Thursday, June 18, 2009

June 15 - From Stonewalls To Stone Mountains

Morning showers greeted me. By 7am, I was at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine. He died here on May 10th, 1863 (from pneumonia, by the way). The original home, well, an office for a plantation actually, still stands. I managed a photo or two the rain, but that was it. The grounds of the shrine were guarded by Guinea Fowl. At least half a dozen ran around squawking up a storm. (Interestingly, the closest town in Guinea Station!)

Jackson is considered one of the greatest generals ever. (For the time being, I will ignore the fact that for years, people thought Jackson was a total fruitloop. He sat bolt upright in chairs because he did not want to touch the back and was prone to, at any random moment, hold his arm over his head for extended periods of time to improve his circulation (he was convinced said arm was longer than the other). On a serious note, modern psychologists suggest he may have had Asperger's Syndrome, a type of autism. Hmmm. A possible case of autism at a time that pre-dates modern immunizations. Jenny McCarty – are you reading this?! ) His loss, quite possibly, cost the Confederacy the war. A thought some people consider is this - if Jackson had not died, the outcome of Gettysburg could have been different. If they won Gettysburg, the war would have taken a totally different course. That is not to say there would be a Confederate States of America in 2009, but things certainly would have been different. There is not telling how, but it would have been very different, I'm sure. I think that is one of things I enjoyed about history – those amazing little moments that change the course of history.

From there, I slipped off to Chancellorsville National Battlefield. In May of 1863, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson pulled off one of the greatest Confederate victories of war. Hopelessly outnumbered, they split the army and managed to route the Union. It came at a price – Jackson was shot on accident, while doing his own nighttime reconnaissance, by his own troops and later died (at the previously mentioned location). The actual location is still known...and I was there. The picture on the left is the location where he was shot.

I found the birding here some of the best of any battlefield. The big woodlots were full of (and I mean “full of”!) Ovenbirds. Eastern Wood-pewees were easy to come by. A Northern Parula was near Catherine’s Furnace. Red-eyed Vireos were everywhere, too.

With that, shortly before lunch, I plotted a course to New York, specifically the Catskills. My GPS actually took me through the northwest corner of Delaware and the northern part of New Jersey. Unfortunately, by this point, the rain was hard enough were “expressway birding” was not possible. Besides, I had already birded these states before (Delaware a few days back and New Jersey a bit in the fall of 1999) so I likely would not have added anything new at 70mph. I also blew right past Washington DC. As I rounded the bend on the expressway (lunch traffic runs just fine) I found myself gazing at the Washington Monument and the Capital Building. I need to get back to that town. Very cool place! I was there in 2002. (I have to get the National History Museum. They have, on display, a 22 inch oak tree stump. The tree itself was cut down by small arms fire at the Bloody Angle from Spotsylvania Court House - a testament to the gruesome fighting that took place there).

Anyhow, by 7:30pm, I had checked into my hotel (the Cobblestone Motel) in Phoenicia, New York, and confirmed the location of my trailhead (thanks to the attendant at the campground). Dinner was at Al's Seafood where the owner proudly walks around with his little fru-fru dog. As I understand it, unless your dog assists the blind, you can't have them in a place that serves food. I don't gather that fru-frus are trained for that sort of thing. It certainly could bring a new meaning to the phrase “Waiter, there is a hair in my soup.” Well, whatever. I turned in early knowing I had an early start the next day...

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