In two weeks we officially open our books at All-Access Battlefield Tours. I cannot express how excited I am about this project, nor convey how much work it is to open a small business. Requirements include securing a National Park Service permit, commercial liability insurance, guest waivers, custom wheelchairs, portable ramps, guide-shirts, battlefield maps, handouts, a website, brochures, vehicle magnets, and of course press releases, media promotions, and advertising. We are the first and only Civil War battlefield tour service in the country to exclusively cater to wheelchair travelers and the support that we have received thus far has been extraordinary. Look for upcoming articles on us in The Free Lance-Star, Civil War Traveler (VA), the Civil War Trust website, and more.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of taking some visiting friends and their children down to the Sunken Road at the Fredericksburg Battlefield for an impromptu tour. They were familiar with the movie I produced with Clint Ross, The Angel of Marye’s Heights, and wanted to see the actual site where Richard Kirkland’s act took place. Two of my younger children joined two of theirs and this was the first time that I had a group of kids in attendance that were 10 or younger.
We began our journey at the Visitors Center so the boys could see the guns. (Boys like guns and swords more than anything else on earth.) After a brief explanation of the battle, we all took a page from the Von-Trap Family and hiked up the steep hill to the National Cemetery. Once there, I introduced the kids to General Humphrey’s statue and the Washington Artillery’s cannon. Everyone in our group was immediately stuck by the sheer number of headstones and equally impressed with the view from the heights towards the city. I was very pleased with the children’s attention span and astonished at how many good questions they asked.
The fact that the adults on this trip were outnumbered by children presented me with a unique challenge as a guide. At the same time you are trying to tell the story to your peers, you must find a way to incorporate “cool stuff” for the kiddos. The Innis House or original sections of the stone wall aren’t very exciting to a child, but when you point out the bullet holes in them, they suddenly become captivating. The depiction of damage seemed to grab the kid’s attention. I found this to be true throughout the tour. From the museum's diorama of the city in ruins, to the destruction photos on the tabletops and battle scars on the standing relics, the sheer destruction of this event really had an impact on the kids.
To think that a bunch of adults would kill and destroy everything in sight has to be a little overwhelming and a tad scary too. What I really found striking was how these kids (50% southern and 50% northern) never once implied that there was a good or bad guy in this fight, or interjected their own partisanship or politics into the discussion. They never once insinuated that their lineage was nobler in their chosen cause than the opposing army’s, or accused their counterpart’s ancestors of practicing treason or tyranny. They simply absorbed the history.
It was refreshing to say the least and perhaps 'we adults' could learn a lesson from our kids... Shut up. Listen. Learn.