Land O' Lincoln
By Jeff Hendershott
After finishing my favorite task this Sunday afternoon (mowing the yard), I was working on my second favorite task (scrubbing algae from the wall of the swimming pool) when my cell phone rang. It was my second-born of four daughters, Jeanette (aka Nick).
She had been in eastern Pennsylvania for a few days for a wedding and called to tell me that they were stopping at Gettysburg on their way home. We talked for a few moments and then, Bam! It struck me that I had not been to Gettysburg in almost 10 years! In fact, I have only been to Antietam, Harpers Ferry, Chancellorsville, Salem Church and in the Williamsburg area three summers ago since. Has it been THAT long? Yeah, I crashed and burned my Civil War reenacting "career," but there's still nothing like walking a battlefield.
So I told Nick to have fun and tell her friends that her Dad is a big movie star in the movie "Gettysburg," and made her pledge to call me when she got home to let me know what she saw.
No wonder, then, that this coming Labor Day weekend, my wife, my "baby" daughter Johannah (8 years old) and I are going to take a three-day jaunt to Bardstown, Kentucky. My wife wants to get away, and it fell to me to come up with something reasonably close - yet cool. I need a fix of historical sites, and the wife and girls always dug these kinds of places, so off we go.
When my oldest daughters were very young, we spent a week in Bardstown. So I sort of know the territory. And although Illinois calls itself "The Land of Lincoln," and rightfully so, Kentucky - and the Bardstown area - could also rightfully call itself the same.
Bardstown has a couple of neat little Western Theatre Civil War museums, "My Old Kentucky Home" of Stephen Foster fame, a whiskey distillery to tour, and other neat attractions for history nuts.
However, what's REALLY cool about Bardstown is that within a half an hour, you’ve got the Perryville Battlefield (October, 1962) and Abraham Lincoln's birthplace (a National Park Service site) and a couple other pieces of property to see where Lincoln and his family lived before migrating north to Indiana and then Illinois.
Lincoln's birthplace is pretty cool. I'm somewhat of a Lincoln fan. Having by happenstance been to Ford’s Theatre the year before, I went to Lincoln's birthplace. It's a pretty moving experience to be exactly where our Civil War president (yeha, I know there were two Civil War presidents for you Rebs) was born and died. I highly recommend both!
Anyway, I'm looking forward to a couple of days at some historical sites. It's about as far as we can go for a "four day weekend" comfortably. Yet before I die - if I see nothing else historic - I want to see Andersonville (a desire I've referenced in other articles).
So I just wanted to pass on this little tip if you are close enough and want to kill a long weekend. I always like to plan my travels in an area where you can see multiple historic places while basing yourself, if you will, within a short drive to several different spots.
Oh, and I almost forgot! The unit my great-great grandfather was in during the Civil War encamped very close to Bardstown while marching south to Tennessee in 1862, I believe.
See, you can still be an old burned out retired reenactor and still get your kicks out of seeing and living history - just in a different sort of way…