Approximately fourteen years ago I read Tony Horwitz’s book, Confederates in the Attic, Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War. Of all the stories in the book, Horwitz’s adventures with an intense Confederate reenactor named Robert Lee Hodge (Captured in Black & White on book cover) had a huge impact on me. You see, Rob takes Horwitz on an awesome Civil War adventure where they walk and camp several Virginia battlefields in a very short period of time. That experience captured my imagination and one year after completing Confederates, I jumped in my old Ford Explorer and rather than heading east, I followed the Mississippi River south into Kentucky and Tennessee. And instead of a spirited Confederate reenactor, I brought my energetic dog Haleigh.
Haleigh and I camped at Columbus Battlefield in Kentucky and across Kentucky Lake from where most of Fort Henry now rests, submerged under water. We found memorials to the lost Island No. 10, a miniature “Washington Monument” to Jefferson Davis and hiked most of Shiloh. I also tried to pinpoint current views of historical sketches and Haleigh served as an excellent assistant seen in the images below of the Cumberland River at Fort Donelson, Tennessee.
Indeed, it is Haleigh that has prompted this reflection on the origins of this Civil War trip. I am back teaching at MUHS where the opportunity to go on a larger trip like this presented itself. As a MUHS student, I participated in two “Western Summer Adventures” with Mr. Jim Kearney who now leads students on summer trips to Ireland. He showed me the incalculable value of road trips with students, where you are able visit and then discuss really cool places and meet interesting people.
Then this past March, I met Rob Hodge at a Civil War conference at Gettysburg College. I made a point to relay to him how his story in Horwitz’s book had inspired my earliest Civil War trips and we had a great conversation about this summer’s adventure. He even provided a couple of tips.
Sadly today my first co-pilot, Haleigh, passed on to the big squeaky toy in the sky. She was 15 years old. The silver lining in her passing is that it enabled me, just a few days away from departure, to reflect how many people and experiences have influenced this trip’s organization.