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Our Driving Tour of the South

On January 11, my article "No Thank You – This Time We're Driving" was posted on LRC. The same day, we loaded up the rental van and headed for Virginia. Over the course of the following week we visited a host of sites that are relevant to our freedom (or what is left of it) and heritage. It is our fervent belief that history has been badly distorted in an attempt to justify an ever-encroaching central government. Our reason for driving was a protest against the ineffective police-state tactics at airports and the desensitization of the American public to the abhorrent march to tyranny that this country is experiencing. Enough of the soapbox – now on to the story.

The first stop was at grandma's house to deposit my four-year-old daughter. This was also the first accomplishment not afforded by air travel. My daughter has been living it up for a week and got an extra week due to the snowstorm that forced a change in our return route. We ate some home-cooked hamburgers that are certainly not available on the airlines and hit the road again.

As promised in the previous article, we visited Lexington, Virginia, the following day. The first stop was the home formerly owned by then Maj. Thomas Jonathan Jackson (Stonewall) while he was an instructor at the Virginia Military Institute. This period of his life is documented in pp. 118–124 of The Life and Campaigns of Lieut. Gen. T.J. (Stonewall) Jackson by Robert Lewis Dabney. I highly recommend this book as primary reading for the student of the Old South and the Confederacy. The peacetime pursuits of Gen. Jackson are evident in his garden and his study. The house has been painstakingly restored and the tour is well worth the $5 price.

We left the Jackson house and drove the two blocks to the George C. Marshall Museum. Gen. Marshall was perhaps the most famous graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. He is the architect of the "Marshall Plan" to rebuild Europe in the wake of World War II. Naturally, the museum is a shrine for European Reconstruction. Gen. Marshall was obviously a student of history both recent and ancient. The mistakes of WW I and the American Reconstruction were not repeated (from the viewpoint of an imperialist foreign policy). Instead of extracting reparations from the conquered, a massive wealth transfer program was instituted to rebuild the economies of the devastated countries. This is reminiscent of the economic model followed by the ancient Romans. After conquering a country by waging total war, the Romans would return some autonomy in return for tribute (taxes) and exclusive trading within the Romans Empire. For Europe, this institutionalized the socialism prevalent there to this day. While the museum glorifies the apparent success of the Marshall Plan, an Austrian School adherent will recognize the inconsistencies due to the Keynesian bias.

The third stop was at Lee Chapel on the campus of Washington and Lee University. Having just walked the path described in Gail Jarvis' article, I can appreciate the quiet reflection that Gen. Lee must have given to the events in his life while he was president of Washington College. The shrine is not a war memorial but rather a remembrance of how an honorable Christian gentleman should conduct his life. The recumbent statue of Gen. Lee is without parallel and awe-inspiring. Because Mary Custis Lee was the granddaughter of Martha Washington, a portrait of Gen. Washington in his Virginia militia uniform hangs at the front of the chapel on the left side. This is a powerful reminder of who inherited the battle for freedom. The Lee Museum and the family crypt are on the floor beneath the chapel. In addition to Gen. Lee, his father, Light-Horse Harry Lee, a colonel of cavalry in the first War for Independence was re-interred in the crypt. Gen. Lee toured the South in 1869, a year prior to his death and visited his father's original grave. It is fitting that the two heroes in the battle for independence and decentralization are now lying together awaiting the resurrection. For good measure, Traveller, Lee's horse and faithful companion, is buried just outside the door.

We would have spent more time in Lexington but our schedule required us to press on. Lexington is a beautiful place, quiet and scenic. I have driven by it a few times before without stopping. That was my loss.

We continued along I-64 and arrived in Richmond late in the afternoon. Our original plan was to tour the Museum and White House of the Confederacy but due to the late hour, we chose to drive down Monument Avenue and tour the Cold Harbor Battlefield instead. Monument Avenue in Richmond is awesome if you have never seen it. The street is made of brick and is divided by a green common. Statues of Gen. Lee, Gen. Jackson, Gen. Stuart, Pres. Davis, and Arthur Ashe adorn the intersections. The Lee and Jackson statues are so large that the intersections are roundabouts (circles). The Davis and Stuart monuments are large but do not physically alter the flow of traffic. The Arthur Ashe monument was the newest and smallest of the group.

As the daylight waned, we made our final pilgrimage of the day to the Cold Harbor Battlefield site. I have always been curious about Cold Harbor. I have read many references to the slaughter that Gen. Grant ordered his men into at Cold Harbor. I had envisioned a massive embattlement and works that Gen. Lee's men were defending. The reality was a seven-mile long series of interlocking trenches with overlapping fields of fire. In battles like this one, Gen. Grant expended the lives of many immigrant draftees like so much cannon fodder.

After checking in to the hotel in Newport News, I awoke early the following morning and made a pilgrimage to the Francis Makemie Monument and park in Temperanceville, Virginia. This was about a 100-mile trek from Newport News across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel and up the Eastern Shore.

Francis Makemie is the brother of my great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, John Makemie. Francis was a Presbyterian minister, educated at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, ordained by the Presbytery of Laggan (Northern Ireland) during the waning days of the reign of Charles II. He preached and planted churches on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Maryland, the Carolinas, and Barbados from 1683 until his death around 1708. He is most famous for his defiance of Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury, the Governor of the Colony of New York and for his election as moderator of the first Synod of Presbyterian Churches in the colonies. The latter accomplishment earned him the title of the "Father of American Presbyterianism." By declaring his right to preach under licenses granted in England, he came under persecution by Lord Cornbury. His exoneration by trial established the extension of the "Act of Toleration" to the colonies and had a direct influence on the inclusion of the 1st Amendment as part of the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution. Additionally, because Cornbury used the power of his office to charge Makemie an exorbitant sum for the cost of the trial in spite of his acquittal, his legacy is also evident in the Eighth Amendment, "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

Late in the day we visited the site of the British surrender at Yorktown. The entrenchments at Yorktown are impressively deep compared to those at Cold Harbor. It was obvious from this battlefield that Washington showed much more patience than Grant and thus spared thousands of British, French, and American lives that would have been squandered in a frontal assault. The most disappointing aspect of Yorktown was the Victory Monument. Commissioned by the Continental Congress in 1781, it was not built until 1881. The inscription on the lower most ring reads, "One Country, One Constitution, One Destiny." This would have been an abomination to the soldiers who won that hard-fought victory. It is speculation, but knowing a little about the debate over ratification of the Constitution, I can imagine the Anti-Federalists using this inscription to say, "we told you so." The Anti-Federalist Papers are worth studying. You may be amazed at how accurate their predictions were.

We headed south along I-95 on the return trip to avoid a brewing snow and ice storm. We wanted to stop at the Bentonville, North Carolina, Battlefield but decided that time and weather were pressing so we continued on. When we reached Columbia, South Carolina, we stopped to sample some of Maurice's Famous Barbeque. Many of you know the story of Maurice Bessinger. Standing up to the PC police who wish to do away with all Confederate symbols, he was stripped of the retail sales of his barbeque sauce that he had worked so long to build up. His barbeque chain is doing well and we stopped there for supper. Maurice has an excellent tract on the biblical significance of flags and I recommend it highly.

After crossing the Georgia State line, we considered driving by the smokestack of the old Confederate Powder Works on the Riverwatch Parkway in Augusta. Again, time and weather chased us on toward Atlanta. Up to this point, we had essentially retraced in reverse a large part of Sherman's genocidal march. We did make it to Stone Mountain about 20 minutes before they closed the park for the night but unfortunately, they had shut off the lights a few minutes earlier. I believe that Stone Mountain is the largest Confederate monument in existence. The equestrian images of Lee, Jackson, and Stuart are honored there, and are well worth seeing.

After staying overnight in Atlanta, we headed back to Huntsville. Just before crossing the Tennessee State line we veered off again to visit the Chickamauga Battlefield. The Chickamauga Park is the oldest and largest of the Park Service's War For Southern Independence parks. Chickamauga was most disappointing because of the obvious anti-South slant of the visitors’ center. It would take the average government-schooled person a long time here to figure out that it was the Confederates who won. Even then, too much credit goes to Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg. The gift shop has already begun the barrage of Uncle Tom's Cabin-approved versions of Southern history which had little to do with the war itself. In fact, a better place to spend your money is the privately owned J. Reb's store just a couple of blocks from the visitors center.

Our tour was lightning fast compared to the journey of Robert E. Lee in 1869. After refreshing my knowledge of Lee visiting his father's grave off the coast of Georgia, I lamented that I had driven right past my own father's grave in Claxton, Tennessee, without stopping.

January 23, 2003

     

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