It Should Be Cherry Blossom Time

We were so happy to see that the National Park Service had predicted peak cherry blossom bloom in Washington, DC for sometime between March 20-27. Our plans were to arrive on 3/21 at Bull Run Regional Park about 30 miles south of our capitol near Manassas, Virginia. We arrived. Spring didn’t. About five days before we came the temperatures turned unseasonably cold and the cherry blossom prediction was changed to 4/8-15! So far we’d escaped winter. With our first two nights dipping to twenty degrees we stayed warm using both the electric fireplace and the propane heater. As you can see in the above picture we even had a late, wet snow.

Opal Enjoys The Snow

Opal Enjoys The Snow

I thought it was great but my paws did get cold. By noon all the snow melted and I got really muddy.

We’d found our campground using the app CampWhere. We set our GPS by the coordinates on that entry. We noticed a discrepancy between the GPS and the directions on the park website. “Maybe the GPS is putting us on a truck route. I guess we should follow it.” Bad decision. We realized it as the GPS led us through a residential community but we had no place to turn around so we plunged ahead praying it didn’t put us on a dead end. You don’t realize how big this trailer is until you pass a group of kids gawking at this thing coming down their road saying “WOW!”. It led us to Spashdown Park. Our campground does have a watermark, just not THAT park. I called Bull Run and got the address. We plugged it into the GPS. You guessed it. The directions were what was on the website! So back through the neighborhood and finally we arrived at Bull Run Regional Park. This park is wonderful. A perfect mix of private campground amenities and state park privacy. We had reserved a full hook-up site. We’d rate this park a 5 star except for price ($45/night) but then nothing in the DC area is inexpensive. We know we’ll be coming through the DC area often as there is so much to see and do. We’ll definitely stay here again. For sure we’ll follow the park directions. No more just trusting CampWhere coordinates! The app has a place to click and send in corrections and suggestions. I alerted them to the error. So far, I’ve not heard anything back from them. The learning curve isn’t as steep as it used to be but we are still “learning to fly”.

With day temperatures in the high 30s and wind gusts of 20mph making it seem colder, we headed to the nearby NPS  Manassas National Battlefield better known as the site of the First and Second Battles of Bull Run. Steve might get around to researching this later. For now I’ll just give a brief overview of our visit. The countryside is rolling hills punctuated by thick forest. We took two guided tours, one for each battle. The Union thought there would be just one battle and the war would be over. People from Washington even came out with picnics to watch the battle also thinking it would be a Union victory. McClellan was over confident. There were numerous tactical and comunicaion errors. With the Confederate win at First Manassas it became apparent that a brief conflict would not be so. It was here that Stonewall Jackson earned his famous nickname. It was also here that Lee gained prominence. During the thirteen months between the First and Second Manassas the Confederate troops turned from an unorganized and untrained group into an army. The Confederate win at Second Manassas set the stage for them crossing into northern territory and the battles at Antietam  (Sharpsburg) and Gettysburg.

The following two days were snowy then cold. We chose to stay in and rest. This gave us time to catch up on blog entries. I’m pleased to say that we’ve now reached the 3,000 mark for views to our blog. Again we thank all of you who are interested enough to follow along with us.

A Day At Norfolk Harbor

The USS Wisconsin

The USS Wisconsin

The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” can often be true. Our tour of Norfolk Harbor, visit to Nauticus and climbing aboard The Wisconsin seemed to be just such a time. Steve has made a video of our visit complete with music and voice over. I think he did a wonderful job but then I’m not an impartial judge. If you enjoy it, please let him know.  I had a bit of a brain hic-cup while doing the narration.  I believe my Dad’s ship number was 672, not 673 as I say in the video.  There are some nice pictures here of ships and such in the harbor, and a good bit of naval history, as well as some ships that have been in the news in the last few years. It runs for about twenty-five minutes, so don’t start unless you have the time to see it all.  Turn up your volume, sit back, and enjoy…  (Steve)

To view in full screen click on the diagonal arrow at the right hand lower corner of the video box.

A Post About Posters – The Virginia War Museum

We’d seen signs for the Virginia War Museum on our way to the Mariner’s Museum. It was only 3 miles away so when our plans to return to the Mariner’s Museum changed it made a good backup destination. It isn’t a large museum but it is full of memorabilia from the French and Indian Wars to the Gulf War. As you know, Steve is most interested in military history and artifacts. I, on the other hand, gravitate toward the human interest stories. There was plenty to keep both of us busy for several hours.

One of the sections I enjoyed the most was looking at the WWII posters. I find the artwork and messages so interesting. My parents were married in the Great Depression. My father was drafted  for WWII 2 weeks before he would have been old enough to be exempt. My parents had to sell their independent grocery business in Illinois. My father was transferred from Indiana to Kansas to New Jersey and my mother followed along.  These events defined their generation the way Civil Rights, Women’s Liberation and the Vietnam War defined mine. I grew up hearing stories represented by many of the posters.

Poster WWII

Housewives Were Fighting From The Home Front

Victory Gardens, WWII

Everyone Had A Garden

poster WWII

Before Women Served On Ships

WWII poster

Loose Lips Sink Ships

Lonesome Puppy

Lonesome Puppy

WWI poster

Lend Lease Poster From WWI

Other items that caught our attention:

Berlin Wall

A Section Of The Berlin Wall

Gatling Gun

Gatling Gun

Newpapers Announce The End Of WWII

Newpapers Announce The End Of WWII

old army wagon and truck

Old Army Wagon And Truck

Before we left I stopped to pick up some brochures. One advertised a tour of Norfolk Harbor leaving from the Nauticus Museum. This was one time Steve was glad I never met a brochure I didn’t like. We planned to do that the next day. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at our next blog entry.

A Ship Shape Day At The Mariner’s Museum

Google Earth, Mariner's Museum

The Mariner’s Museum
(photo from Google Earth)

Steve had visited the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Virginia in the late 1970s and thought it was impressive. He’d been telling me we ought to visit there. Neither of us was expecting to see a museum three times as large as what he saw then with a new wing devoted to the recovery of The Monitor. The Mariner’s Museum was founded by Arthur Huntington in 1930. If you’ve joined us since we were at Huntington Beach, SC do read our entry titled Atalaya and Brookgreen Gardens. We thought a half day would be enough time to see the exhibits. How wrong we were!

The idea of seeing The Monitor after having recently seen the Hunley led us to that wing first. There are several short movies about the history of the battle, the construction of the ironclads and the recovery of the Monitor’s turret. Then there are all of the interactive displays from making your own decisions about building an ironclad to on site decisions that needed to be made during the recovery. There are exhibits of artifacts recovered from the wreck and a model of the turret. Facial reconstructions done by forensic anthropologists on the two crew members whose remains were found in the turret are on display. A full size external model of the Monitor is there and you can walk out on the deck and around the hull. The model was made in the apprentice welding workshop at Northup Grumman in Norfolk. Lastly, you can view the tanks where the restoration and conservation work is being done. A piece of iron casement has been treated and is on display with portals exposed so you can touch part of The Monitor. Before we knew it, we’d spent 3 hours just in that one wing. But I’m getting way ahead of myself.

The Monitor, Mariner's museum

Anchor From The Monitor

First a bit about the two ships involved in the famous battle at Hampton Roads on March 9, 1862. When I was in school we were taught that this battle was between the Monitor and the Merrimack.  Not so. The Merrimack was a US Navy wooden steamship launched in 1855 and on duty in the Hampton Roads area when Virginia seceded from the Union. Union forces trapped behind Confederate lines were fleeing north and burned the Merrimack to the water line so she wouldn’t fall into Confederate hands. Both the Union and Confederacy wanted ironclad ships. John Ericsson had a design for a Union ironclad that would become the Monitor. The vessel would have a low, sleek profile only 18″ above the water with a 20′ central gun turret and a shallow 11′ draft for the shallow southern rivers. Confederate engineers, after examining the hull of the Merrimack, decided this could be the hull of a new vessel. Iron was scarce in the South and prewar stockpiles were soon exhausted. Everything from old farm machinery to pitch forks were melted down into the iron plate for the newly named CSS Virginia. Both North and South knew each other were working on an ironclad and a race to be the first to launch was underway. The CSS Virginia was launched in mid-February 1862. The Monitor was launched on February 25, 1862 and soon afterward began steaming for Hampton Roads. On March 8, 1862, the day before the famous battle, the CSS Virginia demonstrated fully the effect this new warship would have when she sunk two Union ships and ran a third aground. The morning of March 9 saw a four hour battle end in a stalemate with neither ship sustaining much damage. This battle did signify the end of an era for wooden war ships. A quote in the museum from a British official said “yesterday we had 149 ships. Today we have 2” meaning the wooden ships were obsolete.

Monitor

Scale Model Of The Monitor

Two months later the CSS Virginia would be scuttled in Norfolk by the Confederacy as Union troops invaded the James Peninsula. December 30, 1862 saw the Monitor in tow rounding Cape Hatteras when a severe storm developed. At only 18″ above the water it didn’t take long before waves washed over the turret and water began pouring into the ship. The coal became wet and steam pressure fell. Water continued to rise and the pumps had no effect. The famous ironclad was doomed. A red distress lantern was placed outside. The remaining tow line to the Rhode Island was cut but only after 2 of 3 crewmen were washed overboard. Rather than repeat what has already been beautifully written about the rescue attempts I will refer you to http://www.noaa.gov/150th/sinking.html . Final count of the crew was 47 rescued and 16 dead. When the Monitor sunk, it rolled and landed turret side down.

the Monitor

Red Distress Lantern Recovered From The Monitor

Mariner's Museum, Newport News

Steve By Replica Of Turret

the Monitor, museum

On Deck Of Full Size Monitor Model At Mariner’s Museum

In 1973 the location of a wreckage off the North Carolina coast was identified as that of the Monitor. Twenty years later technology and funding had finally been developed to plan a recovery the Monitor. The movie of the turret’s recovery in 2002 has you on the edge of your seat even as you know it was successful. I found a short video of the raising of the turret and have pasted the link here. This shows how they used a special cage called The Spider to recover the turret. The Spider is also on display outside of the museum. There is a short ad then the video starts. Click on the expand button at the bottom of the video box to get a bigger picture. The link is: http://www.wavy.com/dpp/military/wildcard_129/military_archive_wavy_Raising_the_turret_of_the_USS_Monitor_20091105?CMP=201303_emailshare

Monitor turret recovery

The Spider

Conservation Work On The Turret Continues

Conservation Work On The Turret Continues

With only an hour and a half to do the rest of the museum we had to make some decisions of what to see today and what to see  later. Later would be tomorrow, we’d already decided to return. There was an exhibit about the War of 1812 as we are now celebrating the 200th anniversary of that event. A special exhibit called Abandon Ship told the stories of survivors of shipwrecks. My favorite was a gallery devoted to the collection of August and Winifred Crabtree. This collection of miniature model ships (most are 1/4″ to a foot) is the lifetime work of a dedicated model shipbuilder, woodcarver and artist. Mrs. Crabtree often assisted with painting of figures and small carvings. Models range from a primitive raft to a Ventian galleass with 359 carved figures on board. The details are jaw dropping. There is one ship that had a drummer at the rear to beat cadence for oarsmen. Mr. Crabtree was so dedicated to making everything himself that he tanned the hide from a mouse for the drum skin! The room is kept very dimly lit so that the models stand out. If you’d like to see more about this collection please click the You Tube link that follows.

http://youtu.be/9tXErbGuQHw

miniature ship model

One Of The Crabtree Miniature Ships

The best plans can go astray. We returned as planned the next day. It was Tuesday. We never thought to check the website for hours of operation. You guessed it. CLOSED! So we turned to each other and said “When we come back this Fall….” Then headed off to the Virginia War Museum.

 

War And Remembrance

No this isn’t a post about the book by Herman Wouk or the TV miniseries of the same name. It is an overview of our five day stop in the Virginia Tidewater area of Norfolk, Newport News and Hampton Roads. Whether a dove or a hawk by political leaning this area has so much history and such wonderful museums it is worth a visit. We barely skimmed the surface of things to do in the area. We are planning on returning to the general area later this year.

museum, military history

Sites Visited For War And Rememberance

With two less days than we’d originally planned, the Dreamchaser pulled into First Landing State Park late on a Friday afternoon. That broke one of our guidelines, “Don’t come in on a Friday or leave on a Sunday”. Virginia State Parks make reservations for a space to fit your RV but not site specific reservations. We were directed to campground G. The park was unusually full for this time of year due to the Shamrock Marathon being held on St. Patrick’s Day which was this coming Sunday. The turns were a bit tight so we really didn’t want to do more than one pass to find a site. We needed a Blue site. Every one we came to was occupied. Then we saw a site that had no registration tag on the post but did have two chairs and a grill sitting in the middle of the site. “I think someone’s trying to play games and save a site.” “I’ll call the office and check.” We were assured that no one was registered if there was no tag on the post. After moving the chairs and the grill out of the way, Steve backed in. It wasn’t an easy back in due to the curve in the road, the post from another campsite being close to the road and overhanging branches. Another camper came over to help direct Steve while Opal and I just stayed out of the way. When we moved the slides out, one of them missed a low branch by an inch! A few minutes later the people who had placed the chairs and grill there came to claim their stuff. They knew the sites were first come first serve and didn’t cause any problem. Once the marathon was over the park cleared out and there were only five or six people left in the 37 site circle. I made a mental note to check on special events in an area before making reservations if we couldn’t reserve a specific site. The park was lovely and very pet friendly. Dogs are allowed on the beach and Opal enjoyed her long walks. Just offshore were several ocean going freighters that gave a spectacular view at sunset as they turned on their lights.

Ships, Virginia Beach

Freighter In Harbor At First Landing State Park

National Park Service, Yorktown

Ranger Giving Tour At Yorktown Victory Center

The weather took a turn for the worse, cool and cloudy, and was only going to get worse over the next three days so we headed over to the Yorktown Battlefield Victory Center National Park Site which was about an hour away. We all know from our American history textbooks that this was the last major battle in the American Revolution and it occurred on October 19, 1781. Following their defeat the British started negotiations culminating in the Paris Treaty of 1783. So what more is there to know? The answer: A lot! We arrived around 2:30p just in time to sign up for the last Ranger led tour of the day. As with most of our NPS visits, the tour was so informative. So you think this battle was a rout and the Redcoats had finally had enough of the feisty Colonials? Not by a long shot. The fact that we are an independent nation today was due to a series of events; some luck, some help from France and some might say Divine intervention.

Truth was the Colonials were a rag tag group of farmers and shopkeepers going up against the best army in the world. Washington had is hands full up north. The Colonials had lost Charleston and the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. The British thought they were on the run. Why didn’t Cornwallis turn to follow the rebels as they turned south? Because he had burned his supplies so he could move inland from Charleston faster and avoid raids from Francis Marion, The Swamp Fox. He had to get resupplied at Wilmington, NC. Then Cornwallis moved on to set up a defensible base at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.  Sensing an opportunity Washington and Comte de Rochambeau marched their combined forces south rapidly to meet up with additional French troops, ships and artillery under Admiral De Grasse. Over 7,000 troops marched from New York to Virginia in less than two weeks. They lost 1,500 men to disease and exhaustion along the way. A series of false maneuvers led the British to believe the attack would come at New York City. Time and money were running out. The French Navy protecting the Chesapeake Bay and preventing Cornwallis escape by sea would be returning to the Caribbean at the end of October. For now they were keeping the British ships out in the ocean. Lafayette was in Williamsburg spying on Cornwallis’ troops and sending information to Washington.

Cornwallis had built two rows of earthen mounds as protection but then pulled his troops back from the outer ring. Why he left his outer defense ring unmanned except for two earthen forts known as redoubts remains a mystery. A daring attack under the dark of a new moon was devised by Alexander Hamilton. The Colonials attacked Redoubt #10 while the French took Redoubt #9. Their guns were unloaded to prevent accidental misfire that would negate the surprise attack. They attacked with bayonets and knives only. With large cannon now well within range the British forces planned to retreat by small boats across the bay and turn north to New York. Cornwallis had burned all but his smallest boats so they wouldn’t fall to the rebels. Almost across, the first troops were sunk in a sudden and severe storm that happens only rarely.  Cornwallis was trapped. The next day Cornwallis signaled surrender. Surrender took place at the Moore House. A new country was born. Eighty years later war would return to Yorktown during the Peninsular Campaign of the Civil War as the same country stood on the brink of dissolution. After touring the museum I asked the ranger where Cornwallis’ sword was located. He explained that in that time surrender was accomplished by the ritual of the winner touching the hilt of the losers sword but the sword itself is returned. They have tried to locate the sword but not even the British Museum knows where it is. The family says he was buried with it and this was the custom. Cornwallis is buried in a mausoleum (oddly much like the Jefferson Memorial) in India.

Steve At Yorktown Victory Center

Steve At Yorktown Victory Center 

American Revolution, Yorktown

Redoubt #10

Yorktown

Virginia Monument At Yorktown

American Revolution, Yorktown

The Moore House

I was planning just one entry for this stay but I can see that we have way too much information for that so I’ll close for now and resume with our visit to the Mariner’s Museum.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge – A Watery Wonderland

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge – A Watery Wonderland

Okefenokee, alligator

Welcome To Stephen C. Foster State Park

With ten days before we were due in Charlotte for Tweak Week we turned south and headed to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. This 402,000 acre area of dense swamp along the Suwannee River straddles the central Georgia/Florida border.  If you are looking to “get away from it all” this is the place to come. We’d be staying at Georgia’s  Stephen C. Foster State Park which is reached by the western entrance to the refuge. It is eighteen miles from the nearest town if you can call Fargo a town. There’s a convenience store/gas station, post office, cafe, Visitors Center and the Eco Lodge for non-campers. The nearest grocery store is 50 miles away so when they say bring everything with you, they mean it. Cell coverage drops to one tiny bar about five miles out of Fargo. The park office does offer free internet but you have to sit on the front porch to use it. Both the Wildlife Refuge and the State Park gates close and lock at 10pm. Unlike some parks there is no code so you can’t come or go after that hour. Of course there isn’t anywhere to go! When emergency care is needed the park is served by helicopter because of the distance. One of the rangers said once they were halfway done with refueling before they realized the “helicopter” was a mosquito! Fortunately at this time of year bugs were no problem. Click on the link below for a detailed map of the refuge and paddle trails.

Okefenokee General Map

Don't Wake The Gators!

Don’t Wake The Gators!

Normally an entrance fee is charged for the NWR but with our Interagency Senior Pass that was waived. Georgia also offers a 20% senior discount on camping fees at the time of registration versus when you book online. I guess they want to see the gray hair and wrinkles for themselves. Stephen C. Foster State Park has a modern campground with 50 electric and water sites for RVs up to 40 feet. There are two loops each with their own bathhouse and laundry. There is also a cabin colony and primitive camping area across the main road, a picnic area and a nature center. The park rents bikes, canoes, kayaks, and jon boats.The website says the Nature Trail is closed due to fire damage but this is inaccurate. It is open and offers a nice walk for campers with pets.

A word about pets here in the NWR. The park website says they are permitted but not recommended because of the alligators and other wildlife. The refuge has over 1200 alligators and they can be near to the campground. We had no choice. Opal had to come with us. I’ll let her tell you about one incident in her own words. Mom and I were out for our usual morning walk. We’d just turned off of the campground road onto the main road. There was a drainage ditch alongside the road. Normally I love to snoop into the pipes under the road. I was about five feet away from the water when all of a sudden I heard a BIG splash. Well, I knew that was no fish! I ran back to Mom and didn’t go near the water again. Later that day Mom and Dad saw the 4′ alligator that calls that pipe home. Other animals frequent the campground such as deer and turkeys. While the area is considered bear country we did not see any during our stay. The birds are all over and their songs fill the air. We would wake up to a chorus every morning punctuated with a hooting owl or the rat-tat-tat of a piliated woodpecker.

birds, Okefenokee

Piliated Woodpecker

Great Egret

Great Egret

A Watchful Eye

A Watchful Eye

Yellow Belly Sliders

Yellow Belly Sliders

While the main attraction of the refuge is the water trail we opted for a bike ride as rain was predicted on our first day. This area is flat as a pancake and conducive to a long rides. Before we knew it we’d gone 13.6 miles. There were stops along the way to watch butterflies and to check kayaking put-ins at the Suwannee Sill. The next two days it rained and rained and rained. A total of 7.5 inches in less than 48 hours. After all, it is a swamp.

Suwannee River Landscape

Suwannee River Landscape

Okefenokee Blueway

Okefenokee Blueway

Swamp Skyview

Swamp Sky View

Okefenokee, kayaking

Do You Think There Are Alligators Around Here?

When it finally cleared about mid day on Wednesday we were itching to get out on the water. The park runs a 90 minute pontoon boat trip with a naturalist at 10am, 1:30pm and 3pm. The cost is $15 per person. This was an excellent introduction.

The next day we took our kayaks and returned to the same area called Minnie’s Trail. It’s a bit unnerving to launch in the canal that connects the park to the river. One alligator hangs out near the rental boats and others gather near the boat ramp. At least at this time of year they’re cold and don’t move too fast. The video below was done on this trip. I hope you will overlook a few brain farts where for some reason I called the cypress trees cedars and Spanish moss became spaghum moss. I guess paddling, shooting video and talking all at the same time was more multitasking than I could handle. Enjoy!

flowers, swamp

Spadderdock Reflection

wildflowers, Okefenokee

Never Wet

wildflowers, Okefenokee

Hoorah Bush

So where do all the new cypress trees come from? It’s simple … see below for the answer………….

Girl Cypress

Girl Cypress

Boy Cypress

Boy Cypress

Close Encounters Of The Alligator Kind

Close Encounters Of The Alligator Kind

Just a brief explanation of the next 19-second video clip.  We were cruising through the swamp when I saw an opportunity ahead of us for a cool ‘gator video.  Up ahead of us, just a little bit, was an alligator sunning himself on a log, right alongside the channel.  I pointed it out to Chari, who immediately picked up her camera.  I took out my pocket camera, which has a video feature. 

Now anyone familiar with driving a small boat with an outboard motor knows that the operator will sit in the stern seat, facing forward, with his left hand reaching behind him, holding onto the tiller control on the motor.  In my right hand was the camera, which I was holding up shooting the gator as we motored past, but as we motored on by, my body kind of twisted to the right as I was watching him through the back of the camera. 

Now here is an elementary physics lesson.  A left hand, extended behind a body in motion (twisting to the right) will move to the left.  A motor boat, when the motor is moved to the left, will turn to the right. 

OK…  got that?  Where was the gator?  On a log.  Where was the log?  To my right.  What happened?  This isn’t rocket science! 

The boat hit the log, the gator moved with lightning speed, into the water, and banged the back of the boat with his tail as he blissfully swam away, just a little too close for comfort!

By my calculation, it just took you at least twice as long to read this as the entire episode!   (Steve)

On a quieter note, we’d like to leave you with a sense of peace that we felt surrounded by the Okefenokee and the Suwannee River. This is a short video set to music. Sit back. Put your feet up. Take a deep breath. Relax.

Once A Girl Scout, Always A Girl Scout

The historic district in Savannah is a square mile and one of the most walkable cities we’ve visited. There are so many picturesque homes to visit. Several are open for tours. We had to make a choice of which ones to visit. Since Chari had been both a Brownie and Girl Scout she wanted to see both the Juliette Gordon Low birthplace and the Andrew Low home. We don’t have many of our own pictures to share as once again we ran into a policy of no inside photos allowed. So we’ll do our best to describe these interesting properties and supplement with photos from the web.

We saw the Andrew Low house first and bought a combined ticket that included her birthplace and one other house, all of which are operated by the Colonial Dames of America. We’ve mentioned other homes we’ve toured run by this group and how impressed we were with both the homes and the tours. We were not disappointed. The combined ticket does not expire so if you purchase it and don’t get to all of the sights you can use it, as we say, “when we come back.”

Juliette Gordon Low, Girl Scouts

Portrait of Juliette Gordon Low As A Young Woman

For the sake of continuity we’ll start with the Juliette Gordon Low birthplace. We parked at the Visitor’s Center and walked about a mile on a beautiful weekday afternoon. The home is undergoing renovation and scaffolding covered the exterior of the home which sits on Ogelthorpe near Bull Street. We found the entrance amidst the construction only to find the door locked and a sign saying CLOSED! As we were turning to leave, a man opened the door. He said they were closed for a large bus tour coming at 3:30p (it was 3p) but had room for eight more people if we wanted to join them. Of course we said yes. Our luck seems to be following us. There is a store in the home so we looked for a lapel pin to add to our collection and found none. We asked at the desk. “Are you a Girl Scout?” asked the lady behind the counter. “I was more than 50 years ago.” Once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout” she replied and produced two pins. One with a daisy on it since Juliette’s nickname was Daisy is the 100th anniversary pin (1912-2012) and given to Girl Scouts who come and take the tour. The other plainer pin is for scouts who come to the house but don’t tour. The pins are only available at the home. 

Juliette Gordon Low was born in 1860 to a socially prominent family in Savannah. Her southern bred father met her mother while in the Navy and stationed in the North. They literally bumped into each other when her mother slid down a banister. Her mother’s family was largely responsible for the founding of Chicago as a prominent city. Because of their differing backgrounds her parents had opposing views during the Civil War. Savannah was spared the destruction Atlanta suffered and Sherman spent the Christmas of 1864 in Savannah. He was entertained in the Gordon home. Under Sherman’s protection the family, minus her father who was serving in the Confederate Navy, moved to Chicago where Daisy was introduced to a different way of life. She met Native Americans for the first time and became a lifelong admirer of their culture. The Gordons returned to Savannah. Through her mother’s efforts the family’s finances were recovered early in the post-war years and her father was able to revitalize his lucrative cotton plantation . She was sent off to various finishing schools to learn the social graces required of women in her social circle. She excelled in painting and many of her works are on display in the house. Daisy by nature was adventurous and preferred hiking and horseback riding. She often broke the rules of the very proper schools she attended. She did spend seven years on her own in New York City studying painting. At age 26 (an old maid in those days) Juliette married William Mackey Low, the son of Andrew Low, one of Savannah’s wealthiest cotton merchants.

Savannah, historic district

Andrew Low House

At a time when the average cotton merchant might make $15,000 a year, Andrew Low had an income of $250,000. His home was considered one of the grandest in Savannah. The ceilings are 13′ high. The Colonial Dames have obtained some pieces from his descendants to furnish the home. Other pieces have been purchased. Many of the pieces are late 1700-early 1800 Philadelphia area antiques such as Duncan Phyfe dining chairs and priceless matching buffets in the hallway. One of the items that intrigued us was a picture hanging in the stairway between the first and second floors. The tour guide said it was a Currier and Ives drawing. I always thought of Currier and Ives as the Vermont country scene in snow so I was surprised to see portraits. Not only portraits but portraits of Confederate generals. As you look at the picture straight on you see Jefferson Davis. There are strips of paper with other drawings hanging vertically. If you step to the right these line up to form a picture of Stonewall Jackson. If you step to the left the strips line up to form a picture of Robert E. Lee. The Low family knew Robert E. Lee. He may have even been a beau of Mrs. Low at one time. He visited them in the post war years and stayed in this home. After her marriage  to William Low, Juliette lived in this home for six months before moving to England. William Low was raised in this home but was educated in England and had always wanted to return. Juliette’s father disapproved of William and thought of him as a rich need do well, as it would turn out with good reason.

The Lows lived in England but spent long periods apart. William followed the social elite and was known to drink, play and spend his limitless funds freely. Eventually he took on a mistress and asked for a divorce. Divorce was still a shocking affair in the early 1900s and proceeded slowly. Before the decree was finalized William died. He had amended his Will and left the bulk of his estate to his mistress. Juliette was forced to contest the Will. A settlement was reached that provided her with a yearly income and the Savannah house. Returning to the United States in 1912 she lived her last fifteen years in Savannah.

Girl Scouts, Savannah

First Girl Scout Headquarters

Before leaving England Juliette Gordon Low was at a crossroads in her life. She felt her life was without purpose. That is until she met Sir Robert Baden-Powell. Baden-Powell had founded the Boy Scouts as a fun way to prepare young boys for military service. He was upset to find many young women concealing their identity and joining the Boy Scouts to participate in outdoor activities. He introduced Juliette to his sister and they formed the Girl Guides. Juliette formed the first Girl Guide troop in the USA  in 1912 and changed the name to Girl Scouts in 1913. The first Girl Scout Headquarters was in the carriage house located behind the Andrew Low House.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1923 and died in 1927. She was buried in her girl Scout uniform in a Savannah cemetery. Since her death the Girl Scouts have grown into the largest educational organization for girls in the world. I would like to give credit to http://www.biography.com for the information used here.