Richmond, Petersburg, and the Peninsula

August 8–9, 2011

On Sunday night we met a bunch of people we didn't know for dinner at a steak place. Joyce had some sorority connection. They were pleasant company, and the food was good. Then we headed to our various accomodations to rest up for the next day.

So in the morning we went to Petersburg to tour the battlefield there. We had a wonderful tour guide named Emmanuel Dabney. If you ever get to Peterburg and he is still on the staff there, be sure to take his tour. He is quite knowledgeable and is not shy about giving his opinions. The tour is quite extensive and involves driving between areas of interest.

He said that one of Robert E. Lee's nicknames among the troops was "Shovels." (Another was "Granny.") Lee was trained as an engineer and always had them digging in and building stuff. The park has reconstructed the kind of defensive trenches in which the Confederate soldiers lived. During the siege conditions, they were your bedroom, dining room, bathroom, etc.

We enjoyed the main tour so much that we stayed on for his Crater tour. During the siege, Union forces dug a tunnel under a Confederate position and blew it up. The resulting chaos led to many more Union casualties than Conferederates, but still it was a tragic even all the way around. Our guide tended to emphasize the combination of arrogance and stupidiity of the leaders. You can read about the Crater here. The crater itself is now just some sunken areas.

After lunch and some other driving around in Petersburg, we went into Richmond. We did multiple tours of the parking garage that serves VCU, the hospital, downtown Richmond, and goodness knows what else, and eventually got to tour the Museum of the Confederacy and the Confederate White House. Afterward we did a more general driving tour of parts of the city and had supper near the Main Street Station.

On Tuesday we left Richmond and drove mostly on back roads through the area of the Peninsula Campaign. We went to Jamestown, first to the replica and exhibit park and then to the actual site where digs continue to discover things. I discovered that it was also a Civil War site besides the original settlement. It claims to be the first permanent English settlement, but I didn't see anybody still living there. We went on to Yorktown and did the driving tour and saw some demonstrations. Then we headed to Chesapeake for the night so we wouldn't have to contend with the Norfolk area morning traffic on our way to Kitty Hawk.

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