Places and events to be enjoyed on the annual trip from Cincinnati to Southampton . . .
by Jesse Halsey
Both business necessity and vacation pleasure take me back and forth between the Middle West and the Eastern seaboard. So many times we have gone and come that most routes are thoroughly familiar. The decimal numbers 20, 30, 40, 50 seem to be the FEDERAL Highways that run from ocean to ocean. Route 30 is the Lincoln; the first transcontinental road that was developed. Rt. 40 is the National, which Thomas Jefferson projected to St. Louis and built as far as Cumberland.
Anyone who is interested in history or geography ought now and then to record his impressions. Ten minutes; stop refreshes the driver and a picture here and there years after refreshes the memory. Twenty years ago, when we began these trips, the notable things were the places where the engine broke down or there was a change of tires. The boys, who have come to their maturity, often point out a tree where once upon a time we patched a blowout. Of course, in these days, blowouts seldom happen, which gives one time for extra pictures.
Let us be more specific. As we go east on Federal Rt. 22, which leads from our door to the Holland Tunnel, we pass through the village of Somerset, Ohio, where General Phil Sheridan was born. In the public square is a bronze equestrian statue of this dashing Federal Cavalry leader. A little inquiry will reveal that a block and a half away is the modest one-story cottage where he was born. It may be the holly hock season. If so, you will find it a most interesting subject. A mile away, out on one of the country roads, is the more pretentious house where he later lived. This, with its pine trees, is worth a picture. The, of course, you will snap the Norseman in the square. And these three negatives will go into an envelope in your file. On this trip, or more likely some other, it may be several years after—you will plan to drive up or down the Shenandoah Valley. A picture of Winchester, a road sign likely, where Sheridan’s name appears. These pictures will go into your “Sheridan Envelope.”
Sometime when you are down town in Cincinnati, you will snap the house on Eigth Street where Thomas Buchanan Reed lived; he who wrote “Sheridan’s Ride.”
Winchester twenty miles away.
On a picnic some springtime you will be in Murdoch. You will be at Bethel Church near Loveland, Ohio, where Murdoch lived, the actor who first declaimed Reed’s poem to a war-weary Cincinnati audience.
This has likely started a Civil War train in your mind. Certainly, as you pass through Lancaster, only twenty miles from Somerset, you will snap the house where General Sherman was born and the house next door where Senator John Sherman lived . . .
Or, as they get a little older and have other interests, you will tell them how Senator Sherman, who had extensive farm interests, went home from Washington one spring, telling his friends that he must go out to Ohio “to fix his fences.” From that day on the phrase has always had a political complexion. Out of an experience like this, made to register in the mind largely because it was definitely registered on a Kodak file, you will find that both you and members of your household will be reading say—the Life of Sherman? This is not only cumulative photography but cumulative education.
The next summer we planned our trip to include as many spots as possible connected with General Jackson’s life. So I found a steel engraving of Jackson and his wife and little girl, and ever since it has hung in my study, ‘though I am of New England extraction born and bred.’ We never visited Jackson’s birthplace, but have a picture of the house at Guiney Station where he died, and have gone to the spot in the woods on the Orange Pike where he had his last conference with General Lee, went to the monument on the same road in the Wilderness where he was accidentally shot by his own men. This we found surrounded by tar barrels and gravel used in road repair. A letter to the Richmond Times Dispatch and one to the Daughters of the Confederacy, signed by a Yankee and protesting against the desecration, lead to a cleanup, and the next year we found the place sodded and mowed.
Gettysburg we have visited time and time again; the first time under the guidance of a friend who spent his college years there and twice with Official guides (one thought we were Northerners and the other was sure we were of Southern extraction, and their interpretations of the battle varied to suit).
On one occasion we camped overnight in “The Devil’s Den.” A terrific thunderstorm in the night blew down the tent and nearly washed us out. In the morning, which was beautiful and clear, the little girl of eight looking up through the trees and seeing General Vincent’s statue, said, “Dad, I think that soldier must have been watching over us last night.” Of course, a picture of that soldier went into our “Gettysburg Envelope” and eventually into the “Civil War Scrap Book.” A print with the story, brought pleasure to our neighbor and friend, Bishop Boyd Vincent, brother of the General who was killed at Gettysburg (the Bishop is very much alive at eighty-seven).
Or take a Revolutionary trail. My great great grandfather, whose name I happen to bear, fought in the American Revolution. Our family has visited every place where he is known to have fought, and many others. Hearing of the Battle of Lexington, he and his brother, with other men, crossed Long Island Sound, walked from New London to Boston and engaged in the Battle of Bunker Hill. He was present at Cambridge when Washington took command of the Continental Army, at times was on Washington’s staff, spent the winter in Morristown (at Valley Forge we are not certain). At Monmouth he heard Washington rebuke General Charles Lee. So, in the “Grandfather Envelope” we have pictures of the spot where his house stood on the east end of Long Island, one of the monument at Groton, Connecticut, where his brother, Captain Henry, was killed when Benedict Arnold made his raid on New London, Bunker Hill Monument, Cambridge Square, the headquarters in Morristown, Molly Pitcher’s well at Monmouth (with a member of our own family standing by), the old tenant Church where grandfather, who was wounded in the battle, may have been carried, Yorktown, where likely he was present, and his grave in the old cemetery at Water Mill, where his D.A.R. great great granddaughter has erected a suitable marker.
Some of our leads have yet to be followed. For instance, in passing through Brandon, Vermont, last summer, we discovered a monument to Stephen A. Douglas, who was born there. Sometime, when we are in Illinois, we will add to the collection. In the meantime we will, some of us, do some reading and become a little better informed about Lincoln’s protagonist.
“Molly Pitcher Envelope” contains not only the well at Monmouth, but the monument in the cemetery at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, which would just be a name on the map to us except for our interest in Molly.
Some of these pictures have made slides and we have inflected on our friends some accounts of our summer travels. The Kodak has gone twice to Europe, but never has it given as great satisfaction as when the family, with an over-loaded Ford and wet tent, has worked its way across the mountains.
During the Bicentenary there appeared in Maryland on some of the highways a marker, “G. Washington Went This Way.” That year we tried to follow his trails, visiting Fort Necessity, where for the first and last time he was defeated in military engagement. Not many miles away is Braddock’s grave. Down on the peninsula we found Westover, his birthplace, that had just been restored (it was too late in the day to get a picture, even with panchromatic film, and the supersensitive film had not then appeared). That same itinerary included Yorktown and, of course, Mt. Vernon. The capital city, named for him, his headquarters at Morristown were revisited, his crossing on the Delaware north of Trenton, the battlefield at Princeton, and, on the return trip, West Point and the headquarters at Newburgh.
This is a painless method of teaching history, a great incentive to large reading, a method of making a necessary trip into a pleasurable memory and an inexpensive way of keeping an illuminated diary. It involves long distances and, more to the point, a succession of years, with different areas visited. It is, however, an inexpensive adjunct to a vacation or a necessary business trip.
Distance is not absolutely necessary, but points in local history can be correlated by this picture method. For example, the writer lives in Cincinnati. The law office of Solomon P. Chase, Lincoln’s secretary of the treasury and chief justice is marked and worthy of a picture. The home of Harriet Beecher Stowe, where part of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was written, stands on one of our hills. The observatory dedicated by John Quincy Adams, and Mt. Adams, named for him, where stands a convent almost European in its setting. The place where Eliza crossed the river on the ice is not many miles up the river. An old church and several houses in the neighborhood, which were stations of the underground railway, are to be found. The old hostelry where Grant and Sherman planned the “March to the Sea” was just recently demolished. One of the battles “in General Morgan’s audacious raid into Ohio” is less than twenty miles away.
One passes Princeton, turns aside to the cemetery; America’s Westminster. Here, with the other college presidents, lies Jonathan Edwards, who died of smallpox in the village where he had just come to take the college leadership. Two days or a week later you are in Stockbridge, remembering Edwards lived there for a decade. You find a sundial on the side of his old house and in the public library, hidden away upstairs, the hexagonal revolving table on which he wrote his “Freedom of the Will.” At Northampton a church is named for him and on another corner stands a church where his church stood. In the Princeton cemetery, again on a back street, ‘though one with a famous name (Witherspoon, the only clergyman to sign the Declaration), you will find the grave of Grover Cleveland with its simple monument.