Thursday, January 03, 2013

Fort Sumter

After the aquarium we headed next door to the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center to wander around the museum while we waited for our turn on the ferry. Rachel joined the Junior Ranger program and went around the museum collecting information so that she could answer the questions on her form in order to earn her badge.

One of the most shocking things I learned was this: "Based on 1860 Census data, 26% of southern white families owned slaves. Percentages ranged from 49% in Mississippi to 3% in Delaware. Some free blacks also owned slaves."

First, it's just hard for me to think of Delaware as being a southern state. Second, free blacks owned slaves?! I'm not sure I knew that. At first I was shocked at the idea, but this article seems to quell those feelings rather well, declaring that most of the slaves held by black owners were likely "benevolently enslaved" (ie. purchased by well-meaning, free relatives who had the money to buy but not the power to free). It does, however, say that there were regular, ordinary black slave-owning as well, who thought of owning slaves as some "divine right," as J.S. Preston called it. He said, "Slavery is our King — Slavery is our Truth — Slavery is our Divine Right," when he addressed South Carolina's 1860 Democratic Convention (p. 16).

There were many quotes like that that simply made me shudder. That idea is so foreign to me.

This quote, however, just cracks me up:

 “South Carolina is too small for a republic, but too large for an insane asylum.”
—Federal Judge James L. Petigru of Charleston, December 1860 (p. 20)

Anyway, Fort Sumter is where the first shot of the Civil War was fired. I learned more about the Civil War than I probably ever knew—at least, I had more sink in than ever had before. There's something about being places and seeing things that makes history (or any subject) tangible and memorable. My geography is much better in places I've been than places I haven't, for example. And this was no different.

For Sumter was built on a man-made island and wasn't entirely constructed in 1860, but it was finished enough that the Union felt it could set up base there (abandoning other forts in the area, which the Confederacy took over). James Buchanan was president, but was lame-ducking through it so he did little to calm the rising revolt of the South. It was a bigger problem for Lincoln when he took the presidency than it would have been if there had been better negotiations with Buchanan, I'm sure.

So, by the time Lincoln got in office the North was in the fort (to show their control of federal property) and the South was like, "Hey, get out of our fort!" The North said no so the South pulled out the big guns (literally) and fired the shot that began the Civil War on April 12, 1861.

I still don't know as much about the Civil War as I should could will. There's quite a bit of Civil War history around these parts (go figure) so I'm sure I'll be picking up and putting together bits and pieces of history while we're here.

Out of the Education Center and onto the ferry...

We had to wait in line for a while. Miriam played around with Grandma and Grandpa:

She is so addicted to this stroller. We don't usually buckle her in and allow her to enter and exit at her leisure. She enjoys sucking on her thumb and taking in the sites unless there's something terribly interesting to be seen (such as...sting rays) but when it's time to get moving again she'll beg to get in the stroller. She also barks out commands: "Go faster, Grandpa!"

Benjamin and I looked out over the water:

That's our ferry boat, The Spirit of the Lowcountry (totally didn't know parts of South Carolina were called "The Lowcountry" until I saw this boat):

Andrew and Rachel spent their wait-time working on her worksheet. This activity continued aboard the ferry:

Benjamin was excited to be on a boat for the first time:

We were all excited when Grandma yelped, "A dolphin! I see a dolphin!" And she had! There were a couple of dolphins leaping around outside our window. It made Rachel's day.

I don't think we managed to coax her away from the window for the duration of the ride, the dolphins so fully unrooted her worksheet motivation.

Miriam was rather disappointed in the ferry boat. She looked around a few times, sniffed her little nose and pouted, "But where's the fairy!?"

We explained the difference between a ferry boat (emphasizing the lack of actual fairies upon said boats) but she continued to hope and look for fairies the entire time, which meant that she stayed in a rather melancholic state.

Andrew was excited to see the fort:

We saw old cannons:

And old walls:

And more old cannons:

Some flags which are not old but are made with old designs (my stars and bars!):

And some beautiful coastline:

Benjamin was not impressed with the wind:

He is, however, impressed by silly sisters:

Rachel had a hard time with the stairs. She's a teensy bit afraid of heights (eg: ladders, staircases, bridges—that sort of thing). She put on a brave face, clung to the railing for dear life, and made it down the stairs as quickly as she could.

The ride back to the mainland was equally as thrilling for the children. Miriam had gotten over her disappointment about the fairy/ferry and enjoyed watching the water. "Ooooh! Bubbles!" she said with as much enthusiasm as Bubbles (from Finding Nemo).*

Benjamin shared her view and seemed to be equally (if not more) enchanted with the water (or the window (I'm not sure which)):

When we got back to the Education Center, Rachel showed her worksheet to the ranger and got her first Junior Ranger badge (which was actually a pin (and I think she already lost it (but it was really exciting at the moment))).

We stood by some palmetto trees for some pictures since palmettos are featured on South Carolina's flag: 

Then we took a little "Fountain Walk" to the harbour on the north side of the aquarium. It was a fun little walk.

Here's Grandma uploading a picture she took of us to facebook:

And here we are walking back to the parking garage:

I'm not sure what happened here but I'm guessing she stuck her foot in the fountain:

Rachel's becoming a fantastic reader and now has many questions about all the signs around her. Why, for example, were we walking this way when clearly it was the wrong way?

Grandpa watched The Santa Clause with the girls when he first got here and we spent the entire trip quoting one of his favourite lines: Plain milk's fine. This line is always said with a sigh—as if you don't really mean to say it and anything can replace "plain milk."

We were all hungry after our long day at the aquarium and fort so we decided to grab some dinner before heading back to the hotel. We drove down a main street and saw McDonald's and Wendy's. McDonald's is so iconic that the girls immediately recognized it and began begging to go there. Andrew prefers Wendy's (if you can have an actual preference for fast food) so he voted for Wendy's. His parents propped up his vote and so managed to outvote the girls (I abstained from voting).

Rachel sighed loudly from the backseat, "Wendy's is fine!"

It sure made Grandpa (and everybody) laugh. She said her line so well. And as it turned out, Wendy's was fine.

Our final stop for the night was James Island County Park for their Festival of Lights, which was spectacular. It was mostly a drive-thru thing but they did have a few pit-stops along the way and we did get out once—it was cold and all we'd brought with us were sweaters (we went south for a reason) so we wrapped the kids up in blankets. Those are palmettos all lit up behind Rachel:

And here's a semi-decent shot of the lights from the car:

It was a pretty impressive display even if Daddy turned the Christmas music off halfway through the drive (the ol' Scrooge) and after our long day we were all very happy to get back to the hotel.

* Incidentally, we put Finding Nemo on in the van on the way home. I don't recall watching it though I'm not sure what I was doing while I wasn't watching. I was either sleeping or reading. Whatever it was that I was doing I was partially listening to what was going on. I must've been sleeping because I kept hearing the Finding Nemo script but seeing CJ Craig (or Allison Janney) in my mind. It was a little weird. When we got home I said to Andrew, "I think Peach (the starfish) is CJ Craig." I was somewhat relieved to learn that Allison Janney was the voice for Peach. You can't imagine what a strange dream it was to have the cast from The West Wing acting out to the voices of Finding Nemo.

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