had napalm on her back, and picture of Whitman’s frontispiece. I used a few videos from Youtube which I converted using vixy.net. The videos include the mob scene (which is spliced into three different spots of the cinepoem), the bomb blowing up at 4:43, the homeless person digging for food at 4:45, footage of Bloody Sunday (London) at 4:49, the three children laughing at 4:53, footage of Devil’s Marbleyard in the Blue Ridge Parkway (which I have been there, but I did not shoot it) at 4:57. I selected to use one band, The Verve, and already had the music, so I just took it from my iTunes library and added it into my iMovie production. The song at the beginning of the cinepoem is Lucky Man and the song ending the poem is Bittersweet Symphony.
“37 Years Later, Girl in Vietnam War Photo Spreads Hope.” Web. 10 Dec 2009. <boards.library.trutv.com/ showthread.php?t=294622>.
“children laughing.” Youtube. Web. 10 Dec 2009. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4h8f38IaZU>.
“Bloody Sunday, 30.1.1972.” Youtube. Web. 10 Dec 2009. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuBaAzH7Kkw&feature=related>.
“Fred Phelps supporters attacked by mob.” Youtube. Web. 10 Dec 2009. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrFVjg79_iM>.
“view from Devils Marbleyard in the early morning.” Youtube. Web. 10 Dec 2009. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5sG9pOju0M>.
Whitman, Commercialism, and the Digital Age;
What does this mean for Whitman?
Today’s culture is centered on technology; literature and education are fighting to stay current. Gone are the days when families watched the sunset or sat on the porch after dinner to watch nature happen as their night’s entertainment. Also, gone is the age in which college classes are almost strictly taught by stuffy professors in front of simple blackboards, and with students writing not typing. Our seminar on Walt Whitman is a testament to the new age of education and that it is effective. Therefore, college has maintained its purpose and is still gradually changing for the future of collegiate education. Literature has amazingly survived as well, despite the odds of television, the internet, and radio; wait, not only has literature survived, it has evolved. The vessel of literature may have changed, the new technology has created another layer to analyze, but the message and meaning is still current and powerful.
The media world and literature have merged, most noticeably, in a commercial sense. Combining poetry to advertising, such as Langston Hughes’ poem A Dream Deferred used in a 2008 Nike advertising campaign, or creating movies based on renowned novels, like Pride and Prejudice in 2005, provide a transition of literature to the twenty-first century.
Walt Whitman is recognized as the culmination of patriotism, the voice of America and its culture. Through the different versions of Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman shed his skins and it is easy to see him evolve through with the augmentations he made in each edition of Leaves of Grass. However, when he died in 1892, it would seem that the changes in tone and voice died with him. Walt was dead, and Leaves of Grass would carry on, but it could not vary in tone anymore. However, this proves to be a shortsighted claim when the medium of Whitman is changing from wood pulp to computer chips, when the words on the paper turn into commercials seen by pixels through the computer chips. The changing of the medium has brought criticism and mixed emotions about the smooth (or failed) translation of Whitman’s message that is being reintroduced to a more 21st century-friendly medium. This evolution runs the risk of the works loosing pieces of their integrity, meaning, and being dehumanized.
In the summer of 2009, the denim company, Levi’s, took on an advertising campaign that features Whitman’s poems America and Pioneers! O Pioneers! “Whitman is an involuntary spokes-celebrity here” and the lack of control he has over peoples perception of his works (for instance, having them paired with video clips he did not choose) creates palpable tension. (Stevenson) The counterargument is the idea of simply getting Whitman to the masses, the route or direction does not matter. However, the most pertinent question is “who is using who”? Is Levi’s using Walt Whitman or is Walt Whitman using Levi’s?
When answering the first part of the question, Levi’s is using Walt Whitman, especially in the commercial that uses a supposed recording of Walt Whitman reading four lines from America. Yet, the message of the commercial is one that’s distinctly anti-capitalism. Ironically, capitalism rests on advertising and commercialism to keep the capitalist-cycle going round. From the first 15 seconds to 18 seconds of the commercial, it portrays a CEO look-alike being chauffeured in a slick town car, then he is behind a dark desk in front of a large, one-paned window that shows a cityscape with skyscraper-type architecture. Both times we see the CEO, he seems disgruntled and worried; this dark play on America’s uncomfortable state is troubling. With the market down and the war on terrorism a black hole, Whitman pops through the speakers and reminds us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel; there is beauty in us despite our plight. Thus, at the end of the commercial, the viewer is left with the sounds and sights of the ad. After 58 seconds of provocative, beautiful, and patriotic scenes, the last two seconds show a red Levi’s emblem while a definite gunshot is heard after fireworks are shown booming and lighting the screen.
When the viewer thinks back to the commercial, after almost a minute of Whitman’s reading accompanied with beautiful cinematography, Levi’s motive is to get the viewer to feel inspired enough to buy their specific brand of jeans (again, that capitalist pull, quite anti-Whitman). The demographic that Levi’s caters to are ages 18-34, most people beyond or younger than this may not feel the pull which the commercialized cinepoem seeks to enforce. The scenes of the commercial show people of all ages, from all walks of life, running, jumping, laughing, and watching other people; it is powerful in showing human nature and the unpredictable way of life. In Levi’s print campaign, they are using a tagline “specific to the economy, including ‘Will work for better times’.” (Clifford B1) Obviously, if the audience does feel the pull, then the capitalist game comes full circle and the people feel good because if they are buying something for “better times”, then the better times will be here soon. Right? The completion of that cycle, no matter how “American” capitalism seems, is not the America that Whitman was advocating or would be proud of.
Granted, Whitman’s own feelings towards commercialism are scattered and unclear. Whitman “himself had permanently mixed feelings on the subject of sales” and whether he should censor himself or make more “socially appropriate” moves in his own commercialism. (Earnhart 192) The lack of direction is unsettling. Whitman was very aware and keen of the business aspect of the written word; after all, he wrote his own raving reviews to help sell Leaves of Grass. However, because the advertising world has changed so drastically since Whitman’s time, it is hard to determine if any action using his works is justified. The answer to that question lies in the context of what company would use Whitman and to what means.
Having the Whitman seminar in a digital, evolving capacity is parallel to the way Levi’s, Starbucks, and other companies have digitalized and reintroduced Whitman. In the classroom, and classroom blog spanning four different college campuses, it combines traditional, meaningful verbal discourse and analysis with a new digitalized way of learning. This would be comparable to watching a cinepoem of a selected reading from Leaves of Grass instead a traditional reading and analysis of the same reading featured in the cinepoem. The traditional reading can provide a more personal experience and relationship with Whitman. The traditional classroom experience is somewhat stagnant, rarely do field trips happen outside of high school, but part of the multi-sensory class experience includes travel, correspondence with other students studying the same concept. The way the classroom experience leaves you with multiple understandings and levels of analysis, a cinepoem can alter, enhance, and even delude your perception of the poem. If a poem is being used only in the setting of a classroom to enhance the experience of the students, it still alters the original perception the student had of the poem. Thus, even if there is no commercial motivation in creating a cinepoem, the only original perception of a work of literature can be from the readers actively reading it for themselves. Anything other than that is tainting the original meaning of the work for the reader; which is never the intent of the author; especially when after their death, their work is used in something they never intended. Even in an innocent cinepoem, a reader’s perception of what Whitman was trying to convey could be drastically different from what they viewed in the cinepoem.
In conclusion, the digital classroom is valuable for creating a multi-sensory experience and provides layers for the students to delve into. On the other hand, a cinepoem reflects too much of what the director interprets and not the untainted message the poet was trying to convey in their work. If Whitman had been able to create his own cinepoems, or another type of multi-sensory experience, it is hard to believe that there would be a better way to interpret his poems other than his original text. Calamus and Drum-taps are both very personal works that almost feel invasive when imagining the images he describes and uses. Oddly enough, the invasive feeling means Whitman succeeded; how readers of his works come to care for him, his first person point-of-view creates a relationship with the reader that makes he or she feel like they could have been Whitman. All the feelings and emotions from the text of Leaves of Grass, without the help of a cinepoem or technology, still creates a plethora of emotion in the reader. Cinepoems are creating another layer for literature, but it is not yet obvious how long that will last. It is safe to say that the test of a truly good poem is when it can stand on its own for 150 years. Lucky for Whitman, it’s been almost 160 years since 1855’s fresh Leaves of Grass.
Clifford, Stephanie. “In New Campaigns, Spots Take On a Rosier Hue .” New York Times 12 Oct 2009, Tues: B1. Print.
Earnhart, Brady. “The Good Gray Poet and the Quaker Oats Man: Speaker as Spokescharacter in Leaves of Grass.” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 24. (2007): 179-200. Web. 8 Dec 2009. <http://www.whitmanarchive.org/criticism/wwqr/pdf/anc.00305.pdf>.
Stevenson, Seth. “Walt Whitman Thinks You Need New Jeans.” Slate (2009): n. pag. Web. 8 Dec 2009. <http://www.slate.com/id/2233597/>.
Wignot, Jamila, Prod. Walt Whitman. Dir. Mark Zwonitzer.” Perf. Chris, Cooper. PBS.org: 2008, Web. 8 Dec 2009. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/whitman/program/>.
missvirginia on Nov 17th 2009
Where I read, and show the signs in the video, are on route 24 in Appomattox County, Virginia. Zipcode 24522.
missvirginia on Nov 16th 2009
The one thing that really struck me in the reading, made me mad. MADE ME PISSED OFF!! Funny enough, it was in the first few sentences of the entire reading. “The master-songs are ended, and the man/That sang them is a name” from Higgins’ essay just enraged me. It was like someone just read over one of Walt’s poems and didn’t care about the life, the experiences he had, or anything that went in to the poetry. But then I felt better once I read Higgins’ hypothesis of how our Walt became “Walt Whitman”. His poetry being too “pure” is a beautiful way of putting how the poems seem to almost go beyond people today, go over their heads, and that is why he isn’t as “popular” as other poets.
Higgins’ four elements that made Whitman the icon that he is are nicely insightful and agreeable. One thing that I thought of immediately when reading that is how the timing of his poetry and life were quite impeccable for each other. Higgins’ third item in the list is how he made sex and the body possible in poetry. I have to say that if he hadn’t published most of the poems right after the Civil War (specifically the 1867 edition), the criticism of his “bawdy”-ness (no pun intended) would have been so much more and more scathing. Yet, the country’s idea of the human body was still evolving and changing rapidly; especially with the frankness naked soldiers had to be dealt with. There was no point in trying to be “appropriate” when a man had shrapnel covering his thighs and crotch area.
Using that as a segway, Pound’s chapter was hilarious! But I loved how he used America’s bad things, like the crudeness and hollow feelings that exist in this nation, both in a physical/geographical sense of the word and in the people. It was beautifully written to be realistic, complementary, and rude at the same time. I totally agree with Pound’s overall theme; there is no other American poet who captures the rawness of the nation. He represents the different areas, he mentions the forests, the streets, the beaches, and the people. He keeps most of the poems as if the reader were his eye. His descriptions of the scenes he writes about create a very distinct feeling for the reader; it is intimate.
In the selected readings on the blog, Hart Crane seemed to most channel Whitman. The punctuation, rhythm, and word usage screamed Whitmaniac I’ve never read Allen Ginsberg before, but America made me want to go buy a book of his. Especially America being so scathingly judgemental and ugly. Yet, people are that. People are beautiful too, and maybe because I’m such an optimistic people person the poem’s high criticism doesn’t bother me at all. I think Whitman would have appreciated the poem, but probably wished that there had been some sort of positive reinforcement that American, despite it’s issues is beautiful. But maybe, just maybe that is what makes America beautiful; that I can walk down the street and see a homeless person peeing on the sidewalk, that when I turn on the News at 6 there is rarely good news on. We look at those things like they’re ugly, but it’s part of humanity, it’s part of what we are living with today. So to channel Walt, embrace it and the ugliness, according to Higgins, will rectify itself in the future. We just have to keep plugging away.
missvirginia on Nov 9th 2009
Longaker’s biography of Whitman’s last months and days brought tears to my eyes. Since reading up on Whitman in the summer to prepare for this seminar, he and my step-father were always paralleling each other. They both were born in to poor, somewhat ignorant families, they each are/were selfless and generous, and they each were large, impressive-looking men in the height of their days. Not only that, he narrowly survived a severe staph infection in his back. While reading Whitaker, it took me back to the hospital rooms at UVA, hearing my dad’s rattled breathing as I would hug him goodbye. Thus, when reading for the entire semester I almost envisioned Whitman and my dad as friends, or parallels; I could see them doing what the other has done, whether it’s that which I’ve read about (Whitman) or which I’ve seen and lived with (my dad).
I started to get a catch in my throat while reading “On the Beach at Night”. If you couldn’t tell through my sentiments earlier (in posts, class, etc), I’m very close to my stepfather. In fact, I call him daddy and I truly feel like he was the best father anyone could have been to me. After reading Whitaker, I marked all the poems written after 1867 to read first since they were new to the 1891-92 edition. The title “On the Beach at Night” instantly intrigued me because I love the beach, my dad loves our time share and misses the beach house he used to have. Whitman’s imagery of the poem of the little girl holding onto her fathers hand sends my heart reeling.
On a more substantial note, I think Leaves of Grass was much like Whitman. Ever evolving, he did not stay the same for very long. He was more stable and consistent than say, Madonna, but I almost feel like when I am reading the different editions, he changed his persona just slightly. The reader can tell by the slight shift in style, punctuation, addition and subtraction of lines, and the tone of his later poems that he seems to have created a more appreciative persona. In the 1855 edition he is celebrating life, his words create a vigor leaping off the page to the reader. In the 1867 edition, it become slightly slower, his wording becomes more “correct” for the beat and tone of the poems. Finally, this 1891-92 version becomes a reminder to BE, to embody the vigor his 1855 edition evoked. In essence, these editions are a a sort of progression of his life. With the first, he is like an excited college roommate who can’t contain himself with his enthusiasm. You go along with their plans, no matter how hairbrained because they sweep you up into the ideas of it. The middle, 1867 edition is similar to someone realizing they can’t float along forever; at some point you must join the masses in attempts to be politically correct/accepted/maybe even sell out. The last, “death-bed” Leaves of Grass is like watching a grandparent encourage a grandchild to go out there and be crazy, but to appreciate it. To remind them that life IS precious and despite the excitement, there should always be an appreciation and acknowledgement that it is amazing. That we are amazing creatures.
I believe it would be unfair to Whitman to call one of the editions “definitive” and the others not. Despite Whitman’s advocacy for the deathbed edition, it seems impossible to me that a reader could realize all that Leaves of Grass has to offer if only reading one edition. Each edition brings a new era of Whitman and each invites a new, different vision to the reader, depending on edition read.
missvirginia on Nov 6th 2009
So yesterday, as I’m waiting at that huge four way intersection at Cowan Blvd. and Carl D. Silver Pkwy in Central Park, I’m looking all around, bored. I love watching the other drivers, too. People watching, in any capacity, is fascinating and hilarious. However, as I’m observing, I look up to see a somewhat gross, dirty looking man staring down at me, probably at my chest, and I immediately turn my head. Disgusted, I refuse to make eye-contact and so when I see his large 18-wheeler pull away, I turn back to watch it amble on. I look up at the smoke stacks and at that second I see the pitchy black smoke come in front of my view of some birds flying in beautiful formation, probably south for the winter.
This juxtaposition, this almost Venn-diagram like situation, immediately made me think of Whitman. As the black smoke dissipated, I could see the birds still flying. I started thinking if he imagined this hustly-bustly, always moving, never stopping to “take the path less traveled” kind of world. I can’t help think that he didn’t. Those traveling birds are probably one of the few things that Whitman would recognize in this day. They are one of the ONLY things in this world that we can look at and know that Emily Dickinson, Thomas Jefferson, Jackie Kennedy-Onassis, the slave in the fields…they all saw that long trek the geese make.
The world has become a different place. What would Walt think of this forum we are using to communicate with three other schools? Just like the smoke creating a haze through which I could barely see the geese, as long as we keep the focus on Whitman, keep the focus on academic analysis, and realizing Whitman as not just a poet but a person who we can all relate to we will succeed in traveling south like the those constant geese. We are simply seeking the warmth that Whitman can bring to our souls, not the southern sun.
missvirginia on Nov 2nd 2009
Whitman in these readings makes me melancholy and anxious. His interview, the anonymous one, made me curious. I was curious because in the very first sentence, it give the address of Whitman’s brother. Despite it being anonymous, we know the date it was done, the general vicinity in which the area that Whitman was to be visiting. Perhaps when this was published, people didn’t think that connections could be made, but if any one of us wanted to (or if anyone of us were crazy enough), couldn’t we track that address down? Isn’t that the scary part of GoogleEarth? Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that the interviewers candid-tone with release of the address almost makes me want to think that Walt didn’t realize that this was going to be published or something. Maybe I’m being a worry wart. However, his whole tone in the interview is adorable. He seems to be rather self-aware which is something I expected from him, but it was magical reading it from the page, imagining his voice emanating from a snowy beard.
He says that the “great feature of future American poetry is the expression of comradeship.” I wondered while reading if he was truly being “candid” or if he had his publicity, celebrity, and criticism in mind. I would like to think that he was simply stating how he felt about American poetry. He also mentioned how Emerson was pretty much THE MAN…and he used Emerson’s letter of “recommendation” for everything to advocate Leaves of Grass. Knowing that fact, I think the validity of his answers in the interview can be seen as a publicity “stunt” of sorts. I think he definitely believes that comradeship is the future of poetry in this country, but I’m not so sure he thinks that poetry is feudal or antique. Those two words might have had a different meaning then, but now it is not so complimentary.
In this reading of Song of Myself, I can sense an impending doom. Maybe not doom as in death, but I feel like I can sense his restlessness and almost irritation at getting older. He seems to put an emphasis on the NOW. “There as never any more inception than there is now, Nor any more youth or age than there is now,” he is telling his reader to appreciate their youth and vitality. “I am satisfied–I see, dance, laugh, sing” he writes, it’s apparent that we are entering the time of his ailing health, with the past tense quotation.
I wanted to cry at his “Walt Whitman’s Last”. “Every page of my poetic or attempt at poetic utterance therefore smacks of the living physical identity, date, environment, individuality, probably beyond anything known and in style often offensive to the conventions.” I wanted to knight Walt, I want to ring my arms around his neck and make him realize that he is still touching lives, and sometimes being “offensive to the conventions”. This later Song of Myself is more prophetic in a voice that realizes he is talking to the future, the future masses; “See, steamers steaming through my poems,” he wrote. Whitman, after a few critiques of his works must have known that he could possibly be talking to students in classes studying him, 160 years later. His continued use of the past tense in melancholic tones in Leaves of Grass trails a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. I am now yearning for a more vigorous, bodily Whitman. He’s still there, I know.
missvirginia on Oct 28th 2009
This is wonderfully done! I think this creates a link, a bridge between Whitman and today in such a visual, and musical way. The music, the videography. I’m in love. This is probably what I’ll use as a model for my project.
missvirginia on Oct 25th 2009
We do a lot of joking and poking fun at Walt’s sexuality and his lovers, yet we also realize that it has so little to do with him, HIM, who he is to us. His infatuation with Lincoln has also been the butt of many jokes in our class. It is humorous, and especially hilarious when imagining him having intense “eye sex” with A. Linc. Whatta stud. In “Memories of President Lincoln”, I moved beyond the tittering and giggling of imagining Walt and Abe in a love triangle with Mary Todd (what, with all her crazy seances and such). I realized that Walt’s love and cherishment of Lincoln was much like my admiration of my grandmother. She died when I was six, and was not someone I knew. I, of course, met her, but I have no recollections of memories, traditions, anything with her. Yet, despite people having diverse views of whether she was a nice person or not, deserving my admiration, I love her.
This sort of blind love for acts read about, pictures seen of, and rumours divulged, it creates a very intimate relationship, albeit one-sided. Whitman did not personally know Lincoln at all (at least that is what our records show), but this blind, one-sided admiration perhaps persuaded his readers to look at Lincoln with more understanding, kinder eyes. Especially with the religious language in “Lilacs” and “O’ Captain”, the trinities, the birth vs. death imagery, all create venues for the reader to connect with Lincoln, via Whitman. “O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring; Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west, And thought of him I love.” This one stanza contains both aforementioned points that Whitman used, and then some. Here, Whitman compares Lincoln to a “drooping star in the west”; incidentally, stars have a long, fruitful life, but when they go out, they pretty much collapse upon themselves, they die but leave a white dwarf behind. This white dwarf remains and (theoretically) continue to evolve into a black dwarf. I’m 99.9% positive that Whitman had no idea that his comparing Lincoln to a star, drooping in the west, would be so intense. Lincoln’s life, death, and legacy, leave him as an evolving, ever present, white dwarf.
Though we have read quite a bit of Walt’s poetry, his love in “Calamus” and the love he writes in letters about being a nurse are not comparable to his love in drum taps. The “Yeaaahhh, lets get this over with and reunify the nation” tone is contagious and most like the type of love conveyed in “Memories”. It is an exalted love, a love that realizes this national character is a man with faults, but because of being so real, becomes even more unique and desirable. Lincoln provides a unity that Whitman lacked his whole life. His father was rather absent, his family was poor, he had several siblings that were less than successful (including one that had some sort of mental impairment). With his family life as less than desirable, I think Lincoln represented a unified nation to which Whitman could father with his poetry, nursing, and love.
missvirginia on Oct 23rd 2009
Field trips have classically been (for me, anyway) painfully boring, filled with bratty kids who I didn’t like, and full of humiliation if my parents attended as chaperones. Thankfully, we’re in college so our parents won’t be attending, we don’t go to school with bratty kids (well…haha, just kidding), and now the field trips are in something so terrifically engaging that you just might be heavily judged if you say it was boring. Obviously, our field trip in Fred. was AMAZING. I have never felt so engaged in history before.
The walking tour was pretty cool, our guide, LeeAnn (?), was so knowledgeable and easy to talk to. The most interesting thing were the Innis and Stephens Houses. Only the Innis house was still standing, and had even been lived in up until the 1970s!! Crazy! Even though the house was closed to the public, it had many windows that we could see in, and we could see the bullet holes peppering one of the walls, and even outside the house there were a few bullet holes (or very large woodpecker holes). It was so surreal to be standing there, faces pressed up against the glass, imagining Martha Innis running back and forth between the two houses (I’m sure she did that as little as possible during the actual battle right on her front stoop), trying to get water and food to the soldiers needing it.
these pictures are from the NPS, since I only had the flipcam and not an actual camera.
As we were standing by the Innis and where the Stephens houses were, I couldn’t help but wonder if the old trees swaying in the warm fall breeze were witness trees. Alas, they weren’t but they were so old, and tall, and their girth was amazing that I think they were planted very shortly after the war. One of the most beautiful things I learned about was the Angel of Marye’s Heights. Richard Kirkland, a soldier from SC, heard a Union soldier calling out for help and asked his superior if he had permission to run onto the battlefield, mind you that’s where bullets were whizzing by and Union soldiers were collapsing from gunfire. Kirkland was allowed to run onto the field and give water and help to the man calling for help. This is his monument. I think that if Whitman could have met this Kirkland fellow and knew of Kirkland’s good deeds, he would be moved.
After the walking tour on Sunken Rd (by the way, the road was closed to public just a few years ago), we went to the Chatham Mansion, where Whitman wrote about seeing the amputated limbs. In fact, the catalpa trees where the limbs were, loaded up on a buggy with a horse or mule waiting patiently, WERE STILL THERE. I have a video coming soon, if I can figure out how to load it “correctly” to youtube. The Mansion also featured a rather interesting video, not quite as dry as one might expect coming from the NPS (the movie we saw before walking Sunken Road was rather interesting too). I had no idea that the mansion had such an extensive history, being owned and built back before the Revolutionary War. It was first owned by the Fitzhugh’s, then the Jones’, then the Lacy’s (the Civil War owners), when the Lacy’s left, it was abandoned for a while. Vagrants graffitied the walls, which are still shown when touring the house along with other paraphernalia of the Civil War. In fact, the room in which we viewed the movie was the operating room, apparently there are stains on the floor from blood as well (found that on the nation park service website!). After the war, the Lacy’s moved back but were not able to maintain the property appropriately. There were a succession of owners, then the Devore’s owned it in the 20’s and probably had some swinging parties there. The Devores tried to restore the house to its original state, which included altering it so it would pretty much never have the same architecture as when Whitman saw the house. After the Devore’s, the Pratt’s owned the estate then willed it to the NPS.
I will try to post the vids from the trip shortly!