I suppose battles between sibling children are part of normal family relationships when growing up. I remember a few with my brothers, but as we got older, we mostly got along, and our relationships grew stronger until we all got married. Then our attention and energies were spent on other relationships and the sibling ties were moved down the priority list. They were still there, just covered by our own families’ needs and wants.
This past year, my sister, who is a Civil War history buff, decided to invite her three history-buff siblings on a Civil-War-battlefield touring trip. Our grandfather was a huge reader of history, and his nonfiction library was enormous. He encouraged reading and we often passed time together reading one of his books. My siblings and I all inherited his reading and history-loving genes, so my sister’s proposal was too good to pass up.
The first part of our trip retraced the trip my sister and I made last year. The four of us stayed at a really nice AirBnB in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The first day, we drove to an hour to Antietam where 160 years and one day before, the battle had been fought. Several programs were held that discussed in great detail how the battle went. Over 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing after 12 hours of savage combat. More soldiers were killed in the half-mile long Bloody Lane than were killed in the seven miles of beach on D-Day.
Not being used to the heat and humidity, I waited on a bench under a shade tree while my sister and brothers went on one of the interpretive walks. When they finally got back, I was glad I’d made that choice. It turned out to be longer and hotter than expected, but it pointed out how tough those men were who fought in the heat in wool clothing. We used the rest of our time driving around rather than hiking in the hot sun.
The next two days were spent in Gettysburg at the museum and touring the battlefield. The museum, established and run by a foundation, is excellent and highly recommended by all of us. Touring the large battlefield brings the war into focus. It was a turning point in a war that has never really completely gone away.
We traveled to Harper’s Ferry where there were several smaller battles for strategic control of the arsenal and railroads going through there. I know less of the battles there and more of the beauty of the place. The town is on the banks of both the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, where they join together to form the larger Potomac that runs through Washington DC. The rocks and forests make it a lovely place to go wading. Several kayakers and rafters went by, and I wished we could join them on the lazy river.
We spent a couple of nights in Lynchburg, Virginia so we could see Appomattox, the place where Lee surrendered to Grant and ended the war. It’s a small park with a reconstructed courthouse that houses a small museum and the McLean house where the surrender documents were signed. Standing in that room gave me the chills. Although the furniture wasn’t the original used (the Union generals took all the furniture from the room after they were done using it), knowing the two generals were together there to end the four-year brutal war was surreal.
On our way back to Baltimore to fly home, we went by the Manassas battlefields outside of Washington. One brother and I watched a 45-minute movie about the first battle while my sister and other brother walked the grounds. There’s a reconstructed house where an old widow woman refused to leave even though she knew the battle was coming. Sharpshooters used her house for cover, and it was blown up to get them. She was the first civilian death of the war and is buried next to the house. When we met up, we shared information before getting a map to visit the other battle sites. This park is much different than Gettysburg where the whole battlefield is National Park Service. Manassas is scattered around private land and major thoroughfares, so the traffic is bad. So bad that we went to one, had a hard time getting back on the road, and then decided we’d been civil-warred out. We drove to our hotel and called it a day.
While the tour was amazing and educational, being with my siblings was by far the highlight of the trip. We picked up and took off like we’d never been apart. We got along and never once did we have to call our mom and say, “he’s looking at me” or “she’s touching me”. We enjoyed some great food at locally owned restaurants and even ate a delicious meal in the cellar of Dobbin House Tavern built in 1776 in Gettysburg. It was hard to part when it was time to go home, but I’ll always be grateful that we took the time and made the effort to spend one week together. We made a lot of memories.
My advice is to get with your siblings and spend some time together. You don’t have to take a week-long trip like we did, but don’t wait until a funeral to see each other. Spend a day or just an afternoon and talk. You may have more in common than you think.
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous, not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. I Peter 3:8-9