Search

Appomattox Court House Internship

"Where our nation reunited."

Baseball, hoop skirts, and snakes, Oh My!

This week has been tremendously long but also with some fantastic visitor interactions, from the typical silly comments about the heat to some wonderful moments to really educate people.

Tuesday when I was in the McLean house I had these two couples come up to me and start asking questions. What I loved about this visitor interaction was the questions they were asking was the kind of stuff we NEVER get asked about. A typical conversation with a visitor in the McLean house goes “This is the parlor” “No those are not the original tables, General Lee’s table is in Chicago and Grant’s is in DC as well are the chairs.” “No, McLean did not come down here to get away from the fighting in Manassas. He was a business man” So on and so on…Then the visitors take their pictures and leave.

Well against the wall in the McLean house we have a map that depicts the subsequent surrenders after Appomattox, to show visitors that Appomattox was only the first of many surrenders, disbandment’s, etc. So these four visitors asked me about the map and I was discussing with them about the different armies and how huge of a deal Confederate History is in Brazil because some Confederates fled there after the war, rather than return home, and every year the people of Brazil celebrate these Confederados because there is a large population of people that would not exist otherwise.

GTY_brazil_confederate_festival_11_as_160425_14x9_1600

http://abcnews.go.com/International/photos/brazilian-city-celebrates-confederate-heritage-38650407/image-38651278

The conversation then turned to Nathan Bedford Forrest, whose name was on the map because he disbanded his army rather than surrender and we spent a few minutes discussing his history after the war in relation to the KKK. I told the visitors I honestly could not attest to his character one way or another as I do not personally know a lot about the man, so it would not be appropriate for me to tell them anything about his life. However THAT then turned into a conversation about the Battle Flag and the First, Second, and Third National flag, which I LOVED because people seem to only know of the Battle Flag and call it the Confederate flag and they have NO IDEA about the actual national flags.

da3931b0969f57fae1816612cb5d52d4.jpg

This image is a great graphic to show the different flags. For those who may not know why there were three different national flags, I’ll explain what I told those visitors.

The first national was the flag for the first two years of the war, but was soon changed because it often caused confusion because of the similarities the flag shared with Old Glory, especially when furled. So they changed to the Stainless Banner, which was the flag until early 1865, but it was decided to be changed because when the Stainless Banner was furled it appeared to be a surrender flag. Finally in early 1865 they adopted the Third National, and was used until the surrender in April.

So I discussed these issues with the visitors, and then they asked me the big question about slavery vs states rights. A topic that we discussed for several minutes and I told them about the Emancipation and how it was issued after Antietam to serve as a political move of sorts. I also told the visitors about how it had been in Lincoln’s desk for months, simply waiting for the right moment, and the reaction that it caused among the Northern Armies. We also got to discuss John Wilkes Booth a little bit, until finally they decided they felt bad for some reason, and wanted to leave me alone. I absolutely adored the interaction however and I told them that they were asking all of the right questions and that I did not mind talking to them all day if they wanted. The best part was, upon leaving the house for my next shift location I told another volunteer about it and he informed me the visitors raved about me to him! My ego was stroked ever so slightly.

13606731_10154480499576178_3384076982777269313_n.jpg

This little guy also made an appearance Tuesday morning down near the Kelly house. We put ropes and signs up around him to insure no visitors messed with him. He was only about two days old at the time, and the most darling little thing.

On Wednesday, I have to admit nothing particularly exciting happened except I went into the full parlor of the McLean house before and touched the mantle, something I had never ever done before.

13557677_10154483203356178_4682876224342434964_n.jpg

Yesterday was my Jennie Peers day, and the heat was extraordinarily terrible. I had to take many breaks in the upstairs break room, seeking comfort in the air conditioning, and I lasted about thirty minutes after my 1:50 talk ended, before I gave up and changed for the day. I had three talks yesterday, all of which were relatively decent, though the trend seems to be the second and third talks were the best. My second talk was particularly enjoyable and I had some darling little girls asking me a lot of questions after my talk. The funniest part was when they asked how my skirts stay so full, so their father turned around and I showed them how hoop skirts were made.

The heat and my dress however bring me to my next amusing visitor interaction.

I was sitting on the porch of the tavern with Jon who plays Private Dowler and a couple came up to us. They made the usual remarks about how hot it must be in my dress to which I said “Well what would you expect me to wear?”

The wife replies, “Well shorts.”

Me: “What are shorts?”

Wife: “They’re like pants.”

Me: “Well I daresay it would be quite unseemly for me to be wearing pants, ma’am.”

Wife: “Well it would be unseemly for me to be wearing that.”

Me: “Well ma’am, where are you from that the ladies do not dress like this.”

At this point her husband jumps in and says “Fort Lauderdale Florida, it hasn’t been discovered yet.”

I turned my head and looked at Jon who was trying with great difficulty to not laugh at this point. Then the husband points to the Peers house down at the other end of the village and asks me, “Is that a private residence?”

So naturally I responded “Well sir that is my home.”

Husband: “So it is where the park rangers live?”

Me: “Park rangers? I am not sure what you’re saying?”

Husband: “The seasonal rangers or staff live there?”

Me: “Well sir I live there with my husband, our three children, and a colored girl named Millie who helps me with the children.”

Husband: “…..You’re not going to break character are you?”

To which I simply shook my head and they went about their day.

Today was our annual Civil War baseball game, so I had taken the day off of work and decided to go out and watch the game. I dressed out as Jennie and wound up giving a talk this afternoon at 3:50.

There were two games played, Us, meaning the villagers, vs Y’all, meaning the Provost Guard. Both games, the villagers lost to the Provost Guard, for the second year in a row.

My talk was not particularly large, but it was a good group that listened and cared about what I had to say. One man, who was visiting from Spain, shook my hand, and thanked me for my talk, which I thought was rather nice of him to do. There were these very cute little girls who had rainbow colored hair, which I had fun with telling them I had never seen hair like that before and when they told me they were from Lynchburg, I acted even more shocked, since Jennie Peers was originally from Lynchburg.

In terms of my research lately, I tracked down grandchildren of the Peers’ through their little boy Charlie, but the great, great, great, great grand daughter that I messaged on facebook has yet to reply to me. I am going to try reaching out to her again, and if I cannot receive a response, then I am going to try and contact her brother. I simply want to see if they have anything new for me, and if not, then to make sure they realize how important their ancestors were.

13654390_10154492581911178_8186600551101477718_n

This is a photo of myself and my friend James as the Commanding Officer of the Provost Guard, Captain Geyser. James was one of my very first friends at the Park and we are never at the park dressed out together on the same days, so even though I am a Southern lady and he is a Yankee rascal (I kid, although this is true in real life…..again I’m joking) I wanted a photo of us together. 13620078_10154492580651178_5657946608242629439_n13590250_10154492580701178_827974746797823805_n13592395_10154492581171178_4869155775210682825_n13620138_10154492579391178_6697009216438069541_n

Preparing for the baseball game this morning. 13606759_10154492579721178_5228625988126417497_n13620725_10154492579856178_9150105100893349218_n13615041_10154492580196178_195455570360318027_n

Lastly, this morning during the game I was sitting with another living historian and I hear “Uh ladies.” Elizabeth and I both turned to see this little guy slithering under the fence and toward the tree.

 

Advertisements

Sackett Family History

Last week, on June 24th, was my best day of giving talks so far. Despite my 9:50 being a complete and utter disaster (I forgot stories, I told them out of order, got nervous, and it wound up being only 20 minutes).

Then my 11:50 and 1:50 were fantastic. I told all of my stories that I wanted to tell, got laughs out of the audience where I wanted them, AND THE BEST PART? My visitors were actually super interested and they asked questions!!!!!! It was incredibly thrilling for me to actually be asked intelligent questions.

All of that being said, I did have two silly questions one of which was a man who had been on my talk asked me as I was preparing to go upstairs to our break room, “Is that uncomfortable?” and he made a motion in front of his stomach…he was referring to my corset. I stared at him and then said, “I am not sure what you’re asking me.” Then the visitor got this awkward look on his face and he tried explaining he was asking me about my corset and his wife goes “That is not an appropriate question to ask a lady.”

The other one I had, was as I was going upstairs to the guest house to change out of my clothes for the day a visitor asked me what some of the buildings in that general area were and I told him and then another visitor walking by goes “Do you own slaves ma’am?” Again I stopped in my tracks and simply said, “No one owns slaves anymore, sir.” Then continued about my day.

So this past Thursday, the 29th. I had an incredibly long day because I opened at one of my retail jobs, had an hour break in between jobs, and then I was supposed to close at my other retail job. Have I mentioned that Sunday the 3rd will be my first day off in 20 days? I am mildly exhausted. So with my hour long break on Thursday I went to Barnes and Noble to meet with the lady who is Jennie Peers’ great, great, niece! Her great great grandfather is Jennie’s little brother Charles!! She was an absolute joy to meet with and she gave me a copy of the Sackett family history. Within five minutes of reading the book I was literally jumping out of my chair with excitement. It had information on how Jennie and George met, more information about her family, and what Charles did after he got out of the prisoner of war camp he was locked up in when he got captured. This is a pretty wild story.

Apparently their father was a very prosperous business man who owned a flour mill that operated on the James River. Their mother and a baby brother died of illness and shortly after the mill was lost because Benjamin Sackett, Jennie and Charles’ father had loaned money to someone and that friend could not pay the loan back and he lost everything. George Peers worked at the flour mill which is how he met Jennie. He was married to Jennie and then Mr. Sackett being left behind with two young boys he could not care for, he sent them off to his wife’s family in Tennessee, which explains the connection to the 63rd TN. However, that does not explain the Appomattox enlistment papers I have, nor does some of Alice’s writings jive with the records I have for when Charles was captured. She says he was captured in 1862 during the 7 days battles, but I have records that he was captured April 4th, 1865. Both of which are primary sources so the question is, what is correct? Seeing as how the book was written after Charles died, I am thinking it is possible that Alice got the battles wrong and the military records seem to be more reliable since they are more consistent.

I have since re-worked my talk to include new information in my talk, changing how I talk about Charles and Jennie’s upbringing.

Yesterday of course was my first day that I planned on starting the new version of the talk. However at 9:50 in the morning, my first scheduled talk, NO ONE showed up. My ego was honestly a little bruised and there were three of us scheduled yesterday so that meant I did not have another talk until 12:50. Then they brought my 12:50 talk out and as if to add insult to injury, there were only five or six people and they all seemed bored…ONE GUY EVEN FELL ASLEEP. I was pretty frustrated at that point and feeling rather down about myself. Then my last talk of the day came along and that was 3:50. Again, I did not have a very big group but they were fantastic. They were very interested and listened. They participated and laughed at my jokes. I did have a couple who did not know who Joshua Chamberlain was and it was quite possibly the most bizarre moment I have had yet. So I had to add a quick blurb about why people love him so much because of Gettysburg. Otherwise they were all super interested and one man kept thanking me over and over again and telling me what a great job I did and his friend asked me questions about why the jail has two different color of bricks. Overall, the 3:50 talk revitalized my excitement and made up for the two earlier disappointments of the day.

Currently up to 212 and a half hours at Appomattox, which means I get my volunteer annual pass this summer! I am so excited!

Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

The Surrender Happened in the Kitchen

I have officially logged about 160 hours since May 17th at the park, and I feel as if the biggest and most important parts of those hours have been yesterday and last week.

Tuesday I worked the FV shift, which meant I opened at the fee booth and closed at the visitor center. This also means that it is my job to walk down the stage road at the end of the day and lock up the Kelly house and the jail, and to send any visitors who may be down looking at the Stacking of the Arms site, on their way to the car. The funny thing is, I have worked in retail since I was 17 years old and my favorite part of the day, especially when I worked at Subway, was closing the store and send people home. However, when I am at the park, I always feel awkward telling visitors we’re about to close. I love Appomattox so much, so it kind of sucks when people are there, wanting to know the story and you cannot share it with them, because it is time for them to leave!

The nice thing is, often times those same people are staying in the area for the evening, so they know to get to the park first thing the next morning.

Then, one of the more interesting things that happened was Tuesday morning. My fee booth shift was about to end and a lady pulled up and tells me, “I was just driving along, and I saw the signs for this place but I had no idea what it was so I stopped. Can you tell me what happened here?” Stuff like that always catches me off guard, and it very rarely happens. The reason for that being is Highway 24 is not a very common road for traveling, and certainly not the most used way to get to Richmond, that would be 460. 99.9% of the time, if people come to our park they are going out of their way, because they want to be there! I had a lot of fun though getting to tell the lady what happened there, because again, I very rarely tell anyone anything new when it comes to “Well the surrender happened here!” People know that part usually-I am normally having to tell them that no the surrender did not happen at the Appomattox Courthouse, it happened in the village of Appomattox Court House, both two very different. The lady was excited when I told her that the war ended there, she paid the admittance fee and headed on in. Stuff like that, while bizarre is also kind of exciting, because as a budding historian it is my job to share stories about our past with people, and this was not only sharing our past, but sharing brand new information! Rarely do you get to say 151 year old news is “new.”

Last Thursday, the day before I started my living history program, I caved and tried calling Dr. Sackett at his office. Dr. Sackett is the great, great, great, grandson of Charles Sackett, Jennie Peers’ little brother. The one whose mystery I am trying to solve about serving in the 63rd TN? Well, I think I had mentioned before that I tried emailing Dr. Sackett a few weeks ago and I received no response. After a few weeks of waiting and trying to reach out to other venues, I called his office where he works. I left a message with one of the nurses and she said he would call me back soon. Well a few days go by and I still have not heard from him, and finally Monday afternoon I got a phone call from him. He tells me “Well I don’t really have a lot of information on the family”and I felt my stomach drop. I was scared that I was about to go back to step one! However, he then continued on to say, “But one of my cousins, I think she has a family history…” So Dr. Sackett ended the phone call with promising me that he would have his cousin, Ms. Wood call me. I talked to Myna that afternoon and I may or may not have hit the jackpot with her. She informed me that Charles’ youngest daughter Alice, wrote a family history about living in Appomattox County and about their family! There may be new information on the Peers’ in that book!! PLUS she informed me…SHE HAS A PICTURE OF CHARLES AND HIS CHILDREN. It is not the same thing as having a picture of Jennie, which I would die if I ever found one, but I am SO excited because this family history may hold a huge piece of the Sackett family puzzle for me! Ms. Wood goes out of town this weekend, and when she gets back next week, I am going to call her and try to catch up with her. She has promised me a copy of the book and I am hoping I can get a copy of the photo she has of Charles and the children. I am overjoyed and literally counting down the days until Ms. Wood gets back into town so I can call her. The best part though, came in the form of our historian Patrick Schroeder and his reaction when I texted him and told him about it. His response was “That is great work, I can’t wait to see it.” Which was just a huge compliment to me, because Patrick is the man when it comes to Appomattox and the village’s history.

So yesterday was my second official day of doing living history. Yesterday was also a very unique and interesting day…because we had four people doing living history programs, myself included. As a result, I was only scheduled to give one talk and it wound up being my roughest talk to date. The reason for this started out in the form of the fact that there were only three people who wanted to hear my talk…so I went over when one of the rangers brought the group out and I met him in the stage road and then I noticed one of my friends, who was an intern at the park last summer, and I had not seen him since then, decided to pop in for a visit at the park unannounced. I realized very quickly if I have no warning, and if there is a small enough group where no one can hide, it is just not great if I know the people I am talking to. I was nervous, couldn’t remember the stories I wanted to tell, the ones I did remember I didn’t tell them in order, and the best part?! I didn’t introduce myself or talk about Jennie’s children or the fact that they had a former slave living with them who was their slave before the war and Millie stayed with them after the fact!

Thankfully, the people that did come on the talk, and a whole family wound up coming and sitting on the porch to listen, they seemed to enjoy it and the one man actually asked me a question (about something I am supposed to mention in my talk, but forgot!), but I was grateful that he asked me about Lafayette Meeks.

The other interesting aspect about yesterday was that one of the other living historians…was none other than Millie Craig, the Peers’ former slave. I had no idea how any of that was going to play out, and I was not sure if Ebony, who plays Millie, was going to want to have interactions with one another or not. However, it turned out to be one of the best things we could have done, because we played off one another when Millie took groups out, and when visitors would come up and ask questions. We both sat on the porch of the Meeks store together most of the day and chit chatted, then the fun part was when visitors would walk up and we had to turn off the modern day language, and try to continue our conversation in 1865 speak.

Of the visitors who came up to me or both of us, here are the most interesting ones I had:

This first one happened when Millie was upstairs or somewhere. A male visitor and his wife walked by me and said “Your slave gave a great talk” and I just stared at him, because yes I’m Jennie Peers but being told “my slave” just made me so wildly uncomfortable, but I simply replied, “Sir, she is not my slave anymore.”

We also had another couple come up and say “So which of these buildings are original?” I looked from Millie to the visitor and said “Well sir, I am not sure what you mean.” He goes on with “Well they said the McLean house was reconstructed and the Courthouse burned down” and at this point I just stare at Millie because I am struggling to think of what to say and she goes “Well sir, I don’t know nothing about the courthouse burning down but there are officials inside the courthouse who can answer any questions for you.” Then finally the visitor gets it and goes “Oh right, you’re supposed to be in 1865” and he teased us about being from the future so I asked him if he had drunk an entire cask of alcohol at the Clover Hill tavern.

Another visitor asked if there were any tours going on, to which I replied, “Sir, I am not sure what you mean” and he replies “Well there’s a man over there” and he pointed at another historian’s program happening at the tavern and continues, “I just was not sure if anything was going on.” And so I told him, “Well sir, I am not sure about all of that, but that over there is Mr. Hannah and he is talking to some curiosity seekers about fighting in the war. You’re more than welcome to go and listen to his stories if you like” and the gentleman just smiled at me and said, “Good job for not breaking character.”

My last favorite guest interaction was when a visitor asked me what house the surrender happened in. So I said, “Over there in the home of Wilmer and Virginia McLean” and the man goes “Which house? The red one or the white one?” So I stand up, utterly confused because the only house over there is McLean’s and I realize he is pointing to the summer kitchen and the actual house. So I stared at him and I said “Well the red house of course, it would be quite silly if General Lee and General Grant surrendered in a kitchen!”

13466074_10154436055086178_7751642983820203473_n.jpg

It was cold yesterday, weirdly enough, so I wore a cloak most of the day to protect myself from the rain and the wind.

 

Thanks for checking in, see you next week!

Living History Begins

This week was my second week at the park since my internship officially started. With that came my first official day of living history, which I started yesterday. No amount of preparation could really get me to where I would have liked to of been, so it was simply a matter of going out and winging it.

I had started writing my program almost a month ago when I was first told I could portray Jennie. I have spent the last month trying to track down family members and descendants, searching for anything that would give me a great story to tell, and one that had not already been told by the other living historians who portray villagers. My soul point of that rode on finding out about Charles Sackett’s time in the war, and even after calling his great, great, great, great grandson at his doctors office, I still have unanswered questions about Jennie and her family. I am still in the process of trying to track down the direct descendants of Jennie and George….ie: their grandchildren.

The worst part for me was trying to remember stuff and needing water. My mouth would go dry, a problem I noticed I have when I am doing interpretation in the McLean house. If I am talking for awhile with a visitor I have to stop and get water..so I had no choice but to set up a ceramic pitcher of water and tea cups on the porch of the Clover Hill tavern, so that I could have water during my talk. I felt awkward when I would stop to get water, but I did what I had to do.

For the most part, during both talks I managed to get through about 90% of what I wanted to say. For my first talk I had prepared this funny anecdote about how McLean was boasting that he came down to Appomattox to get away from the war, but if that were true why did he wait two whole years to leave the area? I forgot about that story during my first talk….but I still managed to tell some jokes that got some laughter. Then my next talk I remembered the McLean joke but forgot this story about the McDearmon family and the history of a very pretty mansion that still stands in modern day Appomattox.

Of the visitors who came to my talks (I presented to about 55 to 60 people yesterday between two talks!!! WHAT?!) only one person asked me a question and that was “Where is your wedding ring?” and I cannot tell you why the next thing came out of my mouth or why I even thought of it but I had this image flash in my head of Melanie Wilkes at the Atlanta Bazaar scene in Gone with the Wind when the soldier is going around asking for jewelry donations for the cause. Scarlet snaps “We aren’t wearing any, we’re in mourning” and instead Melanie offers her wedding ring and says “It may do my husband more good off my finger than on” so me, having years of training for this moment by watching Gone with the Wind one too many times says, “I donated it for the cause.”

All of my coworkers were very impressed with my answer, even if it was total nonsense. The visitor didn’t question it either, which was the most important part to me. When our park historian texted me this morning asking how everything went, I told him the wedding ring story and he goes “Well wedding rings weren’t very common during the civil war, so it is okay that you aren’t wearing one.” I think even if I had known that before yesterday, I would not have known how to answer the question the man had without breaking character, so honestly that line from Gone with the Wind helped.

The other interesting part of yesterday was trying to not break character in front of visitors. There were a few times that we just gave up or had to, like when we had a German couple visiting who spoke very poor English, and they just did not get it.

Otherwise, keeping character was not very difficult, and I really enjoyed doing it.

I know that I promised a video of my talk, but I have decided until my talk gets better and more polished, I am going to wait to have someone film it. The only video I have of me in my dress from yesterday, is when my fellow living historian and I rapped an entire stanza from Hamilton the Musical….somehow I doubt that would be very appropriate to share here. So I leave you all for the weekend, with photos from yesterday.

13402373_1743387022541923_341690157_n.jpg

A visitor took this one of us and posted it on her instagram. Evidently she has a plastic dinosaur named Trevor who she takes everywhere and shares photos of him in places….So she asked if we would pose for a photo with him.

13413018_10154414497946178_277843710435488685_n.jpg

Me as Jennie, with the Peers house in the distance behind me.

13413527_10154415158391178_5992303034727701118_n

Fellow intern from Gettysburg college as Private Dowler, who was part of the 188th Pennsylvania, stationed at Appomattox Court House as Provost Guard. 13445345_10154415158281178_8806893756472267990_n

Before the park opened, early morning shot with the McLean house just behind those trees. 13432169_10154415158201178_8889870317653886765_n

Some of the last shots of the Civil War were fired in these spots. 13445606_10154415158131178_4002111144466411531_n13413676_10154415158071178_7881868848610574234_n

The Peers house when the sun was still rising.

 

Adventures in Intrepretation

Fun fact that may or may not be a fun fact depending on if you know me before reading this and how well you know me…I am a Park Service brat. All of my school vacations growing up were spent on the Jersey shore at a National Park called Sandy Hook. My father lived and worked out at the old Army fort, titled Fort Hancock. Fort Hancock also happens to be where the oldest still operating lighthouse in North America, is located…which that in itself holds a tremendous amount of Revolutionary War history, because of the location to New York Harbor (the NYC skyline was my view as a child). So I preface my next post with this, to try and express the whole idea that I have grown up hearing some of the craziest stories and questions from visitors. Somehow, despite hearing them, they never cease to amaze me.

I am not going to go into all of the stuff I heard on Saturday, yesterday, and today but I want to kind of laugh about one and then explain another…

Saturday was my last day of shadowing a ranger at the park and while in the McLean house we were asked how did Grant get away with being allowed into the house with his boots being so muddy. I have to laugh at this because in my head I see Virginia Beverly McLean marching right up to the Lt. General of the Federal Army and telling him that he needs to take his boots off outside before entering her home. It is a comical image to even try and think about.

So yesterday was my first day completely on my own in the rotation schedule. While I was on the McLean house duty I had a couple start asking me some questions.They were asking me about the surrender document and every time I explained an aspect of the story to them, they tried to find a way to relate it back to the courthouse. It was as if they were hung up on the courthouse being involved. The reason for this is because people just get utterly confused about the village being called Appomattox Court House…which admittedly, naming a town so and so court house is something you normally only find in Virginia. What can I say? We Virginian’s like to be unique! So in the days, weeks, and months following the surrender, as stories about what happened started to get published…perhaps by an editing error, typo, or just confusion, Appomattox Court House with court house being two words, got changed into Appomattox Courthouse, with courthouse being one word…See the problem? Court House refers to the county seat and courthouse refers to the building. For whatever reason, it happened and continues to happen to this day. So we have people come from all over who read in a text book that the surrender happened at Appomattox Courthouse and they’re pretty perplexed when I tell them that they do not quite have it right.

Now the village existed before it was the county seat, in the form of Clover Hill village, and the oldest still standing building is the Clover Hill Tavern…which was the first building built along the Lynchburg-Richmond Stage Road. Come the late 1840s the people who had settled in the area had decided having to travel many miles away and lose several days at home and on their farms was too much. So they petitioned the state to create a new county. The courthouse was built, the county seat was established in Appomattox Court House and remained that way until the 1890s when the courthouse burned down and the new county seat was established in Appomattox Station!

So that is a little bit of a history for you there. I certainly do not mind the questions, that is why I am there….and I always look forward to the next great question that will make me smile.

I start living history on Friday and I am still scared…however, I shall prevail…I hope.

I will try to get a video and photos soon for your viewing pleasure.

As always, thank you for reading.

What About the Peers?

So week two of training is over and Tuesday I am on my own when I go out to the park. I will start my day in the fee booth, go to the visitor center, then lunch, work the McLean house, and then back to the visitor center. My shifts are Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s from 8:45-5:30 and on Friday’s I will be doing my living history program, starting June 10th. I am a little bit petrified.

The bulk of my research work this summer has been, and will continue to go into researching the Peers family. I would like, if I may, to give you a bit of a background on this family now because it is incredibly fascinating.

George Peers was the clerk of the court in Appomattox Court House. He served for many years and was one of the most respected and liked men in the village, and his wife was equally adored and liked. At the time of the surrender in April of 1865, they lived down the Lynchburg-Richmond Stage Road behind the courthouse. George married Jennie in 1855 in Lynchburg, and until 1870 they rented their home from a Mr. Plunkett, and they finally bought the home in 1870.

Today if you were to visit their home, you would find a 12 pounder cannon in the front yard, marking some of the final fighting that happened as the Confederates tried to hold their position on the morning of April 9th, as the Federal’s approached the village from what is today George Peers Lane. The April 10th second meeting between Lee and Grant happened right outside of their home, Chamberlain camped in their front yard, he dined in the home on April 11th, and on the 12th the Peers could have very easily been watching from their yard during the salute between Chamberlain and Gordon as the Stacking of the Arms happened.

The source of my frustration and searching comes in the form of Jennie’s baby brother Charles. In 1862 Charles joined the Confederate Army and two months later was discharged under the Conscription Act. He does not show up again in military records until 1864 when he shows up in the 63rd TN Infantry. He would later be captured in April of 1865 and sent to a Prisoner of War Camp in Ohio, and released in June of 1865. So the best I can piece together at this juncture is the fact that Charles and Jennie’s mother was from TN, and perhaps he was visiting with family there when he joined up. I have contacted family members and I am in the process of trying to obtain further information.

My first talk as Jennie will be June 10th, as I mentioned before. I have a lot of information in my talk, and so I think I am more worried about having to memorize everything.

In my research for the Peers I also discovered their graves which are about ten minutes or less from my house. This was a discovery I made last Monday after an hour of searching in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Lynchburg on Grace Street. I was dismayed to find sometime in the last few months, George’s grave has fallen off the base and cracked. My next project is focusing on finding out who can get his grave repaired, because it not only means a lot to me, but George’s legacy also means a lot to us at Appomattox Court House. A lot of what we know about the village’s history is thanks to this man because he had the insight to write down his recollections in a little book that can be purchased to this day. When the court house burned in the 1890s all of the records were lost. There are so many mysteries that we will never be able to answer, because those files are gone.

13319724_10154384652846178_413659159507650255_n

Jennie and George’s graves today when I went to visit them for decoration day. I left the flowers at their grave and managed to pick up the bottom corner of the stone. 13325551_10154384652961178_1990076139770235473_n13343099_10154384653031178_2885808102501779547_n

“A loving and loved wife. A Devoted mother. A faith Friend. And a Christian woman.”

On a completely different topic, on Thursday night we had a party at the park which resulted in a scavenger hunt. The long term goal of which was to get us as employees and volunteers into buildings and spots we’ve never been in before. So I was able to climb into the second floor of the outdoor kitchen behind the McLean house, which is where their head cook would have lived. Upstairs there was not much, considering the space is not open to the public. However, there was a crib upstairs and a chair with a little tiny pillow inside the crib that said “Welcome Little Stranger” and it was both the creepiest thing I had seen (an empty chair at an empty crib) and also the most endearing thing.

13336104_10154384652876178_587906723269424680_n

The courthouse building at dusk. 13319916_10154384653186178_7132232233398709793_n

The Clover Hill Tavern where 30,000 Parole Passes were printed by the Federal Army for the Confederates in the span of 26 hours. The Tavern was owned by the Hix family and his daughter Emma would eventually marry one of the Provost Guards stationed at Appomattox Court House in the summer of 65. 13330887_10154384653201178_5621764660836204804_n

Lafayette Meeks’ grave behind the Meeks store. Lafayette was the first casualty of the war from Appomattox Court House. He enlisted in 1861 and died later that year of yellow fever. 13267938_10154384653241178_1981377260160774480_n

Where some of the last shots of the American Civil War were fired. In the far distance, that ridge is where the Federals advanced on the morning of April 9th.

13342906_10154384653476178_3353459104349724723_n.jpg

I am grateful for a break, however I miss Appomattox when I am not there. I am definitely looking forward to Tuesday and hopefully my dress for my Jennie Peers talks will have arrived by then. I hope everyone has a safe Memorial day weekend and please take a moment to remember all that died in wars. Memorial Day was born out of Decoration Day which was born out of the Civil War. Honor both and remember both sides.

 

 

 

Lee’s Retreat

Today was finally the last day of a very long week of training. We spent the day heading to Rice’s depot and seeing the state run park Sailor’s Creek and then the various spots of Lee’s retreat from the Farmville area, the High Bridge, and then back to Appomattox itself.

So our first stop this morning at about 8:30 this morning was Rice’s depot. This is where on April 6th, General Lee was at when the battle of Sailor’s Creek was raging on. He rode from here to Sailor’s Creek as the battle was ending and he saw his men retreating, and that is when General Lee remarked, “My God, has the Army been dissolved?” 13256002_10154364836506178_8631825817263378915_n.jpg

13220961_10154364836546178_1308627494453250616_n

 

Back into the car and we head to Sailor’s Creek State Park. I had actually visited Sailor’s Creek, and by that I mean I went to the visitors center last summer but was with my disabled mother who could not walk the battlefield. So actually driving to the different spots and seeing the battlefield itself was super interesting. Despite my avid love of the Civil War, I have never been able to fully understand reading about battles unless I am actually able to watch it in a film or diagram, or be on the battlefield itself.

13226949_10154364836911178_1793405086418181760_n

The Lockett house is a not very far from the visitor center and super cool because it still shows obvious signs of bullet damage. The home is still privately owned by the family and well maintained, but just standing across the road from the house we could see the damage inflicted upon the house when fighting took place all around it on April 6th. 13254197_10154364836656178_4251077893438314361_n

We also had a tour of the Hillsman house which was turned into a field hospital during the battle. Initially the home had been used by Confederate forces, but then as they were overwhelmed by the Federals they vacated the premises and then the Union Army took over the home. All the while the Hillsman family, was hiding in the basement. These people were subjected to listening to the battle rage outside for a few hours plus they had to listen to the amputations and surgeries that were happening upstairs, all while blood seeped through the floorboards. Perhaps one of the most interesting things we saw today was that there was still blood stains on the floor boards of the house. Our friend Jim who also participates in our living history program at Appomattox Court House, but works for Sailor’s Creek informed us that people at Liberty University in Lynchburg are hoping to do genetic testing on the blood to see what they can dig up.

13254462_10154364837076178_1708871805695954980_n

After we left Sailor’s Creek, we headed on to the High Bridge. The High Bridge is a bridge hundreds of yards above the Appomattox River. It was crossed by the Confederate Army and they had burned the bridge behind them so as to keep the Federal’s from following. What they did not account for was the wagon bridge below that the Union Army was able to use to cross the river.

13230270_10154364837461178_354948012262535964_n13263702_10154364838006178_372997958530114057_n13260143_10154364837986178_2819130324969058393_n13241253_10154364838026178_2023004603773386362_n

The view from High Bridge was absolutely stunning. We have had quite a lot of rain here in Virginia lately, and as you can see in the photo of the Appomattox River, the river itself was up very high.

On our way back to following Lee’s retreat route, we stopped at a private Confederate Cemetery that was created by the United Daughter’s of the Confederacy. This land was used throughout the whole war to bury those that had died in the nearby hospitals. 13263731_10154364838606178_3608874913475572603_n13269273_10154364838571178_2498618570058081449_n

One of our new seasonal rangers at the park photobombed my picture. 13233101_10154364838621178_5901587712152795671_n

I always love the story of Grant’s headache being cured the minute he got Lee’s letter the next day. Most likely an exaggeration by Grant in later years, but all the same it is a fun story. As you can see in the sign above, he had been camped out at Clifton in the home of a local man. He had been suffering for a migraine for quite awhile and he was doing everything he could to relieve the pain. Many people use this as an excuse to say that Grant was simply a drunkard and suffering from a hangover, this is just silly and idiotic. Despite the pain in his head, Grant allowed his men to dance around and have fun playing on a very out of tune piano in the downstairs parlor of the home they were staying in. To me this shows a side of Grant not often explored, because it emphasizes that he knew his men had not been afforded a lot of fun in a very long time.

13265919_10154364838831178_1327786315035905311_n 13237836_10154364838871178_8445766015991254815_n

Our last stop of the day was the hugely under appreciated site of Lee’s last headquarters. This was where Charles Marshall penned General Orders No. 9 (also known as Lee’s farewell address) and this is where the address was read for the first time.13266081_10154364838901178_1937105067491801299_n

This is also the spot where he returned to after the April 9th surrender meeting to announce the news to his soldiers. Here Lee uttered one of his most famous quotes and one of my personal favorites. So I will end this post with that quote;

“I have done the best I could for you. Go home now, and if you make as good citizens as you have soldiers, you will do well, and I shall always be proud of you.”

 

Appomattox Court House

 

In 1865 the village of Appomattox Court House only boasted about 100 people in a county of 4,414. The people of the small village never dreamed that the war would end in their very small town.

lees-surrender

The Army of Northern Virginia arrived in Appomattox County on April 8th, after a long six day retreat from Petersburg, following the nine month stalemate between the Confederate and Federal Armies. Richmond had fallen, the Confederate government had fled, and it was only a matter of time. After a series of critical engagements at Five Forks, Saylers Creek, Appomattox Station, and Appomattox Court House, General Lee sent word to General Grant that he was ready to surrender.

The Civil War ended in the parlor of the McLean family and that was not the only peculiar or fascinating story that would come out of the surrender events of April 9th-12th. Appomattox Court House is possibly one of the most underrated parks in the National Park Service and yet the stories of the surrender, the people, and the history of the village itself are some of the most interesting I’ve ever heard. There is something so wonderful that even I took for granted growing up just twenty-five miles from the park.

For me, there is no place else I would rather be this summer than at Appomattox Court House. On this blog I will update about the work I am doing, the ins and outs of working for the National Park Service, and the stories that I learn about the end of the war and from visitors. I will also write about my foray into the world of living history, where I will be portraying Jennie Peers of Lynchburg City who lived in Appomattox Court House from 1855 until the time she died. The last shots of the war were fired in Jennie’s front yard and she was married to one of the most respected men in the entire county.

I hope you will enjoy what you see and read here, and hopefully if you have never been to the park, I will see you soon.

 

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑