Posts Tagged ‘history’

Philadelphia Common Sense
The marker is located at SE corner of S 3rd Street & Chancellor Street (Thomas Paine Place)

During my recent visit to Philadelphia, I came across the area where, on this day in 1776, Thomas Paine published his 47-page pamphlet “Common Sense“. He sold 500,000 copies which influenced both the political leaders and average colonists in uniting toward a common goal of independence.

The building is no longer there but I was thrilled to see the site where one of the most important documents of the Revolution was produced. “Common Sense” was definitely a game-changer. He wrote:

Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America.  This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe.  Hither they have fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.”

It’s fascinating to me how quickly Paine became a supporter of American Independence. While he was still living in England, he met Ben Franklin who happened to be at a debate in which Paine was impressing everyone in the audience. It was Franklin who encouraged him to immigrate to Philadelphia in 1774 and within two years he wrote “Common Sense”. After writing his pamphlet, he served in the US Army and with the Committee of Foreign Affairs. He returned to England in 1787, where he bravely continued to write in favor of Independence. He wrote “The Rights of Man” in which he supported the French Revolution. Because he was targeted as an anti-monarchist, he fled to France but was arrested in 1793 for not supporting the beheading of Louis XVI. Thomas Paine was scheduled to be executed himself, but thanks to the efforts of James Madison (who was serving as US minister to France), he was released in 1794. He remained in France until 1802. By invitation of Thomas Jefferson, he returned to the United States and died in 1809 in New York.

Although Thomas Paine was British, to me he was the epitome of an American. To be an American, I think less of where a person was born and more about their state of mind. He was courageous, opinionated, and envisioned what could be, not what was. He also had a positive long-term outlook which I admire. And what an exciting life he led.

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While the construction crew building the Hotel Indigo dug deep, the remains of an 18th century ship’s fifty-foot hull was unearthed at 220 South Union Street in Old Town, Alexandria.

It had been scuttled sometime in the late 1700s when the town used it as part of the landfill for the waterfront which was extended out to a deeper part the Potomac River. The new waterfront allowed Alexandria to become a thriving international port.  In photo: Before the landfill (late 1700s), the waterline went to where the crane is located.

3-D laser scanning, photographs and measurements have been completed and now the ship is being dismantled so it can be moved to a wet environment for further study and hopefully conservation.  For more information about this and other discoveries in Old Town, go to: Alexandria Archaeology Museum which is located in the Torpedo Factory on King Street.

When they announced the area would be open to the public for two hours, I was hoping to get onto the construction site for a closer look but it was not to be.

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The drive from Washington DC to Philadelphia is under three hours which makes it perfect for a weekend or even a quick overnight getaway.

What I like best about Philadelphia is all the history you’ll find around every corner. It reminds me of Boston but with a little more grit.  Visiting with Ben Franklin at UPenn

A whole lot of LOVE on the Penn campus  I especially like the way the cobblestone was preserved – still there but not cumbersome.  

There are historic information signs everywhere explaining the importance of a building or area. A nice refresher of my Revolutionary knowledge.   Betsy Ross House

 Ben Franklin’s gravesite – I thought the pennies were a nice touch.  Didn’t see any $100 bills…

  A building reflected within a building.
 Christmas tree at City Hall.

 XOXO photo opportunity.

There’s a lot about Ben Franklin in Philadelphia and I was happy to finally see George Washington as well.

Since I have more time than money these days, I scowered the Internet (specifically Tripadvisor) for hotel deals in central Philly. The best deal was a Sunday night stay at the Hotel Monaco (Kimpton).

For a history buff, it’s perfectly located next to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The hotel is trendy without trying too hard and I appreciated the cheery welcome upon arrival. We walked to most historic sites, restaurants and shops but did catch a cab when we came back from the Theater. We weren’t planning to see “The Book of Mormon” but discounted tickets were available and the seventh row seats were hard to pass up.

After reading the reviews, I splurged and paid a little extra for a room with a view. It was definitely worth it:  

  Looking out to Independence Hall A very comfortable room with fun amenities like a kite – a nod to Ben Franklin!

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As we drove into Split, I could immediately see why Emperor Diocletian chose the Illyrian province of Rome for his retirement town when he voluntarily relinquished his reign of the Roman Empire in 305. It’s a beautiful city located on the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea.

Split Croatia Hotel Slavija
We stayed at Hotel Slavija which is located within the walls of Diocletian’s Palace. This was the view from our balcony. We loved being centrally located and walking out of our room to wander through all the alleyways.

The UNESCO designated complex is not a museum but full of shops, restaurants, bars, and apartments. There are about 3,000 people living within the palace. We took a tour with Mirijana and wandered through many of the passageways hearing about not only ancient Roman history but an update on current Croatian events, too.  It was obvious our tour guide, Mirijana has a passion for her city and history.

Diocletian Palace Alleyway

Diocletian Palace Alleyway

Jupiter's Temple, Diocletian's Palace

Jupiter’s Temple, Diocletian’s Palace

Diocletian's Palace Wall

Part of the wall in Diocletian’s Palace

Cathedral in the Diocletian's Palace

In the middle ages, the Cathedral was built around Diocletian’s mausoleum which is an interesting twist of fate since he persecuted Christians at an alarming rate.

Klapa Cambi Singers

Klapa Cambi singers ~ we came across this group of a cappella singers while on our tour. The sound and setting was spectacular!

An Archway in Diocletian's Palace

An Archway in Diocletian’s Palace

Looking out to the Adriatic sea from within the palace.

Looking out to the Adriatic sea and harbor area from the palace.

Along the promenade at sunset ~ located just outside of the Palace walls.

Along the promenade at sunset ~ located just outside of the Palace walls.

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There are over 450 licensed walking tour guides in Charleston and we chose to take two tours: a ghost tour and a historic tour. Usually Tripadvisor leads me in the right direction but, despite many rave reviews, the ghost tour with Tricia from the Ghostwalk was a disappointment for me.

Personally, I tuned out after she spoke about General Robert E. Lee haunting the Mills House Hotel (supposedly he’s been spotted running down the hallway). From what I’ve read about Lee, he was in Charleston for a short period in 1861. I’m guessing he would be haunting Gettysburg or Appomattox not the Mills House Hotel. Her story speculated the ghost of General Lee has also been seen on the balcony waiting for the CSS Hunley (submarine) to return. The dates don’t match up though ~ the Hunley sank after sinking the USS Housatonic in October 1863. To be fair, General Lee did watch the fire of 1861 engulf the city (start of the fire is unknown) from the balcony of the Mills House. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the story we were told.

Tricia seems like a very nice person but her tour was a mix of disjointed storytelling and lack of historic perspective. Mostly she showed photos with “orbs” that she considered to be ghosts. If you’re looking for a tour which is actually looking for ghosts, dwells on flickering lights and possible misty photos then she’s the tour guide for you.

Charleston St John's Lutheran Church Graveyard
Lutheran Church Graveyard

Charleston along the ghost Tour part of the magazine
The Powder Magazine ~ the house next to it is considered haunted (by a benevolent ghost)

Having taken Ghost Tours in many cities such as Quebec City, Alexandria (VA), London, Edinburgh and the Queen Mary (Long Beach, CA), which were all excellent, I was expecting more Charleston history included in the haunting tales.

The History of Charleston tour with Anne Middleton Herron was much more informative and interesting. Anne is a 13th generation Charlestonian and her family dates to the original settlers of 1670. Both her parents grew up on Church Street and Anne grew up in Charleston. She shared not only her extensive historical knowledge of the city but also her personal experience of roaming the city as a child. Her personal anecdotes and perspective added so much to the tour. She’s smart, easy-going, and kept us all interested throughout the two hours. It rained quite hard for the first hour but we were all so enthralled, we barely noticed. The tour ended at her parent’s home on Church street and we were treated to lemonade in the garden. Click here for more information and to make a reservation.  A few photos from the walking tour:

Anne Charleston Tour Guide
Anne ~ great tour guide and love her hat, too

Charleston Philadelphia Alley
Philadelphia Alley

Charleston part of Old wall
Charleston was one of three walled cities in the New World and this is a part of the original wall recently excavated.

Charleston Longitude Alley
Longitude Alley which is not on a longitude line

Charleston Carriage step II
These “carriage steps” are found throughout the historic part of Charleston

Charleston Cabblestone street V
One of the cobblestone roads

Charleston a peek into a garden
Peeking into one of the many beautiful Charleston private gardens

Charleston Hugenot Church architect
Steps of the French Huguenot Church ~ E.B. White was the architect for the church as well as other buildings in Charleston

Charleston Custom House
The tour met at the US Custom House

Dock Street Theater
Dock Street Theater ~ originally opened in 1736 but was most likely destroyed in the Great Fire of 1740. A hotel was built on its site but fell in disrepair. In the depression, it became a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project and a new theater was built within the shell of the Planter’s Hotel. The theater underwent a three-year, 19 million dollar renovation in 2007 and reopened in 2010. Next time I visit Charlesotn, I plan to see a production in the theater.
Charleston pre revolutionary brick home

Prerevolutionary Brick House

If you take only one walking tour in Charleston, I highly recommend Anne.

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As the one who organizes our family holidays, I decide where we stay, activities we do and locations we visit. A must on the list was the Culloden Battlefield which is managed by the National Trust for Scotland. The field sits on Drummossie Moor and is an easy 5 mile drive east of Inverness.

My preferred book genre is historic novels ~ both fiction and non-fiction. The Battle of Culloden has appeared as a backdrop in more than a few of books I’ve read recently.  And in the airport before our flight to Edinburgh, we picked up The Economist magazine which featured an article about the upcoming September vote for Scotland’s Independence. It mentions the The Battle of Culloden which had repercussions spanning many generations and is still a timely topic. Having read so much about it, I’m glad I got a chance to personally visit this important historic site.

A little historical background: The Jacobite Rebellion began in 1688 when a son was born to James II and with him the prospect of a Catholic succession. Almost immediately after his birth, a popular movement began to depose James II and let one of his protestant daughters (Mary) succeed to the throne. Within a year, Mary and her husband William III were crowned King and Queen of England, and James II was sent into exile. Scotland as well as Catholic countries including France and Ireland still recognized James II and his descendants as the legitimate heirs to the English throne. Jacobus is Latin for James hence the name for those Loyal to James II were called Jacobites.

William and Mary died without an heir. Due to the Act of Settlement which stated NO CATHOLIC on the English throne ever again, the English crown was passed from the Stuarts to the German Hanoverians specifically George I who was 52nd in line to the throne but, most importantly, the first protestant in the succession line.

His son, George II’s reign was threatened in 1745 when Charles Edward Stuart, grandson of James II and known as the Young Pretender, landed in Scotland. The Jacobites supported “Bonnie Prince Charlie” and had initial success in rebellion clashes BUT then came the devastating defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 16 April 1746. It ended the Jacobite threat and so much more. It was also the last full-scale battle fought in Britain. The Commanding Officer of the Royalists earned the nickname “The Butcher” because of his ruthlessness not only at but especially after the battle. By all accounts, it was brutal and savage.

At the battle, two-thirds of the Jacobites were made up of Highland Gaels and the rest were from the Scottish lowlands, France, Ireland and even England. Also, many of the clans in the Highlands supported the British Government. Sadly, it pitted not only clan against clan but also family member against family member. The battle took approximately one hour, but the results were felt for many generations. Public executions for those supporting the Jacobites. Also, an attempt was made to wipe out the Scottish social structure by dismantling the Highland clans and crushing the Gaelic culture to include prohibiting wearing the kilt, playing the pipes and speaking Gaelic. The punishment for doing these would be death.

We were there on a dry and warm day but I could easily imagine what it must have been like on the cold, rainy day of the battle. There is an informative information center, museum and cafe on the grounds but my favorite part was walking through the actual field and reading the markers as well as listening to the audio guide. I learned a lot more about the battle and more importantly about the brutal aftermath which shaped Scotland all these many years.

Culloden fields
Walking through the Battlefield

Culloden Battle Monument
Battle of Culloden Monument

Culloden Cottage
Leanach Farmhouse

Culloden Stone Wall
Jacobite position ~ stonewall

Culloden Visitor and information center
Visitor Center has a impressive 360 reenactment film, museum, interpreters, and a nice cafe (with vegetarian options)

Culloden Veggie Haggis
At the cafe, you can get Vegetarian Haggis. I was tempted to buy some to bring home but since Haggis is on the list of banned items to bring to the US, I didn’t want the hassle of homeland security.

Culloden Stone wall and battlefield
Looking out from the Jacobite position. The red flags are where the British were.

Culloden spiked shield
Highland Targe (Shield) with spike. Used by the Jacobites in the Battle of Culloden

Culloden Period Dressed lecturer
Period dressed Interpreter at the Culloden Visitors Center

Culloden Beautiful Skies with puffy clouds
I couldn’t get over just how BLUE the sky was on the day we visited Culloden Battlefield. I love the cotton ball clouds, too!

Culloden English Stone
Memorial Stone in honor of the English who died at the Battlefield

Culloden Stone Markers for Macgillivrays
Stone Marker where  Alexander MacGillivray was killed

Culloden Well of the Dead
Well of the Dead ~ I read this is where the wounded crawled to get water. Many of them perished near here.

It was a somber place to visit but also fascinating. I highly recommend it if you’re in the Highlands.

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Living History

At the conference in Lake Placid, we had the opportunity to hear several talented, entertaining and enlightening speakers. The first was P. J. O’Rourke ~ very witty. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to get up in front of 100 + combat veterans with spouses and attempt to keep their attention by speaking on foreign affairs observations. P.J.O’Rourke has a style of speaking which is a lot like the Will Rogers’ style ~ a meandering of topics loosely tied together. He has authored a multitude of books which I plan on reading now that I’ve heard him speak and the tone is set.

The next morning, Father Mark Sargent had us riveted for more than 2.5 hours without a break. Not once did I look at my watch. The topic was Islam and I learned a lot! Hopefully, I’ll retain some of what I learned since I didn’t take notes. Father Sargent is currently the Bishop Representative for Interfaith Matters. His presentation was enlightening and his manner of speaking was so interesting and easy to comprehend. At the end of the conference, everyone I spoke with concurred that he was a fabulous speaker. I think a big part of his ability to relate to the audience is that he’s a former paratrooper from the Canadian Airborne Regiment.

Interestingly, both speakers were in Somalia back in 1993. Mr. O’Rourke covered it as a Foreign Correspondent and Father Sargent spoke about it in terms of how his unit was one first responders in Somalia but due to a lack of knowledge, they made political matters worse not better.

Each time they spoke about Somalia, I would look to the Command Sergeant Major sitting next to me. He was part of a unit in the story we know of as Black Hawk Down. His unit rescued the Rangers. All three men, Father Sargent, P.J. O’Rourke and the Command Sergeant Major had a different experience in a pivotal part of history and now they were all in the same room ~ with me. 

A fascinating juxtaposition of living history so many years later ~ if only I’d had my camera handy!

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