Friday, October 23, 2009

On the Yorktown at Patriot's Point, South Carolina

Patriot's Point is a fantastic museum featuring the USS Yorktown, a WWII aircraft carrier. This ship is BIG! It is 888' long and housed over 3,000 crew. We were able to tour the entire ship and examine the many, many wonderful exhibits.

Orinda was impressed with the ship -- as we got closer to it, the ship seemed to get much bigger!

In addition to the Yorktown, we could also tour the USS Clamagore, a WWII submarine. Orinda was not keen on touring this one, so Rick ventured through the sub himself.

The sub was amazing. It was both large and small at the same time -- it was hard to believe that 80 men lived inside. Here, Rick is looking at one of four 5,400hp Diesels that provide primary power on the sub. I will bet this was a noisy place when those engines were running!

After touring the Clamagore, we boarded the Yorktown and started our tour in the hanger deck. This huge area housed the 90 WWII aircraft and served as a servicing area for everything from airplanes, engines, armament and much more.

One part of the tour that Rick really enjoyed was the engine room spaces. The Yorktown was powered by 4 huge steam turbines with 150,000 hp. This amazing ship was capable of over 33 knots in WWII which is really moving for something almost 900 feet long! The Yorktown is a great place to visit and provides a real insight into the career of a great ship and her crew.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fort Moultrie -- Acoastal Defense Fort for almost 200 years

We visited Ft. Moultrie which is located on Sullivan's Island on the north side of Charleston Harbor. The fort was first built in 1776 out of palmetto logs and earth-filled berms. The fort was not even complete when it was attacked by a large British fleet, but was successful in beating the fleet back and saving the harbor. The Commander of the force in the fort was none other than William Moultrie, who went on to become both a Major General and Governor of South Carolina. As a result of this great victory, the Fort was named in his honor after this.

Orinda is looking at the powder magazine and contrary to her happy smile, she was not pleased to be in this confined space!

The Fort served until 1947 and went through a number of different iterations. Today, you can tour the Fort and see parts that are restored to be typical of WWII, WWI, the Spanish American War, Civil War and even earlier. Very interesting.

Fort Moultrie's next major claim to fame is the shelling of Ft. Sumter, seen here, in the middle of Charleston Harbor. This bombardment was part of the overall action that started the Civil War.
Union forces then began a siege of both captured forts and shelled Sumter and Moultrie for some 20 months, but never succeeded in defeating them. The forts finally fell to the Union when the city of Charleston was abandoned by the Confederacy in early 1865.

There are cannons from each period that Ft. Moultrie was in service mounted behind the walls, with these representing the late 1800 era.

This view shows the interior of the fort where you can see the earth-filled hills that proved resistant to cannon fire. The Fort is really a great walk through time starting at the most modern time and moving back to Revolutionary War times.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Visiting the Battery in Charleston, SC

We spent a few days in Charleston, SC visiting the sights, including the beautiful battery area which is right downtown and on the harbor. This is where the Civil War actually started as cannons located here fired on Fort Sumter which is located in the middle of the harbor.

Ft. Sumter, seen above, was where the Union troops moved after vacating Ft. Moultrie, which is on the north side of Charleston harbor. After firing on Ft. Sumter for 34 hours, the fort surrendered.

Charleston continued to be a focal point for the war for years and this monument located in the Battery area recalls the Confederate defenders of the town.

Surrounding the Battery area are many fabulous old homes that have been restored to their former glory. Orinda thought she would like this one!

Rick was impressed with this cannon that may have fired shots at Ft. Sumter. Apparently, people sat on their porches and watched as these guns hammered Ft. Sumter.

Imagine standing on the porch of this home and watching the start of the Civil War!

These guns still give a Civil War flavor to the area. Today, there are many great things to see in Charleston and we look forward to seeing Patriot's Point, Ft. Moultrie and many other sights in the area.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

St. David's Church in Cheraw, SC -- a Trip to Revolutionary Times

Rick was scouting around the old town of Cheraw, SC (in the low country of SC) and found this very interesting and very old church that dates back to 1768! Cheraw was not only an old town, but was also quite important in the Revolutionary War.

The Old St. David's Church has naturally undergone many changes over the years, but still retains its 250 year old character. A very interesting part of the Church's history is the very old cemetery with graves covering the entire history of the country.

This headstone caught my eye -- Capt. Moses Rogers was the captain of the first steam powered ship to cross the Atlantic! Capt. Rogers was well known in the early steamship era and worked with Robert Fulton. I can only imagine as to the adventures he must have had!

The Church was also the site of a number of graves of soldiers of all conflicts that the country was involved in. Above, see a very moving memorial from a grandfather to three grandsons who were lost in service to the Confederacy during the Civil War.

I was also surprised to learn that the British were based in Cheraw during the American Revolution. This was a part of Cornwallis's Army that landed near Charleston, SC and marched north to Yorktown, where General Washington defeated them. Apparently, while camped here en route, smallpox struck and killed several British soldiers and officers.

The British officer grave was covered by bricks as shown above, while the soldier's graves are unmarked today. This was a very poignant visit and makes one think about the many people that have come this way before us.

We left Cheraw for Myrtle Beach and found that Cody LOVES the surf! But, that will have to be a story for another day.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

On the USS Cairo - a Civil War Ironclad

How cool would it be to actually go on board a Civil War ironclad that actually fought in Vicksburg? Well, today, we did just that. The USS Cairo fought in the Vicksburg campaign and was lost to a Confederate mine (called torpedoes back then). The ship sank in 12 minutes, but with no loss of life and rested on the bottom of the Yazoo River (which feeds the Mississippi) until 1964 when it was raised in several large pieces. Amazingly, much of the ship was still intact.

The National Park Service has re-assembled the Cairo using the original pieces whenever possible and it is amazing to see this large ship up close. You can see the actual timbers and iron plating that are original. Notice the damage to the port bow (at the right side of the photo) -- this is where the mine exploded.

Here, Rick is actually on the deck of the Cairo. Behind him is the bow and front guns. Amazingly, 175 men served on this ship -- bet things were very close then!

Behind Orinda is the actual paddle wheel. This was located in the center of the ship to protect is from shell fire. This also helped keep the draft of the boat as shallow as possible.

The iron plating was about 2" thick and rested on solid oak timbers. Apparently, this provided great protection against cannon fire (but not against mines).

Cody shows one of the original cannon that was used during the siege of Vicksburg. This gun, and many others like it, poured fire into the city for some 6 weeks before the city surrendered to U.S. Grant's forces.

Grant and Confederate General Pemberton met personally to discuss the surrender. Grant was so impressed with the Confederate resistance that he allowed the 30,000 defenders to swear they would quit fighting and go home -- they were not held as prisoners. Vicksburg was a most interesting place to visit!

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Vicksburg Battlefield National Park

We took several hours to explore the incredible Vicksburg Battlefield National Park and found it very interesting and moving. Immediately after entering the park, which is right in the Vicksburg area, you move through this very large column which denotes the start of the 16 mile auto tour. The Memorial Arch was built in 1917 after a reunion of some 8,000 veterans of the battle at the battlefield.

There are many, many monuments, statues and displays (over 1,300) that were erected in the early 1900's period to commemorate the battle. Vicksburg was the last of the 5 National Battlefield parks created by Congress in the late 1800's and really brings this battle to life even today.
This monument is typical of the state monuments that commemorate the many sacrifices of the soldiers on both sides. The auto tour moves down the Union lines and then through the Confederate lines. As a result, we could get a great idea where each state's forces were located and how the battle and siege played out.

Artillery played a major role in the 6 week siege that eventually caused the surrender of Vicksburg. The excellent Visitor Center Museum showed how the battle developed and finally was completed.

The Illinois monument was especially moving. This very large marble structure commemorates the Union forces from the state of Illinois.

Inside the memorial, which does not have a roof, is a very moving display of all the names of the 20,000 soldiers from Illinois. These names are listed on bronze tablets that circle the inside of the monument and are seen as the dark band around the wall.

This sample of a tablet of names which surround the walls. It was very interesting to see the many names that made up the large Illinois contingent. Vicksburg is a very interesting national park that really provides insight into the Civil War and the leadership of General Grant.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Visiting Vicksburg, Mississippi and the Coca Cola Museum!

We spent a couple of great days visiting Vicksburg, MS. Known for the famous Vicksburg battlefield, we found much more to explore in addition to the battlefield (which I will post next). Our first stop was the excellent visitor's center which is located right next to the river.

Naturally, being right on the river, flooding is a common concern. However, it was hard to imagine how dramatic these floods really are. These flood marks give an idea as to the amazing heights these floods can reach.

The marks really do not give a feel for how high these floods are-- however, these marks when compared to the current river height show the real impact. Notice that these are some 50' above the current river level. Wow -- I would hate to be anywhere around when these

We learned about the Coca Cola Bottling Museum at the Visitor Center and of course, had to go for a visit. This is the site of the very first bottling of the original Coca Cola. Up until this took place in the late 1894, Coke was sold as a fountain drink only.

It was great to see the old bottles that were actually used and learn how the bottling took place. This was really a huge change in the soft drink business.

Imagine using this equipment to bottle Coke! You could bottle ONE bottle at a time and had to wear a special mask in case the bottle exploded! The bottler would work all morning bottling Coke and then deliver the prepared drink in the afternoon. A far cry from today!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lincoln Highway, Clinton Library and the Big Dam Bridge

While we were driving to Amana, we saw this interesting bridge -- an original bridge from the Lincoln highway -- the first transcontinental highway in the USA! In fact, this is the only remaining bridge on the entire route. This highway was first gravel surfaced and stretched from New York to San Francisco. Imagine driving across this very bridge in 1915 as you traveled cross country.

We next visited the Little Rock, AR area and took in the Clinton Presidential Museum. Very interesting and what we both thought was scary was that we remembered all this and it seemed like yesterday!

Here is the actual limo President Clinton used while in the Whitehouse. This think is litterally built like a tank.

The museum featured activities and events for each year that Clinton served as President. One very interesting display was the President's daily activity calendar -- each day took some 5 pages of single spaced type to show the activities!

You could also visit an exact duplicate of the situation room. Here Rick imagines he is in charge!

We thought this replica of the Oval Office was perhaps the most interesting display of all. Furnished exactly as it was while President Clinton was in office, this really provided on insight into the office of the President.

While driving around Little Rock, we say a sign for "The Big Dam Bridge" and had to investigate. It turns out that this is a real bridge for walkers and bikers only and crosses the Arkansas River. It gets its name from the fact that it uses a dam for many of the supports and is, in fact, the longest pedestrian bridge in the USA at some 4,300 feet.

Rising some 90' above the river, this makes a spectacular viewing point for the river. Today, the river was very high and water was really moving as a result of recent heavy rains.