Celebrating 20 Years!

Celebrating 20 Years!

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Bradley University (OLLI) is a group of more than 1,000 individuals, age 50 and over, who learn together through three distinct programs: OLLI Classes, OLLI Learning Trips, and OLLI Study Groups.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Civil War Tour, Day 8 -- May 5, 2010

On Tuesday morning, we left Columbus, Ohio, and drove south to Cincinnati for our visit to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Museum, where no cameras were allowed. We were greeted by our guide, Christopher Davis, who directed our “Highlights Tour” and told us why Cincinnati was so important to the Underground Railroad.

Kentucky was a slave state, and Ohio was a free state. With Covington, KY directly across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, many slaves crossed the river on their route to freedom. The historical perspective was presented in a two-part film, with the first part narrated by Oprah Winfrey. She introduced the main historical figures John Parker and the Rev. John Rankin, who were abolitionists in nearby Ripley, OH. The second part of the film was shown in an "experiential" theater and portrayed a young female slave who was trying to escape her captors. The presentation was very suspenseful as we watched the sons of Rev. Rankin help the woman up a large hill just in time to evade the slave hunters.

We learned that – of all the slaves captured in Africa – only 5% came to America, but during our visit we saw many exhibits that told the stories of life as a slave. Exhibits include an authentic “slave pen,” a building used to hold slaves before they were sold. The building, from the early 1800’s, was donated to the Freedom Center by a Kentucky farmer who found the structure on his land. Another feature of the museum is a genealogical research center, where visitors can use the resources for free. We left the National Underground Railroad Freedom Museum with a deeper understanding of slavery, past and present.

After a fantastic dinner at the Beef House in Covington, Indiana, our band of travelers boarded the bus for the final leg of our trip home.
As a group, we had traveled over 1800 miles and thoroughly enjoyed nine museums, three Civil War battlefield sites, sixteen unique meals, six historically significant restaurants, eight days and seven nights of travel, and the teaching of two phenomenal Civil War experts.

Many thanks to Bernie Drake (Peoria Historical Society) and Rev. Dr. Randy Saxon (United Presbyterian Church) for their engaging learning activities and “on-the-move” lectures. They kept us on our toes and patiently answered our questions while enriching our understanding of the Civil War, military strategy, and the people and places affected by the “War of Northern Aggression.”

Thanks also to Peoria Charter Coach for providing our transportation and to Don Farden, Professional Motorcoach Driver…extraordinaire. Don maneuvered our coach in and out of some very narrow streets and many tight spaces while delivering excellent customer service at every stop.

Finally, thanks to Michelle Riggio, Continuing Education Program Director, who created and maintained the blog while the group was on the road.

We hope that you have enjoyed following our adventures as we explored the places, people, and events of the Civil War. Until next time…

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Civil War Tour, Day 7 -- May 4, 2010

We boarded the bus early in the morning for a travel day. Driving from Hagerstown, Maryland, to Columbus, Ohio, we made a lunch stop in Washington, Pennsylvania.

The Spring House is part of a working dairy farm that was started in 1975 by Sam and Bev Minor and their five children. The family milked the cows and processed and bottled the milk on site. The restaurant where we enjoyed our lunch was originally a roadside cheese stand, and the official drink of the Springhouse is chocolate milk. Many members of our group tried the milk and declared it delicious! Our travelers also enjoyed the baked goods and yummy ice cream.

After lunch, in the heart of Washington, PA, we toured the home of Dr. Francis LeMoyne, an abolitionist. We learned from our guides that Francis enjoyed “stirring up trouble” wherever he went. Before he began working against slavery, he initiated education for young women in his area and established the Female Seminary in Washington County. LeMoyne attended Harvard and his roommate was none other than John F. Kennedy; the two young men became quite close. According to our guide, while President Kennedy occupied the White House, he reserved a suite of rooms and made them available for Francis LeMoyne’s visits. When LeMoyne died, many of the Kennedy family members attended his funeral.

We were not able to take photos in the LeMoyne house, so we don’t have any to share. However, the tour was interesting, and we were amazed at the number of causes Francis LeMoyne adopted.

We drove on to Pickerington, Ohio, where we enjoyed a less historical dinner at Max & Erma’s, and then we checked into the hotel for the last night of our tour.

Civil War Tour, Day 6 -- May 3, 2010

On Sunday, May 2, we departed from Gettysburg and stopped the bus for a moment of silence to remember the people who were affected by the fighting. We then moved south for our tours - Antietam in the morning and Harper’s Ferry in the afternoon.

Lt. Col. (ret) Jim Rosebrock met us at the visitors’ center and gave us an overview of the Battle of Antietam before taking us out to the site. The battle, which was the bloodiest day in U. S. history, occurred on September 17, 1862, about nine months prior to the three-day battle at Gettysburg. The military leaders included Union General George McClellan of the Army of the Potomac and Confederate General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia.
McClellan was known to be a procrastinator in battle. We learned that he was well versed in battle strategies but was not as aggressive as President Abraham Lincoln would have liked; consequently, Lincoln and McClellan were sometimes at odds.

The Battle of Antietam yielded over 26,000 casualties for that one day. We visited The Cornfield, where 8000 soldiers were wounded, killed, or considered missing early that morning. The area around the Sunken Road added to that number.

Our afternoon was spent at the area around Harper’s Ferry, which was a booming metropolis in its day. Sitting at the point where the Shenandoah River meets the Potomac River, Harper’s Ferry was highly prized for the supplies that were available there, particularly munitions. Bolivar Heights offers spectacular views and three states – Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia come together there. We also visited the Murphy farm, from which we were able to look down on the Shenandoah River. Upon arrival in lower town Harper’s Ferry, we walked the brick streets and enjoyed ice cream on a hot day.

On our way to Hagerstown, Maryland, we stopped in Boonsboro for dinner at the Old South Mountain Inn.

Civil War Tour, Day 5 -- May 2, 2010

Since the Battle of Gettysburg spanned three days, we asked for three separate two-hour tours so we could learn more details of the fighting and personal stories of the people involved. Yesterday was our first tour, and we were lucky to have the same guide, David Hamacher, showing us around the battlefield areas in the morning and the afternoon.

Because the Gettysburg landscape is full of hills and valleys, we were reminded that holding the high ground was critically important to the soldiers. Little Round Top looked like a small hill until we saw the breathtaking view from the top. Although the climb would have been difficult, soldiers used teams of horses to pull cannons up a logging path on the back side of the hill. Then they set up their artillery to repel the enemy forces below.

We learned that battle locations were named differently, depending on the point of view. Union forces named battles based on topographical features while Confederates named battles using their names for the towns. Therefore, what the North called the “Battle of Antietam” (based on Antietam Creek) was named by Southerners as the “Battle of Sharpsburg,” which was the closest town.

Names of locations also changed depending on the events that occurred in the area. For example, “Plum Creek” became “Bloody Run”; the base of “Little Round Top” was changed to “Slaughter Pen” because of the number of soldiers who died in those areas. The small town of Gettysburg (population around 2400) was suddenly invaded by almost 176,000 soldiers and had to turn its homes into hospitals to treat the wounded. Standing in the now-peaceful places, we thought often about the casualties of war, and it was difficult to imagine the sights and sounds of the three-day battle.

We ended our day with a buffet dinner at Dobbin House, which was built in 1776. The home, now a restaurant, is the oldest building in Gettysburg.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Civil War Tour, Day 4 -- May 1, 2010

Our first stop of the day was the Gettysburg Visitor’s Center, where we saw an introductory film and the recently restored Cyclorama – a 360-degree painting of the Battle of Gettysburg. First exhibited in 1884, the painting-in-the-round measures 377 feet around and 42 feet high and creates a multimedia experience for visitors with lights and sound. Hearing the sounds of battle from all directions was quite an experience, and we left the exhibit feeling rather shell shocked.

After viewing some of the exhibits, we embarked on a side trip to the Eisenhower Farm, the only property that Mamie and Dwight D. (Ike) owned. The weather was perfect – sunny, not too hot, but with a lovely breeze.

In the afternoon, we enjoyed the first of three battlefield tours and learned about the events of day one’s battle. David Hamacher, a licensed battlefield guide, joined us on our motor coach and gave us great insights into the Battle of Gettysburg. By standing in the battlefields, we learned how the lay of the land affected the fighting through the first day, and we are eager to learn more tomorrow!

Our dinner destination was the Farnsworth House, a restaurant near our hotel. We learned that the building, like many private homes, had been turned into a hospital after the battle began. Our server also told us that the place is known to be haunted. Whether or not that is a fact, we saw film crews from the Discovery Channel filming stories about ghosts in several Gettysburg locations!

Civil War Tour, Day 3 -- April 30, 2010

We ate our breakfast on the hotel’s enclosed veranda and then loaded our luggage onto the bus. After a short jaunt across the river, we arrived at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA. Interestingly, the museum opened in 2001, but no one on our tour had seen it. The museum sits high on a hill and offers a beautiful panoramic view of Harrisburg’s hills and valleys.

Bob McClosky, a retired social studies teacher, greeted us as we entered the museum and shared some stories with us. He also showed us reproductions of the items that Civil War soldiers would have carried, and we were surprised to learn that bayonets were most often used as candle holders!

Entering the main part of the museum gave us the opportunity for interactive immersion into Civil War times. We viewed many artifacts including flags, weapons, medical kits, decoding devices, and items from slave trading. A sword from the Veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic of Peoria, Illinois, is proudly displayed in a glass case. The sword was a gift to President Ulysses S. Grant at his second inauguration.

Our days, even the meals, are filled with history. Today, we ate lunch at the Appalachian Brewing Company. Our hosts told us that the building had been a paper factory at one time and was destroyed by the second largest fire in Harrisburg. After our lunch, we boarded the bus again for a one-hour drive to Gettysburg and a wonderful dinner at the historic Fairfield Inn, which is located about eight miles outside of Gettysburg. As we entered, the manager welcomed each guest and then told us about the 252 year-old building. After dinner, we drove back to the 1863 Inn at Gettysburg for the night.

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