There was no digging yesterday, as our group took a few tours of Civil War sites in the area instead. The first tour was of Fredericksburg, which was the central location of some rather brutal conflicts during the war. We were guided to several locations by a National Park Service Ranger who told us about the history of the city, the events that transpired in these places, and read first-hand accounts written by people who lived in the houses we were standing in front of during the battles. It was hard to imagine that this quiet town in the green hills ofVirginiawas once a war zone, but the way it was presented to us really helped me to connect to the stories.
The next tours were of the Chancellorsville and Spotsylvania Court House battlefields, which were both sites of major battles during the Civil War. I was particularly impressed by the incredible preservation of Spotsylvania Court House, which features earthworks (large walls of soil built by soldiers for protection) that have stood for well over a hundred years. During the war this site was an unoccupied wilderness, and after the battles were over it was completely abandoned, essentially leaving everything where it fell. Looking out over the beautiful rolling fields, which are now covered in brightly colored wildflowers, was an intensely powerful experience. Knowing how many wounded soldiers once rested on the small mounds of earth that I was now standing behind, and how many died and were buried in those very places was both chilling and moving.
I really took a lot away from these tours, and if you ever find yourself near Fredericksburg or Spotsylvania I highly recommend you go! I had very little interest in the Civil War before this, but I’m reading everything I can about it now. It’s such a tragic and intriguing time in American history, especially from an anthropological or archaeological perspective. I plan on going back this weekend to take some pictures, as I did not bring a camera this time around, so I’ll post those as soon as I can!