My husband and I toured Belle Grove Plantation in Middletown, Virginia tonight to admire their beautiful Christmas decorations. Belle Grove Plantation was once the home of President James Madison’s sister, Nelly, and her husband Isaac Hite. If you have the chance, please stop by and visit Belle Grove and take a tour of this beautiful home. During the rest of the Christmas Season they also have special live music on Friday’s and Saturday’s from 6-8PM and you can also tour the home. Oh…don’t forget the fabulous gift shop too!!!
There is a famous saying that goes something like “ya never know what you might find in your own backyard…”
Jim and I decided to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon over at Hupp’s Hill Civil War Park. We drive past the large signs daily to and from work every single day and have often commented that we needed to stop by and visit and see what exactly was “Hupps Hill.” We have all heard about the battles of Gettysburg…Bull Run…Antietam…and Cedar Creek which is not too far from us in the Shenandoah Valley.
What is Hupp’s Hill?
After our visit yesterday? I can only say it is a treasured place that is one to be sought out by all.
When we first entered the museum and gift shop we were so graciously welcomed by Linda who is a Tour Guide and Historian at Hupp’s Hill. Linda walked us through the museum and told us the fascinating true story of the events leading up to the fighting at Hupp’s Hill that led up to The Battle of Cedar Creek. There were some things that I learned for the very first time for example…President William McKinley and President Rutherford B. Hayes fought at The Battle of Cedar Creek before they were elected to office.
It was interesting to learn about the significant role Hupp’s Hill had in the campaign in the Shenandoah Valley and especially at Cedar Creek.
A large display in the museum reads:
After soundly defeating Early at Winchester and Fisher’s Hill, the last thing Sheridan expected was a Confederate resurgence. Early, however, believed he could catch a complacent Sheridan off guard and drive his adversary back, buying valuable time for the Confederacy.
On October 13, Early reached Hupp’s Hill, probing the Federal defenses, when one of his artillery batteries fired on Thoburn’s division encampment across Cedar Creek. Thoburn sent two brigades to deal with this “annoyance,” and Early was forced to respond.
A wooded ridge separated the brigades of Cols. George Wells and Thomas Harris as they ascended the heights. Artillery fire slowed Harris, but Wells was able to reach a stone wall before being attacked by a larger force of Confederates under General Connor.
Wells was soon flanked and forced to withdraw, while Harris was being repulsed by General Gordon’s brigade. Wells was killed, and Early sent his body back through the Union lines under a flag of truce.
Sheridan took some precautionary measures but still did not consider the renewed Confederate presence a significant threat. Early was soon poised to launch a masterful surprise attack.
It was also interesting to learn about life in the Shenandoah Valley during the Civil War. Of course, you KNOW I had to take a picture of the recipes that were on display to share with you! 🙂
and my military husband found this to be most intriguing about Myers Original Two-Element Code
A large display of When Johnny Comes Marching Home. How cool is this?
Linda suggested that we watch a short film about the ghosts of Hupp’s Hill. Now you know my attention was off the charts…a ghost? Tell me more! They are in the caverns located right next to the museum building…you can read more about the ghosts here.
Crystal Caverns has its own unique story and place in history…and very haunted! We learned that the famous psychic, Jeanne Dixon, used to visit the caverns and was able to really feel and be in touch with her psychic abilities when down here. The caverns are closed to the public now unfortunately.
After looking through the museum and the fantastic gift shop with beautiful John Paul Strain prints on display for purchase, we walked across the parking lot into the fields. What a gorgeous day it was!
Upon leaving Hupp’s Hill, we looked over to see the lone monument that sits along Rt 11 next to the entrance to the park. Over time, the writing on it has diminished and we no longer are in the know of who the monument was for.
So…you do never know what is in your backyard. Maybe YOU have a “Hupp’s Hill” just waiting to be explored by you and your family. You could find treasures anywhere you look. I sure did yesterday and I highly recommend if you are in the Shenandoah Valley to go visit Hupp’s Hill – its truly is a remarkable place.
In the kitchen tonight making something Southern (and oh so yummy!) that was once enjoyed by a famous person in the Civil War era and it’s his family recipe. Can’t wait to share with you later! #historicalcooking #civilwar #historicalrecipes 🇺🇸
It is so much fun being able to make (and taste!) things that our ancestors once enjoyed. To be able to eat something that Thomas Jefferson enjoyed? Well, this is way too cool!
Thomas Jefferson had quite an exquisite taste for all things – especially food and he really enjoyed the French cuisine when he was the Minister to France from 1785 to 1789. One of his favorites was this French style marinated asparagus.
To read more about the history of Thomas Jefferson’s love for asparagus and view the recipe you can click here.
We had a lot of fun making it in the kitchen. It was very simple recipe to make and would make a perfect side dish. The only problem I had was…I didn’t know how to boil an egg correctly! I can do many things but boiling an egg was an issue 🙂
The next time you host a party or have to bring something for a potluck make this wonderful recipe and let people know…oh this is just a little something Thomas Jefferson liked.
This past Sunday, Jim and I made our way over to Mount Hebron Cemetery and Gatehouse in Winchester, Virginia. It was a misty, dreary afternoon with a little bit of fog and it was the perfect setting to go walking throughout these hollowed grounds. We found our way to the Stonewall Cemetery section which is the Confederate soldiers burial grounds and memorial. Even though it had been such a long time ago when these heroes had perished – I just couldn’t help but have a heavy heart. The rows and rows of the dead behind the large monuments representing their home States was truly astonishing.
The Stonewall Cemetery has 2576 war dead.
These men were so young and so valiant. They were loyal and honorable. Most of these young men were only in their twenties when they were called to fight in a war and left home knowing that they would most likely never return. They did so without reservation and for something that they believed in: life and liberty. Love of Country. Freedom.
Thank God that for the men and women who still believe in the same principles of our fallen heroes and have the desire to step up when others are not able to. Thank you to the ones who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.
We will never forget you and will always have much gratitude.
Standing in front of Cedar Hill, the home of Frederick Douglass (Photo Credit: The Historical Homemaker)
My latest travels took me to the historic museum and home of Frederick Douglass, located in Southeast Washington D.C. The museum showcased a timeline of Frederick Douglass’ life which included his many accomplishments and the influences he had on the course of American history. In the museum, there is a wall of his famous quotations, original pieces of his work, and of course, you can visit his beloved home, Cedar Hill, where he spent the last years of his life.
He was born into bondage in 1818 in the vicinity of Talbot County, Maryland. At eight years old, he was sent to a plantation in Baltimore, Maryland and this is where the mistress of the plantation grew very fond of him and started teaching him how to read and write – a practice that was uncommon for the time period (and in some places in the US it was against the law).
Frederick Douglass said goodbye to Baltimore in 1838 when he was 20 years old – leaving his former life in bondage behind for a brand new life in New York. Anna Murray Douglass, his first wife, sold her personal belongings to purchase him a ticket to New York. He was still a slave, however, and he vowed not to marry Anna as a slave but only if he were a free man. It wasn’t until after he secured his freedom that he and Anna were married. It was in New York that he met with the famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison who recognized Frederick Douglass as a talented speaker. He was then enlisted to give speeches across the country to help educate people about the horrible atrocities of slavery. Being that he knew first had what being a slave entailed, he was able to give a personal perspective on slavery and his audience continued to grow and he became a very popular orator.
Some of the highlights of his life:
- In 1845 wrote his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, which became an international best seller.
- Met with President Lincoln in 1863 to assist in enlisting African Americans in joining the Union troops. Did you know that the first two men he had inquired to enlist were his oldest two sons? Lewis Henry Douglass and Frederick Douglass Jr.
- Frederick Douglass accepted the offer when President Hayes enlisted him to be the official US Marshall of Washington, D.C.
- His first wife passed away in 1882 and he remarried two years afterwards to Helen Pitts. This caused controversy because she was a white woman and interracial marriages was not accepted socially (and in some States it was illegal)
One of Frederick Douglass’ famous quotes on display at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
Original autobiography copy on display at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
Frederick Douglass’ Family Tree on Display at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
Exterior of Cedar Hill (I’m sitting on the left side of the porch) (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
On February 20, 1895, Frederick Douglass died of a massive heart attack at Cedar Hill, and was buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY with his first wife, Anna. Shortly after he passed, Helen Pitts Douglass established the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association to preserve his legacy as well as his impact on United States history. The association still maintains the legacy today.
Cedar Hill beautifully sits on top of a hill overlooking Southeast Washington D.C. The tours are free, during which you will learn about the history of the house and Frederick Douglass’ time while living there. Most of the items in the house are original pieces including the portraits, dining room furniture, and beds.
There are several rooms in the house including two rooms for entertaining and over half a dozen bedrooms. Although the entire house is rich with history, three rooms in particular I found most interesting: the first den, the dining room, one of the three guest rooms for women, and Frederick Douglass’ bedroom, all of which have original pieces from when he lived at the house.
Entertaining room, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
The first room used for informal entertaining of guests and showcases a piano in the left corner, a fireplace in the center of the room, and a bust of Frederick Douglass gifted to his family when he lived there. I learned in the tour that Frederick Douglass combined interior design with remembrance of American history, this being shown by the ball and chain tied around the curtains to the room symbolizing the roots of slavery in American history.
Picture of ball and chain curtain ties, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
The dining room of Cedar Hill include pictures taken with other prominent Washington, DC people at the time, and original dining furniture. Frederick Douglass sat at the head of the table. This is indicated by the wheels on the bottom of the chair, which made it easier for him to stand up and speak, which he did frequently while entertaining his distinguished guests.
Dining Room, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
On the second floor of Cedar Hill, there are three bedrooms: three for women (including guests and one room for each of his wives) and three rooms for men (including the personal bedroom of Frederick Douglass). The guest room used for women included an original portrait of Susan B. Anthony, whom he was very fond of for her advocacy for women’s rights.
Many people don’t know that since 1848, Frederick Douglass was also an advocate for women’s right to vote.
Women’s guest room with Susan B. Anthony portrait in the upper left side, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
His bedroom was opposite of his first wife’s room in the upstairs hall. Frederick Douglass would use dumbbells to work out every morning after waking up to exercise and stay physically fit. Cedar Hill has these dumbbells and they can be seen on display by the foot of the chair in his room
Frederick Douglass’ bedroom, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
Chair with original Dumbbells, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
Two other pieces I found very interesting include his desk in his office and a trunk with his name on it, which was used on his many travels throughout the country and Europe.
Frederick Douglass’ Trunk, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
Frederick Douglass’ Office, Cedar Hill (Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)
Every room in Cedar Hill is beautiful in its unique way and the tour guides are very knowledgeable and will answer any questions you can think of while touring the house. Visiting Cedar Hill and learning about Frederick Douglass’ life and his huge impact on American History was truly a memorable experience for me, not to mention the wonderful scenic view from Cedar Hill.
View from outside Cedar Hill (Phot Credit: The Historical Traveler)
Click here to plan your free visit to Cedar Hill and the Frederick Douglass Museum.
I recently traveled to The Torpedo Factory Art Center, which houses the Alexandria Archaeology Museum. The Torpedo Factory Art Center was built and began functioning in November of 1918 shortly after WWI and has since been converted into a place for local artists to show their work and also to display the ancient relics found in the area nearby as well as throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. These particular relics include a copy of The New York Tribune from 1861, an original musket that was built in the 1820’s, and a quartzite spearhead that dates back 13,000 years ago. Reading and learning about these relics, as well as the many others in the museum, allows a larger scope of understanding as to how our ancestors lived.
(Picture of Museum Exterior)
The city of Alexandria, Virginia is a fascinating place that was founded in 1749 and is rich in American history and politics. It was originally given the name “Water Street” because of its location and proximity to the Potomac River. Since it was originally founded, Alexandria has been built around a shoreline that increases over time, requiring updates to adjust with the shoreline.
(Picture of Alexandria shoreline displayed at the Museum)
The first relic I found particularly interesting is a newspaper on display that was originally published on May 26, 1861 with a photograph on the front page of Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth. Colonel Ellsworth had been assassinated merely two days prior in Alexandria. The paper was published by The New York Tribune, which was in print from the 1840’s to the 1860’s and was very much in support of The Whig Party. I thought it was very interesting how little the text was, and how much information fit on a single page. This makes sense though seeing as the daily paper was one of the few ways information reached the general public both on a National and a State level.
(Picture of the display of the New York Tribune article about Col Ellsworth)
The Alexandria Archaeology Museum includes displays of information regarding Alexandria’s role in the American Civil War. During the Civil War, many Alexandria businesses were converted into military hospitals including hotels, churches, and ordinary citizen’s homes. There were a total of 30 hospitals in the city of Alexandria at one time or another during the War. Upon the conclusion of the Civil War, the military hospitals were taken down and the buildings that were converted into hospitals were either torn down or changed their appearances in a dramatic fashion. Read more about Alexandria and their part in the Civil War here.
In 1978 during an excavation mission on the nearby courthouse, a Wickham musket was discovered almost completely intact. It was deduced that Marine T. Wickham manufactured the musket between 1822 and 1834. Wickham was contracted to produce rifles for the American Government out of Philadelphia. This particular Wickham musket pre dates the Civil War, albeit similar rifles were used in the war.
(Picture of musket)
The coolest piece of history on display in the Alexandria Archeology Museum (in my opinion anyway) is a piece of quartzite spearhead officially named “Clovis Point.” This particular Clovis Point was discovered in 2007 in Freedman’s Cemetery, a cemetery for formerly enslaved and free African Americans that has not used since 1869. What makes this Clovis Point very interesting is its over 13,000 years old! This piece of quartzite is from the Paleoindian Period and is the oldest artifact I have ever heard of and seen personally. There is generally not a whole lot of information about humans in that time period, making this relic quite a treasure due to its extreme age. This particular quartz was easily manipulated into a spear head early humans used to hunt with. The fact there is evidence of how humans lived 13,000 years ago still blows my mind.
Other artifacts I found personally interesting include a letter from a drummer boy, a list of diseases and causes of death from 1863-1868, and a cohesive file of death records from those same years. You can read through the death records from 1863-1868 and see if any of you recognize any of the names or if you even have ancestry included, and how everyone in the records died. I couldn’t help but look through the records to curiously see if any of my ancestors had their names in the book.
The museum also has a lot of activities for families and kids including putting artifacts together with your hands. There is way more to be seen and learn here and I highly recommend making the Alexandria Archeology museum a point of interest when you’re in the area if you want to learn more about how life was from hundreds to thousands of years ago. You can learn more about the Alexandria Archeology Museum right here.
(Picture of me putting together a plate)
(Picture of the historic and beautiful Alexandria Waterfront)
Today in American history…Robert Edward Lee was born at Stratford Hall plantation in Westmoreland County, Virginia in 1807. His had a great pedigree: his father was Major General Henry Lee III aka “Light Horse Harry” Lee, Governor of Virginia, and Anne Hill Carter Lee of the prestigious Carter family who resided at Shirley Plantation in Tidewater, Virginia.
I have always been fascinated by Robert E. Lee. It could be the many school trips that I went on as a child to his Arlington home, known as Arlington House or the Custis-Lee Mansion that sits on a steep hill overlooking Arlington Cemetery. Or maybe it was his connection to George Washington that intrigued me (Robert E. Lee married the daughter of George Washington Parke Custis who was George Washington’s step-grandson and eventual adopted son).
As with my love of all things related to Abraham Lincoln, I have always had an affection for Robert E. Lee as well.
Even today, his name brings controversy because he was – after all – a Confederate General. He went against the United States of America and was considered a traitor. He went against all that he believed in, as a career Army officer, to fight for a cause that he felt that he needed to fight for: the protection of his homeland, the Commonwealth of Virginia. You can almost feel his angst when he wrote his resignation letter to General Winfield Scott:
Arlington, Washington City, P.O
20 Apr 1861
Lt. Genl Winfield Scott
Commd U.S. Army
Since my interview with you on the 18th Inst: I have felt that I ought not longer to retain any Commission in the Army. I therefore tender my resignation which I request you will recommend for acceptance. It would have been presented at once but for the struggle it has Cost me to separate myself from a Service to which I have divoted all the best years of my life, & all the ability I possessed. During the whole of that time, more than a quarter of a century, I have experienced nothing but kindness from my superiors & the most Cordial friendships from any Comrades. To no one Genl have I been as much indebted as to yourself for kindness & Consideration & it has always been my ardent desire to merit your approbation. I shall carry with me, to the grave the most grateful recollections
of your kind Consideration, & your name & fame will always be dear to me. Save in the defense of my native state shall I ever again draw my sword. Be pleased to accept any more [illegible] wishes for “the Continuance of your happiness & prosperity & believe me
Most truly yours
R E Lee
Robert E. Lee was not only a famous Civil War General. He was also the President of Washington College (later renamed Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia from 1865 until his death on October 12, 1870. He was also a family man who truly loved his wife, Mary Lee, and their seven children.
I believe winter has officially arrived in Virginia! Tonight was the perfect night to make something wonderful to keep us warm – so why not make a pot of yummy soup 🙂 Tonight we stepped back in time and made something that was most likely enjoyed by the Washington family – how cool is that?
While researching recipes today I was looking for something that was not complex and had only a few ingredients. So – this recipe for Onion Soup was perfect and I found it on the Mount Vernon website. It most likely was made in the Washington household and was a recipe included in the Hannah Glasse cookbook, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple,which was first published in 1747 and went on to become a best seller for a century after it was published.
The recipe was very easy and I truly recommend you try it at home. If you have onions (a lot!), flour and broth? You are all set…here is the actual recipe:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds onions, peeled and coarsely chopped (7 to 8 cups)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups water
2 cups Basic Beef Stock
1 teaspoon salt
1 slice bread, toasted and diced
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Ground black pepper
- Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. When the butter is sizzling, add the onions, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often to prevent them from sticking to the pan, until they are very soft and caramelized. Add the flour, stirring to coat the onions, and cook for about 1 minute.
- While onions are cooking, combine the water and stock, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When the onions are ready, mix them into the hot stock, stirring until well combined.
- Pour a little of the hot stock into the skillet and stir, scraping up any onion particles that remain. Pour the stock into the stock and onions, and add the salt.
- Stir in the diced toast, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Combine the egg yolks and vinegar. Gradually blend 1/2 to 1 cup of the hot soup into the egg yolk-and-vinegar mixture, stirring constantly to prevent the yolks from curdling. Stir the mixture into the soup, and simmer for several minutes until the soup thickens just slightly, stirring constantly. Again, do not let the soup boil, or the egg yolks will curdle.
- Season with pepper and additional salt, if necessary, and serve hot.
Of course we have our fun pictures from the kitchen tonight. Thank you to my ever so patient husband for cutting the soooooo many onions and for being my official taste tester.
We started with the basic…