Friday, March 22, 2013

Sepia Saturday: A Family That Tours Battlefields Together ...


Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.




This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt shows photographers at work capturing the beauty of cherry blossoms in Washington D.C.  And isn’t that what any visitor to our nation’s capital would do?  But what distinguishes the professional from most amateurs is the tripod.  Apparently a professional photographer was working on the day my great-uncle Millard Davis and his wife Edith visited the Gettysburg National Military Park.  Note the tripod to the far left of the photo Millard snapped.


Devil's Den Gettysburg with Edith Kite Davis
Edith Kite Davis at the entrance to Devil's Den
Gettysburg National Military Park
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

However, Millard and Edith took their own pictures with their own camera, most likely without benefit of a tripod.


One of their stops along the Gettysburg Battlefield tour that day was Devil’s Den, an important site for artillery and infantry snipers during the battle that became the turning point in the War Between the States. 


Edith Davis at Devil's Den, Gettysburg
Edith Davis at Devil's Den
overlooking Plum Rum

The outcropping of boulders formed a high ridge giving the soldiers a strategic vantage point overlooking Plum Run valley between Little Round Top and Big Round Top.  It was at Devil’s Den that the South claimed one of its few successes at Gettysburg. 


Millard Davis at Devil's Den, Gettysburg
Millard Davis at Devil's Den
Some of the boulders
stood 20 feet high


Touring battlefields has been a long-standing tradition in my family.  Readers of Sepia Saturday might recall that just recently I wrote about my great-aunt Velma Davis Woodring (Millard’s sister) and her friend Olive Williams.   


Their trip to Mercersburg was not their only trip together.  Two months earlier in June 1928, Woody and Velma, along with her sister Violetta, accompanied the Williams family on a trip to tour the Antietam battlefield in Maryland.  Antietam’s two claims to fame are that it was the scene of the first major Civil War battle on Union soil AND it was the deadliest single-day battle in American history. 



Velma Woodring, Violetta Davis, and Williams Family Antietam June 1928
at Antietam Battlefield June 1928
Standing: Helen Williams, Mary Williams
Seated:  Rosie Williams, Violetta Davis, Robert Williams
Seated on the grass:  Velma Davis Woodring, Olive Williams


In that post I included a letter that Olive wrote in 1925 asking Velma’s mother to allow Velma to make a trip to Gettysburg with the Williams family and their mutual friend Virginia Cole.


While transcribing that letter, I experienced what can only be described as "a light bulb moment":  the moment when clues in a letter shed light on an old photo that my family had laughed about unapologetically because we figured we weren't disrespecting the memory of a family member.  After all, we didn't know the women in it.  To us the photo was simply funny


Virginia Cole and Olive Williams at Gettysburg, August 1925
Left: Virginia Cole
Right: Olive Williams
Gettysburg August 1925

because the mood of those two unidentified women standing beside a cannon in a battlefield resembled the mood in this picture at another battlefield:

Wendy Slade and Mary Davis Slade at Manassas Battlefield 1966
Me, Momma and Stonewall Jackson
Manassas, Virginia 1967

The light bulb moment was realizing those then-unidentified women were none other than Virginia Cole and Olive Williams.  The August 1925 date scrawled in the upper right corner (cropped out of the posted picture) offers strong evidence that this was the big trip to Gettysburg that Mr. Williams had planned for the girls.  


We all agreed that those two women (now identified as Virginia and Olive) seem as bored as I had been that summer when my family visited yet ANOTHER Civil War battlefield, that time in Manassas, Virginia.  



Mary Davis Slade and Wendy Slade at Manassas, Virginia 1966
Momma and me at the Union monument
Manassas, Virginia 1967



Could anyone be more pouty, more disagreeable, more "fun" to be around? 


(Come on, Daddy – how much longer??)  












But I perked up when we finally got to the hotel pool.

Mary Davis Slade, Wendy Slade, Mary Jollette Slade at Governor's Hotel, Falls Church, VA 1966
Momma, me and Mary Jollette
at the Governor's Hotel, Falls Church, Virginia 1967


And what is that in my lap?  Why, my camera case, of course.  I certainly didn’t want to miss out on recording all those memories of us crisscrossing battlefields dotted with cannon, statues of war heroes, and monuments honoring dead patriots.   


For more Kodak moments, please visit Sepia Saturday.


52 comments:

  1. Love the names, Plum Run, Little Round Top and Big Round Top.

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    1. I imagine the names were descriptive on purpose.

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  2. Historic places to have visited even if they or you were bored.

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    1. Yes, you're right - we should all be aware of our own history.

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  3. Touring battlefields doesn't sound like much fun to me, but it does seem like a good excuse to go for a drive on a nice day. The photos are fun to look at too.

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    1. I am much more tolerant and appreciative these days.

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  4. The Devil's Den overlooking Plum Rum sounds like a Moonshiner's hideout

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  5. Haha! I love those pictures of you! My parents have quite a few of me doing the same "pose."

    Happy weekend!

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  6. What a fun post! It's amazing how so many cool photos came about without benefit of a tripod! Thank-goodness. What an exciting vacation that must have been, during what looks like beautiful weather, in which I can barely remember what that is lately! Yikes! I like that camera case, it's so large, it must have held film and the works. I remember my parents had something like that!

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    1. I haven't seen much beautiful weather here lately either. Seeing that photo with my BIG camera case surprised even me. Nowadays we all want a camera that will fit into our pocket.

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    2. Absolutely and even our cell phones and everything to iPod or whatever must be compact! I've carried my own camera case of today around before, and I think people have looked at me like, where is she from! But I can stick everything in there, no need for a purse!

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  7. You may have looked bored, but I bet you were moved Wendy. Reading your post made me go and dig out my own papers from our visit to those battlefields several years ago. I kept all the postcards, including that one of Jackson's memorial. I remember being incrediby moved by displays and informations from the guides. A few years later we watched Ken Burns' remarkable documentary series using only still photographs and letters and the spone words of those who had lived through it. Thank you for the reminder and I really enjoyed your post.

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    1. You're too kind if you think that 16-yr old girl was one bit impressed. But you'll be glad to know she grew into a fine woman who appreciates a good battlefield and accompanying museum. Those Ken Burns programs are always a pleasure to watch.

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  8. We just went to the Manassas Battlefield not long ago. Our daughter lives near by.

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    1. Wow that's so cool! The folks of Manassas are very proud of their battlefield.

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  9. We went on a Civil War Battlefield journey about 20 years ago - I was bored stiff! But now I'd love to have that experience, especially since I've learned that a 2nd great grandfather was killed at Fredericksburg.

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    1. My daughter went to Mary Washington in F'burg. One weekend while she was still in class, my husband and I did a walking tour. One of the most interesting stories was that people would sit on their front porch and watch the battles. A really early version of reality tv!

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  10. Ha. Your post really made me laugh. Those "bored" photos are priceless. I can remember family vacations where I felt just the same. But to see the two different generations with the same reactions was just too funny. And then the happy pool shot that you ended with was the icing on the cake.
    Nancy

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    1. The annual battlefield tour was always kind of a family joke. I always thought it would be fun and funny to frame those two bored photos together.

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  11. I suppose the key to getting something out of battlefield visits is a knowledge of the background history, and having a personal family connection helps too. Your early photos remind me of some in my grandparents' album which show them on a cycling pilgrimage in 1921 to my grandmother's brother's grave on the Western Front. I visited the cemetery in 2007, and it was very special feeling finding the exct spots where my grandfather's photos were taken. Just a pity I don't have a photo of him wielding the camera, but that would have been hard to achieve since he took the photos.

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    1. You're right. Knowing that one of my ancestors was actually at Appomattox when Lee surrendered made that tour last summer much more interesting.

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  12. The US has such great topographic names. Your experience was so funny, we've all had childhood moments like that, feet hot from trailing around. It is now our job to inflict that on others:-) However they look much more interesting than our civil war battlefields which are usually just that - fields.

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    1. Civil War history is a big deal in the South. Even if there is no museum or house-turned-headquarters or display of cannons to tour, there will be a marker with a brief story of the battle.

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  13. Very funny, Wendy. But let's be truthful, battlefield tours will always be a guy thing. I think it is having a camera that makes us go places and do things we would not otherwise do. Look there's a big rock,let's take a picture of you hanging off the edge! Wow, that's a big statue of a horse, let's have you stand in front for scale. Before the camera, we would just buy a postcard.

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    1. Oh funny. Maybe that's why Daddy enjoyed these tours more than the rest of us did.

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  14. Wendy, I guess it was not a favoured place to visit for a teenage girl. Interesting history, huge granite boulders, I can imagine they were great hiding places. Anyway all wars are awful.

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    1. No, it wasn't Disney World, that's for sure. But yes, I bet those boulders provided some good hiding spots.

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  15. There seems to have been a revival in visiting battlefields on this side of the ocean - visiting the battlefields of World War 1 seems to be an important part of the school curriculum these days. Great photographs.

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    1. Battlefield tours have improved over the years with more hands-on activities and reenactors to "bring history to life."

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  16. When you mentioned Gettysburg I remembered the Gettysburg Address which we memorized in English IV. You and your mom look great together. It must be awesome to be in the midst of those boulders.

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    1. You had to memorize the Gettysburg Address?!?!? Wow. I was spared that but surely had to memorize plenty of other things now forgotten.

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  17. Wendy, what a wonderful post! I loved all of it, especially seeing you as a teenager. We went to Gettysburg in 1976 on our "big trip".

    Kathy M.

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    1. Wasn't I precious? Did you see Devil's Den on that big trip?

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  18. I still need to do a Gettysburg trip. My dad's granduncle died there. Have you see "Sherman's March"? Great documentary, only obliquely about the Civil War.

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    1. To my knowledge I had no family at Gettysburg. Gettysburg was one of our stops one summer, but I have no pictures from that trip.

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  19. Fun times Wendy. A reminder that there are always drawbacks to group travel - someone misses out on what they really wanted to do.

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    1. At the time I probably wanted to go to the beach like my friends did.

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  20. Great Photos Wendy.History Made Real.

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  21. We always did well in history because of those trips. I can remember being so car sick from daddy driving like a bat out of hell down Rt. 33. Thank goodness for the motel swimming pool.

    I did get paid back when my boys ASKED to go on a history tour of Virginia! They should have been born to Momma and Daddy!

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    1. I remember one trip when I was sick from Williamsburg to Charlottesvile. UGH

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  22. I was just looking at a photo of my 9 year old granddaughter on a recent trip to Fort Moultrie. She looks not only bored but pained to be there.

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  23. Yeah, your "excitement" was palpable...
    NOT!!!
    Glad you had that eureka moment,
    connecting the dots between a letter and some enigmatic photograph.
    Fun post!!!
    What would you do without all of those family trips!?!
    :D~
    HUGZ

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    1. I love making a discovery in my research, no matter how small or insignificant. It always feels like a major breakthrough at the moment.

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  24. Haha! Comparing the picture of Olive and Virginia with you and your mom was priceless! What a fun post.

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    1. Yeah, those two photos stay in my mind's eye. Always good for a chuckle.

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    2. Hi Wendy,

      I want to let you know that this post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2013/03/follow-fridayfab-finds-for-march-29-2013.html

      Have a wonderful weekend!

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  25. I love the glimpses into the family's travels, such fun! It seems most familys' vacations were very similar. I too was often bored when dragged on sightseeing adventures. Today I would be thrilled to see the Civil War battle sites since I now know that several of my ancestors fought there.

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  26. Hi there! I came across your blog while looking for Gettysburg info, especially Devil's Den. Love the photos! I wish I had a ton of photos of every single one of my ancestors (those for whom it was possible, anyway!) It's great to see families getting out and seeing the battlefields. I've visited Gettysburg, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Wilderness, and Chancellorsville so far, and hope to see more someday!

    http://skiesofblueandgray.blogspot.com

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