WASHINGTON, July 3, 2016 — Instead of the same old barbecue, visit to the park or beach, or fireworks, consider trying something new for your Fourth of July weekend this year. Visit a historic site in our great country and learn a little history along the way.
We’ve even saved you the trouble of putting together your own DC are July 4 bucket list by starting one for you, however wherever you live there is place important to America’s history.
First on our Bucket List is the Washington Crossing the Delaware Park, open for a few years now after a period of budget cutbacks. It took community and business involvement, private enterprise and private persons, to raise the necessary funds to reopen this historic park, so emblematic of our American ingenuity.
This park marks the spot where our first President, George Washington, standing upright in a rather ridiculous looking vessel and next to his horse, is said to have crossed the Delaware River the night of Christmas 1776 to begin the Battle of Trenton, which sparked the Revolution. It’s not that far a drive from the Washington, D.C. area, with plenty of spots to stop and picnic, turn the kids loose for a romp in a park or give the dog a potty break.
Visit Frederick, Maryland and see the famous house where Barbara Frietchie theoretically leaned out the window waving her U.S. Flag and spoke the words memorialized in poetry, “’Shoot if you must this old gray head, but spare your country’s Flag,’ she said.”
Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s troops had taken down the flag flying there, and the little old lady reported to be 90 years old had snatched it up and waved it out of her attic window defying anyone to take it down.
The jury is out whether this fabled drama really took place, but it’s a neat spot to visit and learn a little more history. Since she was a female, it’s a fine lesson to show a strong, determined lady in history. You might take the occasion to look up John Greenleaf Whittier’s delightful poem on the subject.
Not far away is an overlook where you can read about the Battle of Monocacy, with a view of the fields and farms of the Maryland countryside where a civil war battle was fought. Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal Early led his forces in an attempt to take “Washington City” as it was then known.
Word reached the Union forces of Gen. Lew Wallace who mounted a strong defense, but after three days of fighting, the defeated Union army retreated across the river. While technically a Confederate victory, it gave the Union more time to prepare for the next battle and ruined the South’s plans to take the city.
In the same area, make a stop at Sharpsburg, Maryland, better known as Antietam to the Yankees, where the most terrible battle of any war was fought on September 17, 1862. A sunken road running through farmland would forever be known as the “Bloody Lane” after the fighting was over.
The Union brought 75,316 men to the battle, of which 2,108 were killed, and 9,549 wounded, with 753 missing. On the other side, there were 51,844 who engaged in the fighting, with a total of 2,700 killed, 9,024 wounded, the missing totaling 2,000. It was a terrible loss of life.
Gettysburg is close by ane Walking Pickett’s Charge will seal any doubts you may have as to the bravery of all the men so engaged that July day in 1863. When you get back home, rent the movie “Gettysburg” from Netflix and let the kids imagine what they just saw in reality, transported to the family room TV screen.
Get the idea? Visiting historical places and seeing them with your own eyes brings history to life and makes it real. Many aspects of our contemporary history will never be taught in the schools of our country. It falls to each of us personally to help fill in the gaps.
However you decide to celebrate, be sure to fly your American flag, and talk to your family about what July 4 means to you and to our country. Thank a veteran for his or her service. Watch some (legal, please) fireworks, and enjoy the freedom to do whatever you want this most American of weekends.