Monday, September 23, 2019

US60 Detour: Appomattox Court House

Barely 20 miles south of US60 lies Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, a detour opportunity too good to pass up on a road trip like this. There are plenty of places you can get historical information, so I will only offer you my impressions of the park as a worthy place to visit.

First and foremost, the facility – described as a "partial reconstruction" by the Park Service – is beautiful, exquisitely maintained, and thoroughly exudes the gravitas of its place in history. The area map shows the location of all the original buildings, with the existing structures in full color and the ones that are missing dimmed. By my estimation, about a third of the original buildings are present in fully restored form, more than enough to make it seem complete.

The term "Court House" is used in Virginia to denote a county seat. Thus, Appomattox Court House is the county seat of Appomattox County. There is an actual courthouse, of course, which serves as the visitor center and information area. The films and displays inside are very well presented.

Nearby, the Clover Hill Tavern and Tavern Guesthouse offer an excellent example of the look and feel of the property. If it wasn't for the occasional sound of traffic on the service road, you could easily believe you are there "back in the day." All of the buildings are open for investigation.

A very special treat is an informal presentation made by a historical figure – in this case the daughter of the tavern owner – describing the area, its people and experience as if "last April" was in the year 1865. I found her talk to be authentic, heartfelt and informative in every way.

The famous surrender did not actually take place in the courthouse, but in the thoroughly preserved and restored McLean House. Like all of the buildings, it is fully and authentically furnished.

The iconic room where Lee and Grant agreed to surrender terms is far smaller than the famous painting would lead you to believe, but as far as I can tell it is authentic in every detail.

Because of my fairly extensive previous knowledge of the history, events and significance of Appomattox, my two-hour visit was long enough to give me an ample sense of its physical reality. If you don't know much about it, you could easily and profitably spend the better part of a day there. Strongly recommend!

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