This blog is a reprint of my internet journal from 2001 to 2002 in which I documented my "vagabond" solo journey in a Chevy Conversion Van tracing my roots. I not only traced their paths and found their homes and final resting places, but I did extensive genealogical research in court houses, libraries, historical societies, genealogical societies, cemeteries, and talked to the local people. I traveled with a laptop to upload my notes and photos, and use e-mail. It was a fantastic journey which lasted two years. I had no other home except my van to sleep in...just a bed and video player. My household goods were put into storage for two years. My mail was delivered to me at general delivery when I phoned "MailBox, etc." and told them where to send it. At night I stayed in campgrounds, motels, friends' backyards, friends' homes, and those of the few living relations I've tracked down. As I traveled I collected so much genealogy information, that I had to get rid of items that I had originally thought essential to my travels (like a microwave oven). Between ancestral sites, I visited any tourist sites I could find and got to know alot about the USA. This was a trip of a lifetime and I'm still sorting through all the wonderful memories, photos and invaluable genealogical data I found. I will post to this blog as I can - one or a few days at a time of that journey from 2001 to 2002

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ancestor Tracking - 28 May 2001 - Richmond VA - Memorial Day

            Another “emergency” call was sent out on my cell phone.  Very handy these cell phones!   This time to AAA to come and jump my van battery.  Yes, I know I have my own jump "Power Center".  But I thought I’d give AAA a try.  Perhaps not a good idea.  Here I was, sitting at the Best Western parking lot at Richmond – capitol of Virginia, and it took 70 minutes to get a tow truck to me.  Then the guy brought over his little Jump "Power Box" and wha-la  my engine started.  Well, I just wanted to see how HE did it!  Anyway, next time, I’ll do it myself.  My battery had run down because I came out to leave, turned on the key, and then started writing down my mileage, then I started looking up my civil war ancestors, to be sure I knew their units, then I did this and that, and finally, after an hour I was all set to go --  but the van battery wasn’t.
         Well, it was a rainy morning anyway, so I might as well spend it in the dry van – ha!  But I finally got onto I-295 and headed south towards Petersburg, VA.  I had seen the amazing siege lines last year, so this time I wanted to see “City Point’ where Marshall Akins had noted he had been sent to. 
Map--- Richmond / Petersburg and City Point Virginia
City Point was the critical supply point for the Union Army siege of Petersburg.  It was supposedly the busiest port in the world for the six months or so of the siege.  It was also the Command HQ of General Grant.  
City Point Harbor during Civil War
  To finish the story, The siege of Petersburg worked, causing the Confederates to leave, and that caused the evacuation of Richmond, the confederate capitol.  Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen U.S. Grant at Appomattox a few weeks later.  
Epps Mansion - site of Grant's HQ at City Point
I left Richmond and drove downstream along the James River to Flowerdew Hundred Plantation, but it was closed by 3:45pm.  That is where Marshall Akins in Gen Hancock’s II Corps was ferried across the river from Wilcox Landing in June 1864, and later the other Corps walked across a temporarily and hastily constructed pontoon bridge – a marvel of its day. And to the City Point unit of the Petersburg National Battlefield.  I was surprised at the lack of tourists anywhere I went today.   There were just two others at City Point to hear the Ranger talk about the Epps Mansion, a house that the US Army took over in 1864-1865 for their headquarters.  General Grant's quarters were in a nearby log cabin. 
General Grant's Cabin
 I felt it was only fitting having just retired from the US Army,  to stand back at the City Point National Cemetery and watch the Memorial Day Ceremony where a few people were gathered - old veterans no doubt.  I felt like I belonged to this ceremony.  There were little US flags placed at each grave.

City Point Veterans' Cemetery on Memorial Day 2001
So where did Marshall Akins come in?  He was sent to City Point Hospital when he became ill after the force march from Chancellorsville, Bethel Church, Cold Harbor and crossing the James River to Petersburg.   I especially wanted to see the site where this hospital was located. The area is a National monument where Rangers give information and it is kept up nicely.
City Point Hospital, Virginia on the Bay of Appomattox River
   I imagined my cousin, Marshall Akins, a patient at this Hospital, exhausted yet pushing on in the forced march, yet never fully recovered from early illnesses in Alabama.

I drove back up I-295 to Cold Harbor, stopping for gas, and my only food of the day, an ice cream sandwich and banana.  Ahhh ice cream, the staff of life!  I wanted to return to Cold Harbor because I had studied the maps I bought there yesterday and knew where Marshall Akins was situated during the week or so of the battle.  In fact his Corps made the only real advance of the face-off, but they were repulsed without back-up.
Marshall Akin was in the 36th Wisconsin  - with Hancock's unit on right
Cold Harbor Visitor's Center at the battlefield
I took photos of the fields.  Further up the road had been an earlier battle near Bethel Church, the Ranger had pointed out yesterday on a map that there was a monument to the 36th Wisconsin Regiment on a road up there.  So I found the monument and photographed it.  It had been erected by one of the soldiers, years later in honor of those of his regiment who had died, were wounded, or were captured at that spot on 1 June 1864.
Monument to the 36th Wisconsin at Bethel Church - and my Vagabond Van
Those 36th Wis Inf wounded on 1 June 1864 
    The day was fast coming to an end so I was back on the cell phone and I called KOA Campground at Fredericksburg and reserved a tent spot for the night.  Cost $25.61.  It seem like a lot for just a space and the use of the bathroom, but cheaper than a motel. 

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