June 13, 2013
Today I got an early start and was able to begin my vacation with visits to several very interesting sites.
First stop was the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains, GA.
Things have changed since I was last here in 1978! The town still looks the same, but the National Park Service has taken over the High School and it is now the Visitors Center. I didn't find any 'Billy Beer', but I did learned that few U.S. presidents have had such close ties with where they were born and raised. The Carters farmed cotton in southwest Georgia before the Civil War and have remained for five generations.
The museum was very interesting. They had a bronze Nobel Peace Prize that was one of three that was bestowed upon President Carter. He has the other bronze one and the gold one is in Atlanta. Some of President Carter's artwork was on display and a section of the museum was devoted to Mrs. Carter's Butterflys and the Butterfly Trail. There was also a replica of the his desk from the Oval Office. Although the building is called the Plains High School, it housed grades 1-11 (at that time, the state of Georgia only required 11th grade to graduate).
President Carter was in residence, but I did not see him wandering around town. If I had stayed on until Sunday, I could have sat in on his Sunday School Class which he still teaches. According to the Park Ranger, it is a quite popular event for tourists.
I had a wonderful time wandering around town looking at all the quaint things, and even stoped and had lunch in town. It was great. Then of course I had to go by and get a picture of the 'Big Peanut' which sits outside the home of President Carter's Campaign Manager.
Then it was off to Andersonville National Historic Site & the National Prisoner of War Museum.
Andersonville, or Camp Sumter as it was officially known, was one of the largest of many Confederate military prisons established during the Civil War. It was built early in 1864 after Confederate officials decided to move the large number of federal prisoners kept in and around Richmond, VA, to a place of greater security and with a more abundant food supply. During the 14 months that the prison existed, more than 45,000 Union soldiers were confined here. About 13,000 died from disease, poor sanitation, malnutrition, overcrowding, or exposure.
When the Civil War began, neither side expected a long conflict. Although there was no formal exchange system at the beginning of the war, both armies paroled prisoners. Captured men were conditionally released on their oath of honor not to return to battle. This allowed them to return to camps of instruction as noncombatants. It also meant that neither side had to provide for the prisoners' needs. An exchange system set up in 1862 lasted less than a year. The North and the South found themselves with thousands of POWs.
In the South, captured Union soldiers were first housed in old warehouses and barns. As the number of prisoners increased, camps were built specifically as prisons in Florence, South Carolina, Millen and Andersonville, Georgia, as well as many other locations.
The end of the war saved hundreds of prisoners from death by overcrowding, poor sanitation, and inadequate food. But for many the war's end came too late. Of the almost 195,000 Union soldiers held in Confederate prison camps, some 30,000 died while captive. Union forces held about 220,000 Confederate prisoners, of which, nearly 26,000 died in captivity.
Andersonville National Historic Site is the only National Park System area to serve as a memorial to all American prisoners of war. Its purpose it to provide an understanding of the overall prisoner of war story and its impact on history.
The National Prisoner of War Museum opened in 1998 in Andersonville and is dedicated to the men and women of this country who suffered captivity. It is a story of sacrifice and courage.
After walking around the site and reading all of the information in the museum, I have to say while what our POWs have gone through is awful, I am glad that we have made a memorial to tell their story so that all can know the horrors our brave men and women have gone through. This museum really made an impression on me.
Then I was off to the Ocmulgee National Monument, just outside of Macon, GA.
Ocmulgee National Monument was beautiful and very interesting. On my way there, I thought I would just run in, look at a few things, and then head off on my adventure. That didn't happen. It was amazing to learn about the Great Temple Mound, which rises 55 feet high and all of the other archeological finds here.
The site includes the Earthlodge, a ceremonial building that was probably a meeting place for the town's political and religious leaders. The original clay floor is about 1,000 years old. There is the village site, which during Mississippian times (900-1100) probably held many other structures, flat-topped mounds, a burial mound and homes.
The Cornfield Mound was originally about 8 feet high. Beneath it archeologists found signs of a cultivated field, which is puzzling, because Mississippian agricultural fields usually were in the bottomlands.
There are Prehistoric Trenches, a Trading Post Site, Great and Lesser Temple Mounds and a Funeral Mound.
Learning about what the archeologist and the CCC did in the 1930s was very interesting. Of course, when the railroad came through in the early part of the 1900s it did destroy some of the site, but much has been preserved.
I thought I would only be here for about 20 minutes and ended up staying almost 3 hours. Thanks goodness I had sunscreen, the temperature was above 97 degrees and the sun was shining!
Once I finally left Ocmulgee, I headed north in search of a motel. I thought I would head into downtown Atlanta, since tomorrow's schedule has a few stops in town before heading northwest into Tennessee. Then all of a sudden [OK, I am being dramatic] but the skies got dark, lightning began flashing, rumbling got louder, traffic was just absolutely awful, so instead of staying on the highway in the traffic jam, I exited and just as the skies opened up with torrential rains, I found a LaQuinta and a place for the night. Once safely out of the rain [I still got soaked because I had to get my bicycle off the back of the truck] I figured I would download my photos and update my blog before getting a good night's sleep....didn't happen...power went out, internet went down, you get the drift. Oh, well, it is really is an adventure.
So to pass the time I played games on my iPad until it ran out of power, talked on the phone til it ran out of power, and then I just said good night and called it a day.
Tomorrow should be interesting!