Friends in DC and Gettysburg

York, PA

In February we had the opportunity to meet fellow full timers Terry and LuAnn (Paint Your Landscape).  We knew they were going to begin a summer volunteer camp host stay in Greenbelt Park in College Park, MD outside Washington, DC beginning in May.  We wanted to stop and visit with them so we reserved a site at nearby Cherry Hill RV Park, where we stayed in November during our trek south.  We arrived on a beautiful Sunday afternoon so we jumped into the Jeep and headed into the city to ride our bikes along the Potomac River.

Lincoln and Washington Monuments viewed from across the Potomac

We parked in the East Potomac Park near the river just south of the Jefferson Monument and unloaded our bikes.  From there we headed north to see if the Cherry Blossoms were still out (nope, all gone) then crossed the Arlington Bridge into Virginia.  There is a great bike path along the river on the Virginia side that goes all the way south to Mount Vernon.  We rode it south to Old Town Alexandria and back.

The next afternoon we returned to Alexandria to meet friends Larry and Mary Anne for lunch.  Larry and Mary Anne also own a Discovery motorhome, and we have often met up with them in our travels.  They live in Fredericksburg, a bit south of Alexandria.  We enjoyed catching up with them over a nice lunch and hope to see them later this year in our travels (oops, forgot to take a picture of our meeting!).

The next day we arranged to meet Terry and LuAnn at a coffee shop (there just happened to be one of those “chain” coffee shops nearby).  After enjoying a hot drink and conversation we jumped in their truck and headed through a monsoon to a Panera Bread for lunch.

John, Pam, LuAnn, and Terry

The plan was to meet again the next day, weather permitting.  But the weather did not cooperate as the monsoon continued.  Rather than thrash around in the flooded streets we decided to meet the following week in Gettysburg, as Terry and LuAnn wanted to tour the battlefield on one of their days off from camp hosting and we would be near there anyway.

So the next day the rains ended and we continued our trek to the north.  We are now parked in our old home town of York, PA for a visit with friends and our daughter, Jessica.   The week after our arrival in York we arranged to meet Terri and LuAnn in Gettysburg on what was predicted to be a decent weather day, with even some sunshine.  But apparently Terry and LuAnn have some sort of dark cloud over their heads because as we approached Gettysburg the sky quickly went from partly sunny to overcast!  But that didn’t deter us and the four of us loaded into our Jeep and began our tour.  John has a background in American History and knows just enough about the Battle of Gettysburg to fool less knowledgeable people into thinking he really knows something, so he lead the tour.  His tour is not as detailed as the one given by one of the licensed guides, but he is a whole lot cheaper!

Finally, John finds attentive students!

Terry and LuAnn at the Eternal Light Peace Memorial

Despite the weather prediction of no rain until late in the day, the skies opened up just before noon.  So we adjusted our tour (the guide didn’t seem to mind) and headed into town for lunch at the Farnsworth House.  The building was in existence during the battle and was used by Confederate sharpshooters.  Chips in the bricks on the wall along the entrance way mark the spots where bullets struck the building.

White marks are where bullets struck the building

While the skies remained overcast, the rain soon stopped so we were able to continue our tour after lunch.  Late in the afternoon we released our captives at their truck and allowed them to return to their park in Maryland.  We really enjoy being with Terry and LuAnn and will hopefully see them again later this year somewhere out west.


Gen. Gouverneur Warren on Little Round Top overlooking the Devil’s Den

The Pennsylvania Monument, largest on the battlefield

It is interesting to note the differences in the memorials on the Union side of the battle compared to the monuments on the Confederate side.  Below is the 13th Vermont Memorial, typical of many along Cemetery Ridge where the Union forces dug in.

Now contrast that with the North Carolina Monument along Seminary Ridge, where the Confederate forces dug in.

North Carolina Monument

Most of the Union monuments have a soldier (usually an officer) standing in a stately pose as if surveying his troops.  Most of the Confederate monuments are much more dramatic, with troops in gallant attack poses.

OK, one “interesting story” before closing this blog.  Let’s look again at the statue on the Vermont Monument.  We have seen this statue before but the last few times we have been through the park couldn’t find it.  But we began telling Terry and LuAnn the story behind the statue when LuAnn spotted it!  As people pass this monument nothing seems unusual about it.  But if you look closely you will see two unusual things.  One is the sword held by the officer.  He is holding it in his hand without a scabbard on a belt.  The second thing is sitting at his feet.

Closeup of Lieutenant Brown's camp hatchet

It is a camp hatchet.  Now read the plaque in the picture below.

Now you know that Lt. Brown arrived on the field without a sword.  But it doesn’t explain why this occurred.  The story is kind of interesting . . .

As Union troops marched quickly from Maryland to Gettysburg (they marched 18 miles a day for seven days in the summer heat) commanding officers forbade soldiers to leave their ranks for any reason except when ordered to halt.  Brown disobeyed that order and stopped to fill canteens for his men.  When the troops reached Gettysburg, Brown was relieved of his command and his sword was taken.  But during the heat of Pickett’s Charge it was all hands on deck and Brown was ordered to the front.  With no weapon nearby he grabbed the hatchet and headed to battle.  During the fighting Brown captured a stunned Confederate officer and relieved him of his sword.  Years later when men from his company wanted to build a monument to his bravery, the powers that be refused to allow a statue with an office wielding a hatchet.  A compromise was reached where Brown would hold the captured sword in his hand and the hatchet would be placed at his feet.    And you thought history was boring ! ! !


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43 Responses to Friends in DC and Gettysburg

  1. Wheelingit says:

    So glad you got to meet our good buddies Lu and Terry. It was funny…as I was reading your post I saw the 1st two pics and thought “look, they’ve even got great weather over there”.,,then I read the rest of the post LOL. I do want to make it over to the east coast and see some of that history at some point.

    • placestheygo says:

      Nina, your name came up several times as LuAnn and I talked:) We met them in Feb while we were in FL and were very excited to get to spend more time with them. We had to create our own sunshine:)

      A trip to the east coast most certainly can be one filled with history. I am sure you and Paul would really enjoy it.

  2. Sherry says:

    We just got to Greenbelt Park on Thursday and talked to Lu. I am so sorry we missed you and this great tour and interesting information. I’ve always found history so fascinating and wondered why we (as a people and even a nation) never seem to learn from it.

  3. Pam… and you got all of that “history info” from John??? See; he does still have some retention factor up there……ha… Keep those picts and stories coming…. Barb and I are kicking around an east coast run, maybe, next year…..

    • placestheygo says:

      John is not only the history teacher but also the author of the blog. I do photos and offer “helpful” tidbits!!!

      A trip east sure is a very different experience than the west. People everywhere! But also most of our countries history.

  4. Oh my goodness, John, that was interesting. Now I don’t remember our paid tour guide mentioned those historical trivias. Luann and Terry are so fortunate to have you as their personal history guide,although they brought the weather with them.

  5. Joan and Steve says:

    I love that I can learn from blogs such as yours. It’s never boring. Not sure if you guys have ever been to Crazy Horse in SD but you really should check it out. The area is great. There’s a bike trail beside the rv park that is over 100 miles long!

  6. Laurel says:

    Any chance that you might be returning to the east coast next year? Sure would love to meet up with you for a history tour! Unfortunately, my history teachers only recited dates and facts, which put me to sleep. But the stories you tell bring history to life. Looks like a wonderful bike path along the Potomac, too.

    • placestheygo says:

      Sorry, Laurel, but the west is calling us back. We plan to stay for quite awhile.

      One of the things John does is make history come alive with all the neat background stories.

      The bike path is wonderful and runs for 16 miles!

  7. Gay says:

    Great story Pam and John. Terry and LuAnn were very lucky to have you as guides! Hope when we hit the east coast you will be there too!

    Happy Mothers Day Pam!

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Gay! Happy Mother’s Day to you as well:)

      Not sure we will be back to the east coast for a long while. The west is calling and we must go!!! You understand:)

  8. LuAnn says:

    Apparently Terry and I do have some sort of a dark cloud following us around, or perhaps it is the two of you (lol)? 😉 Regardless we are so glad that it did not cause a “wash-out” on our Gettysburg visit. Like Laurel I am one of those who had the most boring of history teachers in school so John’s approach was very refreshing, even if I am now learning that we were a bit gullible in believing John had a wealth of knowledge on this topic (hehe). At least my finding the statue of Lt. Brown shows that I was indeed an attentive student.

    Seriously, we had a wonderful day even with the inclement weather. We just finished watching Gettysburg last night (loved it) and I am happy to report that John’s stories stuck with me as I remembered far more than I thought I would. 🙂

    Hope to see you both again soon. Happy Mother’s Day Pam!

  9. Fascinating story about Brown. I think it’s great that details like that have been preserved for history, and even more impressive that you know the backstory!

    • placestheygo says:

      It is interesting how many neat stories there are with all the monuments in the park but one never knows these without lots of reading and research. Thank goodness history is John’s passion so he is usually well prepared when we go to any historical site.

  10. Jodee Gravel says:

    I too find comparisons of historical monuments very interesting. The contrast of stiff, single officers with passionate numbers of warriors is an interesting one I hadn’t noted before. Makes me want to read about those who authorized the selections and what they were hoping to convey (if their reasons were recorded 🙂 ). Thanks for a fun trip!

  11. pmbweaver says:

    Lovely header!
    Love the first photo of the monuments from afar.
    Great story about Lt. Brown.
    I want John with us when we EVER get to this awesome place.
    Hope you are enjoying your visit with Jessica!

  12. Erin says:

    That is indeed a great bike path … although we never biked it when we were living in the DC area … we walked it … many times, once all the way from Mount Vernon to DC. What can I say, it was a lovely day! Good thing we found a way to get back to Mount Vernon … the car was still parked there 😉 Thanks for the story about Brown … very interesting. I did notice when we visited Gettysburg years ago that the monuments of the southern states were more dramatic.

  13. You’re in my old neck of the woods. I grew up in Baltimore! Interesting story about the hatchet.

  14. placestheygo says:

    Yes, we lived here in York for 25 years and our daughter still lives here, hence our stop in the area again. Thanks for stopping by:)

  15. mathews says:

    Lucky you to catch up again with LuAnn and Terry and lucky them to have John’s special tour of Gettysburg. We almost met them in the Keys, but were short by one day. The Brown story really makes the battle scene come to life.

    I am sure your are enjoying your time with Jessica and old friends in York. Hope the weather improves for the rest of your stay.

    • placestheygo says:

      We have had a wonderful time with LuAnn and Terry despite the weather. We created our won sunshine:)

      We are enjoying our time with Jessica and catching up with friends since we won’t be back for awhile.

  16. Anne says:

    It is so great to tour an area, especially one so historic, with someone who knows and is passionate about it. Terry and Lu Ann were lucky. We plan to stop in this area on our way south next fall. Thanks for the information.

    • placestheygo says:

      Anne, do make sure to either have a guide or rent the audio tour so you really get the full flavor of the three day battle. The park is quite large. The Visitor’s Center/Museum is so well done and will take a day in itself. I am sure you will enjoy the visit to the area.

  17. rommel says:

    Nice find on the hatchet. Lu and Terry are lucky to have you and John, esp. with John being an instant tour guide. Such a happy feeling reading about blogger friends meeting up.

  18. We missed the cherry blossoms last year too! Great story about the lieutenant. I had very boring history teachers and it never stuck. Traveling and “seeing” history has been wonderful, maybe one day will have a chance to learn from John.

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