Richmond Trip Day 1

Our three day Richmond bonanza pulled away from the Appleford at seven-thirty Friday morning with Walt at the wheel. We were bound for the Wilderness, the battle that started Grant's overland campaign in 1864. On the way down, John was kind enough (or cruel enough) to provide pirated Civil War themed episodes of South Park and Star Trek. When Star Trek came on, it seemed like we would never get to the Wilderness soon enough. Eventually, we did. The bus pulled into Saunders Field, where Mr. Booze and former Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania Summer Intern Bethany went to work giving vivid detail on the battle. It was truly fortunate how much of the Wilderness still remains wild.   Wilderness

Cannon Shot It was the only way to understand what it was like to fight at that spot. We rolled down the Confederate trench line to the Tapp Farm, where we again saw how limited the space was to fight at the place. After we created a photo opportunity by manning two cannons, we loaded the bus in search of lunch.  

After a long and accidental detour, the group finally managed a quick lunch before moving on to our next stop, Spotsylvania. Our resident expert, Bethany, again took the metaphorical wheel for the tour. The group went to the Mule Shoe where Bethany gave an emotional account on the horribly bloody fight there. Walking in the depressions of the area, I was able to remember why I studied the Civil War in the first place. The absolute silence of the area cast an eerie feeling as I criss-crossed the Shoe. It was an indescribable but amazing moment.  Spotsylvania
Soon after, we loaded the bus again for what Dr. Guelzo thought would be a brief photo opportunity at Massaponnax Church. Massaponnax Church is a Baptist Church that Grant used for headquarters on May 21, 1864, as the army moved south. There is a famous series of photographs taken of Grant, Meade, and their staffs working in the church yard on pews taken out of the church. We were going to simply recreate the photograph and leave. However, Traci, the pious religion major that she is, tried to see if there were any unlocked doors so she could sneak in. After four failed attempts, we discovered there was some one in the building who was only too happy to show us around. Needless to say, we were very glad he did.
Group Massaponnax Church
The pews of the church were the same that were used by Grant and staff. Traci, Amy, and I made sure to sit in every single one. On the mezzanine above the church floor, the walls lacked paint. We soon realized that the walls were covered in graffiti from the Civil War. Many men took time to write on the walls as they passed through the area. The visit inside the church was one of the greatest moments of my short Civil War career, as I'm sure it was for others as well. After we finally managed to get the picture we originally came to take, we loaded the bus to head for the hotel in Chester. After roughly ten missed turns, we finally managed to survive the day, which was finished off by a dinner at Cracker Barrel. We headed off to the Holiday Inn Express to bunk down in preparation for day two.