We always do the Visitor Center first--I mean, of COURSE--so that the kids can pick up their Junior Ranger books but also because it's really the best way to orient yourself, especially at a battlefield. After you tour the museum and see the orientation film, by the time you get out to those blank fields with cannons at the edges, you should know what you're looking at.
In other news, look who I finally taught not to write on top of the exhibits!
As someone with a Master's in Library Science, with an emphasis on Special Collections, who used to work as a gatekeeper at a special collections library with one of my main tasks making sure that people did not write on top of the exhibits, it's probably about time...
If you've toured the museum, and watched the orientation film, and you have an audio tour at hand, NOW you may go see the battlefields!
At the end of our trip, I asked the kids which national park had been their favorite, as we had visited several. Will told me that this battlefield was her favorite, which surprised me, as both kids LOVED Fort Pulaski, which you'll see later. But it turns out that it was this part of this battlefield that was her true favorite. This is the Slaughter Pen, and it's fabulous to romp around in, and has a fascinating and very bloody story behind it.
Battlefield touring can get a little annoying, as you're always popping in and out of the car, but the terrain of Stones River is so varied--woods, boulders, fields, old cabins, the river--that there was always something that the kids wanted to see.
That kid spends much of her time at battlefields pretending to shoot people. We had just learned, though, that at this particular site many of the Confederates had charged with actual sticks in their hands in lieu of real weapons, so at least she's being historically accurate.
William Holland's story is especially interesting. We might not have noticed his memorial, there in an out-of-the-way spot behind a larger memorial, but the kids' Junior Ranger books had an entire page on him and so they directed us there.
Can you see something unusual in the following picture?
I didn't, but Will spotted it soon after:
Check it out!
On the back, the artist wrote that the finder was free to keep it or rehide it. Will REALLY wanted to keep it, so we agreed that when we were home, she'd replace it by painting her own rock and hiding it in a park for someone to find.
The battlefield also has a national cemetery. Many national cemeteries are very sterile, but this one was great, with tons of character and markers that made you wonder about those memorialized:
There's a huge section of the cemetery devoted to soldiers in the United States Colored Troops.
After that, two little girls were certainly well prepared to become Stones River National Battlefield Junior Rangers!
And then we were on our way to Atlanta! We got snookered into stopping in Chattanooga for fancy cupcakes (worth it) and a Moonpie store (not worth it), and then got confused about what time it was (Central Time, then Eastern, then Central, then Eastern again!!!) so that we only arrived at Chickamauga 15 minutes before it closed, the cranky ranger informed us. He begrudgingly gave the kids Junior Ranger books to work on until we came back through, and when I told him they would work on them in the car some, he told me that there was nothing they could do outside of the park (which is untrue--over a third of the book doesn't require any outside information to complete), and yet somehow he neglected to inform me that we could also just drive twenty minutes back the way we came from and be back in Tennessee, where we would have an extra hour of Central time to work on the books.
See? He even made me cranky, and on my own vacation!
Whatever, Cranky Ranger! We're going to Atlanta next, and it's going to be awesome!