The Hayfoot and I went to Washington this past weekend. We took in part two of the National Archives’ Discovering the Civil War exhibit. I find primary documents evocative. They make history more immediate and tangible. Seeing the kids in the museum gallery I wondered how many will have their imaginations sparked by the sesquicentennial the way so many youngsters did during the 100th anniversary. If you want to see it you had better hurry; the show ends on April 17th. We love playing tourist in D.C. We also went to Arlington National Cemetery. The Lee Mansion was somewhat disappointing because the house is undergoing extensive renovation and there was not much to see. Still, the work is necessary and it gives us reason to return in the future.
I have always known of course that the Lee residence is just across the Potomac and close to the capitol, but until standing in the front yard with its panoramic view of the District of Columbia I was not aware of how close.
Walking down the hill we came across Robert Todd Lincoln, who rests within sight of his father’s memorial.
One yankee dollar for the restoration of the Lee estate.
We also watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. I came across this Universal Newsreel with a brief snippet of the Tomb from Memorial Day 1945, less than a month after V-E Day but with the war against Japan still raging. The National Cemetery in Brooklyn Ed Herlihy refers to in the second segment is Cypress Hills, one of the first fourteen such burial places created by President Lincoln in July 1862. I sense a Civil War subway trip coming this spring.
Memorial Day 1945 marked the end of an era; it was the first time no Civil War veteran participated in any of New York City’s numerous Memorial Day parades. Eighty years after Appomattox only 240 members of the Grand Army of the Republic remained. Eleven were New Yorkers and their average age was 98, too old and infirm to participate. In the newsreel’s part three Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia—a former translator at Ellis Island—presides over the parade in Manhattan, which ended at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument at 89th Street and Riverside Drive. Many mistake this for Grant’s Tomb, which also lies on Riverside Drive but thirty-three blocks north. The inside of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument is usually closed to the public. One exception is each October when the public can tour the interior during Open House New York. I missed it last year but already have it down on the calendar for fall 2011.
We have been to D.C. several times in the past few years and my only regret each visit is that we cannot stay longer. Another trip is already in the works.
Thanks for checking in.