Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Winchester (Cathedral?)

We’re in Winchester, VA and we’ve been driving around looking for Winchester Cathedral of that old rock ‘n roll song, but Penny tells me its in a different Winchester. I’ve also been looking for the Winchester rifle company, but that may be elsewhere also. We did find a Gun Barrel Road nearby, but I don’t think that counts.

Anyway, there’s a lot of history in this area, and the local historical society does a really good job preserving it and educating visitors about it. George Washington spent time here back in his days as a surveyor, well before he was promoted to general. George_Washington's_Office,_WinchesterWe visited the actual office he used. Now a museum, its one of three sites run by the historical society, and the docent there, who has authored several books about the history of the area, was more interested in talking about the civil war than Washington and the revolution. The cabin once used by Washington was also used as a hospital for confederate soldiers, and one of the highlights of the museum is a blood stain on the floor.

Being at the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, and just south of the key B&O railroad, Winchester was a key strategic location for both the Union and Confederate armies. Historians claim that Winchester changed hands as many as 72 times, and 13 times in one day. Battles raged along Main Street at different points in the war. Both Union General Sheridan and Stonewall Jackson located their headquarters just one block apart at various times.

The house Jackson lived in and used as headquarters while he was in Winchester is another of the sites run by the historical society. For some reason the house used by Sheridan has been demolished. The house Jackson used has a wonderful collection of period and original-to-the-house artifacts and furniture, none of which I can show you because photos are not permitted inside.

There’s a contemporary painting by Mort Kunstler of Jackson bidding farewell to his wife outside the house  in 1862.med_74_2[1] I tried to get a picture from the same angle, but there’s another house now in what was the front yard of this place, and since I assume the neighbors don’t appreciate tourists tramping all over their roses, DSC_0004the best I could do was get a shot of the door and the unique railing and roof line above the entrance.

One interesting point of our tour of the house was a discussion by the docent about the history of the Civil War. She said that contrary to popular belief, slavery wasn’t the cause of the war. She intimated that the problems in the country today (we’re in Virginia, remember) are related somehow to what happened in the Civil War, but not wanting to get into a political discussion, we didn’t pursue the topic. I couldn’t help but think she was referring to the complexion of our current president, but I could be wrong.

The third property managed by the historical society is the oldest house in Winchester. Abrams delightCalled Abrams Delight, it was built in 1754 by a Quaker family and since Quakers were and still are pacifists, it didn’t have a major role in the wars, but its farm and grist mill played a significant place in the economic development in the area.


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