After pricing a bit, I found flying into Dulles and renting a car was the cheapest way by far to get there. I had a bad experience in 2003 with 28S through Manassas, but cam suggested taking 66W to 15S to 17S to 95S. This worked very well, it was a fast, and scenic ride, with lots of horsies. From picking up the Mistubishi to arriving at the customer's site took 2:05.
Later that night at the hotel, I set up a game of Squad Leader. I had just watched Enemy at the Gates, and felt like reliving Stalingrad.
I had a free Sunday, though I still passed out my cell phone number in case I was needed. I figured I may as well get some sightseeing in, and since Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States of America, a War of Northern Aggression themed day was in order. I had considered the Virginia Musem of Science, but I figured Science Museums were pretty much the same in the US, save for parts of Georgia and Kansas. So, It was a War Between the States day.
First, I needed clip on sunglasses, I had forgot to bring mine with me. Target was useless, they only had the fashionable sunglasses that are useless for us spectacle wearers, but I found what I needed at CVS.
My first two choices for the day were the Museum of the Confederacy, or the Richmond National Battlefield Park at the Tredegar Iron Works. The Iron Works was free, so that made it easy.
The Tredegar Iron Works was a large industrial park in Richmond, situated between the James River and the Canal, and since the Canal was higher than the river, it had a good source of water power. It was the South's few arsenals, as a rule, prior to the American Civil War, the South had an agrarian plantation economy, the North had an industrial one.
Despite the glamour of Southern Cavalry sweeping aside the Northern forces with gleaming sabers, a few cannon and lots of rifles had a lot more impact. This is what made Harpers Ferry so important in the history of the Civil War, it had guns, and the tools to make more guns, and it was South of the Mason-Dixon line.
So, the Tredegar Iron Works, which was one of the few places to make arms for the South, just made Richmond, the capital of the South, even more important.
The plaques here and the little museum serve these two purposes. The Museum documents the Civil War around Richmond, from the failed Peninsula campaign early in the War to the final stages when the government fled. The heavy industrial equipment around the museum (waterwheels, turbines, presses, foundries and a steam engine) dates from before and after the war, they seem unrelated until you realize most wars have root economic causes.
I was saddened when I read that most of the workers making fuses during the world were pre-adolescent girls, many my oldest daughters age. As you can imagine, when there's that much gunpowder and blasting caps, there is a huge potential for accidents, and there was one.
Before I left, I bought ten year old an American Girl book about a black girl who lived during the Civil War. I passed on the Confederate Flags.
The next step was the Museum of the Confederacy, home of the world's largest amount of Confederate artifacts, and a tour of the White House of the South.
The White House of the South was Jefferson Davis' official mansion during the years of the Confederacy. It has been restored (with original or equivalent pieces) to what it must have looked like when he resided there. It was surprisingly small for a head of state's mansion, I'm sure many plantations were bigger.
The Museum of the Confederacy was well done, I doubt I could have done better. It focused on the war, which given that the Confederate States of America was born in battle and died in battle, makes sense. There is case upon case of Confederate Artifact, coats and scarves of famous generals and not so famous soldiers (many with the lethal bullet holes in them), personal affects of famous generals and not so famous generals (I counted at least two pistols belonging to Stonewall Jackson, and I particularly liked J.E.B. Stuarts cavalry gear) and yearly maps of the War, with 1863 being the highlight of the Confederacy (Gettysburg or Vickburg, take your pick). The top floor was about the Confederate Navy, with scale models of ironclads, blockade runners and raiders.
I thought it was a swell war museum, albeit one sided (but fair), but lacking as a museum of a rebel country. But, how could you tastefully tell the story of a rebel country, supported by the inhumanity of slavery? Sure you can say the proximate cause of the Civil War was states rights, but the major right the southern states wanted to protect was slavery. The southern agrarian economy and way of life was based on owned human capitol (opposed to the North's rented human capitol), and the Southern states could tell their uneasy truce with the free states was nearing it's end by the mid 1850's. There's little of this in the museum, save near the end when the discussion came up of offering slaves their freedom if they chose to fight in the Confederate Army. The South's own Emancipation Proclamation, two years after Lincoln's.
I see similar ugliness inside me. I find World War II fascinating, and Nazi Germany fascinating. I would love to see a museum dedicated to the military aspects of Nazi Germany in World War II, and I could keep the inhumane aspects of Naziism at bay while I wandered the museum. I can understand their bias.
The museum didn't take long, so I went to Barnes and Noble to get a horse book for five year old, decided not to pay for wireless, and headed back to the hotel for an hour or so before meeting up with sasquatchan. I also purchased Red Star Rogue, a book length treatment of the unexpected sinking of the Russian ballistic missile sub K-129. The off the record hypothesis is that a bunch of die hard commie KGB men, seeing that economic handwriting on the wall in 1968 and realizing the USSR was doomed, infiltrated this ballistic sub, took it over, and mimiced a Chinese ballistic missile sub, sailing 350 miles away from Hawaiia and attempting to nuke Honolulu. They figured the US would assume it was a Chinese nuke ( the Chinese were daring the US to go nuclear back them) and retaliate.
But, the US antisub technology was good enough to tell it was a Russian sub. More importantly, a few years before American and Russian nuclear scientists had exchanged information on making nuclear weapons only launchable with the properly authorized codes. The KGB did not have access to all the codes. Sewel suspects they tried to bypass this protection and launch anyways, with the result that the explosives around the warhead went off uncontrollably, making a very dirty radiation bomb, and exploding the fuel in the missile, which shattered the sub.
The rest of the book goes into the CIA campaign to raise the sub, and the misinformation about it, and how Kissinger and Nixon used the information for detente.
After my dinner with sasquatchan and his lovely wife, more squad leader.
Monday was more time at the customer, waiting for a rare problem to occur. I did take a long lunch and got some real barbeque at Bus and Neds. And what did I see across Boulevard, but a few old motorcycles on the sidewalk, a gleaming old BMW, and some Ural hacks.
After lunch I walked over to Velocity Vintage motorcycles, whoa, I thought I was heaven. There were old Nortons, Triumphs, Ducatis, BMWs, Kawasakis, Hondas, Enfields, just a whole slew of classic bikes, in condition ranging from just out of the shed to immaculate! The cashier was a very nice tattooed blonde full of temptation, she even offered to arrange shipping since I was flying. But I just looked, it was very sweet.
For dinner, I had ribs, and played more Squad Leader, but I only got to 2 1/2 turns of that scenario.
Tuesday I drove back after spending another day without problems at the customer. I went through Manassas this time, got lost, and ended up taking about 2 1/2 hours. I did get to Dulles early enough for a very tasteless Foccaccia at Old Dominion Brewpub in B terminal, the bread was soft like wonderbread, and the sammy was cold. The ale was good at least.
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