Sunday, July 26, 2015

Virginia Civil War Trails, Gettysburg, Make Me Wonder about Robert E. Lee

We took a back way down into Virginia at the edge of the Shenandoah Mountains, Interstate 66 from Interstate 81, to U.S. 533, I think it is, to State Highway 231, finally merging onto U.S. Highway 29, well down on Piedmont Plain, though the Blue Ridge remains in view to the west.

We had connected onto I-81 more or less in Harrisburg, PA, abandoning Interstate 78, which backwards more than 100 miles forms a crossroads in our hometown of Bedminster, NJ, with Interstate 287. We skirted Gettysburg, and then in Maryland, just before crossing the Potomac River, Antietam. Virginia is the Civil War state beyond compare with more than 2000 military incidents on record. We noticed that Highway 533 seems designated--at least in parts--a Civil War Trail. In Virginia, many roadways are so or at least are associated, and if you're interested, this link can provide more information than I will:

533 connected to Highway 29 in Virginia's smallest town, Madison, with 210 residents last on record in the year 2000. Nevertheless, this historical landmark of a village serves as the seat of Madison County, named after President James Madison, who owned property on the Rapidan River.

The first thing I noticed about Highway 29 is the namesake--The Seminole Trail. That raised an eyebrow, since our tires rolled through Virginia, not Florida. So once we got to our motel room, I Googled information. The best I can report is that U.S. 29 originated as a Cherokee trail, just as U.S. 206 in NJ originated as a Lenape trail. Escaped slaves headed south, rather than the typical north, to join with Seminole Indians in Florida, never to be found out. The best I could judge from the information, runaway slaves did indeed join with Seminoles, but I'm very familiar with Highway 29 leading southwest to Lynchburg, where I went to school for a semester at Lynchburg College. Why slaves would move in a somewhat westerly direction towards Florida beats me. The Virginia General Assembly named the highway The Seminole Trail in 1928--leaving no record of why. So it is a mystery.

To come down from Jersey through Washington DC would have been a way to follow history, too, but I always used to take that approach, and by what my Father told me, the beltway is a traffic mess these days.

Best of all, the way we came these recent days passed within a very few miles of Gettysburg. I've made the battlefield's acquaintance before, and just to see the name of the town on an exit and come close aroused positive affinity. And judging by the way the terrain moves in against the mountains, forming a sort of pass from Virginia up to Gettysburg, I wouldn't be surprised if the Confederates under General Robert E. Lee took more and less the same route we did today. Feel free to tell me if they did. I'm very interested in history, but for now I'm just going to leave it at this guess.
Potato field and Shenandoah Mountains
We found a place to park. I shot some photos, and studied the stream, Hughes River, from the bridge--lots of minnows, small suckers, one smallmouth. Matt went down to the river and walked upstream a way.
Tastee Freez is a southern chain immortalized in Cheech & Chong's 1970's yellow album, this example we found in the town of Madison.


  1. Love the Civil War. Have read volumes. Having gone to school in nearby Carlisle PA- the high tide of the confederecy due to JEB Stuart's raid on the shoe factory that is now a dormitory of the College- we often went to Gettysburg (also one of our two sports archrivals) and my college yearbook picture was taken there sitting atop a cannon that was part of Alexander's Battery on that faithful day of Pickett's charge- the event I consider the beginning of the end. Anyway- LOVE that part of the country Gettysburg, Sharpsburg, New Market, Lexington (Stonewall's home, Lee's burial ground, the college of the two Georges- George Marshall and George Patton (VMI), Luray Caverns, Natural Bridge, Charlottesville)...... love it. Thanks for stirring some great memories. There is a little river- called Middle River that runs through the KOA campground near Luray Caverns- more of a creek really- that flows into the Shenendoah- where I caught one of my top ten smallies of all time on an ultralite while wading.... exciting. good memories.

    1. Carlisle resonated going by both ways. The smallmouth bass all through the region from Susky south are legendary. Glad you know so much about the war, I really know little, but enough to engage me. We have those volumes...the big tomes by what's his name...begins with an S, ask my wife when she gets home. Anyway, went to the study to look, and saw my wife's volume of Heisenberg's War. On the way down, Trish said in reference to whatever that Matt doesn't have to go to school in Germany, now that..whatever, and I made the crack that he can leave that Nazi Heisenberg...Aha.Shelby Foote, that's the name.


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