Saturday, October 29, 2016

More Fall Wanderings....

Aaahhh, Fridays...I realize that I just took a field trip last week, so I wasn't exactly feeling an irrepressible yearning to go exploring again, yet...but the weather we've been graced with in the waning days of October has been soooo stunning that I couldn't pass up the chance to get out and take advantage of it...rather than spending my free time in a less entertaining, indoor way (such as...Costco--ugh).

Therefore I set my sights on Bentonville, a Civil War battlefield I've been thinking of visiting for a while (I know, you're shocked by this, right? Or...not...), about 75 miles to the southeast of Chapel Hill. Armed with snacks, songs, and shades, I hit the highway (that would be Route 40) for an easy journey--or so I believed. And actually, it WAS smooth and simple....riiiight up until I got off the interstate and approached the actual park. Suddenly the GPS instructed me to turn...directly into an orange barrier that firmly proclaimed: Road Closed.

Huh. Since I happened to be in the Middle of Nowhere, I was able to sit there at the stop sign for a minute and contemplate what to do. Peering beyond the sign, I could see that the passage looked clear--no noticeable, immediately apparent reason for the blockage. And, annoyingly, there was also a distinct lack of a handy Detour arrow or information to help out a sister who was just trying to go soak up some history...and stuff...dang it! Now, the rebellious portion of my brain piped up encouragingly, "It seems fine! Go ahead and try it...what's the worst that could happen?" Especially when, while I was involved with my internal discussion, several vehicles came toward me from the other side of the pavement, in no evident distress whatsoever.

But the Voice of Reason won out and I reversed my course, trusting the navigation app to find an alternate way in and re-route me. Which she did...about 6 more times, as Every. Single. Street. we tried was also barricaded. What the WHAT is happening here? finally dawned on me that I had neglected to consider the recent passage of Hurricane Matthew...because, while the storm dumped a couple inches of rain on us in the Triangle region, which was no big deal and quickly reportedly devastated areas south and east...which described EXACTLY where I currently was. Oops...

So, after driving around in circles--literally--for about a half-hour, and coming back to the precise spot where I'd begun this charming little misadventure, I was faced with a choice: give up and go home...or give in to the verrry tiny defiant whisper in my head that had begun to pick up some steam, egging me on: "Just do it! No one's looking! You can always turn around if, you know, the road is flooded...or washed out...or whatever..." And then, the moment that sealed the deal for me came when a pickup truck nonchalantly swerved around the sign, right in front of me. Well, that settles it--if HE'S going, then so am I! (Ha!)
And would you believe...the freakin' Visitor's Center lay just out of sight, maybe 100 yards BEYOND THE INTERSECTION. Seriously, you were practically on top of it, but unfortunately it wasn't visible, to let you know you'd almost arrived. Sheesh. It turned out that what they actually meant was that the road was closed  just PAST the park. Well, thanks a lot, Highway Department--that's super-helpful.

When I mentioned it to the first friendly staff member I encountered, he nodded sympathetically...because obviously he's heard this from absolutely everyone who manages to stumble onto the place, despite the...challenges. However...he also mentioned that all of their walking trails...are still off-limits, due to the damage that hasn't been fully cleaned up yet. BUMMER. (And, as an aside, it would have been nice to find ANY of this information on your website. I recognize that you're a historical location, but you're operating in the Digital Information Age, y'all. I'm just sayin'...)

Anyway, at least I had made it at last--and my recent lucky streak held, as the same employee was about to kick off a guided interpretation of the buildings preserved on-site. With his supervision, we were allowed inside the Harper house, which was commandeered as a makeshift hospital during the Battle of Bentonville in March of 1865, toward the end of the War Between the States. This skirmish was "the only significant attempt" to defeat General Sherman's large Union forces as they made their way through the Carolinas.

During the action, army physicians took over the downstairs rooms to perform surgeries..usually amputations, as the ammunition used at this time did so much damage that it left them few options for treatment. The Harper family-- husband, wife, and 9 (!) children--who were subsistence farmers, retreated to the upstairs rooms for the duration...and even afterwards, when some of the wounded men who couldn't yet be moved were left in their care.

Our narrator also opened the separate kitchen structure for us to have a peek, as well as the slave quarters (the Harpers owned 3, who all would have been freed when Sherman marched through). Besides that, there was really only the family's small cemetery plot and a few stone monuments that were open to the public. Oh--there was a driving portion that you could do on your own, pausing at each marker and reading the material...but since I'd basically spent most of the day in the car already, I opted to skip that. Perhaps I'll give it a while, and return when I can stroll the grounds a bit more...or maybe I'll just decree that I got enough satisfaction out of Bentonville, and move on to the next historical point on my list.

My excursion might not have gone entirely as planned, but I got to fully appreciate a warm, sunny, delightful Fall afternoon, I learned a few interesting things...and I was 100% successful in avoiding all things related to grocery shopping...I call that a big old W-I-N!

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