Now? Alas, now her active days are behind her, and she remains in dock as a mighty museum ship. Not what she was built for, but she fills her retirement role quite admirably.
Like ships, WE weren't built to stay in the safety of the harbor all the time, either. I must confess, the older I get, the more content I am to simply hunker down in the comfort of our own home with Smarticus. Yeah, I know. We're getting to be old poops. But that doesn't mean we don't still love adventure... it's just more difficult to pry us out of the house nowadays. Which made our 50th anniversary trip to Charleston all that more enjoyable.
This is a 1969 honeymoon pic of me at Appomattox Courthouse, where General Robert E. Lee signed the papers of surrender, which effectively ended the Civil War.
That wasn't the only Civil War... or other historical site... we visited on our honeymoon, and we've gone to many many more over the past fifty years. Not because we romanticize war or long for the past, but because there's something sacred about stepping on old battlefields, and in general, there's something humbling and edifying about studying the past, whether by visiting actual sites or by haunting museums. Both activities stoke our imaginations and instill a grateful appreciation for and better understanding of those who have come before us.
You could say that learning about history is like crossing an invisible bridge into the past, and when we make that crossing, it gives us a better perspective on the events happening in the world today.
The bridge in this picture? If it has a name, I don't know what it is, but it's strikingly beautiful, and believe it or not, a guide on the tour boat said it was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. (That it itself is worthy of an historical plaque!)
This is the tour boat, which we boarded at Patriot's Point, where the U.S.S. Yorktown is berthed. From there, we took a warm and breezy ride to the remains of Ft. Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Kinda cool, isn't it? On our honeymoon, we visited the place where the war ended, and this time around, we saw where it all began.
Approaching Fort Sumter, which lies about a mile offshore from Charleston. It was one of many forts built by the federal government to protect the eastern coastline after the War of 1812.
Once docked, we crossed this long pier to get to the fort, where we had a full hour to explore as we saw fit. That might seem like a long time, but it wasn't nearly enough. There's a terrific museum housed within the fort, and that alone was worthy of a longer visit.
There was no smoking on the boat or in the fort, so Smarticus stopped to grab a quick nicotine fix before we strolled across the pier. That meant we had the pier pretty much to ourselves. What a view! And the weather was absolutely marvelous, too. Lots of sunshine, and a brisk breeze, as you can tell by the flag in the background.
Now part of the National Park System, Ft. Sumter is but a remnant of its former self. Originally three stories tall, much of it was destroyed during the war, and very little of the upper levels are still intact. When Major Robert Anderson moved his 85-man garrison into the fort on the day after Christmas in 1860, the fort wasn't even completed yet. Just six days earlier, a special South Carolina convention had voted to secede from the union, so the arrival of federal troops wasn't met with joy. One of Anderson's former students at West Point, Brig. General Pierre Beauregard, was in command of the Confederate forces in Charleston. As little stomach as he had for firing on his former mentor and friend, it was his mission to evict the federal forces from the fort. Alas, mere talk and saber rattling didn't work, so in the early hours of April 12, the first shots were fired on Fr. Sumter. Two days later, the Union forces retreated and the Confederates took over the fort.
Some of the crumbling ruins. (But at least she's still wearing a smile...)
We chose not to tour the Yorktown. We already knew, benefit of our earlier tour of the U.S.S. Alabama, just how many narrow ladder-like STEPS are involved in that kind of tour, and our knees weren't feeling up to the task. Too bad. There are lots of old planes on deck, and each of the hangars houses a unique museum... one for Medal of Honor winners, one for the Apollo 8 mission, and one for cold war submarines. Maybe next time. (Seeing's as how we're getting younger and all...) We did, however, walk through the Vietnam Experience. It was supposed to be included in the tour package for the Yorktown, another ship and a submarine, but when we asked if we could just buy a ticket for the Vietnam exhibit, the gal noticed the Vietnam Veteran hat Smarticus was wearing and told us we could go in for free. I thought the exhibit was pretty good, but Smarticus wasn't impressed, because there was absolutely nothing about the ground-pounding grunts who spent their time in the bush. Personally, I think that was for the best. I don't think most of us are prepared to get immersed in the kind of experiences he had. Just thinking about them is bad enough.
Just for fun, anybody have any idea what the heck I'm sitting inside in this picture? Any guesses?
Don't worry. I'll tell you all about it... next week.
Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.