Recently, my daughter and I took a trip to historical sites in my mother’s home state of Virginia. As a Christmas present, my daughter said she would take me anywhere I’d like to go–at her expense! How could I refuse an offer like that? I had wanted to return to Virginia to places I’d seen fifty years ago or had never visited. I told her that as a black shoe Navy vet, I would like to go to Norfolk to walk on-board the USS Wisconsin, an Iowa class battleship, the largest such vessel in our WWII navy. Along the way, I hoped we could find my Great-Grandfather’s grave. My mother had told us that he was buried in the Confederate cemetery on the University Virginia campus in Charlottesville. He died of wounds sustained at the Second Battle of Manassas in 1862.
FRONT OF JEFFERSON’S HOME, MONTICELLO, CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA
[Editor’s Note: Of course, one cannot visit Charlottesville without stopping by Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson; who, incidentally, designed then supervised the building of the university from his front colonnade.]
We also went to Jamestown, the oldest permanent English settlement in America. The fort has been partially restored with a palisade of split logs placed vertically into the ground. The enclosed area is small, only about an acre of land.
FORT AT JAMESTOWN, VA
Most of the Jamestown settlers died in the first few years of Indian depredation (plundering), disease, exposure and starvation. The native Powhatan also suffered greatly, many in a decade-long war with the settlers. On one occasion, two hundred Powhatans, invited to a treaty signing ceremony, were served wine laced with poison, and all died. Another fifty were slain. One Jamestown settler bore our surname, a “Captaine” William Tucker, whose name is inscribed on a monument there.
From there, we went to Williamsburg, that beautifully restored (some would say too beautifully restored) colonial capital of Virginia. Jamestown had been the capital until 1705 when it was moved to Williamsburg. It remained there until 1779 when it was moved to Richmond during the American Revolution.
GOVERNOR’S PALACE AT WILLIAMSBURG, VA
Yorktown was our next destination, where we toured a very nice museum and strolled over the battlefield of the final great clash of the Revolution, fought in the fall of 1781.
MONUMENT AT YORKTOWN
It was a decisive victory for the Americans and their French allies. Half of the troops on land were French and all of the navy that blockaded the mouth of the Chesapeake was French, who thus prevented the reinforcement of the British forces or its evacuation.
We visited the Wisconsin in Norfolk, a permanent museum ship. One of her 16-inch gun turrets extended down to the power room weighed more than the Fletcher class destroyer on which I had served. Seventeen and one-half inches of armor plate on the main turrets was nothing short of amazing.
All of the stops were interesting to me, a retired history professor, but none was more interesting or emotionally moving than our short time at the Confederate cemetery at the University of Virginia. Here, enclosed by low walls in what we estimated to be about one-half an acre, were the remains of some one-thousand one-hundred Confederate soldiers who had died in make-shift hospital wards in houses and assorted buildings in Charlottesville and buildings on the University of Virginia campus.
Just twenty-six of these graves have been marked with the standard plain marble tombstone.
OLD CONFEDERATE CEMETERY
A check with the Special Collections Section of the University Library told us that we could find Captain Robert Alexander Tucker’s grave by measuring the distance from two of the surrounding walls. The dearth of grave markers may have been due to the scarcity of manpower and materials during the War or it could be that the original markers were made of wood and eventually rotted away. We intend to have a stone prepared for our Captain Tucker of the S.C. Sharpshooters. Interestingly, we were told by a woman we chanced upon in Jamestown that the Veterans Administration would furnish a marker if we could provide the required credentials. The victorious United States funding tombstones for the vanquished Rebel dead is quite remarkable. A quick check on the internet verified that claim.
Incidentally, we intend to trace the line of Captain William Tucker of Jamestown and St. George Tucker of Williamsburg to see if we are related. If we think about it, it is extraordinary that towns named for English kings, James and William, and one king’s wife, Charlotte, managed to retain their names after a bloody, sometimes brutal, Revolutionary War that had many of the trappings of a civil war.
WOMEN’S MARCH IN WASHINGTON, DC
They came. The call went out and…they came. In Washington, yes. In Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago. In Denver, and in Austin. But also in Bethel, Alaska where the high temperature for the day was -21. They came in conservative strongholds like Lubbock, Texas and Colorado Springs. They marched in Oxford, Mississippi, and in Oklahoma City. They marched in London and Paris and Madrid and flooded the streets of Amsterdam. They marched on the tiny Isle of Eigg in the Scottish Hebrides, and by their thousands in Nairobi. They brought their children. They got up in retirement homes where even 101-year-old feet showed they could still march.
They invented chants. And songs. They created signs that were clever, arch, hilarious, artistic, defiant, angry, touching, and heartbreaking. They wore T-shirts in sunshine and coats in the driving snow. They wore those, glorious glorious hats.
It was beautiful. So beautiful that it sometimes hurt to watch–in the best possible way.
After a day that seemed so dark, where it felt like hope had been crushed and the light had been dimmed, when optimism seemed lost and justice diminished, they showed that there is still a word that means all those things, all at once, and much, much more.
There have been large protest events in the past, such as a 1982 anti-nuclear protest in Central Park that drew a crowd of a million. There have also been protests spread across multiple cities, for example, protests over the War in Iraq that put 10 million people on the streets of cities around the world on a weekend in 2003.
The Women’s March has surpassed many famous events of the past, taking its place as one of the greatest protests in history. While media predictions may have seemed generous at the time….
On January 21,  approximately 200,000 people will convene in Washington, DC to stand up for gender equality after Donald Trump’s inauguration.
The actual event has turned out to be many times larger. The crowd in Washington, DC exceeded 500,000 by 9 AM, and the crowd in other cities may actually be larger.
[Editor’s Note: The crowd exceeded all expectations in every place. And, quite frankly, the size of the crowds grew so large in the major cities that they were, for all intents and purposes, immeasurable. For our locals, the crowd that gathered in Charleston, West Virginia to march around the capitol was 2,800 by count.]
About ten years ago, I became fascinated with stories I had heard about the so-called “Underground Railroad” in northeastern Kentucky and southeastern Ohio, the region where I had come to live and work. Over several years, I developed a guide to what I have come to consider the most important sites in the area. Take this tour and I will guarantee you will be deeply moved by the experience as I was:
A SLAVE CABIN WHERE THE ESCAPE BEGAN
Your Personal Guide to the Underground Railroad in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia
Begin with the Ramsdell House in Ceredo, WV, 1108 B. Street (it contains a small museum, too).
Go to Burlington, Ohio (approximately 10 miles upriver from Ashland/10 miles downstream from Huntington) on Old 52. The old stone jail there will become an underground railroad museum.
OLD STONE JAIL
Continue to Ironton, Ohio about 15 miles downriver from Burlington. The John Campbell House, a large yellow painted brick house on 5th street and Lawrence in downtown Ironton, might be worth seeing. He was a noted abolitionist and a founder of Ironton.
Then on to Portsmouth, Ohio (about 30 miles downriver) on U.S. 52 to the downtown floodwall mural. The actual house featured there is located across from the floodwall picture. And, the Ohio Department of Transportation recently dedicated ten markers from the Ohio River in Portsmouth to Lake Erie. Each marker gives a brief history of the Underground Railroad and each community’s part in it. The Portsmouth Brewery, located at 224 2nd Street, and the Biggs House may have been a part of the Railroad in Portsmouth.
HARRIET BEECHER STOWE
Then to the AA Highway in Kentucky and on to Maysville. Turn left at Maysville on Route 68 (a major trail on the Railroad going north) and go one mile to Old Washington on the left. See the Harriet Beecher Stowe Museum located in a house where she stayed for a time, the Marshall Key House, and enjoy this history-saturated little town.
Then north on 68 about two miles to downtown Maysville to the National Underground Railroad Museum on West 4th Street. Nora and George Marshall, a retired, delightful African-American couple, will show you around. Call ahead, if possible (606-564-3200). Pamphlets about slavery and abolition in and around the Maysville area can be had for $.25 each.
Then across the lovely old suspension bridge to Aberdeen, Ohio, and thence about 15 miles downriver to Ripley, an old and quaint river town, perhaps the most important stop on your tour. Eat lunch at a Main St. or a Front Street (on the Ohio River) restaurant. See John Parker’s house on the downriver end of N. Front Street. It also contains a small museum. (You may be able to see the Rankin House on top of the hill in the background.)
Drive back up to U.S. 52, go west through town until the road curves sharply to the left and take the fork on the right (there will be a sign) and drive up the steep road to the Rankin House on “Freedom Hill.” Notice the long series of steps out back which led many slaves on the road to freedom.
Leave Ripley and continue downriver on U.S. 52 (a beautiful drive) to downtown Cincinnati and on to The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, located between the two stadiums. Parking is beneath the Center/follow the signs. Parking costs $4. General admission is $12 ($10 seniors 60 and above), and $8 for children 6-12, and well worth it. The hours are 11 to 5, Tuesday through Saturday.
If you have plenty of time, you may want to go to the John Gee Black Historical Center in Gallipolis, a former church, located at the corner of Second Avenue and Pine Street. You’ll need to call ahead (740-446-6521).
You might also want to visit Salem, Ohio, a historic Quaker Community active in both the abolitionist and women’s suffrage movements. One hundred and three miles from Ashland, you begin by heading north on Route 93 from Ironton. A number of buildings in the community have been researched and documented as Underground Railroad sites. Salem has recently published a self-guided tour brochure of Underground Railroad sites in the town. After touring the sites, the public is invited to visit the Salem Historical Society Museum and Freedom Hall which has interpretive displays about Salem’s Underground Railroad history.
Also in Ohio, near Wheeling, WV is an Underground Railroad Museum located at 606 High Street, Flushing, OH. It offers tours by appointment only. (Call John Mattox 740-968-3517).
In all cases, take some extra money with you so that you will have the pleasure of contributing to the upkeep of these places. Most are privately operated and need our support.
Be sure to take your family. It will be a trip you will never forget.