Battlefield Visits: Finishing Off West Virginia (and then some)

In April of 2019, I did something that I had never done before: I planned a multi-day battlefield stomping tour of West Virginia, southwestern Virginia, and eastern Tennessee that would take me to some of the most remote places I had visited on my own. It was scary and exciting all at the same time. I spent weeks studying Google Maps and laying out the perfect route. I booked hotel rooms. Finally, after work on the Wednesday before Easter, I started the journey west.

My plan was to be checked in to the Wingate in Bridgeport, WV that night, but I had a stop that I wanted to make along the way.


Battle of Moorefield – Civil War Battlefield #83

Deviating from my route a bit, I turned north on US Route 220, and found a wayside marker for the Battle of Moorefield. This cavalry fight took place in the gorgeous mountain valley here, and the rolling terrain would have made for some seemingly good defensive positions. The action flowed south toward the town from this spot, but I’m glad that I took the time to take in this picturesque view.

Even if you aren't interested in battlefields, the drive through the rolling valleys of Harding County, WV is absolutely lovely. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
Even if you aren’t interested in battlefields, the drive through the rolling valleys of Harding County, WV is absolutely lovely. – Photo by the Author

Day 1

After a good night’s rest, I woke up early, grabbed some breakfast in the hotel lobby, and hit the road for a great day of exploring. I knew this day would be the trickiest of the trip, as several of the stops that I had planned were up in the mountains, in the middle of the National Radio Quiet Zone (NRQZ) – where my cell phone would definitely not work. If I ran into some kind of problem, I’d have a hard time getting help.


Battle of Philippi – Civil War Battlefield #84

Appropriately, my day started at the first land battle of the Civil War – no, it wasn’t Manassas – it was the Battle of Philippi. There is a nice park along the Tygart Valley River here with flags, markers, and monuments – some of which aren’t Civil War-related. There is also a covered bridge here, which factored in the battle, although it has clearly been modified to handle modern automotive traffic.

The view of the Tygart Valley River from Blue and Gray Park in Philippi. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
The view of the Tygart Valley River from Blue and Gray Park in Philippi. – Photo by the Author

Battle of Rich Mountain – Civil War Battlefield #85

I took a bit of a winding route from Philippi so that I could approach Rich Mountain from the west, much like the Union army did during the battle. My understanding is that this road – which follows the original trace of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike – has since been paved, but at the time I visited, it was gravel all the way up to the summit. Once I was at the top, the first thing I noticed was how serene it was. Speaking as someone who has lived in suburbs all his life, it is shockingly quiet in the mountains of West Virginia.

There is something of a joke among Civil War nerds that a common question that tourists ask is something like this: “If a battle happened here, why aren’t there any bullet holes in the monuments?” (The second question is “Why do these battles always happen in National Parks?”) Well, I can tell you, at Rich Mountain nearly every marker has bullet damage in it (though I doubt it was caused in the 19th century). To be honest, I got a little nervous reading these tablets that had clearly taken rounds fired from behind where I was standing.

In West Virginia, the monuments really do have bullet holes in them! - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
In West Virginia, the monuments really do have bullet holes in them! – Photo by the Author

There is a local preservation group that seems to spearhead the acquisition and care of the battlefield land, but they have their work cut out for them given the state of the signs and markers when I visited. The American Battlefield Trust has also helped with securing land at the site.

Even with the rough condition, there are adequate waysides at the top of the mountain to understand what happened during the battle. Most notably, this is the battle that (rightly or wrongly) gave George McClellan the chance to make a name for himself, and basically catapulted him into the command of the Union army. I’d argue that William Rosecrans was actually the critical personality at this battle. Definitely worthy of a visit – this one is a hidden gem of the Civil War.


Battle of Cheat Mountain – Civil War Battlefield #86

A short drive to the southeast from Rich Mountain put me inside the NRQZ. My cell phone would be without a signal for the next 4 hours as I drove up and down the mountains.

My next stop was the Battle of Cheat Mountain, now contained within Monongahela National Forest. There was a short drive up a gravel mountain road right off of US Route 250, approaching the site of Cheat Summit Fort (also known as Fort Milroy) from the east. Even though there were 20th century strip mining operations in the area, the terrain immediately around the fort is still pretty well-preserved, and it is another amazingly quiet spot. There is an observation platform near the middle of the fort, and even some preserved earthworks. Plenty of waysides and markers tell the story. From the sound of things, this was an extremely remote and miserable place to be for the Union soldiers in the early days of the Civil War, with snowfalls occurring even in August.


Battle of Greenbrier River – Civil War Battlefield #87

Down in the valley to the east of Cheat Mountain, is the modern day town of Bartow, WV, site of the Battle of Greenbrier River in the fall of 1861. The US Forest Service ranger station on the east side of the town has a small museum with information about the local wildlife as well as some historical displays about the Battle of Greenbrier River, as well as the Battles of Cheat Mountain and Camp Allegheny, including a few artifacts. Outside, a wayside marker describes some cavalry action that took place in the area later in the war.

Some of the artifacts on display at the Greenbrier Ranger Station. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
Some of the artifacts on display at the Greenbrier Ranger Station. – Photo by the Author

Continuing along US Route 250, and crossing over the east fork of the Greenbrier River, you can find the site of the Confederate Camp Bartow a short distance to the east. A nice wayside there discusses the failed Union “reconnaissance-in-force” that attempted to dislodge the Confederates and that we now recognize as the Battle of Greenbrier River.

The Confederate Camp Bartow was on this hill. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
The Confederate Camp Bartow was on this hill. – Photo by the Author

Battle of Camp Allegheny – Civil War Battlefield #88

One of the great pieces of information I got from the ranger at the Bartow Forest Service station was that the best approach to the site of the Battle of Camp Allegheny was from the east. A dirt road splits off from US Route 250 immediately before you hit the Virginia state line, and that would be the smoothest way for me to reach the top of the mountain. There is a small area to pull off right at the start of that road so that the couple of waysides and markers talking about Camp Allegheny can be viewed.

The dirt road up to the “Top of Allegheny” was rough. Probably the scariest road I’ve ever been on. It is a single lane, dirt road, twisting up the side of a mountain. It is full of massive potholes that you have to carefully avoid (especially when you’re in a 2009 Honda Civic with very low ground clearance), and absolutely nothing like guardrails. It was a bumpy and potentially dangerous ride, but I was not going to pass up the chance to visit this site!

At the top, I pulled into the small Forest Service parking area just as a slight drizzle started. I took some time to examine the wayside there and then fired up the video camera on my iPhone to capture my impressions.

The site of the historical fort is out in the field you see toward the end of the video. That is all private property today. Once again, this was an extremely peaceful and quiet place. And the fact that you have to take a single-lane dirt road to get there, and that there wasn’t a prayer that you’d get a cell signal (thanks to the NRQZ) really made it feel like you were stepping back into 1861. This one stop was definitely the emotional high point of the trip. I am SO glad I did it.

It became clear that there was no good way down the mountain to the west, so in order to head to my next stop, I’d have to retrace my steps back to Bartow.


Green Bank Observatory and Science Center – A Brief Interlude

At Bartow, I turned south, and drove along the Potomac Highlands Trail until I reached the town of Green Bank, WV.

The largest of the Green Bank radio telescopes as viewed from the museum. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
The largest of the Green Bank radio telescopes as viewed from the museum. – Photo by the Author

This very unique town is host to the Green Bank Observatory and Science Center. Here, massive radio telescopes listen for signals from the distant universe – something that is only possible inside the NRQZ. Radio transmissions are extremely restricted in town. Residents aren’t allowed to run wi-fi access points, nor use microwave ovens in their homes. The radio telescopes are situated relatively far from public roads, and only diesel-engine vehicles are allowed to take visitors close enough for tours as even the radio noise from a spark plug is enough to ruin their experiments.

I grabbed lunch at the Starlight CafĆ© within the museum – seemingly the only restaurant in town – and had a chance to check out the exhibits and pick up a few souvenirs for the boys. Since there are no radio transmissions allowed in the area, I also was able to catch a photo of a rare historical artifact.

An ancient artifact from a simpler time. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
An ancient artifact from a simpler time. – Photo by the Author

Battle of Droop Mountain – Civil War Battlefield #89

Heading farther to the south and west, I was eventually able to see signal bars on my iPhone again as I approached my next stop, the Battle of Droop Mountain. A roadside marker along the way confirmed that I was on the right track.

Now a West Virginia State Park, this battlefield has been very well-preserved and has several markers and even a few monuments. Near the parking lot, I had my first artillery sighting of the trip – although it was a replica 10-pounder Parrott Rifle.

The first artillery sighting of the trip - a fake 10-pounder Parrott at Droop Mountain. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
The first artillery sighting of the trip – a fake 10-pounder Parrott at Droop Mountain. – Photo by the Author

Many units have individual markers like this one to the 22nd Virginia Infantry that are placed along the main tour road. Col. George S. Patton, grandfather of the famous WWII general, commanded this particular regiment at Droop Mountain.

The grandfather of famed WWII General George Patton commanded a Virginia regiment at Droop Mountain. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
The grandfather of famed WWII General George Patton commanded a Virginia regiment at Droop Mountain. – Photo by the Author

The true highlight of this field is the distinctive observation tower located on the far eastern slope of the mountain. The views up the valley toward the town of Hillsboro, WV are magnificent. Trust me when I say that the photos I took don’t do it justice.

The views alone are enough to justify a visit to Droop Mountain. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
The views alone are enough to justify a visit to Droop Mountain. – Photo by the Author

Battle of Carnifex Ferry – Civil War Battlefield #90

My next leg took me deeper into West Virginia and weaving through the mountains that were clearly coal country. I passed several old industrial sites, and small towns on my way to the West Virginia State Park that preserves the Battle of Carnifex Ferry.

Like Droop Mountain, the fact that this is a state park means that it is pretty well-preserved, and there are numerous markers to explain what took place here. I think my favorite aspect of this park was the numerous warnings – on their website, as well as on signs around the park – that you should stay on marked trails because of the high risk of unexploded ordnance STILL being in the ground here after more than 150 years.

One such trail leads along the side of the mountain to stunning views of the Gauley River valley below. Once again, the images you get from a camera just can’t capture the feeling of being there yourself.

There are beautiful views of the Gauley River from the Carnifex Ferry State Park. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
There are beautiful views of the Gauley River from the Carnifex Ferry State Park. – Photo by the Author

Battle of Kessler’s Cross Lanes – Civil War Battlefield #91

Just north of Carnifex Ferry is a much smaller engagement: the Battle of Kessler’s Cross Lanes. Today, this site is little more than an intersection. There are some markers near the local volunteer fire station, as well as a wayside at the local gas station that explain more about what happened here.

The battlefield at Kessler's Cross Lanes. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
The battlefield at Kessler’s Cross Lanes. – Photo by the Author

New River Gorge Bridge – Another Brief Interlude

I was done with battlefields for the day, but I still needed to make it to my hotel for the night, which was booked for Princeton, WV. I made my way to US Route 19 and headed south.

Along the way, I knew I would need to pass over the New River Gorge Bridge – one of the tallest and longest single-arch bridges in the world. Now, I am very acrophobic, but I’ve never really had a problem with bridges, so I wasn’t worried about having to drive over this thing, but I made a critical mistake: I pulled over at the NPS New River Gorge visitor’s center to get a view of this engineering marvel first.

The incredibly impressive New River Gorge Bridge. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
The incredibly impressive New River Gorge Bridge. – Photo by the Author

The bridge is on a scale that I can’t even describe. It spans the gorge 867 feet above the river – high enough to fit the Washington Monument and 2 Statues of Liberty stacked on top for good measure, underneath the arch, with 20 feet to spare. I was blown away by how massive it was. This would easily be the tallest structure I had ever been on. After I collected myself, I was able to white-knuckle it across, and I swear that I felt absolutely EVERY slight sway and bump my car made along the road deck.

Obviously, I survived. šŸ™‚


Day 2

Got an early start from the Microtel Inn in Princeton, WV. The first order of business was to check out downtown Princeton, and then see how many other sites I could hit in Tennessee and Virginia.


Battle of Princeton Court House – Civil War Battlefield #92

I parked near the court house and explored a little bit. Sadly, I could only find one wayside marker that mentioned the Battle of Princeton Court House. It talks about some fighting happening near the court house itself. There is a military museum across the square, but it wasn’t open during my visit. It is very hard to get a sense of the fighting here, as the area appears to have been built up in the years since, and I suspect that much of the terrain has been altered.

With my visit to Princeton, I have now seen every official Civil War battlefield in West Virginia, so that’s a pretty cool milestone.


Battle of Cove Mountain – Civil War Battlefield #93

Heading south on Interstate 77, I crossed into Virginia, and before long I was in the outskirts of Wytheville, VA on my way to the site of the Battle of Cove Mountain.

The terrain here is very pretty. As the name suggests, the field sits in the valley of a horseshoe-shaped mountain formation – only opening up on the western edge. The valley is full of farms among the rolling hills, and is quite pretty to drive through.

Fighting seems to have happened down the valley near the open end, but that is mostly an educated guess on my part. The few markers I was able to find are short on details. The old brick church here became a temporary hospital, and is still used on special occasions by a local congregation in Wytheville.

The Crockett's Cove Presbyterian Church is still used on special occasions by a local congregation from Wytheville, VA. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
The Crockett’s Cove Presbyterian Church is still used on special occasions by a local congregation from Wytheville, VA. – Photo by the Author

After a few moments of reflection at the church, I got back in the car and decided to go southwest. There was a threat of storms, and I decided to try to maximize my trip by going to the farthest battlefield I could and then working my way back home, hitting more sites along the way. I crossed into Tennessee, and was delighted to get WDVX back on my radio once again.


Battle of Fair Garden – Civil War Battlefield #94

Almost to Knoxville, I found that the Battle of Fair Garden is yet another engagement that is very hard to picture because of the changes to the terrain that have occurred over time. There is a very good wayside on the grounds of Walters State Community College, Sevierville, but I believe that the all the “landmark” buildings of this battlefield are gone.


Battle of Dandridge – Civil War Battlefield #95

There were a few incidents of fighting in Dandridge, and there are a few markers that at least make mention of them. The official Battle of Dandridge happened on January 17, 1863. The Bradford-Hynds House – used by both Union and Confederate officers as a headquarters at different points – still stands downtown. That downtown area sits in something of a bowl-like depression geographically, and my best guess is that the fighting happened up at the rim.

The Bradford-Hynds House was used as a headquarters by officers of both sides during and after the battle. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
The Bradford-Hynds House was used as a headquarters by officers of both sides during and after the battle. – Photo by the Author

Battle of Mossy Creek – Civil War Battlefield #96

At the time that I visited, the bridge over Mossy Creek was out, so I had to take a bit of a circuitous route to reach the Battle of Mossy Creek. The field has been overtaken by a baseball diamond, an industrial park, and – appropriately – a National Guard facility that has a few historical markers and waysides near its entrance. Given all the construction, I have to imagine that the terrain isn’t what it was in the 19th century.


Battle of Bean’s Station – Civil War Battlefield #97

I had gotten a tip that while the field of the Battle of Bean’s Station no longer existed, you could get a good view of the area from an overlook on Clinch Mountain along US Route 25E. There is even a marker there that mentions the fighting. It was very overcast and rainy on the day that I visited, so I didn’t get the greatest experience myself. I have since learned that there may be other markers and waysides closer to the shoreline.

Unfortunately, the battlefield no longer exists because it is underwater now. When the TVA built the Cherokee Hydroelectric Dam, they flooded the area where the action took place.

The Bean's Station battlefield is sadly now under the TVA's Cherokee Reservoir. A nearby overlook on Clinch Mountain offers a nice view of the area. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
The Bean’s Station battlefield is sadly now under the TVA’s Cherokee Reservoir. A nearby overlook on Clinch Mountain offers a nice view of the area. – Photo by the Author

Battle of Bull’s Gap – Civil War Battlefield #98

Thanks to another tip, I was directed to the Bull’s Gap Railroad Museum as a source of information about the Battle of Bull’s Gap. It turned out to be great advice. I had a lovely conversation with Bill (who seems to run the museum) and his brother. They regaled me with tales of their Civil War ancestors and their actions in the area. History can have such an impact in places like this.

Bill was nice enough to direct me toward the gap, which seems to have been where the combat action was, but I couldn’t find a single marker anywhere in the area.

A view of Bull's Gap from the northwest. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
A view of Bull’s Gap from the northwest. – Photo by the Author

Battle of Blue Springs – Civil War Battlefield #99

Another place where I believe the terrain has changed, and there were a few different actions at different times in the area of the Battle of Blue Springs, so I couldn’t get a good sense of how things unfolded exactly on the ground. There is a wayside marker in the local Food Country parking lot, and another roadside one nearby.


Battle of Blountville – Civil War Battlefield #100

My 100th battlefield! What an incredible milestone in my journey!

There are many historical waysides, markers, and even a memorial describing some of the action along the main street in town. I was able to park my car and just walk along the street reading as I went. Blountville is clearly very proud of its history.

During my walk, I learned that part of the town – including the court house – burned due to artillery fire from the Battle of Blountville. One of the things that I didn’t expect to find was the original bell from the town court house, which the plaque identified as having been forged in my native Maryland.

Unexpected discovery: the original bell from the Blountville Court House was forged in my native Maryland. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
Unexpected discovery: the original bell from the Blountville Court House was forged in my native Maryland. – Photo by the Author

After I’d had enough exploring, I made my way back to the car and continued east on Interstate 81, crossing back into Virginia. I was well on my way home, but I hoped to hit just one more town before I ran out of daylight.


Second Battle of Saltville – Civil War Battlefield #101

The aptly-named Saltville, VA had a key role to play in the Civil War. This was the Confederacy’s main source of salt – especially toward the end of the war – and it was vital to keep those supplies coming as salt was used as a preservative for the food that was feeding the army. As much as the Confederates wanted to defend this place, the Union wanted to disrupt and destroy these operations. Two official battles were fought here, and because of the way I came into town, I passed by the site of the Second Battle of Saltville first.

Salt Park is along the road southwest of town, and has a very cool display of equipment that would have been used in the production of salt in the 19th century, and gives something of an idea what the salt works would have been like. In addition, they also host a couple of wayside markers that discuss the battle. The hills where the Confederates had their defensive positions set up are visible from here, and they look quite imposing.

This small park with examples of equipment that was used in the process of making salt in the 19th century is located near the site of the Second Battle of Saltville. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
This small park with examples of equipment that was used in the process of making salt in the 19th century is located near the site of the Second Battle of Saltville. – Photo by the Author

First Battle of Saltville – Civil War Battlefield #102

A short drive through town to the east took me to the site of the First Battle of Saltville.

The best place to experience this field from is a small park on the hill overlooking where Cedar Creek runs into the Holston River. The Confederate defenses were posted on this hill. A very good wayside marker tells the story here, but this is also one of those fields where you can almost see what happened as soon as you look out from this defensive position. The Union forces – mostly consisting of United States Colored Cavalry Troops – were slaughtered by the vengeful Confederate defenders.

A view of the battlefield from a small park overlooking the north branch of the Holston River.  - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
A view of the battlefield from a small park overlooking the north branch of the Holston River. – Photo by the Author

Recent Technological Tinkering

The last few years have been pretty crazy. In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic that the world has been dealing with, I’ve had a lot of things going on in my personal life that have kept me quite busy. While the main focus of my blog here is history, from time-to-time I like to give an update on the things I’ve been exploring in the technology world – mainly because it’s one of those things that my boys and I love doing together. I continue to use the same kinds of open source software that sparked my love of computers in the first place, and that ecosystem has only gotten more robust in the last 20 years. The things my sons and I have set up now have given us a great platform to try out the possibilities and expand our understanding and creativity. It’s been a great way for us to bond.

Kids Stuff

The boys have been learning about Linux and all the related software by using Raspberry Pi single-board computers. We have quite a collection – and I’m glad because it’s quite hard to find them these days because of all the semiconductor shortages. We’ve had a few Pi 3Bs, a Pi 3B+, a Pi 3A+, and lots of Pi Zeros. Some family members got together to buy the boys a Pi 400 for Christmas the year before last, but it suffered a horrible death due to being transported around too much.

Sometimes, we experiment with microcontrollers, like the BBC micro:bit, Adafruit Circuit Playground, or even Arduinos, and it’s as much a learning experience for me as it is for the kids. If we do anything particularly notable there in the future, I’ll probably make a post about it.

Some of our collection of single board computers and microcontrollers. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
Some of our collection of single board computers and microcontrollers. – Photo by the Author

The boys each have their own laptops – courtesy of their maternal grandfather, who has a knack for collecting used computers and reselling them online. Every time we visit, the boys want to “go shopping” in Baba’s basement warehouse for new-to-them pieces of tech gear.

John currently has a Toshiba Satellite L75D-A7283 with 6GB of RAM and a 512GB SATA SSD that we installed together. He has it partitioned so that he can boot into either Zorin OS or Windows 10. His biggest issue with the computer is that there is no motherboard / BIOS support for the virtualization technologies that the built-in AMD A4 should possess. This keeps him from using newer versions of VirtualBox to play with. Probably his favorite thing to do with the computer is play the PC Building Simulator video game.

Isaac’s laptop is an Asus X54C with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB HDD. Like his brother, he can boot into Windows 10, but prefers to use KDE neon. Isaac likes to code silly things with Scratch and Microsoft MakeCode – sometimes he loads his creations onto one of our microcontrollers.

Main Webserver

I don’t know that I ever really announced it here, but I’m back to self-hosting this website after using a provider for a number of years. The current iteration runs on a Pine A64+ – a really awesome little single-board computer with a quad-core, 64-bit ARM chip and 2GB of RAM – running the Ubuntu Server variant of Armbian Linux. For resource efficiency reasons, I moved from Apache to nginx for the webserver a few years ago. The site is still built with WordPress. I also host a few other things on this box, including my kids’ websites.

Networking

By accident just walking around my local Microcenter one day, I discovered the Ubiquiti EdgeRouter X and couldn’t believe how powerful it looked for the price. I just had to pick one up, and it is now my main router. This has enabled me to run multiple different LANs and segment network traffic in my home to keep IoT devices away from the rest of my computers. While networks seem to intimidate a lot of people, I’ve found the EdgeRouter to be pretty simple and even fun to set up and use. Ubiquiti’s products are great for anyone who wants to take their home network to the next level.

VPN Server

Along the lines of networking, I wanted to have a VPN set up so that I could have secure access back to my home network if I needed to modify anything on the go, or just to encrypt my traffic for security reasons if I had to use public wi-fi. I set up OpenVPN on a dedicated server for this purpose and have absolutely no complaints about the way it performs.

Docker

I'm still trying to get my head around how Docker works. Portainer has been really helpful. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
I’m still trying to get my head around how Docker works. Portainer has been really helpful. – Screenshot by the Author

I’m certainly no expert on containers – I’ve only begun playing with Docker recently on a Raspberry Pi 4 with 8GB of RAM that I’m running as a server – but I can see why it’s become a popular technology. Managing the containers through a web interface – I use Portainer – has made it much easier to understand what is going on. The boys and I have played with a few things in Docker:

  • Guacamole – An open source VNC / RDP / SSH gateway that can run on basically anything with a modern web browser. Very cool technology, but it was a bit of a resource hog on the Pi.
  • PiHole – I’m a little bit paranoid about “smart” TVs, so in addition to running a totally separate network segment for my IoT devices, I also funnel their network requests through this DNS filter to cut down on the amount of spying that these devices are capable of (or even like to do). This also has the benefit of cutting down on the amount of ads we see on websites, and I have it configured to protect us from other harmful stuff out on the Internet.
  • Habitica – A tool for making real life self-improvement into something like a video game. The “open source” version forces you to clone their entire website – including all their payment processing code – and really seems to be intended for people who want to help them fix their bugs. That said, this was a little too clunky to be useful as a self-hosted thing in our case.
  • Grocy – We set this up as a home inventory system for groceries. Still experimental for us at this point. I love the idea of being at the grocery store and knowing how many cans of soup we have at home, but keeping the inventory up-to-date is where we have a problem.

I haven’t quite gotten to the point where I feel comfortable running the things I really care about within containers, but maybe that will come some day.

Proxmox

The REAL fun has been in exploring Proxmox – an open source hypervisor server based on Debian. Admittedly, virtual machines are definitely heavier on resources than containers, but they provide a lot more flexibility in my mind. Through a web interface, we can now quickly spin up virtual servers to play with different operating systems, software, and even network configurations – and it’s a lot easier to tear them down once we’ve finished.

I’m running Proxmox on a second-hand Dell XPS 8300 Desktop with 16GB of RAM and that has been plenty for our purposes. So far, I’ve kept a dedicated FreeBSD VM running on it, as well as a VM for playing with Kali Linux. The boys have also used it for test driving different Linux distros before they each chose one for their own laptops.

Battlefield Visits, Revolutionary War Edition: Cooch’s Bridge

In the lead-up to the Battle of Brandywine, a relatively small action took place in Delaware at Cooch’s Bridge. So far as I know, it was the only battle to ever take place in Delaware. So when I had to run some errands in nearby Elkton, MD a few years ago, I felt like this site was worth a stop. It’s certainly easy enough as the field is not far from the first exit in Delaware along Interstate 95.

This roadside marker gives a general overview of the situation in the Fall of 1777. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
This roadside marker gives a general overview of the situation in the Fall of 1777. – Photo by the Author

There is a small park here on the American side, with lots of really great wayside markers describing historical topics beyond just the battle that happened here. Recently, the State of Delaware purchased the Cooch family home, with an intent to make a historical park out of it. I’m excited to see what happens there. You can also find some roadside markers in the area that describe the various phases and positions of the battle. For a small field, it is very well-marked!

This stone monument to the Battle of Cooch's Bridge is extremely hard to access today. My hope is that the State of Delaware's purchase of the home behind the monument will eliminate this problem in the future. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
This stone monument to the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge is extremely hard to access today. My hope is that the State of Delaware’s purchase of the home behind the monument will eliminate this problem in the future. – Photo by the Author

There is a large stone monument to the battle located along Old Baltimore Pike, but there is nowhere to safely park to examine it closely. Sadly, I could get close enough to notice that the base of the monument is surrounded by 4 Civil War-era Naval Parrott Rifles, so that is a bit of a head-scratcher.

All-in-all, it’s a very nice, well-monumented field given it’s small size and relative obscurity. I heartily recommend a visit if you’re ever in northern Delaware.

Kid’s Day: Life of a Soldier – April 2019

I had heard about a special program for kids happening at Brandywine Battlefield Park, the site of the largest battle of the American Revolution, so I decided to take the boys up for the afternoon. It was a really great hands-on experience. My dad tagged along, too, since he had never visited the site.

We took a tour of both historic houses there, and the boys were engaged enough to ask questions and participate. After the tours, we formed up with some other kids in the field outside the visitors center to learn how new recruits during the American Revolution were trained. One of the museum guides in period dress taught the kids how to line up, and then walked them through the procedure for loading a mock wooden musket, and finally led them in an attack that ended with a charge! The boys had a great time getting to connect with the history in a very tangible way.

Our latest patriot recruits, in a ragged battleline. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
Our latest patriot recruits, in a ragged battleline. – Photo by the Author
This drill instructor had his work cut out for him. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
This drill instructor had his work cut out for him. – Photo by the Author

The British didn’t know what they were in for that day.

Battlefield Visits: More Virginia Sites

Back in February of 2019, I took a day to explore some of the battlefields that I hadn’t yet visited in Northern and Central VA. I put together a route on Google Maps, hopped in the car, and spent the day on the road. This post consists of my edited notes on each field from that day.


Battle of Dranesville – Civil War Battlefield #74

The action of the Battle of Dranesville took place around the intersection of VA Route 7 with Reston Ave. & Georgetown Pike. There is a marker on Georgetown Pike, and a wayside not too far away. There is also another wayside at the Dranesville Tavern Park about a mile to the west. The terrain seems to favor the Union position, as it appears they were elevated. The armies came through this area during many campaigns, as indicated by other markers in the vicinity.

A #SignSelfie with the Civil War Trails wayside at the Dranesville Tavern. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
A #SignSelfie with the Civil War Trails wayside at the Dranesville Tavern. – Photo by the Author

Battle of Chantilly (or Ox Hill) – Civil War Battlefield #75

A small portion of the field exists as Ox Hill Battlefield Park. Most of the area has become modern shopping and housing complexes. The push to save this field in the 1990s is what sparked the modern battlefield preservation movement, so this place is doubly significant for a battlefield nerd like me. The park is quite nice, with a walking path and 9 different waysides describing the action of the battle. Markers exist for the deaths of Brig. Gen. Isaac Stevens and Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny, but only Stevens’ is accurately placed. Gen. Kearny was likely killed in what is now the middle of Monument Drive.

A wayside describes the historic landscape as modern housing is visible through the thin veil of trees at Ox Hill. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
A wayside describes the historic landscape as modern housing is visible through the thin veil of trees at Ox Hill. – Photo by the Author

Battle of Blackburn’s Ford – Civil War Battlefield #76

This fight was a relatively small one immediately preceding the First Battle of Bull Run. There are a couple of wayside markers talking about the action in the parking lot for the Bull Run-Occoquan Trail along Centreville Road. Just up the hill to the south, in a CVS parking lot, is a series of markers that discuss the Wilmer McLean plantation.


Battle of Manassas Station Operations – Civil War Battlefield #77

This most oddly-named battle was really a series of smaller raids by Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. There is a wayside in downtown Manassas, on the north side of the railroad tracks near the station.


First Battle of Auburn – Civil War Battlefield #78

There is a marker for the location of Stuart’s Bivouac, and that’s about it. I was in the process of exploring this battlefield – pulled over on the side of the road with my flashers on to get my own photo of the above marker – when a lady pulled by slowly and rolled down her window to ask if I needed help. I’ll leave the answer to that question as an exercise for the reader. šŸ˜‰


Second Battle of Auburn (or Coffee Hill) – Civil War Battlefield #79

I’m really not sure why this is even considered to be a separate battle from the First Battle of Auburn. It took place the next day, in the same vicinity, and involved basically the same combatants. Nevertheless, there are some nice markers talking about it near Cedar Run.

The view looking toward Coffee Hill, across Cedar Run, from the area where the Second Battle of Auburn historical markers are today. - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
The view looking toward Coffee Hill, across Cedar Run, from the area where the Second Battle of Auburn historical markers are today. – Photo by the Author

Second Battle of Rappahannock Station – Civil War Battlefield #80

There is a wayside marker in town talking about the night attack that happened here. Near the river (and squeezed beside a new housing development) is land that is marked as the future site of Rappahannock Station Park. This is the spot where the American Battlefield Trust had produced their live videos discussing the battle. While much of the field is lost, that small park leaves some hope that the fight will be remembered.

A small park is coming at Rappahannock Station. Some hope for the future? - <i>Photo by the Author</i>
A small park is coming at Rappahannock Station. Some hope for the future? – Photo by the Author

First Battle of Rappahannock Station – Civil War Battlefield #81

From the Rappahannock Station Park, it was a quick drive across the river to the intersection of Business Route 15, and US Route 15/29, which period maps seem to indicate was the center of the action for the First Battle of Rappahannock Station. There are no markers there that I could find, even though there is a good-size gravel pull-off along the side of a major road.


Battle of Kelly’s Ford – Civil War Battlefield #82

A short distance away from Rappahannock Station lies the site of Kelly’s Ford. A battle here in March of 1863 was the main attraction for me this day, but the river crossing was also used by Union troops later at the Battle of Brandy Station. There are nice waysides near the modern-day bridge over the ford. There also appears to be a marker at the spot where “The Gallant Pelham Fell”, but it was back a trail that was marked as being an active hunting area, so I decided not to risk it on my own.