History is the open Bible

by chuckofish

History is the open Bible: we historians are not priests to expound it infallibly: our function is to teach people to read it and to reflect upon it for themselves.

(George Macaulay Trevelyan)

I had a wonderful time back east visiting daughter #2 in College Park, Maryland and driving all over the tri-state area. As planned we visited the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. It is awesome.

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We started our visit by viewing “A New Birth of Freedom,” narrated by (of course) Morgan Freeman, and the restored Gettysburg Cyclorama, which depicts Pickett’s Charge.  The film features wonderful graphics, which, for the first time, really gave me an idea of what was happening in the battle. There was also a lot of artillery noise and that made me think of the poor people who lived in the town of Gettysburg back in 1863 and how horrific it must have been for them. It would have been panic attack city for me locked in a basement or root cellar somewhere.  Anyway, after that emotional experience we trekked up to the Cyclorama, originally painted in the 1880s. It is really something to see.

We toured the park by car stopping frequently to check out particular spots.

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Daughter #2, not really a history person like her mother, was very indulgent. I think she enjoyed it all too.

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It was not at all crowded, but I can imagine in the summer it is. Spring break seems like a perfect time to visit.

The town of Gettysburg was very picturesque–lots of old buildings and a nice town square (which is now a circle/roundabout.) There is the college to see and also the Lutheran Seminary, which is part of the Gettysburg Battlefield’s “hallowed ground”–Seminary Ridge. We stayed at the Gettysburg Hotel on the circle (square), which I think is owned by the college and very nice.

The next day it was rainy so we drove to Frederick, Maryland, another lovely old town and had great luck at an antique mall where daughter #2 scored a great piece of vintage furniture. We had lunch in Frederick and then drove to Harper’s Ferry, another historic site and National Park, passing from Maryland to Virginia and West Virginia in a matter of minutes. It was thrilling to see the old town at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers–very dramatic scenery and lots of greenschist metamorphic rock formations. My favorite!

Harpers Ferry, c. 1865

Harper’s Ferry, c. 1865

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Seeing the site of John Brown’s raid on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, put me in the mood to watch Santa Fe Trail (1940) with Errol Flynn as Jeb Stuart and Raymond Massey as Brown. Of course, it is a highly fictionalized account of events, but very enjoyable fiction, and Raymond Massey is excellent as the zealous Brown. Maybe this weekend.

On Sunday we drove up to Baltimore with Nate to go to the Baltimore Art Museum which has a wonderful collection of American art and decorative arts, including some lovely export china.

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All right up my alley.

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We ate at the museum restaurant which was yummo. Nate drove me around Roland Park, which I have always wanted to do–I am after all a big Ann Tyler fan–and we saw a lot of Johns Hopkins and plenty of row houses. As Pigtown Design is always saying, “There is much more to Baltimore than The Wire!” We had forgotten that it was the St. Patrick’s Day weekend (curses) and the city was jammed with green-clad revelers, but we dealt.

So you can see my weekend included all the ingredients of a good time: historical sites, antique malls, college/university tours. And lunches at good restaurants. I had crab cakes twice!

For me the only downer was the stressful driving on congested east-coast highways, but daughter #2 has learned to be an aggressive, confident auto racer, so it was all okay.

P.S. Daughter #2 posted on our weekend and she covered everything and has better pictures than I, so check it out!