Posts Tagged ‘Georgia’

Can You Find the Secret Service?Why rise at 5 a.m. to drive across Georgia from Macon to Plains, population 700? Among Plains’ residents are Rossalyn and Jimmy Carter, and the former President and Nobel Peace Prize winner was teaching Sunday school that morning.

We were thrilled and excited, but we had doubts. Would we be welcome in this small town? The Maranatha Baptist Church is tiny, with room for only 300. Would there be room? It is not our denomination. Is it ok if we attend?

We arrived at the Church at 8 am. The Greeter smiled, laughed and erased our worries, The Secret Servicemen took our picture to ensure that our camera really was a camera and then urged us in, “you never know when the buses will show up.” We were fine.

Once seated inside, the pews filled around us, save the few cordoned off for active members. Before we knew it, a quiet man had slipped through a side door. Jimmy Carter was standing just six pews away.

He asked where we were all from. California, Uganda, Poland, Germany, Florida. People from dozens of countries and states had made the same pilgrimage. Gab eagerly yelled out Pennsylvania. Jimmy’s response, his warm wide smile of acknowledgment, made us all feel loved.

President CarterHis lesson’s topic was Joseph’s part in the Christmas story, but his lesson invoked elections in Mozambique, vacationing with his grandchildren and a profound biblical knowledge. We felt blessed and thankful for the teachings of such a pious, humble and great man.

Jimmy left saying, almost apologetically, that in two weeks he would be unable to teach in Plains. He was going to Palestine to oversee an election. He reminded us of what Anwar Sadat told him at Camp David that “regardless of religion, we are all sons of Abraham.” We must learn to live together.

Click Here to Read More about Jimmy Carter National Historic Site.


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Hand in HandHappy Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Day. Wait a sec, I don’t have off work until Monday. What gives? Well, today is his official born on date, January 15, 1929. He would have been 79. What should you do to celebrate, either today or Monday?

Today has already happened so there’s little wiggle room there. But on Monday you could go to his National Historic Site in Atlanta! It’s encompasses terrific museum, Dr. King’s birth home, and the the Ebenezer Baptist Church.

We really enjoyed our time there amidst the healthy crowds and exciting energy. It was wonderful to see so many people of all colors, age and nationality remembering and learning about the incredible life and message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. together. So even if you can’t travel to Atlanta, remember Dr. King’s message of togetherness, hope, and promise for a more peaceful future.

Click Here to Read More about Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.

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Atlanta, Ga.
Visited: February 5, 2005
NPS Site Visited: 144 of 353
NPS Website; Local Website

Civil Rights Walk of FameWHAT IS IT?
Two blocks in the historic Atlanta district of “Sweet Auburn” that tell the story Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life as framed by the greater struggle for civil rights in America.

BEAUTY (5/10)
A short promenade where visitors can match their footprints to those on the Civil Rights Walk of Fame leads from the parking lot to the red-brick Visitor Center. Parts of the MLK Jr. NHS blend in with neighboring structures dedicated to the memory and vision of Martin Luther King, Jr. such as the King Center, the MLK, Jr. Community Center and the new Ebenezer Baptist Church. Sweet Auburn is still a residential area. Homes on historic Auburn Avenue look much like they would have when MLK Jr. was growing up here.

The most well-known leader of America’s civil rights movement was born and raised here. The Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church which is part of the NHS served as a religious center for the King family whose members preached and worshipped here, as well as a setting for meetings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the SCLC and later the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) with the principles of non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to unfair and immoral laws. This site is dedicated to the life of the “most eloquent spokesman for racial justice of his time”, as well as the continued quest for equality in America.

Hand in HandCROWDS (7/10)
People filled the Visitor Center, courtyard and streets connecting the Site’s buildings. Luckily, the third most visited historic site in the National Parks System is designed to handle a crowd. Exhibits encourage movement. There is plenty of room for everyone. We wished tours of the King birth house would have been given on a more frequent basis. We were able to wait four hours but most of the tourists left wanting more.

The King NHS is located just a mile and a half from downtown Atlanta. Innumerable signs lead you off Interstate 75/85 exit 248C (Freedom Parkway/Carter Center) right onto the Boulevard and immediately right again into the large parking lot area. We were there on the first Saturday in February. Despite the large crowds, there was plenty of parking room. Free parking downtown in one of America’s largest cities – what a concept!

The bookstore, which is located in the back of Historic Fire Station No. 6, tries to keep pace with the Site in exploring and expanding upon the Civil Rights Movement. Unfortunately, it spreads itself a little thin. One of the Site’s many free handouts lists contact information for organizations such as the American Red Cross, Amnesty International and the Southern Poverty Law Center. The handout’s other side recommends 19 books to read. Only six of these books are actually for sale at the bookstore.

Just one of the many inexplicably missing texts is Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years: 1963-65, part two of Taylor Branch’s Pulitzer Prize winning history of the Civil Rights Movement set around the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

COSTS (5/5)
The Site is entirely free. Free guided tours of the Martin Luther King, Jr. birth house take place hourly. Spots fill up fast. The only tickets available at noon were for the 4:00 and 5:00 tours.

Two Rangers were positioned at the main Visitor Center; two more were outside the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. Given the amount of people here on this beautiful Saturday afternoon, these Rangers served more as pointers and directors than as interpreters.

King Birth HouseTOURS/CLASSES (8/10)
Grown-ups will have to crouch to read the first exhibit at the Visitor Center, designed not for them, but for “Children of Courage”. The exhibit chronicles events in young Martin’s childhood and adolescence which shaped his beliefs and teachings, explores the role of young people in the 50s, 60s and 70s and ends with a reflection: “Who Can Take the Lead in Ending Injustice?” Open the door to see a future leader.

Pull-out drawers allow kids of all ages to see how black and white stereotypes found their way into dolls, toys, and magazines from each decade and how these images evolved over time. A 15-minute film accompanies the exhibit.

The adjoining room has several cubicle-type exhibits centered around life-sized statues memorializing the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement. Each cubicle contains museum items, interpretive panels, quotes and a video exploring either an aspect of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life or his leadership in the struggle for civil rights.

The Visitor Center hosts changing temporary exhibits. Powerful black and white photographs of human rights heroes from over 35 countries lined the walls during our visit. Speak Truth to Power now begins a Latin American tour to Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil, and in France, Germany, and (pending) India. The MLK Jr. NHS was an ideal setting to expand this movement’s audience.

Only one thing prevented this Site from earning a perfect score and that was the condescending tone of the young Ranger from New Jersey who led our tour of MLK’s birth house. Although most of the audience had probably spent the better part of the day touring the Site waiting for the next available house tour, he began his talk as if we knew nothing about MLK, the Park Service, or anything really. His patronization was enough to make us leave the tour before we set foot inside the house. We handed our tickets to a dad and a young boy peeking inside just as the Ranger was about to turn them away.

Even without a tour of the house, the Site offers much to its visitors. Takeaways from the MLK NHS include a booklet entitled, 101 Tools for Tolerance Simple Ideas for Promoting Equity and Celebrating Diversity and a Pledge Card asking visitors to Respect all people; live a life of loving, not hating; choose patience over anger, non-violence over force; and actively promote freedom, justice and world peace.

Ebenezer Baptist ChurchFUN (9/10)
It was wonderful to see so many people of all colors, age and nationality remembering and learning about the incredible life and message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. together.

Absolutely. This is a must-see National Parks destination as well as one of America’s treasures.

TOTAL 64/80

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near Tybee Island, Ga.
Visited: February 3, 2005
NPS Site Visited: 143 of 353
NPS Website

Bombarded WallsWHAT IS IT?
One of 30 coastal forts built after the War of 1812 to protect the United States from foreign naval invasion. Fort Pulaski saw its only action early in 1861, during the start of the Civil War.

BEAUTY (6/10)
The pentagonal Fort Pulaski has not changed much since its construction. Its estimated 25 million red bricks and 7 1/2-foot thick led many to believe the Fort was invincible. The exterior of the south and southeastern walls prove otherwise. Large indentations and some mortar shells remain from when the Union troops successfully bombarded and captured the Confederate stronghold.

The Site boasts that military history changed forever at Fort Pulaski. The Union army’s use of its new invention, the rifled cannon, allowed them to easily breach the thick walls after just 30 hours. The 30 forts of the Third Coastal Defense system were suddenly obsolete after facing just one collective attack.

After the Yankees secured Fort Pulaski, their commander, General Hunter declared its inner sanctum to be a free zone for local slaves. This move pre-empted the Emancipation Proclamation by seven months and came in defiance of Abraham Lincoln’s public order. Many of the freed slaves who made it to Fort Pulaski joined the Union Army and fought as the First South Carolina Colored Regiment.

Fort Pulaski NM is made even more interesting with its endless small stories skillfully told our Ranger tour guide, the video and the Museum. Baseball’s founder was stationed here and organized one of its first games inside the grounds. Union General Hunter was from the South and did not become an abolitionist until after the war began. Robert E. Lee, as a young Engineer, worked on the Fort’s design and later, just prior to the Battle, mistakenly believed that it could not be attacked from Tybee Island (where the Union was stationed). He did not know about the rifled cannon.

In a completely unrelated historical note, Fort Pulaski rests on the tiny Cockspur Island, the same Island where John Wesley, founder of Methodism, first landed in the United States in 1736. It is said that he preached in the same live oak forest.

Cold Bird CROWDS (6/10)
A Jacksonville native escaping the Super Bowl was the only other person on our tour of the Fort. Because the group was so intimate, the Ranger took us out of the rain and through some of the rooms not normally open to the public. An unexpected treat.

The Site is 15 miles due east along U.S. Route 80 from downtown Savannah, the city it was built to protect.

The usual Civil War tomes are here, but so are at least six titles specific to Fort Pulaski, a large selection dedicated to the African American experience and one illustrated book that had Gab glued to the spot until she read it cover to cover. Songs from the Underground Railroad were playing quietly in the background; the space was warm and nicely lit. One of us could have stayed here all day.

COSTS (3/5)
Entry is $3 per adult or free with the National Parks Pass.

We noticed more people in NPS uniforms than visitors. Hard to say how many were actually interpretive Rangers.

In the summer months, Rangers give five tours a day of the Fort. That number is pared down to two in the off-season. We wandered into the Fort for the 11:00 a.m. tour, braving the 40º temperatures and cold rain. At 11:05, we were still alone. A Ranger popped his head out of his office and asked if we had any questions.

Pulaski InteriorThe resulting 45-minute tour of the Fort was an unforeseen pleasure. He was not an interpretive Ranger and did not have a script memorized. Instead, he told us stories, showed us hidden places and answered many questions.

15 minutes after he had started, another Ranger (the scheduled tour guide) ran into the Fort and announced that the 11:00 tour was cancelled because of inclement weather. His proclamation seemed silly to all of us while we were learning about the Union and Confederate use of human shields at the Fort. We greatly appreciated the Fort Pulaski Ranger’s generosity, not to mention his teaching acumen. He did not have to help us but he did.

The newly redone introductory video is excellent. Go see it before you make your way into the Fort. The small museum is also a treat. Fascinatingly designed original flags hang from the rafters behind protective glass. Notable among them is the familiar coiled snake “Don’t Tread on Me” South Carolina flag and one showcasing a menacing eagle labeled “Federal Government” attacking a pristine woman labeled with the names of the Confederate States. The message reads, “Touch her if you dare”.

FUN (7/10)
A series of disappointing Sites made us wary of yet another coastal fort. Oh look, some earthworks, and how about that cannon? Fort Pulaski NM distinguished itself with a small but excellent museum, a video that aided rather than obstructed our understanding of the Site and a Ranger that went out of his way to ensure that the few visitors to the Site didn’t leave without a tour.

And how about that cannon? The artillery that rests in the corner of the south and southeast walls actually saw action during the 1862 siege. It looks worse for wear, but not as bad as the walls themselves. Fort Pulaski NM bears the scars of the innovations in weaponry that made the Civil War our first modern war.

Rainy DayWe enjoyed this outdoor site, even in the pouring rain. We did not intend to spend three hours here but we did.

Facilities and staffing at Fort Pulaski NM are superior to Fort Frederica NM and Fort Caroline N MEM. With its close proximity to Savannah, Fort Pulaski NM is an easy side trip and a good reason to explore the beaches of Tybee Island.

TOTAL 57/80

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St. Simons Island, Ga.
Visited: February 2, 2005
NPS Site Visited: 142 of 353
NPS Website; Local Website

Old City RuinsWHAT IS IT?
James Oglethorpe, leader and founder of the Georgia colony, began construction of Frederica Town in 1736. It was the southernmost outpost under British rule. Today, only the ruins remain.

BEAUTY (4/10)
Fort Frederica must have once been a beautiful little town with its wide streets, live oaks, orange trees, a tabby (oyster shell) fort and Georgia-style architecture red brick structures. Little remains of the town today except portions of the fort and the base of the old houses. Oglethorpe built Fort Frederica on a planned square grid of roads that the Park Service still marks with street signs. You need to use your imagination to transform the house shell ruins and overrun old streets into a vital English city.

James Oglethorpe settled Georgia, and Fort Frederica, with the “worthy poor”, or English citizens who had found themselves homeless or in debtor’s prison. Frederica was both a bustling town and the southernmost British defense line in the American colonies. Its primary purpose was military.

As we learned at the Castillo de San Marcos NM in St. Augustine, Oglethorpe launched many attacks from 1740 to 1743 on the Spanish colony from Fort Frederica, none of them successful. One of his sneak attacks was stymied at Fort Matanzas, an NPS site just south of St. Augustine. In turn, the Spanish invaded Georgia in 1742 but were repelled at Bloody Marsh, an adjunct section of the Park near the southern tip of St. Simons Island.

CROWDS (4/10)
We were the only visitors to Fort Frederica NM. The Visitor Center was stuffy; the watchful eye of the volunteer unwavering. Perhaps more visitors would have lightened the mood and made us less claustrophobic.

Costumed MichaelEASE OF USE/ACCESS (2/5)
The Site is 12 miles from Interstate 95 and Brunswick, Georgia. Fort Frederica is located on St. Simons Island. The Island can only be reached via the E.J. Torras Causeway.

U.S. Route 17 leads to the bridge’s entrance. Route 17 is known by many names its short loop around Brunswick. They include Georgia Route 25, Glynn Avenue, the Ocean Highway, the Jekyll Island Road and the Darien Highway. Just follow signs to St. Simons Island.

St. Simons Island’s roads are narrow, crowded and have a low speed limit. They are also very well marked. Many signs point you on you way to Fort Frederica NM.

The 12 miles from the Interstate to the Fort could take as long as forty-five minutes to traverse.

Georgia is the one thing books at Fort Frederica have in common. This small store maintained by a local non-profit association offers journals and replicas of official documents from the colony’s early days. If those seem a little dry, pick up books describing Fort Mose, a Spanish fortification armed solely by escaped slaves or read social histories or Scottish Highlanders in Colonial Georgia. St. Simons Island and the nearby town of Brunswick are settings for several titles, including Eugenia Price’s historical novels.

COSTS (3/5)
Entrance is $5 per vehicle.

No Rangers on duty. We are fortunate that, earlier that week, we had asked a Ranger at the Castillo de San Marcos NM about Fort Frederica’s place in the American story.

Invitation from John IrelandTOURS/CLASSES (4/10)
We have the distinction of being two of the last people to view This is Frederica, an intriguing NPS video starring John Ireland. Remember the soap Santa Barbara? This Is Frederica is essentially a soap opera set among the ruins of the town of Frederica. Actors dressed in colonial garb sporting an array of accents go about their daily chores, interact and recount the history of the 18th-century town in buildings without walls or doors. This makes scenes with bickering neighbors and constables “knocking” on doors even funnier.

Yes, the 1965 film was horribly dated and difficult to follow. Yes, the narrative technique bordered on ridiculous, with Mr. Ireland switching from omniscient observer to active participant with no regard for chronology or linear narrative. We did not learn much, but my goodness the film was fun to watch.

We arrived just days before Fort Frederica NM would unveil their brand new video as part of a celebratory anniversary weekend. Will future visitors ever know This Is Frederica?

There is a small exhibit area in the Visitor Center. It pales in comparison to watching the ”uppity wives of the worthy poor” preen and gossip amid the ruins of Frederica. No Ranger-led activities are offered in the winter months.

Frederica GangFUN (5/10)
It is really impossible to explain how wonderful/horrible This Is Frederica was. Our guffaws echoed in the empty theatre. This film will probably reach mythical proportions in our minds before our trip is over.

The absence of regular Ranger-led activities makes it difficult to recommend this Site. Its historical significance is minimal; access is not as easy as it should be. With the lovely towns of Savannah, Georgia and St. Augustine, Florida so close in either direction, you might stop here en route between them. No need to go out of your way.

TOTAL 34/80

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Plains, Ga.
Visited: December 19, 2004
NPS Site Visited: 129 of 353
NPS Website; Maranatha Baptist Church

Plains High aka Carter NHS Visitor Center

Numerous buildings in Plains, Georgia, the boyhood and current home of the 39th U.S. president, Jimmy Carter. The Site celebrates Carter’s life as well as life in a typical rural southern town.

BEAUTY (3/10)
Buildings are simple and only as large as they need to be. The few blocks of Main Street barely put a dent in the fields that surround the town. Plains, Georgia has added a few placards to the roads and a few Secret Service men to their population. Other than that, there is nothing to distinguish this quiet town from others nearby. In many ways the town is just like its most famous native son; what you see is what you get.

Jimmy Carter led his improbable runs to Georgia State Senate (1963), Georgia Governor (1970) and president of the United States (1976) here in Plains, Georgia. Carter’s amazing success demonstrates that idealism and good people have a place in politics.

In 1961, when apparently defeated in his initial foray into public office, Carter refused to admit defeat. He and his family braved death threats and the Southern status quo by showing that the Georgia Senate race had been overwhelmingly fraudulent. Many of the long-time incumbent’s votes had come from deceased citizens, voting in alphabetical order. The election results were overturned. President Carter has never stopped fighting for electoral fairness worldwide.

Jimmy Carter currently lives at the western city limit of Plains, Georgia but his home is only about 800 yards from the small town’s center. Preserved at the center is the Plains Depot, the train stop from where his presidential campaign ran.

Waiting for JimmyCROWDS (9/10)
Who could be as excited as we were to see President Carter? Every other person filling the Church and later browsing the old school building/Visitor Center and strolling the main street of Plains. The Church greeter recognized us at the Peanut Patch, a small store downtown. The town of Plains doubles in size almost every Sunday. Visitors are welcomed with open arms and free samples.

It is not often that we feel such a sense of camaraderie with our fellow park visitors. There was a palpable excitement and joy in the air. We believe Jimmy and Rosalynn bring it every time they come home.

The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site is the city of Plains, Georgia. Plains is 10 miles west of Americus, GA on US 280. Another NPS site, Andersonville NHS, lies 20 miles northeast of Americus. Both sites can be visited in one day. One long, emotional day.

Each of Carter’s 19 books were for sale, including his newest, Sharing Good Times. Most could also be purchased in an audio or large print version. All come with an autograph request form.

Site MuralSome books seemed out of place until you looked harder. Why is Mattie Stepanek’s Journey Through Heartsongs here? Carter was a hero to Mattie, a young poet and disabilities advocate who dreamed of being a peacemaker, just like President Carter. Mattie passed away last year from a rare form of muscular dystrophy but not before his hero wrote the Forward to his collection of poems.

Each book is here for a reason. Browsing them, one can see the extent of President Carter’s touch and influence on the world far after his presidency concluded.

COSTS (4/5)
The Site is free. One may give a donation at the Maranatha Baptist Church, but it is not required. We are a little embarrassed to say just how many free samples of fried peanuts and peanut brittle we sampled at the Peanut Patch.

Little known fact: some Rangers rotate among Sites. This is the second time we have spoken with a Ranger and walked away wondering where we had seen him before.

There were two Rangers at the Visitor Center. One or two more may have helped with the post-Church rush which filled the school lobby.

The Jimmy Carter NHS Visitor Center is located in his and Rosalynn’s old High School. The building itself is a part of the Site. The displays are terrific, especially the touch screen computer where the president and first lady answer questions from grade school children. The Charles Kuralt-narrated film recounting the early life of Jimmy Carter is well done.

President CarterThe highlight of the Jimmy Carter NHS is found in the Maranatha Baptist Church, another building that the Site preserves. Nearly every Sunday, President Carter teaches Bible study at 10:00 a.m. Click here for his schedule. He missed a December lesson because he was in Mozambique certifying their second democratic election and will missed last Sunday’s talk because he was in Palestine on the same mission.

Get to church by at least 8:30; the pews only seat 300 and half are reserved for church members. His talk was incredibly moving. He intertwined the message of the Gospel with his amazing life experience and knowledge all the while never forgetting to flash his well-known grin.

President Carter radiates a feeling of love throughout the audience. A couple behind us had traveled the previous week from their home in Tallahassee to the Sunday bible lesson. They were so touched that they had to return. If we lived nearby, we would do the same.

FUN (10/10)
This felt like a once in a lifetime experience even though President Carter teaches as often as he can.

It is hard to believe that a former U.S. president and Nobel Peace Prize award winner makes himself available to the public on a weekly basis for the humble task of preaching the Gospel in a tiny Baptist church. Find your way to Plains, Georgia on a Sunday while you can. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter are American treasures.

TOTAL 61/80

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Andersonville, Ga.
Visited: December 19, 2004
NPS Site Visited: 130 of 353
NPS Website

Andersonville MonumentsWHAT IS IT?
Site of the infamous Civil War prison camp officially named Fort Sumter but known in the North as Andersonville. The Park also includes the National Prisoner of War Museum.

BEAUTY (3/10)
While in operation, Andersonville was a real life vision of hell, eerily resembling the writhing hell bound bodies of Jan Van Eyck’s The Crucifixon; The Last Judgment or the apocalyptic images of Albrecht Durer. A large drawing of the Prison Camp hangs at the Site drawn years later by a former prisoner from memory. When you look onto the grounds, you can easily imagine the madness. The visual images and history is so disturbing that we often found it difficult to breathe.

No place demonstrates the insanity of war better than Andersonville NHS.

From February, 1864 until May, 1865 Fort Sumter served as the South’s primary Prison Camp. 45,000 Northern soldiers were held here. 13,000 of those men died at Andersonville. During that time, the Confederacy was in dire trouble. Economic and transportation blockades had effectively removed the South’s ability to feed and clothe themselves. The Confederates could not sustain the living conditions of the Northern POWs while their own people were starving.

The result was one of humankind’s lowest points.

The Andersonville prison was rectangular in shape and only 26½ acres. Prisoners were thrown in the open-air stockade and left to fend for themselves. No guards, no roof, no clean water source, no medical help, no sanitation, inadequate food and extremely crowded living conditions. The Prison maintained an average of 30,000 soldiers; the soldiers had little room to move. Some built makeshift tents while others slept by boring holes into the ground.

Bandits roamed the grounds stealing whatever property one might have smuggled in or later procured. Suicide was common; many simply stepped into the no-man’s zone near the stockade walls and were shot. The Prison guards were given the same miniscule food rations as the prisoners. Their death rate was nearly the same as those interred.

The drama of brother fighting against brother in the Civil War over philosophical ideals always sounds romantic and proud. Even after visiting the killing fields of Chickamauga and Gettysburg, the war somehow feels civilized despite the history of death. Andersonville removes any of those notions.

SheltersCROWDS (8/10)
A good number of people joined us on our Ranger-led tour of the grounds. We all were visibly shaken at different times and the constant probing questions fired from all pulled us back into the tour.

Andersonville can be accessed via a number of winding Georgia roads that branch westward from Interstate 75. All these roads are well marked; you should not have a problem finding the Site.

There are two entire bookshelves of Andersonville-specific titles. The store also stocks POW-related books for all American wars.

COSTS (5/5)
The Site is free as are the Ranger talks and the POW Museum.

Plenty of Rangers all armed with a steely resolve and matter of fact, non-emotional look at history.

Two Ranger-guided walks through the Prison Site leave at 11 and 2 daily. The tremendous talk lasted more than an hour and covered every conceivable aspect of the Prison’s history and life at the Camp. The Ranger was a wellspring of knowledge. We do not know how she can physically talk and learn about such a horrifying place.

The moving National Prisoner of War camp opened in 1998. It begins with an exhibit that explains the rules regarding POW’s established at the Third Geneva Convention in 1949. It is a good start. Multi-media exhibits follow the experience of the American POW from the Revolutionary War up to the Persian Gulf War. There are so many exhibits that the Museum is overwhelming, both in its content and emotional power. Sadly, the Museum glosses over the treatment of Native America POW’s. It forgets to mention the many that either died or were murdered during custody while making a point to mention that during his imprisonment, Geronimo was more of a celebrity than a prisoner.

The Site includes a Prisoner of War Reference Library (available by appointment) and a computer that lets you find the name and personal information for every person imprisoned at Andersonville.

FUN (7/10)
Fun? No. But a moving and an essential visit, yes. The Museum is stellar and the Ranger talks enlightening.

Let Us Have PeaceWOULD WE RECOMMEND? (9/10)
The only place we have ever visited that felt similar to Andersonville was the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Oświęcim , Poland. A place where you see the darkest reaches of human existence. Andersonville NHS is just as difficult a trip, especially because there are no villains. Everything feels so inevitable and so utterly chaotic.

Both the guards and prisoners were reduced to a sub-human existence through exterior forces made unavoidable because of war. We did this to ourselves. We can never allow it to happen again regardless of the situation.

TOTAL 62/80

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Fort Oglethorpe, Ga. and Chattanooga, Tenn.
Visited: December 16, 2004
NPS Site Visited: 127 of 353
NPS Website

Peace MemorialWHAT IS IT?
The Site consists of two separate Parks commemorating two different battles. The Chickamauga Battlefield remembers of one of the bloodiest battles of the U.S. Civil War. The Battle of Lookout Mountain, fought a month later on October 28, 1863, was less bloody but solidified Union control of Chattanooga. The Site was designated as the first United States Military Park in 1895, the thirtieth anniversary of the War’s end.

BEAUTY (6/10)
Lookout Mountain offers an unobstructed view of the city of Chattanooga and the Tennessee River, giving meaning to the little dots of light on Chickamauga’s electronic map.

Chickamauga’s Visitor Center is spacious and well-designed, opting for large print displays and high ceilings rather than claustrophobic displays that we have seen at other sites which try to do too much in too little space.

The Battlefield at Chickamauga NMP is home to over one thousand marble reminders of the individuals who lost their lives and the states from whence they came. Varying in shape and size, the largest offering a seasonal observation tower, these monuments have been the victims of vandalism and centerpieces of debate since they were erected. Public and private funds are spent on their maintenance every year. Whether you feel it is the least NPS can do for these veterans or an unwise expenditure, the obelisks, plaques and sculptures shape the Military Park and all others since.

Nearly 35,000 of the 115,000 Americans that fought at Chickamauga either lost their lives or were seriously wounded. The Union victory, assured later at Lookout Mountain, gave the North a toehold into the Deep South and allowed for Sherman’s push through Georgia. Control of Chattanooga proved to be a vital strategic advantage, one that facilitated the Civil War’s eventual outcome.

Perhaps even more historically interesting than the September 19-20 Battle is the way that the Park has been preserved. From 1890 through 1895, Northern and Southern veterans returned to the Battleground and meticulously placed over 1,400 monuments to regiments, soldiers and officers in the exact places that fighting occurred and men fell. Chickamauga served as the model for Civil War remembrance and has been imitated at Gettysburg, Shiloh and Vicksburg.

CROWDS (6/10)
We expected larger crowds at Civil War-related sites and here we found them. Even on a Thursday afternoon, the Site had a good share of visitors. While it is nice to see people interested in history, perhaps they could not read the exhibit panels aloud with an outside voice.

View of ChattanoogaEASE OF USE/ACCESS (3/5)

The two Battlefields are not nearly as accessible as they appear especially since they both lie within the city limits of Chattanooga, Tennessee and Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. If you plan to visit both areas, plan an entire day.

The Chickamauga Battlefield can be approached from both the north (Tennessee) and the east (Georgia). From Tennessee take Interstate 24, Exit 180B and go south along U.S. Route 27 (Rossville Boulevard then LaFayette Road). In about five miles, you will pass through old town Fort Oglethorpe and into the Park. From Georgia, take Interstate 75, Exit 350 and go west along Georgia Route 2 (Battlefield Parkway). In about five miles, turn left onto LaFayette Road and into the Park. Both ways are clearly marked.

The Chickamauga Battlefield has a seven-mile driving tour that takes you through the myriad monuments that mark every minuscule thing that happened during the battle. Reading them all would take forever.

The route to the Lookout Mountain Battlefield is much more problematic. As the crow flies, the Visitor Center is less than a mile from Interstate 24. In practice, it could take you about a half hour to get from the Interstate to the Site. Tennessee Route 148 (at this point named Scenic Highway) steadies up the side of the mountain and levels off through a posh residential neighborhood (road now named East Brow Road) until it gets to the Visitor Center.

Good luck getting onto Route 148. The entrance from U.S. Route 11 (also called 41/72 and 11/64 and Lee Highway!) is especially dicey. If you are approaching from the west on Route 11, you come around a blind curve and then have to make a near U-Turn to get on Route 148 (the Scenic Highway). From the east, you can at least see the left turn uphill but you have to make that turn across traffic with cars speeding around previously mentioned blind curve. Pick your poison.

Whatever you do, go to Chickamauga first. It is the more comprehensive of the two sites and the provided NPS brochure has a detailed map and suggested a travel path to Lookout Mountain.

An entire wall full of books written specifically about the Battle of Chickamauga. Who knew that these even existed? The bookstore’s vast selection of Chickamauga books even made us reconsider this Site as a more important historical location. During our visit, a few people bought an impressive companion to the Auto Tour; a fully illustrated Chickamauga guide that comes with a CD-Rom that narrates the battle and gives you a Civil War encyclopedia and computer screen savers.

The selection of Civil War books is huge. The canonized texts are all here as is an entire wall of nicely priced Dover Thrift editions that include Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery and Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage. There is an alcove of children’s books, Johnny Reb dolls and movable action fictions, miniature Chickamauga monument recreations, maps and DVD’s; probably every Civil War-related thing you could ever want.

COSTS (3/5)
The Chickamauga Battlefield charges $3 ($1.50 with NPS Parks Pass) to see its multi-media “Battle of Chickamauga” introductory video. Everything else at Chickamauga is free.

Lookout Mountain Battlefield charges $3 for entry into Point Park, a small mountaintop park that offers beautiful views of Chattanooga and access to the New York Peace Memorial.

Entry into all other parts of the Park is free.

A few Rangers rotated at the centrally located information desk. One seemed bothered to answer Michael’s James Garfield at Chickamauga question while the other, his Gen. James Longstreet-style beard indicated he may be a re-enactor, was very helpful.

The exhibits at the newly remodeled Chickamauga Battlefield are tremendous. The panels that line the lobby walls look at the broad historical factors that led to the Civil War with a balanced analytical perspective. We loved their large print, well chosen wordage and helpful timelines. Chickamauga was the ideal Park to begin our foray into Civil War Sites.

Other panels in the lobby look at the development of the Military Park itself and the unique way that Americans honor those who died in the Civil War. Two separate rooms look at the events that led up to the Battle and the Battle itself. Michael loves electric maps and was pleased to find one at Chickamauga. A third room showcases thousands of standard-issue Civil War-era rifles.

Hologram Ghosts of Battles PastThe $3 orientation show is strangely interesting but not an educational must-see. It includes a multi-screen slide show, surround sound, holographic spectral images of a Union and Confederate soldier and a spring-loaded natural background set. While fascinating in its own right, the Museum panels and electric map do a much better job at explaining the Battle.

The only exhibit at Lookout Mountain is an imposing 13×30 foot painting entitled, appropriately enough, “The Battle of Lookout Mountain.” While inside the studio, you can push a button that starts a seven-minute narrative about the painting.

FUN (8/10)
Was it the sunny day, forcing us to get out of the ‘Tima and take a walk? Was it watching the ratio of maroon sweatshirts and jackets of Montana Grizzlies fans steadily increase in the VC and eventually overtake the town of Chattanooga for the I-AA Championship happening later that week? Or was it spending time appreciating the work that Chickamauga has done to modernize their interpretation of these Civil War events that made the day so enjoyable? Probably all of the above.

We spent much more time at and traveling between the two sites than we expected, but we didn’t mind.

Although not the first battles of the Civil War, Chickamauga and Chattanooga NMP provides a good primer for even the youngest history student. Interpretive panels at Chickamauga do not shy away from controversial topics, nor do they lean very far in either side’s favor. Anyone who thinks you need big words to convey complex material could learn from the simplicity of Chickamauga’s new displays.

TOTAL 58/80

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