Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Okay, now I can actually update this thing, since I have my notes.

I spent Sunday on a bit of a road trip.

[Cannon peeking over a fort]

It was merely a three-hour drive south to Petersburg, Virginia. Petersburg’s a small town, notable mainly for the Civil War battle that took place there near the end of the war, during Lee’s ignominious retreat back into Virginia following the disaster at Gettysburg.

There’s one big disadvantage to driving into a small town on a Sunday: everything’s closed. Everything. The Subway was closed. I’m not used to this, living in a Type A environment like northern Virginia where everything’s open 24 hours.

In any event, I had to drive out to a barbecue place on the edge of town, full of the recently de-churched. I was served by a lovely young lady (who offered me a side of “slaugh”) who was a bit taken aback that I’d driven down here just for the day. A weekend, fine. But driving all that way just to spend the day? When I was a stranger?

I have the feeling she knew every other face in the restaurant.

There was an interesting mix of people there: one table was surrounded by ever-joking older folks, all in suits or dresses; at another, a family of three boys was presided over by a rather austere-looking father; two middle-aged ladies didn’t talk much, mostly ate. An energetic teen wearing jeans, a white t-shirt, and a camouflaged baseball cap wiped down tables. They’ve all probably been coming there for years.

The restaurant itself was in a country style; dark wood panelling and wicker chairs. A few enlargened Civil War photographs hang on one wall, but the rest of the place is lined with pig toys, which is apparently their Theme.

As for the food…well. A mouthful of the baked beans has more flavor than any full can from the grocery store. This is real country food.

[Downtown Petersburg]

The town has seen better days. The pavement of the streets is uneven. The central shopping district is littered with empty signs and stores. Outside of central Petersburg (which is about two blocks in size), most houses are solid but worn and needing repair.

I spent over an hour in the battlefield park, soaking it up. From what I understand, the battle was mainly a siege; Confederates defending the town from Union forces surrounding it. There were a number of “forts,” which were simply raised hillocks supported by cannons.

[The Crater]

The siege of Petersburg is best known because of The Crater. Union forces decided to dig a tunnel underneath the Confederate position, plant a huge bomb inside it, and explode it. It worked, and the slaughter was so bad that the Union forces were sickened by it and the Confederates were outraged enough that they rallied and defended themselves quite well.

You can browse all my Petersburg photos.

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