Checking Parks Off My NPS Bucket List!
by: Mariah Walzer
In case you missed it, Independence Day was about two weeks ago. One of the perks of working for the federal government is getting federal holidays off. Between that and my regular work schedule, I ended up with a five-day weekend to do as I pleased. So I packed my bag and headed off to North Carolina to visit family.
Well, being a National Park nerd, I couldn’t resist visiting a few parks along my way. I joked that instead of trying to get out of the office for vacation, I just transfer locations! During this North Carolina trip, I stopped at Petersburg National Battlefield and Fredericksburg National Battlefield, both in Virginia.
Petersburg National Battlefield preserves sites associated with the longest siege in American warfare. Union troops under General Ulysses S. Grant laid siege to the town of Petersburg from June 15, 1864 to April 2, 1865, just six days before Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, ending the Civil War.
The park is divided into three main areas. I only toured the Eastern Front, which includes several earthwork defenses, a recreation of a siege encampment, and the Crater. Aside from its fame as the longest siege, the Crater is perhaps Petersburg’s most defining feature. The Battle of the Crater occurred when Union troops dug a tunnel under the Confederate line and exploded it early in the morning. Despite the initial devastation, poor leadership and communication lead to a staggering loss for the Union as their troops were caught in the same crater they had created.
I made a very quick stop at Fredericksburg National Battlefield, which also consists of several sections – actually four separate battlefields and the “Stonewall” Jackson Shrine. In my visit, I only explored the Sunken Road and the cemetery at the Fredericksburg Battlefield.
In addition to the battlefields I explored on this trip, I also visited Antietam National Battlefield, Gettysburg National Military Park, and Valley Forge National Historical Park during other weekends. I even spent some time at Manassas National Battlefield’s museum when I helped with shovel tests in the park a few weeks ago. Eight parks down; four hundred nine to go!
Now, despite all the fun, I promise I did actually do some work these past two weeks. We continued our ASMIS surveys to check on the known sites in the park. I also focused on identifying the projectile points and other stone tools from a collection donated to the park. These lithic artifacts have no provenience (meaning we don’t know where exactly they came from), so they will be used as educational aides instead of going to the Museum Resource Center with the rest of Monocacy’s artifacts. I am just beginning work on creating that educational presentation.
Time to get back to work for me!