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For the time being, I have had it with trying to write about the usual things.  With this piece, I am going to confine myself to being a travel writer, recommending here three battlefields that I think is worthwhile for you to take a trip East with your entire family, including your school children on summer vacation.

Unfortunately, I can’t think of any battlefield in California that one can visit, although you might come close by stopping in at Fort Tejon at the top of the Grapevine when you are driving north on the I-5.

At least, Fort Tejon is slightly tied to the central battles of the Civil War.  It was while being stationed at Fort Tejon that a certain Army Captain Ulysses S. Grant – fresh of his heroic adventures in the Mexican War – learned to get drunk as a result of trying too hard to find something interesting to do in Southern California.

How this is related to the Civil War is that Southern Californian drinking may have left Grant the most relaxed general in Lincoln’s union army.  When you look at all the pictures of the previously failed Union generals, they look like they have been stricken to the quick, whether it be McClellan, Hooker or Burnside.  In contrast, the most memorable photograph of General Grant in the Civil War is of him leaning so heavily against a tree that if he had let go of the tree he would probably have fallen over.  But his eyes look so relaxed that none of his junior officers or soldiers could have ever conceived that Grant could be afraid of his old Mexican War commander, Robert E. Lee. In response to complaints of Grant fighting drunk. Lincoln reportedly ordered that it be discovered what Grant was drinking, than order the same whiskey for his other generals to free them from being so petrified on the battle field.

Thank you, Southern California, for teaching Grant to be a drunk so that he could relax into something when he was fighting against lee.

Yorktown:  The Battle of Yorktown in Yorktown, Virginia was where America essentially became America.  It was where George Washington’s army finally cornered the internationally famous British General Cornwallis and his British army between a certain Captain Alexander Hamilton’s terrifying bayonet charges on one side and the terrifying huge French fleet on the other side.  Today the open spaces of the battlefield have largely been forested over, but within the park there is a very scenic drive where you can drive through all the battle landmarks and hear about the battle step by step with the aid of excellent portable recorders.

To really get in to the 18th century business of Yorktown, it is helpful to at first spend a day in the colonial district of the nearby city of Williamsburg.  The modern Williamsburg lives side by side with this colonial portion of the city where 18th century artifacts, museums, state buildings and shops abound, with an array of staff members wearing perfect 18th century plumage.

Gettysburg:  I really think that the field and the museum of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania must be the most breath-taking historical site in America.

The undulating field itself is rather surreal when you see it in person. It is such a wide and long and open field that you have to think that Abraham Lincoln himself must have felt an other-worldly experience when he recited his Gettysburg address there.  You also have a temptation when you see it to run over the field where General George Pickett led his final third-day charge of his Confederate Army against the Pennsylvanian Union General George Meade on defense.  You do not see any cover – no trees to disguise yourself or any rock you could possibly hide behind if you were to get wounded and crippled.

But the view from the grove where the Union Army shot at Pickett’s charge is just as daunting.  As you stand among these trees and gaze at the huge field, the largeness of the scenery gives you a taste of the hugeness of Confederate numbers that were charging so long ago,

Inside at the Gettysburg Museum, there is a very large room-sized electronic map that seems part computer and part pinball machine with all of many lights that give time sequences to the Confederate charges that took place during that relentless three-day battle that defined the American Civil War.

Fort Lee: On the east bank of the Hudson River overlooking the Bronx borough of New York City, remnants of the old Fort Lee stand as they did at in the early days of the American War of Independence)..  These cannon were once used to try to shoot down the British reinforcements that were sailing down the Hudson.  Today these cannon are cemented over and serve as background for bar-b-cue sites.  This is also the New Jersey Palisades bank where then Vice President Aaron Burr shot to death the former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. In the area this is sometimes called a twin shooting twin duel – Hamilton and Burr were both formerly brave officers in George Washington’s First Continental Army, they were both proud New Yorkers, they were both lawyers, and according to their contemporaries they were both uncannily brilliant.

After indulging in the traditional picnic among the cannon at Fort Lee, you have the option to follow it up with very civilized trail hiking up and down the Palisades.  Or you can go into lower Manhattan and get ready for dinner at the Fraunces Tavern, still flourishing after George Washington hosted a final dinner for his officers there following the end of the war, with Washington’s favorite chicken pie remaining today on the menu.  After eating that 18th Century pie, you will certainly want to go upstairs to the Fraunces Tavern Museum, where the special Long Room where Washington gave his personal military farewell has been preserved for your historic pleasure.

Chris Sharp- Commentary

Chris Sharp is an Educator and a prize-winning professional writer. He has recently published a new book titled How to Like a Human Being . Sharp's latest book is an Amazon Kindle collection of his published short stories, Every Kind of Angel . His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon.