Last Saturday we drove from Bar Harbor to Camden ME along the very pretty Atlantic Highway, stopped in Belfast for a quick lunch and arrived at the Hartstone Inn right in the heart of the village of Camden. The Inn was built in 1835 and includes 21 guest rooms and a wonderful restaurant. The owners Mary Jo and Michael Salmon have extensive experience in resort and restaurant management; Michael is a graduate of the Culinary Institute and the chef of their restaurant. Needless to say, the food was amazing.
On Sunday we took a two hour sailing trip on the historic schooner Surprise out of Camden Harbor. We sailed around Penobscot Bay with beautiful views of the huge summer estates, private yachts, lighthouses, and wildlife. Surprise was designed by the most famous American designer of fishing schooners, Thomas McManus, and captured sixth place in a fleet of 22 vessels in the first race to Bermuda after World War I. Surprise has transferred ownership and been restored many times; she came to Camden in 1986. She was entered on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991, which recognizes her as an important part of our country’s maritime heritage. Unfortunately, I have to admit there was no wind the day we ventured out, and even though I expertly raised the sail, the motor was running the entire time. It was still a fun, relaxing, and scenic adventure.
Monday we were on the road again for a fairly short drive to Mystic, CT. On our way we passed through Kennebunkport (no sightings of the Bush family) and Ogunquit (where we had a picnic along the coast.). Mystic is a seaport with the largest maritime museum in the nation. We decided to pass on visiting the museum, which has preserved many sailing ships, most notably the whaling ship Charles W. Morgan, the world’s oldest surviving merchant vessel and the only surviving wooden whaling ship from the 19th century American fleet. This summer the Morgan sailed its 38th voyage around Southern New England and visited its port of origin in New Bedford, MA.
Mystic is located on the Mystic River which flows into Long Island Sound, providing access to the sea. A big attraction is the Mystic River Bascule Bridge which crosses the river in the center of the village and happened to be right next door to our B&B, Steamboat Inn. We realized quickly that although having a water view plays a strong priority in our lodging selections, sometimes it’s best to be a bit further away from the action as you’ll hear in this video:
On Tuesday we each ventured out for some exercise (Bob ran and I walked) around the picturesque Mystic River. We spent the rest of the day preparing for our upcoming visit to Antietam and Gettysburg Battlegrounds. Dinner was at Harbour House where we watched a gorgeous sunset while eating on their waterfront terrace.
Wednesday began early since we had a long drive to Sharpsburg, MD. We arrived at the Historic Jacob Rohrbach Inn happy to settle into the General’s Quarters. The Inn has been a Sharpsburg landmark since 1804. Our room, a small cottage, was originally the Summer Kitchen in the 1830’s.
During the Civil War years, Sharpsburg was a border town of a border state. It sits in The Valley, in Virginia it’s called the Shenandoah Valley, cross the Potomac it is the Cumberland Valley, and once in Maryland it is only a short distance to Pennsylvania towards Harrisburg and Philadelphia. This made it an inviting route for movement of troops or invasion. Starting in 1861 the town was involved in numerous border skirmishes.
After visiting many Civil War battlegrounds in South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and Tennessee, it was time to explore the grounds of two very significant battles. The Battle of Antietam, known as the Battle of Sharpsburg to Southerners, was fought on September 17, 1862, so close to where we are staying that the room we are staying in was hit by 3″ solid shot. It was the first major battle in the War to happen on Union soil and is also the bloodiest single-day battle in American history (22,717 dead, wounded, and missing; 1 casualty for every 2 seconds of fighting). Antietam also has a reputation as one of the nation’s best preserved Civil War battlefields. We were able to view many sites nearly as they were in 1862. We audio-toured the battlefield in our car, stopping and exploring many of the sites on foot, including the Dunker Church, the Cornfield, Sunken Road (also known as Bloody Lane), Burnside Bridge, and Antietam National Cemetery. The battle was essentially a stalemate, but due to Lee’s retreat back to Virginia after the battle, the Union considered it a victory. Lincoln, waiting for just the right moment, used the timing of the victory to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.
Antietam was also the first battlefield photographed by professional photographers, post battle. The pictures, put on display in a NYC gallery, was the first time civilians were able to see the true carnage of a battle. Lines for viewing the photos were many city blocks long. One of the more famous photos was of the aftermath of the battle at Sunken Road (therein known as bloody lane). Our guided tour stop took us to the site of the photo.
We drove to Harpers Ferry (that’s correct, no apostrophe) which is a historic town situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers where the states of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia meet. Harpers Ferry is best known for John Brown’s raid on the Armory in 1859 and its role leading up to the Civil War. Brown was a white American abolitionist who believed violent revolts were the only way to overthrow slavery in the U.S. In 1859 he attempted to start a liberation movement among enslaved African Americans in Harpers Ferry. After an attempted capture of the armory and subsequent hostage situation in the local fire house (thereafter known as Brown’s Fort) Brown was captured, tried, found guilty, and executed. Historians agree that Brown’s actions escalated tensions that a year later led to secession and the Civil War. Brown’s Fort stands near its original location. An interesting side note, Lt. Colonel Robert E. Lee commanded the group of US Marines who stormed the fire house and captured Brown. His aide was J.E.B. Stuart.
After reading numerous books, watching several documentaries, and studying battlefield maps, we finally arrived at Gettysburg National Military Park. We started at the Visitor’s Center with a short film and visit to the cyclorama, then headed to our car for an extensive self guided 18 mile auto audio tour. For the next 5 hours we toured the battlefield in chronological order of the events of the three day battle. The Battle of Gettysburg, fought July 1-3, 1863 involved the largest number of casualties of the entire war and is often described as the war’s turning point. Our favorite sites included Little Round Top, Cemetery Hill, and The Angle (the objective of Picket’s Charge). We both read the Civil War Trilogy by Michael and Jeff Shaara which tells of the story of Gettysburg through the eyes of the main characters. The middle book of the trilogy, titled The Killer Angels, about the Battle of Gettysburg was also the basis of the 1993 movie Gettysburg starring Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, and Martin Sheen. The books and the movie focused on the characters of Lee and Union commander Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. We were both captivated by Chamberlain, who was a college professor from Maine who volunteered during the War to join the Union Army. He had no prior education in military strategies, but became a highly respected and decorated Union officer (and eventually the 32nd Governor of Maine). He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Gettysburg. We gave particular attention to the area of Little Round Top where the 20th Maine, on the extreme left flank of the Union line and out of ammunition, was led on a bayonet charge down the hill by Chamberlain that stopped the Confederate advance and prevented the line’s collapse. We also walked the angle and copse of trees on Cemetery Ridge where Picket’s charge and subsequent defeat ended the battle. Over 51,000 dead, wounded, or missing in the 3 days of fighting.
We completed our tour at the Gettysburg National Cemetery. At the cemetery’s dedication on November 19, 1863, the cemetery committee chose Massachusetts Statesman and orator Edward Everett to deliver the main speech. The committee asked President Abraham Lincoln to deliver “a few appropriate remarks.” Everett spoke for two hours on the causes of war and the events that led to the Battle of Gettysburg. After his remarks, Lincoln rose and spoke for two minutes, giving what became known as the Gettysburg Address. Unbelievable to us, no one knows exactly where the President stood when he delivered the Gettysburg Address.
Today we are catching up on laundry and blogging. Tomorrow we are off to Washington D.C. for a two week tour. Bob has never been and I haven’t been since I was 10ish. We are both looking forward to exploring DC.