Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground, Day 8

The last day of our trip. It was actually yesterday, but I was both too exhausted and happy to be home to write this blog post last night.

Mom and I started the last day of our trip in Culpeper, Virginia like we did every other morning on this trip: finding breakfast! As soon as we did, we hit the road south to Appomattox Court House.

As most everyone knows, this is where Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865. There is a common misconception that "Appomattox Court House" is just that... a courthouse where the Generals met and signed the terms of surrender. However, Appomattox Court House was the name of a village and the Generals met at a private home, the McLean House, in that village.

Today, Appomattox Court House is a reconstructed village that is part of the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park and is located right outside the town of Appomattox, Virginia. (When the residents of Appomattox Court House moved closer to the railroad, the town followed suit and shortened its name to simply Appomattox.) Inside the park are six original structures still standing from 1865, along with other reconstructed buildings, including the courthouse and the McLean House.

This stop was personally important to me because my great-grandfather, Jim Tapley, was with the 48th Georgia Infantry at Appomattox when the surrender took place. He then walked home to Georgia. At the book store in the park, I found his name listed in a book of parolees.

Mom and I watched a couple of informative films in the visitor's center and went through the displays they had there. We then walked down to the McLean House, and the National Park Guide who was working there was great. He answered our questions in addition to sharing so many tidbits of information with us about the Generals and Mr. McLean.

(Mr. Wilmer McLean's story is very interesting. He and his family were from Manassas, Virginia, and the initial fighting of what would become the First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run was fought on McLean's farm. Shortly thereafter, he moved his family to Appomattox Court House, partly to get away from the fighting and partly to help his business by being closer to the railroad. There, the war found him again when he was approached by Grant's messenger who was scouting for a suitable location for the surrender. McLean offered his home, and the rest is history. Mr. McLean supposedly said, "The war started in my front yard and ended in my front parlor.")

The helpful guide at the McLean House told us where the Confederate Army would have been camped during the surrender, so Mom and I walked in that direction to take more pictures.

We returned to the visitor's center and joined a tour led by a National Park Guide. Last, but not least, we visited the gift shop for more magnets and postcards!

In the early afternoon, we left Appomattox and continued heading south to Durham. I probably drove like a bat out of you-know-where because I was tired and ready to get home!

This was an amazing journey. I learned so much. I got to see beautiful country... especially the state of Virginia. Best of all, I was able to feel the presence of my ancestors at Gettysburg and Appomattox Court House.


  1. Liz,

    I've really enjoyed riding along with you and your mom on your adventure. You've shared so many neat pictures and stories and history with all of us.

    I hope that you will collect all of the stories in one place so that readers can follow them one after the other. You might even consider an e-book, they're that good (I think!).

  2. Thanks for sharing the trip! I remember visiting Valley Forge and thinking of family members who were there that long, cold winter. When we were at Appomattox we didn't know about our kin who were there. It's a very different experience.

  3. Thanks for sharing about your trip. I had an ancestor at Gettysburg, too. Someday I'd like to go there.

  4. I'm glad I found your blog (through Jen at Climbing My Family Tree) so I could follow along with you. We did a very similar trip about 15 years ago and loved every minute of it.