Monday, June 14, 2010

In Which Droop is Explored

I mentioned in my last post a fellow (and fellow VISTA) named Jerry.  Jerry is stationed in Monroe County, which is on the other side of Greenbrier County from me.  Jerry's a funny guy who, if given half a chance, will talk your ears off about the Civil War.  Granted, I know next to nothing about the Civil War, beyond what I was taught in high school and by my very Southern relations, but as an art historian, I can appreciate obsession with specific historical eras.

On Thursday, Jerry asked me what I knew about the Battle of Droop Mountain.  I knew where it took place, by virtue of having to pass the Battlefield Park whenever I drove into Lewisburg, but that was all. He challenged my ignorance, and I responded in the traditional historian method: with a researched e-mail (I am shamed to say I relied heavily on Wikipedia, but I did manage to turn up SOME primary documents).  He gave me a B+.

And so it passed that I was going to be halfway up Droop in Hillsboro to support my roommate's efforts to clear a lot of extraneous stuff out of the gift shop at the Pearl Buck Birthplace.  Jerry agreed to drive a full hour and a half to prattle at me about the Battle of Droop Mountain (dude really, really likes to prattle).  It was a rather full day, so I'll limit this post to photos from the Jerry portions of the day.
We arrived in a deluge, and so at first we just sat in his car and studied the map.  He'd brought his modern version of a Union kepi, which he proudly showed off.  We decided we'd start by driving to the lookout tower (top photo).  It's a modern building, but the views it provides are ASTOUNDING.  Check out all of the mountain ghosts (mists) in the above photo.
We couldn't see all the way into Marlinton, but Hillsboro was clearly visible.  They had a handy sign showing where the various camps and battalions would have been located.
Jerry knew all of these guys by name (and in some cases, where they were from--he works for the historical society in Monroe), and did his best to explain military movements to someone whose brain simply does not have to capacity to grasp most of them.  The map helped.
Here's Jerry attempting to capture the gorgeousness with his cell phone.  I am under orders to send him all of my photos.  We stood at the top of the tower for a good long time, alternately discussing battle movements and trying to take it all in.  It was, in a word, breathtaking.
We then moved on to the grave site and museum.  All of the Union dead were moved after the war, so all that remains is this small mossy spot.  The museum was pretty impressive, considering its size, with a solid collection of artillery pieces and various metal pieces clearly excavated from the battleground.  Most incredible was the drum which had been retrieved by two local boys from the battlefield just days afterward (in November 1863).  It was passed through the family until it was donated to the museum, and is in remarkable condition!  I didn't get a photo of it, of course, because that would make sense.
After leaving the park, we grabbed lunch at the Pretty Penny Cafe in Hillsboro.  Let me tell you, if you are ever in my neck of the mountains, you HAVE to eat at the Pretty Penny.  All of the food is made from scratch, nothing from a can, and every single thing is delicious.  Jerry had the Grecian Penne and I had the Becky's Burrito--both were devoured.  After lunch, we headed a little further down the mountain to check out the mill at Mill Point.  We are actually acquainted with the man who lives in it, but he sadly wasn't home.
Didn't stop me from taking photos, though!

After driving back up to the Park, Jerry and I went our separate ways.  Aside from the fact that our brief attempt at hiking one of the Park's trails ended with the both of us soaked to the skin from a surprise rainfall, it was an altogether pleasant way to spend an afternoon!  I highly recommend it if you're in the area, whether you're a Civil War buff like Jerry or a regular ole tourist with a camera like me.

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