Monday, July 6, 2009

Democratic Visions Bus Trip Day 1

Today was the first day of our Teaching American History grant -Democratic Visions - summer bus trip to Civil War related sites around the state of Kentucky. We actually started the trip last evening with a dinner and short introductory program at Berea College, and had a nice stay at the Boone Tavern hotel (pictured above).

We got started bright and early this morning after a nice breakfast, that was also at the Boone Tavern. Our first stop was at the Battle of Richmond Visitor's Center, which just opened in October of last year. The Center is in the restored Rogers House, an 1811 Federal-style house, that was involved in the fighting. The Battle of Richmond (Aug. 29-30, 1862) was the first major engagement during the Confederate offensive into Kentucky during the late summer of 1862, and is known for being the most complete Confederate victory of the war. During the battle the Confederates took over 4,000 Union prisoners and opened Kentucky for further operations that did not end until the Confederates retreated back to Tennessee after the Battle of Perryville (Oct. 8, 1862).

While in Richmond we also vistied Zion Christian Church which was a focal point of the battle, as well as a hospital after the battle, and Pleasant View (the Armstrong family House). All of these sites are being interpreted by the Battle of Richmond Association, a grassroots organization that is very dedicated to preserving and interpreting as much of the Richmond Battlefield as possible. I would like to congratulate them for their hard work and their wonderful Visitor's Center.
Our next stop was at the Lexington History Museum for lunch and an informal self guided tour of their galleries. The LHM is in the converted historic courthouse in downtown Lexington. Their exhibits on Lincoln, and Lexington's involvement in the Civil War are quite well done. Also interesting was their exhibit on Civil Rights.

After lunch we made our way a couple of blocks down Main Street to the Mary Todd Lincoln House (pictured above). This is the house where young Mary grew up and lived before moving to Springfield, Illinois where she would meet and later marry Abraham Lincoln. The house is furnished very nicely with a number of rare original pieces both from the Todds and the Lincolns.
Our next stop was a drive-through tour of a number of significant African American historic neighborhoods, and then a stop at African American Cemetery Number 2. This historic cemetery was started in 1869 and contains a number of Lexington's African American community leaders. One individual that really interested me was a soldier from the famous 54th Massachusetts Infantry.

Finally, we drove from Lexington up beautiful highway 68 to Old Washington, Kentucky, which is just south of Maysville, Kentucky. This charming old town has a number of connections to the Underground Railroad and historic figures in the antebellum and Civil War eras. We were treated to a talk by University of Louisville professor Dr. Alicestyne Turley, who specializes in Underground Railroad research, especially as it pertains to Kentucky.

As you can see it was a very full day, but one a very enriching and educating one as well. I can only hope the other five days are just as good.

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