The day after we became engaged, Jonathan and I hit the road for Hampton, Virginia, a small town just east of Newport News and just north of Norfolk, Virginia. It was a work trip for Jonathan, but a great opportunity for me to tag along and get to know a new town for the weekend. When I set about planning what historical sites we could see, I was thrilled when Jonathan suggested that we go to the “Monitor and Merrimac Museum,” otherwise known as the USS Monitor Center at the Mariners’ Museum.
The Monitor and the Merrimac were the first American ironclad ships, which clashed during the Civil War. The museum itself was quite small, but very well-designed. You can see that Jonathan enjoyed the “Shipwrecked!” exhibit, relaxing in a Titanic lifeboat. There’s also a room where one walks between life-size portions of the Monitor and Merrimac squaring off against each other and visitors can go inside the replica of the Monitor’s turret.
I’m not generally interested in model ships, but the exhibition was interesting in that the room was darkened and only the ships lit, which lent a hushed, magical quality to them. The lighting choice also happened to be great for photographing them!
It was February, so not the best time to visit the coast, and the day we visited Fort Monroe was gray and overcast. Roughly a pentagonal shape and essentially an island because of its moat, Fort Monroe is the largest stone fort ever built in the U.S. and stands at the perfectly-defensible point of the confluence of the Elizabeth, the Nansemond and the James rivers on the Chesapeake Bay.
The fort, initially a wooden one, has stood continuously since Jamestown days, remained in Union hands during the Civil War, freed escaped slaves who reached it from the South, and served as a prison for Jefferson Davis.
Two other famous former residents also lend themselves to the fort’s history. Edgar Allen Poe was also once an enlisted man stationed at the fort. Today there’s a creepy wax figure to inform us of that! 🙂 And as a young first lieutenant and engineer in the U.S. Army, Robert E. Lee was stationed there from 1831 to 1834, and played a major role in the final construction.
But the best part about our trip to Hampton, was the opportunity to catch up with old friends- Patrick and Lyndsey Salmon and meet their gorgeous daughters. Looking forward to visiting the Norfolk area again sometime soon!