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 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!