Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for August, 2007


Pistol Petersburg
When looking for front page ideas, we’re always checking our “On This Day” history calendar. And guess what. Nearly every summer day marks some sort of Civil War anniversary. In 1862, the Second Battle of Bull Run dominated the week’s news; lasting from August 28 to 30.

Two years later the War was nearing its inevitable conclusion. In the South, Sherman was about to enter Atlanta (no National Park Site)- the Confederate generals would indeed burn the city on September 1 – and in the North, Grant held seige on Petersburg.

Petersburg National Battlefield sprawls. Over 30 miles separates its furthest points, City Point in the northeast and Five Forks Battlefield to the southwest. Presumably something has happened at all points in between which is understandable because Grant’s seige lasted for nearly ten months.

Should you visit the Petersburg battlefield? Well, if you’re a casual traveler this site does not make for the best Civil War introduction. Stop at Richmond or Fredericksburg instead. Petersburg NB is an upper level graduate class; important but esoteric and boring to all but the most interested.

Click Here to Read More about Petersburg National Battlefield.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Powerful StonewallWhen looking for front page ideas, we’re always checking our “On This Day” history calendar. And guess what. Nearly every summer day marks some sort of Civil War anniversary. First Petersburg here, Second Chattanooga there, Third Fredericksburg everywhere. This week is no different. August 28 marks the 145th Anniversary of the opening of Second Manassas or Second Bull Run. Sadly, as luck would have it, the Park’s celebrations all took place last weekend. How’s that for jumping the gun?

Either way, the Second Battle of Bull Run gets little love from the Park Service. Their educational displays focus primarily on First Bull Run and their website’s does not even mention the anniversary. The reasons are two-fold: a) First Bull Run was the Civil War’s first major battle and Second Bull Run was just another skirmish that happened to occur on the same ground and b) the Confederates won soundly and the federal Park Service tends to shy away from honoring Rebel victories.

Click Here to Read More about Manassas National Battlefield Park.

Read Full Post »

Not a SwampEvery ten years or so Michael’s family has a reunion. All the descendants of his great grandmother (mother’s side) gather somewhere in the greater Reading, Pennsylvania area. Last weekend was that weekend and a good time was had by all, especially we caught up with the many people we hadn’t seen since – well – we were traveling across the country on a two year trip.

In honor of our family reunion http://www.usa-c2c.com is looking at Park Sites that recognize great families. On Monday we highlighted America’s most accomplished and distinguished family: the Adamses. On Wednesday we began our look at the family Cupressaceae.

Um, who is in the Cupressaceae family? War of 1812 admirals? French-Canadian voyageurs? Winter Olympics heroes? Poets? None of the above. The Cupressaceae family is also known as the cypress family and includes two distinctly American flora: the towering sequoia and the redwood trees, the tallest living things on earth.

Family reunion attendees learn many things. 1) There’s more than one branch to every family reunion tree; 2) Sometimes attendees come from all over the country; including some you might never have even seen; 3) Often these separate branches know each other very well; 4) Sometimes these other branches share a resemblance to your side and sometimes they don’t; and 5) Every branch deserves its fair share of the spotlight.

As you might have guessed the Sequoia line is only one part of the Cupressaceae family. They have a slightly shorter but much more prolific set of relations: the Cupressus branch or the Cypress branch. Unlike the Sequoia branch who has isolated themselves in California (and who can blame them) the Cypress branch has scattered themselves all over the world. While its dainty members can be seen in decorative parks and house gardens don’t be fooled. The Cypress line is strong and sturdy, and well adapted to both fire and water.

One of it’s famous family members is the knobby kneed bald cypress, seen throughout the American southeast and often draped in elegant Spanish moss. The bald cypress is a park highlight from Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve to Texas’ Big Thicket National Preserve. But we especially enjoyed the boardwalk system of Congaree National Park which allowed us to get up close and personal with their watery habitat.

Congaree’s other trees don’t reach the heights of redwoods and sequoias but they are some of the tallest specimens east of the Mississippi. So maybe, while at the Cupressaceae reunion, Congaree’s bald cypresses won’t feel as intimidated by their tall California cousins as Florida’s bald cypresses might.

Click Here to Read More about Congaree National Park.

Read Full Post »

More Big TreesEvery ten years or so Michael’s family has a reunion. All the descendants of his great grandmother (mother’s side) gather somewhere in the greater Reading, Pennsylvania area. Last weekend was that weekend and a good time was had by all, especially when the hotel brought out the dress-your-own soft pretzel table!

When we weren’t gorging ourselves on wonderful starches we caught up with the many people we hadn’t seen since – well – we were traveling across the country on a two year trip. We were pleased to realize that even though the reunions are getting larger (80 people and counting) we are now, post-trip, so much more familiar with our family and our first cousin once-removed and second cousin relations. So in honor of our family reunion http://www.usa-c2c.com is looking at Park Sites that recognize great families. On Monday we highlighted America’s most accomplished and distinguished family: the Adamses. Today we look at the family Cupressaceae.

Um, who is in the Cupressaceae family? War of 1812 admirals? French-Canadian voyageurs? Winter Olympics heroes? Poets? None of the above. The Cupressaceae family is also known as the cypress family and includes two distinctly American flora: the towering Sequoia and the Redwood trees, the tallest living things on earth.

A few California National Park Sites allow you to get up close and personal with these stately behemoths including Muir Woods National Monument, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Yosemite National Park and Golden Gate National Recreation Area. But the National Park with the densest population of giant cypress trees is Redwood State and National Park.

Redwoods are amazing living things. They rise to unattainable heights, some stretching as high as 350 feet. They bend and curve and grow together unexpectedly. They gnarl and knot up. They harbor dirty yellow banana slugs, weird fungi and other untold oozings. They block the sun and create dank fluorescent green Edens. Various types of ferns sprout everywhere and the entire forest emits a cool sweat. The redwoods have created their peaceful landscape. And it’s a terrific place to visit.

Click Here to Read More about Redwood National Park.

Read Full Post »

Entrance SignThis week we are doing what we’ve (actually) done nearly every weekend this summer: sell stuff at a yard sale or flea market. We’re celebrating National Park Sites that honor good old fashioned commerce.

As some of our dear readers may know, Gab’s parents recently sold their house and are in the process of moving to beautiful tax-free Delaware (incidentally, the only state without a National Park Site). With any major move comes selling stuff. On Monday we looked at the Hudson Bay Trading Company fur trade in the Pacific Northwest’s Fort Vancouver. Today we move to another fur-based trading post: John Jacob Astor’s Dakota territory Fort Union.

Fort Union Trading Post encapsulates and interesting and forgotten period of western trade relations; a mutual relationship of trust, diversity, trade and acceptance. Fort Union was, despite the name’s confusion, a store located near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers. The Post prospered from its building in 1828 to around 1850 when both the westward expansion and displacement of Indian tribes slowed business. Business was at its strongest until 1837 when the first wave of smallpox hit the area. Fort Union was dismantled in 1867 and the wood used to build a military post three miles downriver.

In the small window of prosperity, the white traders, mixed blood hunters, craftsmen, voyageurs and Natives worked in harmony to everyone’s advantage. Goods were traded, languages learned and people generally got along. As time passed, however, things changed.

Click Here to Read More about Fort Union Trading Post NHS.

Read Full Post »


Portal to the Past
This week we are doing what we’ve (actually) done nearly every weekend this summer: sell stuff at a yard sale or flea market. We’re celebrating National Park Sites that honor good old fashioned commerce.

As some of our dear readers may know, Gab’s parents recently sold their house and are in the process of moving to beautiful tax-free Delaware (incidentally, the only state without a National Park Site). With any major move comes selling stuff. And we’ve been more than happy to oblige and eager to channel the spirit of John McLoughlin.

Um, who’s John McLoughlin, you ask? Only the head man in charge of Fort Vancouver, once the Pacific Northwest’s preeminent commercial center and Northwestern headquarters of the Hudson Bay Trading Post. Fort Vancouver was technically a “Fort” but its main purpose was not military in nature. Voyageurs flocked here, canoe and beaver pelts in tow, after long excursions throughout the Northwest wilds.

Their raw material became the monetary base for an industry that powered the area’s economy, brought waves of settlers, and expanded the reach and breadth of the British Empire. The economic creation achieved by Fort Vancouver was so successful that it mattered little when the beaver became overcropped and its pelts less desired. Eastern farmers had already flocked into the area and Oregon territory was born.

Click Here to Read More about Fort Vancouver NHS.

Read Full Post »

Basketball HallLast week we delved into the National Parks of Harry Potter, imagining the little magician as written by Park-honored America writers. This week we’re looking at another cultural phenomenon and another hit summer film: The Simpsons Movie. But which National Park Sites will we choose? Parks that honor Simpsons? Er, couldn’t come up with any? Does Ulysses S. Grant count? Parks in Homer, Alaska? Haven’t been there yet. No, this week we’re traveling to Park Sites located in our heroes’ home: Springfield. This week we’ve been to the Abe Lincoln’s Springfield (Illinois) and Brad Pitt’s Springfield (Missouri). Today we go to the Springfield that brought America something dearer than both Honest Abe and the 1995 (and 2000) Sexiest Man Alive. Springfield, Massachusetts. It’s contribution: BASKETBALL!

Most of you know how the story goes. It’s 1892. Yet another long, dreary Massachusetts winter. Dr. James Naismith, YMCA instructor, needs something to keep his students active. Too many Dunkin Donuts? In response, the good doctor formulated the rules for an exciting indoor game. He nailed two peach baskets at opposite ends of the gymnasium, measured them at exactly 10 feet, inflated a ball, brought in his students and announced: “Let’s play ball!”

The terrific Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame sits right off Interstate 91 in downtown Springfield. You can’t miss it; the building is shaped like a huge silver basketball. In the past year, we’ve read a few complaints about the Hall of Fame on ESPNInsider.com. (Sorry, pay registration involved.) The argument says that the NBA needs its own Hall because too many college players, international players, and women are enshrined at Springfield. Sure, we agree that there are far too many college coaches honored. Nevertheless the pundit is missing the point about why the Hoops Hall is so great: because it includes everyone, and that means you, the visitor. We loved are time there and overwhelming preferred it over the pedantic condescending tone and forced nostalgia of Cooperstown and the kitschy disrepair of Canton.

Click Here to Read More about the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

The ArmoryAlas, the National Park Service does not honor basketball in Springfield. History seems to prefer sharpshooters to jumpshooters. Yes, Springfield, Mass. also invented the Springfield rifle. The firearm’s legacy is remembered at the Springfield Armory National Historic Site. It too is a wonderful museum. You’re not going to find much artistry in the weapons on display – American arms never reached the aesthetic peaks seen in Europe and the Middle East – but you will find quantity. The Armory is home to the world’s second largest collection of weapons.

Even if guns aren’t your thing, the museum does an incredible job of explaining the historical importance of the Springfield rifle as well as its role in the broader Industrial Revolution. Keep in mind that the museum’s main floor houses only about 1/5 of the total collection. The real bounty is on the second floor, which houses nearly all of the remainder. The Site’s website boasts of “28 serial “number 1’s”, rare experimental and prototype models, domestic and foreign arms of all description.” But you need to plan ahead. Only four tours per month travel upstairs. Reserve your spot now. If Michael has his way we might be returning soon. Springfield’s only 25 miles from Michael’s new niece in Hartford…

Click Here to Read More about the Armory.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »