Issues in Appomattox
And today, just for fun, let’s add some wind.
We have no water. But we are sloshing about in it everywhere. The Horsepasture River is frolicking in the fields. But Sapphire has no water. Oh, the irony.
This rain, water and irony reminds me of my trip to Appomattox. I haven’t shared that with you, even though it was in April. It was so disappointing I just didn’t want to talk about it at the time.
It was the sesquicentennial of the end of the Civil War. I’ve had a wonderful time these five years selling my Avery & Gunner books to young Civil War students, meeting interesting people who do amazing things, mostly strong patriots. But, Appomattox was going to be so exciting and interesting that Dave decided to come with me. It was to be the grandest event of the five years.
Did I say this torrential rain reminded me of that week? The mud was unbelievable. First the cars were stuck. Then the tow trucks were stuck. Monster trucks full of mulch and gravel drove through our site continuously followed by equipment to spread it, so the spectators would have a place to walk. It was a shame. So many people for so many years had worked to present this event. It was too bad. But, my disappointment in the event was not the rain. The rain is nobody’s fault. The weather is no one’s committee. No, the rain was bad, but forgivable.
The disappointment and disgust, had to do with planning and logistics. (I used to be an event planner in Atlanta.) There was no excuse for this, folks.
The Sesquicentennial Appomattox was held at four separate venues. If you didn’t live in Appomattox, you wouldn’t know this. Those of us who traveled from other states, including the west coast and Alaska, didn’t know that. The authors were in a large tent and thought this was the event venue. Our tent was open on one side, which faced…nothing. here were a few vendors and sutlers, Smaller events often have more than this. There was a battlefield here, but the big battle was in the National Park. But the park had no food vendors. There was a first day stamp issue at the Appomattox Post Office. But they weren’t issued at the post office in historic downtown Appomattox where folks naturally went.They were issued at the park. Programs and ceremonies we all expected to see, like the stacking of the guns, and the ceremony at Appomattox Court House. But they didn’t do it at the historic court house. All the events were either in downtown historic Appomattox, the National Park, the Confederate Museum of Appomattox, or the Industrial Park where we were all stuck in the mud.
There was one master list of events not indicating that it wasn’t happening where you happened to be waiting. They ran a shuttle between the sites, that’s how we figured out it was in other places, too. Busses ran a circuit, so riders could get off and on anywhere. Good idea. After they ran it a while someone decided the circuit took too long so they needed to run individual routes. (They only had five years to prepare and practice for this.) Several of us were stranded at a shopping center when our bus ended its route.
Sunday I mentioned to one of the other authors how disappointed I was. I probably set myself up, building it up over these years to be something really special, I said. She slammed her hand on the table and said “This IS Appomattox. This IS the 150th. This really IS something special. It SHOULD have been. It’s just terrible!”
Studying the pamphlets I think I can see what the committees’ problem was. This event wasn’t organized by one entity with singular goals, like other events have been. This was planned by at least four separate groups each with their own agenda. The National Park Service, The Appomattox Historical Society, The Museum of the Confederacy board, the Appomattox Dept. of Travel and Tourism, Chamber of Commerce, the Governor’s office and the State of Virginia, all were in charge here. The reenactors were in charge of mud. History has shown throughout all history, too many politicians can ruin a good war.