Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Day 2: Antietam and Monocacy National Battlefields

After our first night spent in Frederick, we headed out to Antietam National Battlefield.

Antietam is the site of one of the most important battles of the Civil War, as it is the site of the single deadliest day in United States history. Over 22,000 Americans were killed here, in one single day.

Its also where Clara Barton performed much of her nursing magic, and she is known as the Angel of the Battlefield. I try, when possible, to show the kids important women in history. We don't have many, so its great when I can find a good example.

This was our first time doing a Junior Ranger program at a national park.

I can't say enough wonderful things about the National Park Service, and its Junior Ranger program. Its an amazing way to get the kids interested in what they are seeing, and to appreciate their parks.

I had printed out a lot of the ranger booklets and maps and created trip folders for the boys. It was some work, but it was worth it. They LOVED their trip folders, and would consult in regularly during the first part of our trip. We did multiple junior ranger programs, and the boys never tired of it. I even had tears when we didn't do them.

Alex especially really got into his Junior Ranger assignment. He can't wait to go back to school and show his teacher from last year. I thought my heart would burst with pride when he made that announcement. Score one for Mom!

Another big plus for the National Parks is that, during 2011-2015, they are handing out 150th anniversary Civil War trading cards. More free bling! The boys were THRILLED with their trading cards, and we'll have to come up with a good way to display them.

But back to Antietam... they have a great visitor's center, with a very helpful short film to watch. The film helped bring the battle to life for the boys, and we did our best on the trip to try and see the films before the sites whenever possible. Outside of the visitor's center, there are a lot of cannons.

Boys love cannons.

We then started our driving tour around Antietam.

My favorite stop was at Burnside Bridge. It was a hike down (and up) to the bridge, but it was so picturesque, and for some reason, I find it easier to imagine a battle along a bridge than in an open field.

Then, it was back to the Visitor's Center to turn in our completed works and collect our first Junior Ranger pins. Score!

My original plan was to then spend the afternoon at Harpers Ferry, in West Virginia. However, we got stuck in some traffic that didn't move for over twenty minutes. At all. Turns out there was an accident on the bridge we had to use to get across the river into West Virginia, and it had stopped traffic. So, we decided to turn around, and head back towards Frederick.

We did some more geocaching, and visited some of the Chespaeake &Ohio Canal National Park. The C&O Canal stretches all the way from D.C., for over 180 miles. Turns out we had visited parts of it yesterday, during my poison ivy escapades. We were able to get our parks passport books stamped, and we spent some more time here, before we headed to... Monocacy National Battlefield.
Monocacy had made my short list of battlefield cites to visit, but I had cut it in fears we were doing too many for Ryan. But its location in Frederick, where we were staying, was too much to pass up. And I'm so glad we went there.They have an amazing visitor center, that is way more child-friendly than any of the other sites we visited on the trip. Light up maps that show the route of the battle, and soldier costumes to try on.

Along with all the heavy gear you would have to carry.

And if there is one thing Team Danger loves, its a costume. With props.

Adding to our special visit to Monocacy - we were there when the visitor center closed down for the day. We had spoken a bit with the park ranger, and next thing you know, he asks the boys if they will help him fold the park's flag they take down every day.

The boys were thrilled with this honor, and it was very touching. And thanks to the Scouts for teaching them the proper way to do this. :)

We then took our driving tour around the battlefield, which was fought in 1864, making this the latest battlefield site of our trip. One thing to note: these battle sites are HUGE, so you can't really walk them. And they are in the middle of private property at times, since the armies couldn't always just fight on empty fields. So you are often driving through residential areas before you get to different sections of the battlefields. Its odd, to say the least. And I can't imagine how those homeowners must feel.

Before we left on the trip, I had downloaded a bunch of driving tour podcasts for us to listen to as we drove along, thanks to Civil War Traveler (for free!!). Well, this didn't work out. Between reading the driving directions, and the bits in the NPS' brochure, and helping the kids with their ranger programs, we had no time for my podcasts. But I still think these would have been cool to listen to while touring the sites.

We were most intrigued with the Worthington Farm, which was the home of John Worthington during the battle, and tells the story of his son, Glenn Worthington, watching the battle unfold from the slots in his basement. Which is cool enough for the kids to think about. But when you add to this fact that my father, Brice Goldsborough Cox, was named after his great-great grandfather, a Brice Worthington Goldsborough, of Baltimore, and we started to realize this house could belong to an ancestor of ours. You can read a little about Brice Worthington on his grave site detail, which conveniently tells me that he was born in 1859 (making him five at the time of the Monocacy battle). I've tried to do some family research, but I cna't find a connection to my Worthington ancestors to these Worthington ancestors. But both families were in Maryland in the 1800s, and it at least made it fun to wonder if we were somehow related to the family who was watching the battle in their front yard.

Finally, dinner that night was once again in the wonderful historic area of Frederick.

I just loved this little town!

It was a perfect base for our triangle of civil war sites to visit, with great restaurants, funky shops, and a fantastic old main street.

Abraham Lincoln had stopped here on his way to Antietam, and gave a speech at this very corner (the railroad tracks are gone now).

Which gave my own little President Lincoln a chance to recite his living history speech. :)

Next: On to Gettysburg

Day 1: Blackbirds, Canals and Poison Ivy
Day 2: Antietam and Monocacy National Battlefields

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