Tag Archives: Fort Monroe

January Stamps: Steel, Slavery, and Security

The Gantry Crane is part of the Battle of Homestead self-guiding tour sponsored by the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area. Photo from 2006.

A total of 13 new stamps this month:

Everglades National Park | Nike Missile Site

Lassen Volcanic National Park | 100th Anniversary 1916-2016

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail | Bitterroot Valley, MT

Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area |

      • Battle of Homestead 1892
      • Bost Building NHL
      • Carrie Furnace NHL
      • W.A. Young & Sons Machine Shop

Underground Railroad Freedom Network |

      • Cape Hatteras NS
      • Christiansted NHS
      • Fort Monroe NM
      • Fort Scott NHS
      • Monocacy NB
      • Petersburg NB’
Aerial view of the Nike Missile Base at Everglades National Park. Photo Credit: Rodney Cammouf, Nataionl Park Service
Aerial view of the Nike Missile Base at Everglades National Park. Photo Credit: Rodney Cammouf, Nataionl Park Service

If you participate in the Passport program long enough, you’ll no doubt have many cases of the “one that got away” – a stamp that you just missed due to the circumstances of the day.   The Parkasaurus Family just had one of those moments as we visited Everglades National Park over Christmas week just last month.  We had hoped that this visit would give us a “complete set” of all four Everglades Passport stamps, only to have Everglades receive this new stamp for their Nike Missile Site, which is open by guided tour.   As we like to say, though, this gives us another reason to go back to this park!

Nike Missiles were early surface-to-air missile defense systems that were deployed during the first part of the Cold War in the 1950’s and early 1960’s.   Nike Missile sites can also be viewed at several locations in Golden Gate National Recreation Area,  including one in the Marin Headlands area with its own Passport cancellation.   Nike Missile Sites are also included within the boundaries of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Gateway National Recreation Area in New York and New Jersey, but are not part of the interpretive program at either park as near as I can tell.  (UPDATE: a reader in the comments informs me that Gateway NRA’s Sandy Hook Unit in New Jersey does offer guided tours of its well-preserved Nike Missile Site on the weekends in-season, as this schedule from Spring 2015 confirms. Gateway NRA has a second Nike Missle Site at Fort Tilden in Queens that is very deteriorated.)

Although the history of the Cold War is slowly being included in the National Park System through places like Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota, Eveglades National Park is actually a surprisingly rich location to learn about the history of the Cold War.   Due to its proximity to Cuba, the Nike Missiles stationed in Everglades National Park were some of the last to be decommissioned, remaining active some five years after other sites around the country were taken out of service.  In addition, numerous locations around the Park were used by the Central Intelligence Agency to train Cuban exiles to conduct operations against the Castro Regime in Cuba. These efforts even included the stationing of secret weapons caches for arming Cuban exiles in areas around the park!  In addition to these clandestine offensive operations, during the 1950’s the US Air Force actually trained National Park Service Rangers as part of the Ground Observer Corps  Program, whose role was to have participants capable of identifying incoming hostile bombers attacking the United States.   Although advances in radar technology rendered the program obsolete by the late 1950’s, that program is illustrative of a much different era in U.S. History, one in which Everglades National Park was in many ways located on the United States’ front lines in the Cold War.

Meanwhile, Lassen Volcanic National Park, in northern California, is continuing an extended centennial celebration.  Last year, Lassen Volcanic added a new stamp marking the centennial of the 1915 eruption of Mt. Lassen.   This eruption lead to the creation of Lassen Volcanic National Park the following year on August 9th, just a couple weeks before the creation of the National Park Service itself on August 25, 1916.

 

While traversing the Bitterroot Valley in 1805, Lewis & Clark received confirmation of the Lolo Pass to the north over the Bitterroot Mountains. This photo from the Lochsa River, just beyond the Lolo Pass, illustrates the harsh, mountainous terrain, they would have to cross to reach the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean.
While traversing the Bitterroot Valley in 1805, Lewis & Clark received confirmation of the Lolo Pass to the north over the Bitterroot Mountains. This photo from the Lochsa River, just beyond the Lolo Pass, illustrates the harsh, mountainous terrain, they would have to cross to reach the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. Photo from 2005

The new stamp for the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail will be located at the Ravalli County Museum in Hamilton, MT, about 30 miles south of Missoula. The Lewis & Clark expedition passed through this area in early September of 1805, the second year of their cross-country expedition. Just before passing through this relatively broad valley, they encountered the Native Americans now known as the Salish.  Lewis & Clark purchased horses from them and gained valuable information about the Lolo Pass to the north, which they would eventually take over the Bitterroot Mountains, just barely making it through before the early onset of winter.  Interestingly, Lewis & Clark were so amazed by the unique sounds of the Salish language that they speculated that the Salish must be the lost descendents of Welsh explorers from the 12th Century – which was a popular legend in America at the time.

It is also worth noting that the Bitterrot Valley actually owes its name somewhat indirectly to Lewis & Clark.  The American Indians of the area would eat the roots of this plant after boiling them until they were soft, and the women would collect these roots in the valley during the late summer each year.  In 1805, they shared some of these roots with the expedition, but Lewis found that “they had a very bitter taste, which was naucious  to my pallate.” (spellings from the original)   Nonetheless, on the return journey back east in 1806 Lewis was able to collect some specimens of the complete plant, which he he returned back east as part of the expedition’s collections.  Botanist Frederick Pursh of the University of Pennsylvania would later give this species the scientific name Lewisia rediviva in Lewis’ honor.   And of course, that initial assessment of the bitter taste lives on to this day in the name of the valley and of the mountains.

This decaying water tower is one of the signature landmarks at the Battle of Homestead site in the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area.. Photo from 2006.

The Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, like other National Heritage Areas, is a partnership program – but in many ways, it also functions as “Steelmaking National Historical Park” in the absence of a full-fledged national park dedicated to the history of steelmaking in southwest Pennsylvania. The main starting point for any visit to the Heritage Area is the visitor center and headquarters for the River of Steel Heritage Alliance in Homestead, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh.  The Bost Building  was originally built as a hotel, and served as the temporary headquarters of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers during the contentious strike and lockout of 1892.  That strike culminated on July 6, 1892 with a conflict between the striking workers on one side and the security agents and strike-breakers hired by the Carnegie Steel Company on the other side.  The nearby site of that battle is already a Passport location for the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail and features a small visitor contact station, some wayside exhibits, and a cell phone audio tour.   Across the Monongahela River from this site are located the Carrie Furnaces National Historic Landmark.  There lie the remains of the giant blast furnaces at the Homestead Steel Works, and are open only by guided tour from May to October.  The Carrie Furnaces are actually the core of a proposal to create a Homestead Steelworks National Historical Park; you can also see part of this facility in this 13 minute online video tour.

Finally, the last new Passport location is for the W. A. Young and Sons Machine Shop and Foundry, which is located about an hour south of Homestead in Rices Landing, PA, and has been restored by the Rivers of Steel Heritage Alliance.

Appomattox Plantation at City Point in Petersburg National Battlefield once had a number of slaves before it was occupied by the Union Army in the closing stages of the Civil War.  Photo from 2015.

The last stamps this month are for the Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom.  This is partnership that includes any site that tells the story of slavery or emancipation in the United States.  Since this partnership includes more than 500 sites and programs, for purposes of the Passport, the Network only issues cancellations to sites in the Network that are already part of the National Park System proper.  The waterfront at Christiansted National Historic Site in the Virgin Islands was once part of the slave trade from 1733 to 1803 as a colony of Denmark.  Petersburg National Battlefield in Virginia preserves the Appommattox Plantation at City Point, which was later used as General Grant’s Headquarters.  Like most southern plantations, the plantation included a number of slaves, whose stories are now told by the National Park Service.  Similarly, Monocacy National Battlefield includes the Best Farm, which was founded  in 1793 as L’Hermitage by French plantation owners from what is now present-day Haiti.  The  Vincendiere Family owned slaves at the plantation into the 1850’s.

Fort Monroe National Monument in Virginia was amously used as a refuge for escaped slaves during the Civil War as well.  Union General Benjamin Butler argued that if the Confederates wished to argue that slaves were legally property and that they had legally seceeded from the Union, then escaped slaves were legally “contraband of war” and thus no longer needed to be returned under the terms of the Fugitive Slave Act. The story of escape from slavery is now part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.  A monument there marks the site of the Hotel d’Afrique on Hatteras Inlet, which was used as a safe haven for escaped slaves during the Civil War.

Finally, Fort Scott National Historic Site in eastern Kansas tells the story of the “Bleeding Kansas” years of the 1850’s.  During this time, pro-slavery southerners and pro-abolition northerners flooded in to Kansas, and frequently had conflicts with each other, as they attempted to influence whether Kansas would enter the Union as a so-called “slave state” or “free state.”  The violence would include an appearance by John Brown, who would later go on to fame (and his death) in a raid on the Federal Armory at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.   This violence also led to the infamous case of Republican Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts being nearly caned to death by South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks after Sumner gave a speech sharply criticizing the role of one of South Carolina’s Senators in instigating the violence in Kansas.  The violence ultimately came to an end only when southern Senators abandoned the US Senate during the Civil War, allowing Kansas to be admitted to the Union as a “free state” in 1861.

The addition of this month’s new stamps means that there are now 1, 997 Passport cancellations currently available.   That means next month we will almost certainly pass 2,000!    Excluding anniversary and special event cancellations, there are still 1,897 cancellations available.

Fort Scott National Historic Site
Fort Scott National Historic Site in Kansas is one of several new sites adding an Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom Passport stamp this month. Photo from 2006.

 

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Summer Stamps from the Golden Gate NRA to Badlands National Park

A stamp for the Golden Gate Bridge highlights the new additions this month.   Photo from  2009.
A stamp for the Golden Gate Bridge highlights the new additions this month. Photo from 2009.

 

Due to some extensive travels, I never made a post on the new June stamps, so here in one big post are all the new stamps from Eastern National for June and July – a grand total of 18 over the two months!

June Stamps:

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument | 50th Anniversary 1965-2015

Dinosaur National Monument | 100th Anniversary 1915-2015

Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve | Cave Junction, OR

Golden Gate National Recreation Area:

  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Land’s End
  • Fort Point
  • Presidio
  • Nike MIssile Site
  • Point Bonita Lighthouse
  • Muir Woods
  • Juan Bautista de Anza NHT

Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail | Falmouth, VA

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail | Cherokee Removal MEM Park, TN

Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area

  • Highway 61 Blues Museum
  • Birthplace of the Frog

July Stamps

Badlands National Park | White River VC

North Country National Scenic Trail | Lowell, MI

Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail |

  • Fort Monroe, VA
  • Wrightsville, PA

The “year of the anniversary stamps” continued through June with two new additions.  Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument preserves a place where the first Americans dug for flint 13,000 years ago in North Texas.  The history of Dinosaur National Monument is of course much older than that, and I previously wrote about its 100th anniversary here.

The new stamp for Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve reflects its new name and expanded boundaries.   In December 2014, Congress expanded the boundaries to include some of the unspoiled scenery and pristine waterways surrounding the Oregon Caves as a “Preserve.”  Somewhat confusingly, however, Congress did not make this yet another national park that “counts twice,” unlike most of the other “& Preserve” parks in the National Park System.

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area includes numerous parklands and historic sites within the city of San Francisco and its immediate suburbs.   Indeed, this park has Passport stamps scattered across 21 different locations, and all 8 of this month’s locations previously had stamps.  The Golden Gate Bridge Pavillion received its first stamp for the Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th Anniversary in 2012, and so now appears to have a permanent stamp of its own.  Additionally, Fort Point National Historic Site, located below the Golden Gate Bridge, and Muir Woods National Monument, located in nearby Mill Valley, are actually separate units of the National Park System.  They previously had stamps for Golden Gate NRA that read “San Francisco, CA” on the bottom, but now have place-specific stamps of their own for their dual status under the management of Golden Gate NRA.

American painter Gari Melchers' estate, Belmont, is the latest addition to Passport Program for the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.
American painter Gari Melchers’ estate, Belmont, is the latest addition to Passport Program for the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.

 

The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail is one of three national scenic trails that count as national parks.   This new stamp is located at the home and studios of American impressionist painter Gari Melchers, located on the campus of Mary Washington University, outside of Fredericksburg, Virginia.

The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail previously had a stamp at the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park in Meigs County, Tennessee.  This park was essentially a concentration camp where the Cherokee were rounded up rounded up 1838 before crossing the Tennessee River and being deported on the Trail of Tears to present-day Oklahoma.

In November 2014, the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area received its first 18 Passport Stamps, located at the County Visitor Centers for each of the counties in the designated national heritage area.  These two stamps are its first for actual destination locations.   The Highway 61 Blues Museum is located in Leland, Mississippi, as is the Jim Henson birthplace.  Jim Henson, of course, is the famed created of Kermit the Frog and the rest of the muppets.

Badlands National Park includes spectacular scenery and awe-inspiring rock formations.  Photo from 1998.
Badlands National Park includes spectacular scenery and awe-inspiring rock formations. Photo from 1998.

Badlands National Park preserves spectacular scenary in South Dakota.  The White River Visitor Center services the less-visited Stronghold Unit in the southern portion of the national park, and is located with the Oglala Sioux Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  Previously, this visitor center had a non-standard stamp courtesy of the Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority, which operates the visitor center, but this is the location’s first official stamp.

The North Country National Scenic Trail does not count as its own national park, but will run an impressive 4,600 miles (once completed) across the northern United States from Lake Champlain on the New York-Vermont border to Lake Sakakawea in central North Dakota.   Lowell, Michigan is the site of the headquarters offices of the North Country Trail Assocation, which is helping to make this route a reality.

Finally, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trali is the National Park Service’s main program on the Chesapeake Bay.  Officially, it’s a set of water routes that commemorate the explorations of  the Bay and its tributaries by John Smith between 1607 and 1609.  Fort Monroe National Monument is now its own unit of the National Park System near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay.  Meanwhile, Wrightsville, PA is at the far northern end of John Smith’s explorations, on the banks of the Susquehanna River near present-day York, Pennsyvlania.

With these new additions there are now 1,915 active Passport cancelations out there, or 1,827 if you exclude the various anniversary and special program stamps.

A parting shot from Fort Point National Historic Site, located underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.  Photo from 2011.
A parting shot from Fort Point National Historic Site, located underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo from 2011.

 

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Managing Manassas

The Stone House is the iconic structure of Manassas NBP, it was used as a hospital in both battles, and is one of three Passport locations for the park.
The Stone House is the iconic structure of Manassas NBP, it was a landmark in both battles fought here, and is one of three Passport locations for the park.

I recenty had occasion to make a return visit to Manassas National Battlefield Park.  Manassas can be a somewhat daunting park for visitors, as not one, but two major Civil War battles were fought here.  If you are the type of person who isn’t that in to military history, and who finds the descriptions of various troop movements  blending together – those feelings can be compounded when there are two battles fought a little more than one year apart being described in the same national park.

Fortunately, it can be possible to keep the historical events straight, and develop an appreciation for why the fields of Manassas are some of America’s most hallowed ground.

The main visitor center for the park is the Henry Hill Visitor Center, and has the main passport stamp for the park.  Henry Hill is located at the center of the First Battle of Manassas, fought in July 1861.  The First Battle of Manassas was the first major engagement of the Civil War, coming just three months after South Carolina had fired on Fort Sumter (now Fort Sumter National Monument.)

The key things to know about the First Battle of Manassas are that both sides went into it thinking this would be a quick and glorious war.  By the end of it, 900 young men were dead, the Union Army was beating a hasty retreat, and Confederate General Thomas Jackson had a new nickname: “Stonewall.”

Also worth noting about this battle is that you may also have heard it called the “First Battle of Bull Run.”  Interestingly, the Confederates tended to name battles after towns, such as Manassas Junction, whereas the Union troops tended to name battles after bodies of water, such as Bull Run.  The National Park Service’s convention is to use the name preferred by the side that prevailed in the battle itself.  Thus, the National Park Service refers to these battles as the 1st and 2nd Battles of Manassas – the name preferred the Confederate forces that won each battle.

 

This statue marks the spot where Confederate General Thomas Jackson rallied his troops by standing "like a stone wall."   The name stuck.  Photo taken in 2011.
This statue marks the spot where Confederate General Thomas Jackson rallied his troops by standing “like a stone wall.” The name stuck. Photo taken in 2011.

 

To get a good sense of the story of the 1st Battle of Manassas, from the Henry Hill Visitor Center you’ll want to take the one mile self-guided walking tour.   Be forewarned that much of this trail is out in the open, so if you are visiting during a hot summer day, you’ll want to wear a hat and bring plenty of water.   On a crisp fall-like day, like I had on my recent visit last month, however, the trail is absolutely delightful.   The handfull of wayside exhibits along the trail will give you a good overview of the one-day battle of 1st Manassas, and take you past some of the Park’s historic structures.

 

A view of the one-mile self-guided walking tour for the battle of 1st Manassas, looking back at the Henry Hill Visitor Center in the distance.
A view of the one-mile self-guided walking tour for the battle of 1st Manassas, looking back at the Henry Hill Visitor Center in the distance.

The 2nd Battle of Manassas was a much larger, and longer (lasting three days this time), engagement – leaving 3,300 dead.   In early 1862, Union General George McClellan boldly sailed his army down the Chesapeake Bay to Fort Monroe  (present-day Fort Monroe National Monument) to launch a direct assault on the Confederate Capital of Richmond.   The Union Army was defeated at the end of June in the Seven Days’ Battles (now part of present-day Richmond National Battlefield Park), and was withdrawn back to Washington, DC.   This would set the stage for a second engagement at Manassas Junction at the end of August.

The best way to get an overview of 2nd Manassas is to visit the Brawner Farm interpretive center on the western edge of this park, which is also the third Passport location for the park.   There is also a one-mile self-guided walking tour here.   If you have more time, you can actually easily spend a whole day continuing the walking trails throughout the whole park, including Stuart’s Hill to the south and all the way to Matthew’s Hill and the Stone Bridge in the east.   For shorter visits, however, the National Park Service has identied a 12-stop driving tour that hits some of the highlights of the 2nd Battle of Manassas.

The Brawner Farm Interpretive Center contains this model of the colorful uniforms worn by the 5th New York Regiment, known as the zouave's.
The Brawner Farm Interpretive Center contains this model of the colorful uniforms worn by the 5th New York Regiment, known as the zouave’s.

If you don’t have time for the whole driving tour, I definitely recommend making it out to stop #5, for Sudley United Methodist Church, at the north end of the park.    The tour stop is on the west side of Virginia-234, but follow the walking trail across the road to the east side where a wayside exhibit tells one of the more remarkable human-interest stories of the park.

Moreover, if you are the tip of person who prefers to learn about ecology and natural beauty in the national parks, rather than military history, then tour stop #12 for the iconic Stone Bridge on the east side of the park is well worth it.   This tour stops includes a 1.5 mile loop hiking trail with cell phone interpretation on the ecology of Manassas National Battlefield Park.   Each wayside on the loop contains two audio recordings (available by cell phone), one geared towards adults and one geared towards children.   The trail starts be heading across the iconic stone bridge, and then heading in a counter-clockwise direction around the loop.

Since this is the Parkasaurus blog, I definitely encourage you to head to the first cell phone stop past the stone bridge and to the right. The audio recording here explains the history of dinosaurs at Manassas National Battlefield Park.  True story!

One of the many surprises at Manassas National Battlefield Park is that you may learn about dinosaurs at this stop on the cell phone tour at the Stone Bridge.
One of the many surprises at Manassas National Battlefield Park is that you may learn about dinosaurs at this stop on the cell phone tour at the Stone Bridge.

Manassas National Battlefield Park has three Pasport cancellations to collect:

  • Manassas, VA – for the Henry Hil Visitory Center (the main VC for the park)
  • Brawner Farm – for the Brawner Farm Interpretive Center and the 2nd Battle of Manassas
  • Stone House – at the historic stone house, which was an icon in both battles.

Additionally, all three of these locations also have a second Passport cancellation for the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area.

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