Gettysburg National Park

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Wednesday Jun 27, 2012 Under Civil War Sites, Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, National Parks, Travel

Our last stop on our Disney Cruise vacation was Gettysburg. We spent a full day at Gettysburg and got a great overview.  We got into town in time the night before to get the Junior Ranger Book and get an overview of the town. We also could have done a Ghost Tour but decided against it because of Claire. They would only give us one Junior Ranger book which bothered the kids. They did not want to share but in the end it made it easier. Between the two of them they did all the activities and I think it was a well put together program. We started  with the movie and Diorama. The movie is good a great way to start the day. The Diorama is very impressive and Claire especially enjoyed the presentation.  We then went thru the museum and answered the correlated questions in the book. We also went to a ranger program because the kids wanted to collect the trading cards. It was interesting and we did learn a few things. We then picked out a audio tour in the museum. There are several different versions but we decided on . It was an excellent choice. I really liked the book that went along with the audio and added to the experience. The audio seemed thorough but not too long. The audio told some great stories. Claire loved the story about the solider that saved the nest of bird during the battle. Cobey liked Devil’s Den because of all the rock formations.

 

After we finished the audio tour we went to the Gettysburg train station where Lincoln arrived in town. There was not much to the train station and the person working there was on the phone so he was not helpful at all. We did not stay long and then moved on to the Willis House where Lincoln stayed while  in Gettysburg. You have to pay an entry fee to go into the house and we were there less than an hour. We saw a few short films that gave information about the owner of the house and about Lincolns visit. I really liked seeing the room where Lincoln slept.  Claire bought a Lincoln top hat and book in the gift shop. It was a little pricey for what it is but there is something about being in the place that Lincoln was that somehow makes it worth it. The last stop was the Cemetery where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address. It was really neat to trace Lincoln’s steps.  The cemetery has a beautiful towering monument in the center that we learned more about from answering the questions. We made it back to visitor center in time to turn in our book and do a little shopping.  It was a rushed day but we got a lot in and feel like we got a good overview. You could easily spend several days at the park and in the town if you are interested in history.

 

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Tennessee Trip Day Three/Four

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Wednesday May 16, 2012 Under Civil War Sites, Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, National Parks, Travel

We spent the majority of third day at Shiloh National Park.  There is not much to the visitor center but Junior Ranger program was good. We purchased the CD wfor the tour of the battlefield.  It was a little hard to follow because the stops  are  in a different order but we all learned a lot. One of the highlights was when we went on walking tour at the Shiloh Indian Mounds. We somehow got off the trail and started walking deeper and deeper into the woods. We were on a different  trail and sort of lost. Claire was our hero and lead us out of the woods. We saw the Hornet’s Nest, a densely wooded , named by the Confederates because of the stinging shots and shells they faced there. We saw where General Johnston died. He was shot and kept fighting not realizing how bad the wound in his leg was and he bleed to death. We ended our visit in the National Cemetery where the kids found tombstones of soldiers. We then drove to Nashville stopping at Logan’s to celebrate Cobey’s birthday!! It was a wonderful day.

The next day Bruce was suppose to fly out. He went down to the lobby to check-in to his flight and could not. We finally figured out that I had the wrong days and he was actually flying out the following day. Oops! It all worked out in the end. He had his laptop so he did some work for hotel that night and the next day.

On the fourth day, we added Stone’s River National Park to the schedule and I am so glad we did. It was my favorite National Park on the trip. It is a little strange because it is broken up by the town that has grown around it. There is a nice visitor center with a good video to give you background on the battle.  You have to drive to the different areas of the park.  The earthworks that remain of Fortress Rosecrans were interesting. This 200 acre fortress protected railroad and warehouse and supplies. The kids favorite part was Hell’s Half Acre, a rocky area where Union soldiers held their ground. You could easily see how they used the rocks for cover. Claire’s highlight would be her purchase of a Junior Ranger vest, hat and backpack that she now takes on all of our trips. The photo to the right is  Hell’s Half Acre and the bottom is Claire’s new outfit.

We left Stone’s River and headed to Hermitage,  home of Andrew Jackson. There was much more at this site than I excepted and we could have used more time. It is not just a house but a museum, gardens, and  outbuildings. We started with a movie that was an overview of his life then headed to the house. They had audio tours that were included in the price of admission. They had a great kids version from the viewpoint of Andrew’s pet parrot.  After a guided tour of the home, we toured the garden’s and saw his tomb. We then went and saw the slave quarters and other outbuildings.  I was impressed that they did not sugarcoat the past and told of  Jackson being a slave owner, ignoring the Constitution and marrying his wife while she was still married.  He was a great leader at the Battle of New Orleans but not so sure of his presidency. We are not big fans of Jackson but had a great visit and recommend the site. I would not try to do both in one day unless you start early and have lunch on the go.

 

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The bad news – it was raining when we got up. The good news – it cleared up enough for a nice walk around Walden Pond. The bad news – the lens on my camera is not working. The good news – I have a backup camera. We spent a full day in the Lexington-Concord area. Lexington is where “the shot that was heard around the world” occurred and the first military engagement of the Revolutionary War. The thing I did not know about Concord was that Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa Mary Alcott and Nathaniel Hawthorne all wrote there.

We first went on the Liberty Ride Tour. It was a 90 min tour that gave a great overview of the battle and the sites in town. It has stops where you can get off but I don’t recommend it. There is only one trolley and you will have a 90 min wait between trolleys. Everyone gets off at the North Bridge (photo above) where the tour guide gives you more information about the battle there. The tour guide was excellent and if you have two days in the area I recommend it. But if you have only have one day then I would skip it.

The trolley tour includes three building tours. The Munroe Tavern, which was the British Headquarter,s was closed for renovations till July. We did tour Buckman Tavern where the militia met and has the original door with a bullet hole. The tour guide was very interesting and informative. After the tour, we walked on the common and saw the memorial and tomb of the militia who had died during the Lexington Battle. The third building was the home where John Hancock and Samuel Adams where staying. (pictured here). This tour starts with a movie about the battle and then a tour of the house. I really enjoyed learning more about the Hancock family and seeing the room where Adams and Hancock stayed.

We then went to the Minute Man National Historical Park visitor center. If I could do it over, I would have skipped the Liberty Ride and spent more time at the National Park. They have an awesome multi-media program that gives the best overall of the battle.  I think the Junior Ranger program is well thought out and put together. My only complaint is the kids had two completely different books. It makes it harder to complete the books. I think it is better to have the same book and have the older children complete more activities. There were several buildings in the park that we did not get to see. They also offer several different tours. Next time this would be my first stop.

At this point, I honestly had heard enough about the battle so we went to the Louisa May Alcott home. I am not a  huge fan of Little Women but this tour was very interesting to me. I now want to reread the book and my kids are interesting in hearing it. I also want to learn more about her father and his philosophy of education. It is also interesting with her ties to Emerson and Thoreau.  The tour starts with an introductory movie and then continues with a tour of the house. The house is where the story is set and where she road the book.

We then went down the street a bit to the Concord Museum. We only had thirty minutes for this wonderful museum. We would have probably not have gone in if we did not have the Boston Go passes since we did not have much time.  We really wanted to see the lantern from the Old North Church. We had been hearing about it for months now so we wanted to see the real thing. The surprise in the museum was Ralph Waldo Emerson’s library. There is something magical about a library of a  person of this stature. At the end of the museum, they provided a postcard that you could write a note to a solider and then they would mail it for you. I think this was a nice touch. Across the street from the museum is Emerson’s home which is seen above.

The last stop of the evening was Walden Pond where we saw Henry David Thoreau’s  homesite and reproduction of his home. The kids could not believe how small the home was. We then walked around the pond. It is a beautiful place but the park has put up a fence with metal stakes about about chest high and barb wire without the barbs. I understand they are trying to protect the area and keep people on the trail but it really took away from the experience. Bruce said it reminded him of a cattle chute. It was nice to finally see the sun after four days of rain.

Bruce and I both enjoyed the day more than Boston. I guess I am a country girl like Claire because it was nice not to have the traffic and noise of the city. I would love to go back and tour Emerson’s home, the Wayside home, and Hartwell Tavern. I would also like to go back to Concord Museum. If you only have a day hit the National Park, whatever house you are most interested and then Walden Pond after five when everything else is closed. If you have the option, plan to spend  at least two days in the area.

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