Back in April, I ventured out for my second time at the Horizons Unlimited Traveller’s meeting in Appomattox,Virginia. Before I left, I extolled the virtues of extended travel and how it gives a traveler the ability to have a richer experience. Because of changing how I approached this trips by combining with my annual spring photography workshop in the Smokies, I succeeded in my goal of being able to enjoy seeing more along the way.
One of those things was a visit to the Appomattox Court House National Historic Site that I didn’t get to visit in my frenetic pace last year.
Appomattox Court House National Historic Site…
The day of my visit, I rode in from Lynchburg through fog and occasional spits of rain. The weather added quite a somber note to a place steeped in legend and turmoil. It’s easy to overlook this was a town like any other. Life happened here. And then the climax of our civil war cemented it’s place in U.S. history on April 9, 1865.
The entire town was the Appomattox Court House not just one building. In fact, there were many more buildings than are still standing today. As a modern-day visitor, it takes imagination to mentally replace those buildings, the people, and the lives that were lived here to create a picture of what used to be.
Fortunately, as with many of our impressive national parks, Appomattox is equipped with knowledgable rangers, exhibits, and videos that help us piece together what it used to look like, why this place is worth preserving. One of the elements to historic sites that brings the story to life for me are actual relics of the time. Appomattox has some artifacts that give visitor’s pause as well as insight into a time much different than ours such as photographs, parole tickets, swords, uniforms, letters, and even bits of flags flown there.
In addition to artifacts and photographs, the park staff has painstakingly recreated what the interiors of the buildings may have looked like. No one swooped in to preserve this place in the aftermath of Lee’s surrender. So much of the original furnishings and contents were moved or lost.
The Mclean’s themselves, the owners of the house in which Lee surrendered, succumbed to debt and moved on. At one point the McLean House was dismantled to relocate it to Washington D.C. but the materials were never moved and they slowly decayed. Hindsight to us might scream for everything to be perfectly preserved but life simply went on in the wake of the end of the war and the town fell into hard times. It wasn’t until the mid-1930s that the National Park Service sought to restore the town and reconstruction of the McLean house didn’t take place until 1948-1950.
And that’s just one small part of the story that’s preserved at Appomattox Court House National Historic site. There’s much more than the town center itself to be experienced. It’s a premier unit of our national park system and well worth a visit. For a better look at my time there, here’s a slideshow from my visit:
As always, be sure to check out the official website for up-to-date information on visiting Appomattox Court House National Historic Site.