Saturday, July 7, 2012

The U.S.S. Monitor!!!

Today (July 6th) was a very special, very cool day for me. We went to The Mariner's Museum, an amazing museum to begin with, but what we were able to see and do was absolutely incredible!!! The U.S.S. Monitor was the Union's first ironclad ship, and went up against the C.S.S. Virginia, formerly the Merrimac (there is some discrepancy over the correct spelling of Merrimac(k), but I will spell it without a 'k', as it was often written in the 1800's). Their fight, the Battle of Hampton Roads, wasn't a significant victory in the war - in fact, both sides claimed victory, and it was more or less a draw - but it was significant in terms of the world today. This was the first appearance of ironclad ships, and now that we had these, the age of wooden ships was over for good. Even the worst and most pathetic metal boat of the time could take on a wooden ship, and so ironclad ships became the newest technology. The Merrimac was eventually destroyed, and the Monitor sank a little over a year after their skirmish. But, in 2006, the turret of the Monitor was brought up from the ocean floor, and moved to the Mariner's Museum for preservation and archeology work. It's a pretty cool thing to begin with, and you can normally look into the conservation room from a balcony, and you can see the turret submerged in its water/chemical bath through a window from above. However, on the tour we had, we were able to take pictures of the turret, while it was out of the water! They drained the tank! We were taken through the conservation labs, we got to see all of the work set out and heard about the projects, and then they opened the door of the (temporarily empty) tank so that we could see the turret from the ground. It. Was. Incredible!

In addition to being able to see the turret out of the water, we were also given another very special opportunity. The museum usually restricts flash photography, and there are some areas where picture taking is not allowed. However, they allowed us to not only take pictures of everything and anything that we wanted, but they also let us use flashes so that we could get better pictures of the things we were interested in! It was such a wonderful experience, and I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to see and experience everything I was allowed to today.

Condiment Jars - the food was really good some nights, but other nights it was really bad...

A cup and a camera that went down on a diving exploration of the Monitor. The cup is compressed from the pressure.

A clock, with the hour hand pointing to around one o'clock, confirming accounts that the ship went down around 1 AM.

Quotes regarding the U.S.S. Monitor

A wash station in the captain's quarters

A very nice bunk for a high ranking officer

An officer writing home to his wife

One of the original cannons from the ship. We learned about how iron was formed in production based on how it looks now. This cannon was poured into a mold, because it is still smooth.

The anchor from the ship. Unlike the cannon, this anchor was pounded out by a blacksmith's hammer, leading to the formation of lines in the rust patterns.

The turret, from above

A cannon, in preservation fluid

A part of the boat, preserved in liquid and with electrolydic reduction (that's what all the wires and pipes are for). The electrolydic reduction can reverse some rust, and restores the piece some.

A new invention! It is as of yet unnamed, but was/ is being invented by the conservation staff to safely move artifacts from hot, humid climates to air conditioned ones. The biggest preservation room is not air conditioned because of the volume of liquids they deal with, but once artifacts are freeze dried they need to be stored in a case with AC.

More of the ship being preserved, this is a cool pipe.

X-Rays taken of parts of the ship's interior workings

Before (bottom) and after (top) pictures of the engine's preservation and restoration - really impressive!!!

A great example of electrolydic reduction and the use of electricity in preservation.

Looking up at the turret of the Monitor, taken from ground level just inside of the tank.

Another pipe in preservation fluid.

The side of the turret, inside of the tank, at ground level.

Another Day in Richmond!

Today (July 5th), we returned to Richmond, this time to view it as a city entering the Civil War. We walked along some of the canals, and discussed their construction. They were built by poor whites, immigrants, and slaves, and so we evaluated the differences those workers must have had, and the double standard that these new uses for slavery were implying. If slaves were working alongside of free white men, what did that mean for the status of the slaves, and the status of those who were free?

A canal in Richmond that we investigated

Another canal, this one bigger and more open than the other one. It was closer to the river, so it was used more.

After looking at the canals, we went over to the river, and discussed the role of the 'industrial south'. While the south was mainly agricultural, cities like Richmond prove that the South was more than capable of sustaining its own factories. Two notable factories were Tredegar Ironworks and the "Confederate's Laboratory". Both produced a good deal of ammunition, weaponry, and other solutions to militaristic needs during the Civil War.

A section of Tredegar Ironworks that still stands today.

Continuing on to Tredegar and the Civil War museum (it's in another part of the old Tredegar factory, to the right of the one in the photo), we saw the impact of the war, and heard a lot of stories from the battlefields. Some of the best parts of the museum were the locks of hair from Stonewall Jackson and General Lee, as well as a cast of Lee's face. The tour guide there was extremely friendly, and not only talked with us about history, but also mentioned the discovery of the Higgs boson!

In the Civil War museum there was a sign that had the effects of southern inflation on it. There were objects, then their prices in the Confederacy in 1863, and then how much that was equivalent to today. The results were shocking. A cake of soap was $1.10 ($20.34 in today's money), a pair of shoes cost $600 (that's equal to $11,094), and a bag of flour would have sold for $250 (that's $4,623 now)! It added a whole new dimension to the war that I had never thought of before, and gave me a new perspective on what things were like for both the soldiers fighting, and for those waiting at home. In seminar, we discussed the difference between the paintings we see of the war and the photographs. The paintings look regal, and show everyone cleaned up and at their best. The photographs are more realistic, and show the horrible condition of the soldier's clothing, their lack of shoes and proper equipment, and the gruesomeness of their injuries. Understanding what the war was really like changed the way I thought about it, and it's shocking to me that an entire country was able to live through something as horrible as the Civil War.

Richmond had a lot of really cool graffiti and murals right beside the river

Each piece seemed to have its own theme, and was done by a different group

The paintings were just lined up next to each other on a really long wall

This one was the last one before the river (it reads: "James, is that you I smell?" in reference to the water of the James River)

This was one of my favorites!

A little island in the James River, which reminded me a good deal of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - and look, there's even people camping on it! :)

A pretty view of a new bridge and some old pylons over the James River

My paragraph for class that day:

In school, it seems that the division between races before the Civil War was much like the divisions present during segregation. However, it would appear that it was not that way. In Rothman’s work, he points out that the streets of Richmond were filled with all sorts of people, and that different genders and races all had interactions with each other. This sounds like a good thing, as there was a lot of bi-racial cooperation going on, but in reality, it just lead to a sticky situation. The institution of slavery in the south relied heavily on the fact that those who had any form of black blood in them were lesser beings than those who were white, and could therefore be made to work hard all day and be traded like objects. But, when daily interactions in the streets of Richmond, and cities like it, lead to more and more co-mingling of the races, it evened out the playing field. It became very clear that skin tone wasn’t invocative of differences, and that blurred the color lines. Instead of blacks being on the bottom and whites being on the top, there were now whites buying from, selling to, and even being intimate with blacks! This sort of behavior clearly points out that blacks were not property, and were just as worthy human beings as whites were. And that’s where the color lines blur – slaves could be bought, sold and traded, forced to work and whipped, yet they were working right along side of whites, and no one would ever think to treat a white person that way. It put everyone in a tricky place, because slavery, which the south was reliant on, depended on the assumption that those with darker skin were lowlier than those with pale skin, yet everyday interactions proved that those assumptions were false.

The Fourth of July!

Today was so much fun! I am firmly convinced that Colonial Williamsburg is the best place to be on the Fourth of July. My morning started with getting dressed the colonial way - first a shift, and right on up to my nice blue dress. My friends Savannah and Sophie helped lace me into it, and then we set out for a day on the town. We met up with some more people, and almost everyone had something colonial about their person, from hats to fans to skirts, etc. We walked in to Colonial Williamsburg, and ended up following the fife and drum corps as they made their way around the town. When their performance ended we went to the book store for lunch (and I am sure that a few civilians posted pictures of my struggles to get on the escalator without letting my dress touch it). After our early lunch, we went back down to the Capitol Building, and waited for the reading of the Declaration of Independence. There were many cries of "Huzzah!" and lots of cheering, and when it was finally read everyone got goosebumps. After much cheering for our freedom, we followed the fife and drum corps back up the street, and then hurried back to the college.

Once we were back on campus, there was a screening of the musical "1776". It was such a great movie to watch, and was made even better by the fact that I was surrounded by a bunch of fellow history nerds! (If you haven't seen the movie, I suggest that you watch it! Here's my favorite song from it:   The very beginning and from 5:56-end are my favorite parts)

The evening ended with lovely fireworks!

Chippoke's Plantation and Bacon's Castle - Also, a Ferry Ride!

Today (July 3rd), we visited Chippoke's Plantation and Bacon's Castle. Chippoke's Plantation is the oldest continually maintained plantation in the country, and was primarily functioning as a plantation or a distillery for most of its life. We focused a lot on the Civil War history, so that was the time when it was being used to make wine and such. The owner, a Mr. Albert Jones, was willing to do business with anyone, be Union or Confederate, but showed his true loyalties when he became outraged at his daughter's intent to marry a Confederate soldier.

The last official owners of the plantation were Victor and Evelyn, who did a lot for the conservation of the mansion and the surrounding lands. It was a very beautiful place to visit!

Chippoke's Plantation House Mansion

After visiting Chippoke's, we went on to Bacon's Castle for an intro into dueling and a talk on slavery. We observed the changes that had been made to slave's housing in order to prevent rebellions (they had 'nicer' houses, with white-washed siding, they had raised foundations so that nothing could be hidden under the house, they were closer to the main house so that there could be more supervision), and got to go inside one of the houses. We went up to one of the upstairs rooms, and it was ridiculously hot up there.

A slave house at Bacon's Castle. Note the raised foundations.

Then, we went around to the front of the estate to hear a story about a duel, and received an introduction to the concept of southern honor. The house was beautiful, and I'm only sad that we didn't get to go inside of it.

My paragraph for class:

Because of past slave uprisings, such as Nat Turner’s Rebellion and Gabriel’s Rebellion, slave owners lived in fear of future rebellions, and took more drastic measures to ensure that their slaves couldn’t revolt. In previous eras, slaves had been able to keep a few objects for themselves, usually under a floorboard or in a small hole under their house. When panic spread about uprisings though, many slave owners raised the houses, putting empty space between the bottom of the house and the ground. While this kept slaves from stockpiling weapons, it also kept them from having their own, completely innocent, objects. Another major change in masters of the time was paternalism, and the ideas that sprung from it. They kept up slave quarters and improved the quality of the housing (walls were painted white, the buildings looked nicer, etc.), but in such a way that it appeared that their slaves were no more than children who had to be taken care of.

Monday at Monticello and Highland/Ashlawn

Today (July 2nd), I spent time visiting the houses of two more presidents - Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. We visited Monticello first, and were given a very nice tour of the house. It was just as beautiful as I remembered it being, and just as full of cool things. A really interesting tidbit that I picked up was that there had been more discoveries made about Jefferson's interior design since the last time I had been there! In the dining room and the sitting room off of it, the Thomas Jefferson Monticello Foundation had originally painted the room blue, to match a design that they found on the fire place. However, paint chip analysis recently revealed that the room was not sky blue, but instead a "chrome yellow", a color that would have been thirty times more expensive than blue in Jefferson's time. They had repainted the room, and I think it looks wonderful! It was very bright and cheery, and made it feel like an even larger space.

Monticello was all ready for the Fourth of July!

A few more Jefferson facts that I learned during my time there:
     -Jefferson had pet mockingbirds, which he fed from his hand, and absolutely adored
     -He could read in seven different languages
     -He owned over 300 different maps, globes, and atlases
     -If you stand on the East porch, and look towards the east, there is nothing taller than you are until Portugal
     -During the construction of UVA, Jefferson had a wonderful view of the construction of the college from his East Porch, and you can still see the rotunda from there today!

At the end of the tour, our tour guide asked us if anyone knew what Jefferson had wanted to have written on his grave. I was the only one who knew!

Thomas Jefferson - Author of the Declaration of Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and the founding of the University of Virginia.
After our official tour, we walked around the outside some, visited his grave, saw the gardens and Mulberry Row, and toured the cellars. Outside of the cellars, there was a kid's station set up, and we got to try writing out part of the Declaration with a quill and ink! It was harder than I expected it to be, especially because you had to dip the pen in ink every few seconds. Still though, it was really neat to try it!

Beautiful Monticello!

The gardens behind the house

A stroll down Mulberry Row

After visiting Mr. Jefferson's house, we traveled to Highland, also referred to as Ashlawn, to visit the Monroe residence. It was a big contrast. If anyone wants to visit these houses I would definitely recommend it, but I would advise visiting Monroe's house first, and then Jefferson's. Monroe had a very humble house, especially when compared to Jefferson's, and the tour is much more relaxed.

Inside of the house we were able to tour a few of the main rooms, such as the dining room, the drawing room, and some of the bedrooms and a parlor. There were three things about my visit to Highland that really stuck out to me, and they are not really related at all. First, we were all shocked to learn about Mrs. Monroe. James Monroe's wife was 5'2" (that's my height), but weighed only 80 pounds! We saw some of her dresses, and they were almost child-sized! Second, we learned about a very interesting family connection. Eliza Madison (Jame's daughter) attended a boarding school in Paris, where she became friends with a girl by the name of Hortense. Hortense's mom's name was Josephine, and after Hortense's father died, her mom married Napoleon Bonaparte. Hortense ended up marrying Napoleon's brother, Louis Bonaparte, and she became the Queen of Holland. The last thing that I really enjoyed were the animals. There were supposedly peacocks, but I didn't find any. However, we did find the sheep!