The first time I ever saw the field — the site of one of Robert E. Lee's most decisive victories because, in part, of the high ground he held there — came on the heels of a baseball trip to see the Baltimore Orioles play in newly constructed Camden Yards. I bet that was about 20 years ago.
My friend, who was driving and knew I had an interest in the Civil War, asked if I wanted to see the battlefield — we could detour off the Interstate for a few minutes before heading home to North Carolina.
It was an eye blink. I think I remember driving on the Sunken Road (you could back in those days) in front of Marye's (Ma-RHEEs) Heights, and I thought I was really something. I'd at least had heard of those iconic places, and now I had finally seen them.
Since then, I've been to the field dozens of times, tramping from one end to the other. I've always enjoyed my visits to Fredericksburg because the town is historic, it's visual, it's pedestrian friendly and there are some really great places to eat (like Carl's Ice Cream).
|John Bloss came up this way to the Sunken Road and the stone wall.|
Suddenly, Fredericksburg took on a perspective I've never felt before despite the fact that I'd trod its history several times over. I walked over to the Innis House, just off the Sunken Road, and looked into town. This is the route from which Bloss would have come.
|The Sunken Road with an original section of the stone wall (right center).|
If that doesn't hit you upside the head, I don't know what will. I took a moment for myself, to reflect, to wonder, to tear up.
Bloss, of course, survives the war, although 139 of his regimental comrades apparently do not. It's something to contemplate.
The weekend also included a trip to Stratford Hall, where Lee was born, and to the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, VA., where I saw the flag that flew over Wake Island and the flag that flew over Iwo Jima, among other things.
Sometimes, history just falls into your lap. And sometimes, you have to look for it. Either way, there seems to be a treat in the end.