It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, but I promise, I’m still stumbling through history. This past year’s stumbles have taken me far and wide.
Mid-January 2015 found me at Fort Fisher, below Wilmington, at the 150th commemoration of the battle. I spoke on Saturday and Sunday and got to connect with quite a few folks. It was an awesome event and I am glad I was able to participate.
February found me in Kentucky, and I took the opportunity to visit the Red Bird River Petroglyphs. Does this rock really have multiple Old World languages carved into it? I can’t say. But it was an interesting visit.
In early March, I and that famous traveling pard of mine visited PARI – the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, in Rosman, North Carolina. Nathaniel was there working on his radio telescope project for the North Carolina Academy of Science. I was happy to visit the site established in 1962 as the Spacecraft Tracking and Data Acquisition Network. The tracking station was an integral part of the communications between earth and the Gemini and Apollo projects.
In late March, I had the opportunity to judge the regional North Carolina History Day competition in Asheville. It was once again a privilege to talk with young folks interested in various pieces of history. I look forward to being involved again next year. By the way – that famous pard of mine placed first in regional and second at state competitions.
Even later in March, I was in Durham. The famous pard of mine was at the North Carolina School of Science and Math for the North Carolina Academy of Science competition (he took first in the Earth Science category). While we were waiting, I had the chance to visit, for the second time, Duke Homestead. I really enjoyed walking around the grounds.
The first of April found me and that famous pard in Oak Ridge Tennessee. For the second time, we visited the Secret City. Nathaniel was expanding his National History Day project for the state event and got to do some behind the scenes research at the American Museum of Science and Energy. That afternoon, we took the Secret City Rail Excursion, something I would highly recommend.
About this same time, I spoke on a panel at the Greensboro Public Library, talking about the area and the end of the Civil War. It was a pleasure finally meeting Bill Trotter.
In April my 2015 book tour kicked off with the release of The Capitals of the Confederacy. I won’t drone on about all of the places I went, but let’s just say that I had multiple stops in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, and Alabama.
June brought my second visit to the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum near Savannah, Georgia. I seem to have a thing for Air Force Museums. Isabella, the Junior Traveling Pard, has a fascination with early female aviators, and her brother is really a World War II kind of guy, so they both loved it.
In mid-June, we traveled to Maryland and Pennsylvania. Nathaniel was competing in National History Day, and his science team, at e-Cybermission. So on this trip, I was just tagging along. Our first stop was the National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. It was fantastic seeing the Enola Gay, the Spirit of Tuskegee, and the Space Shuttle Discovery. I’ve now seen two of the Space Shuttles up close (and saw all of them launch at various times). While Nathaniel was competing, I took my younger pard to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland. Surprisingly, it was my first visit. While we were out roaming around, we hit Antietam National battlefield as well. This battlefield is my favorite (in the east) to visit. We also snuck in a visit to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Eventually, I’d like to visit all of the space flight centers in the United States.
Once all of the competitions and awards were over, we squeezed in some family time with a visit to Philadelphia. This included a visit to Independence Hall, the Benjamin Franklin Museum, the Betsy Ross House, and Laurel Hill Cemetery. We eventually worked our way over to Valley Forge National Park. I had an ancestor (or maybe two) under Washington who spent a winter of two encamped here.
We wrapped up our trip with a visit to Gettysburg and finally to Harper’s Ferry. I go to Gettysburg about every year. It was, however, awesome to be there in June to see the plethora of fireflies. Harper’s Ferry I had not visited in a long time (maybe 15 years?). It was neat to wander down the historic streets with my traveling pards.
A quick research trip in July allowed us to visit the Mariners’ Museum and Park Newport News, Virginia. This is a museum that had been on my list for some time, and we finally found the time! Their displays are top notch and I would highly recommend a visit. Seeing so many pieces from the USS Monitor was fantastic.
The first weekend in August found us back in Wilmington, and back at Ft. Fisher. I think I speak at the Fort at least once a year.
If you know us, then you know we spend a great deal of time working with various historic sites in the area. These included several programs on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Ft. Defiance in Caldwell County, Historic Rosedale in Charlotte, and Historic Richmond Hill in Yadkin County. I’ve always believed that history is a multi-sensory experience.
September found us at Cumberland Gap National Battlefield Park. As a home schooling family, it has been a great benefit to take the kids the places they are studying. Isabella just happened to be reading about Daniel Boone and we just happened to be heading in his direction. Not only did we visit Cumberland Gap (hiking some of the original Wilderness Road), but we visited Ft. Boonesboro as well.
October’s big trip was to speak to the Outer Banks Civil War Round Table. On our list to visit was the Wright Brothers National Memorial, once again, a place on my list that I had never had the chance to visit. I need to go back soon.
Early November brought a quick trip to Burke County. I was working on an article for a upcoming issue of Carolina Mountain Life and we took some time to visit some of the great history in the area. Later that month, I and that famous pard of mine had the opportunity to participate in a living history at Petersburg National Military Park. It is really something special to be able to get out and sleep in the trenches.
Last, but not least, was a quick a day trip the last week of December to visit the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. We went to see the da Vinci papers, but overall, NCMA has a fantastic collection dating from antiquity all the way to the present.
So those were the highlights of our year, Stumbling Through History. We’ll be stumbling along into 2016 before we know it!