Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Odds and Ends, April 2014

This week I offer readers a few odds and ends of interest. There is a lot going on, and sometimes it's good to just throw it all out there!

*The busy season for the 1864 Sesquicentennial is about to begin. Over the next few months, we will commemorate the Overland Campaign, the siege of Petersburg, Jubal Early's raid and the Battles of Monocacy and Ft. Stevens, and the Atlanta Campaign, to name a few. Most immediately, Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park is observing the 150th anniversary of Wilderness and Spotsylvania. The park has set up a dedicated web page for all Sesquicentennial-related matters. Check here for a complete program of events, including living history and Ranger-led, real-time hikes. The offerings are truly dizzying, and I hope you'll be able to attend at least some of these very special events, which start May 3. I unfortunately have limited vacation time right now, but whatever I do, I'll be sure to report back. And look for my buddy, fellow blogger, and Sesquicentennialist extraordinaire Craig Swain, who will be in the thick of it, live Tweeting and all that good stuff.

*Closer to home, Falls Church will hold its annual Civil War Day on Saturday, May 17, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the grounds of the historic Cherry Hill House and Farm (c. 1845), a Unionist property during the conflict. The Cherry Hill website promises a day filled with numerous activities:
Learn how the Civil War affected Falls Church as re-enactors portray both civilians and soldiers from the period. Watch soldiers conduct firing and drilling exercises, listen to spy stories, letter readings and period music. Look for our children’s tent filled with lots of activities for kids.  
Old-fashioned box lunches with fried chicken, cole slaw, corn bread, ginger cake, and lemonade can be pre-ordered for $8.00. Call (703) 248-5171 for more information.This event is always a fun and interesting time for those interested in the Civil War in these parts.

My sons meet General Lee (Frank Orlando) while Fairfax Museum Curator Susan Gray looks on.
*Speaking of local happenings, last Saturday I took my boys to the 14th Annual Fairfax Civil War Day at Historic Blenheim in the City of Fairfax. This was my first time attending the event, which offered activities for young and old alike. Exhibits, tours, and lectures covered a variety of topics, including German-American caricaturists in the Civil War, preserving Fairfax history, railroads, and medicine. Visitors could see an 1862 traveling forage in action, as well as the remnants of a corduroy road recently unearthed along VA-123. My twins are only three, so we were limited to the taking horse-drawn wagon rides, visiting the camp of the 17th Virginia, meeting General Lee, feeding the horses of the Black Horse Cavalry, and climbing the hay pyramid. But I was happy to expose the boys to Civil War history and introduce them to our rural past. I take it as a good sign that they rushed to buy souvenirs in the gift shop! (A Springfield musket pen and 34-star flag....) I was also pleased to see so many other families with young children enjoying the day. As an added bonus, I had a chance to catch up with a few local historians.

*I have begun work on a possible Civil War Trails marker to commemorate the winter encampment of the Pennsylvania Reserves at Camp Pierpont in Langley. As readers know, my interest in this topic borders on an obsession. At the present time, nothing in Langley marks the site where one of the Army of the Potomac's most storied units spent the first winter of the war under the leadership of McCall, Meade, Reynolds, and Ord. Hopefully this will change in the relatively near future. I will keep everyone informed as I move forward with this project.

*The April 2014 edition of the Civil War News includes an article by reporter Nancy J. Olds about a nineteenth-century Sunday school tract that a reader gave me last year. The book contains an inscription indicating that it was taken from the home of a "Rebel" near Lewinsville,Virginia by Sgt. William A.C. Oaks of the 7th Pennsylvania Reserves. I wrote a post about the artifact last year.

Looking over graveyard towards Lewinsville Presbyterian Church in McLean.

*Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Roland McElroy, a freelance writer and congregant of Lewinsville Presbyterian Church. During the government shutdown in October, I found myself with free time and decided to do some field research at the church. Lewinsville Presbyterian was established in 1846 and sustained extensive damage during the Union occupation of Lewinsville, now part of McLean. The original church building is long gone, but the old cemetery survives. An assistant in the church's office gave me Roland's name and told me that he had just written a history of Lewinsville Presbyterian. When we finally met for coffee, he presented me with his work, Pilgrims and Pioneers Always: The History of Lewinsville Presbyterian Church, 1846-2013. Roland also gave me a copy of The Lewinsville Presbyterian Church: A Concise History of the Congregation, written by Frank W. Gapp in 1976. I am indebted to Roland for these two books, which contain priceless details about the church during the Civil War. (Incidentally, copies of Roland's book can be purchased in person at Lewinsville Presbyterian, 1724 Chain Bridge Road, McLean for $10.) Roland and I also plan to collaborate on research. He is going through the church archives and uncovering some very useful and interesting information. I hope to blog about the church in upcoming posts. Like for many congregations around Northern Virginia, the war brought tremendous and often unwanted change.

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