Gettysburg and the Killer Angels

During a recent long weekend in Gettysburg, PA , I decided it was time to read The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.  Dave and I have now been to Gettysburg on long weekend trips every year for the past four years.  Two of those years during Thanksgiving weekend, one in February and one at the end of June, close to the timing of the actual battle which took place July 1, 2, and 3, 1863.  The first time we went together as a couple to Gettysburg was also the first time I was ever there.

Dave had been to Gettysburg often through the years.  He participated for a number of years as a civil war reenactor with the 15th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, as well as being an extra in the movie “Gettysburg” which was based on the novel The Killer Angels.

What’s in a title?  Michael Shaara’s title evokes a memory from Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Chamberlain of the 20th Maine, whose regiment fought brilliantly during the second day of the Gettysburg battle protecting the Union line at Little Round Top.  Chamberlain remembers a speech from Hamlet in which Hamlet states that man is “in action how like an angel!”  Chamberlain’s father, when he heard this says that “if man is an angel, he’s most definitely a ‘murderin’ angel”.  This comes directly from a speech that Chamberlain gave after the war called “Man: The Killer Angel”.

This was so true during those three days in 1863 where over 50,000 casualties were reported.  This is where President Abraham Lincoln would give his famous Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863 in dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg where most of those that died on the battlefield those days at the end of June 1863 are buried.


Gettysburg National Military Park is a very somber place.  The Visitors Center at the National Park includes a museum and a Cyclorama of Pickett’s Charge, which occurred on the last day of the battle.  These two attractions are not to be missed and provide a nice overview of not only the battle that took place here, but of the Civil War itself.  It is worth spending at the very least a full day at the battlefield and a weekend is even better.

Walking the battlefield is peaceful now, but it does stir in one grief over the loss of life, a memory of a time we should not forget about and awe over what a beautiful place Gettysburg really is.gettysburg-sunrise





Right In Our Backyard

We always seem to want to travel far to see new sights and experiences and forget what is in our own backyards.  My Husband and I have lived all our lives in and around New York City (in the City’s own backyard, New Jersey), but I have yet to see the view from the Empire State Building or the Statute of Liberty.  This is a real shame.

One of our Backyard treasurers is the Morristown National Historical Park.  This National Park not only encompasses the City/Town of Morristown but nearby Jockey Hollow as well. The picture above is of the Ford Mansion in Morristown, which was George Washington’s headquarters from December 1779 to June 1780.

While Washington headquartered here in Morristown, nearby his troops were encamped at Jockey Hollow.  The picture below is of the Wick House which is in Jockey Hollow and was where General Arthur St. Clair made his headquarters during that very cold and very snowy winter.  (The Photographer, Dave, is in this picture as well – a nice selfie).


There are many nice hiking trails in the park as well as a one way park road which leads you through the main encampment area.  Close by to Jockey Hollow also lies the New Jersey Brigade Encampment Site where another 900 soldiers arrived during that winter.  At the New Jersey Brigade site one can find The Cross Estate Gardens.  At one time the house on this property was known as the Hardscrabble House – not really sure why, but the owners wife, Julia Newbold Cross was a member of the Royal Horticultural Society.  The gardens here include a formal perennial garden, native plant garden, pergola covered by wisteria (as seen below at sunset) and a pathway of mountain laurel.


The original owners of this estate Mr. and Mrs. John Bensel, who was a civil engineer, and built the water tower below.  This supplied them with water and suitable pressure for the plumbing system in the house.


Remember to look in your own backyard from time to time to see the treasures you can find.

Hyde Park and FDR’s Home

In addition to visiting Saratoga Battlefield a few weeks ago, Dave and I also enjoyed a stop at the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  This 110 acre estate that sits on the Western banks of the Hudson River in Hyde Park, was purchased by FDR’s father, James, in 1867.  Franklin himself was born in this house in 1882.

The estate, Springwood, was opened to the public one year after Roosevelt’s death in April of 1946.  The contents of the home are exactly as Franklin left them upon his death.  One of the few homes I can remember visiting where the interior pieces are authentic not only to the time period of the owners life there, but are the actual furnishings of the owner, in this case FDR and his family.


Also on the estate is the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, which he had built during his presidency.  I don’t have a picture here of his study in the Library, which was left in tact the way that he left it.  The buildings and the grounds are lovely, and the Library and Museum provide a glimpse into FDR’s presidency, including the depression, recovery efforts and WWII.

There are lovely trails throughout the site as well as the Hyde Park Trial.  Picnic benches are provided throughout the estate and the Visitors center is a must first stop.  Guided tours are provided of the house.

This is a fine example of our National Treasurers that are provided to us by the National Park system.  The Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt is a National Historic Site.  Nearby you can also visit the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site and the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site.  We did not get a chance to see these other two sites, but plan on a return visit very soon to do so.

It would be very easy to spend a long weekend in the Hyde Park area which is very close to the lovely town of Rhinebeck, as well as being home to the Culinary Institute of America.


Stepping Back in History – Saratoga Battlefield

Dave and I are enjoying our National Parks during the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the National Park Service.  We spend numerous times throughout every year at these spectacular places that have been set aside for all of our enjoyment.  All of these parks, including National Recreation Areas, National Historic Parks, etc are steeped in our history.

We recently spent a lovely fall weekend in New York State visiting two of these National Parks.  The first one was Saratoga National Historic Park.  About 3 hours away from our home in NorthWestern New Jersey, the Saratoga Battlefield is north of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area.  The Battlefield lies just north of Albany not very far from the SouthWest corner of Vermont.


Two battles took place here in the Fall of 1777 – one on September 19th and the second October 7, 1777.  These battles were seen as a decisive victory for the American rebels against the English Troops.  The victory here and surrender by the British troops that were in Saratoga provided a much-needed moral boost to the fledgling American army.  The final definitive battle taking place in Yorktown four years later in October of 1781.

It was at the Battle of Saratoga that Benedict Arnold operating against General Gates’ orders helped to turn the tide for the American Troops.  This was also the site where he was shot severely in his left leg, eventually leaving this leg 2″ shorter than the right. During his stay in Saratoga, General Arnold and General Enoch Poor were housed in the Neilson House shown below.


There is one way loop road through the park.  Along the way there are stops with interpretive signs, however the best way to take the road tour is to use either your cell phone or via a tour app.  Both of these options provide for a narrative of the sites throughout the park.

There are also 3 other locations that are attached to this National Historic Park and they include Victory Woods, the Schuyler House (and yes this was at one time a house enjoyed by Alexander Hamilton and his wife, Elizabeth Schuyler) and the Saratoga Monument.

New Jersey Wineries

A couple of weekends ago, celebrating my birthday, Dave and I stopped off at one of our favorite New Jersey Wineries, Beneduce Vineyards.  The winery is located in Pittstown, New Jersey and is well worth the visit.

I know what some of you are thinking – New Jersey has wineries?  Yes we do.  There are currently 45 wineries that are members of the Garden State Wine Growers Association, and the list grows every year.  Over the years Dave and I have visited about 30 of these wineries and continue to find some very pleasant wines that we enjoy.   The Association also holds numerous events throughout the year which include a number of the wineries and music.  A couple of big events are the annual wine festivals in Cape May (October) and Northern New Jersey (Memorial Day weekend) – this one now held in our home town over the past two years.

Beneduce Vineyards has an event every weekend called “Group Therapy“.  Saturday night from 6 pm to 9 pm and Sunday afternoon from 2 pm to 5 pm there is live music – normally a band on Saturday evenings and acoustic performers on Sunday.  There is a small cover charge of $10 on Saturday evening as well as a food truck (you are more than welcome to bring your own food).  They will provide you with a wine glass for $2, which you can keep or return for your $2 deposit.  The night we were there the band playing was Crabdaddy (Rock & Roll) along with the food truck Fired Up Flatbread (pizza pictured above).


Alongside our pizza we enjoyed a glass of Three Windows White Riesling.  Our preference for New Jersey wines leads us to the whites – the Riesling’s in particular.  This grape grows well in New Jersey and you can find dry, off-dry and sweet varieties.  I lean towards the dry and off-dry styles.

Sitting outside on Beneduce’s patio, enjoying a nice glass of wine and a really good pizza while listening to a fun band was a great way to spend my Birthday weekend.  Thanks Dave.


Beneduce Vineyards Patio and Fire Pit



The Garden State

This past weekend while I was driving a commentator on the radio was discussing the most beautiful states in the US and then noted the ugliest states.  One of the states listed as the ugliest (I think it was #7) was my home state of New Jersey.  I was incensed.  We have lived here in New Jersey all of our lives, and while I would never say we are the “most” beautiful state, I certainly would not say we are one of the ugliest.  In fact one can find beauty in all of the states if one looks.


But you don’t need to look far to see the beauty of New Jersey.  One just needs to leave the environs of the New York City-Newark airport area to find that New Jersey is truly “The Garden State”.  From rolling hills and farms, to the pine trees, to the beautiful coast line, New Jersey is a beautiful state and is worthy of its title.

I’m sharing some pictures here taken by my husband recently on a hike through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (oh yes we do have National Parks, National Historic Sites and National Recreation areas in New Jersey).  This is a lovely area where the Delaware River cuts through New Jersey and Pennsylvania.


You can hike many trails here, including the Appalachian Trail.


And some of the hikes are quite difficult.


I just wanted to share with all a little piece of where I live and the state I call home.


And finally the intrepid adventurer himself.


July 4th Party

July 4th started out as a rainy day and ended with a fun July 4th party at Fiddlers’ Elbow Golf Club in New Jersey.  The rain ended and the party included some Hot Air Balloon rides along with spectacular fire works.  My pictures of the fireworks were uninspired, but my Hot Air Balloon pictures didn’t come out too bad.  Trying out a new camera, a Sony A6000.  It’s light and small – just right for me.  I don’t take RAW photos, but these came out not too bad in JPEG.

Hope everyone had a nice Fourth of July (2015),