Patterico's Pontifications


My History-Geek Anniversary Trip (With Photos!)

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 7:38 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

So a few weeks back was the seventh anniversary of my marriage and I got inspired to do something special.   But we also didn’t really have the opportunity to take much time and we have been gathering our savings, so it had be reasonable in cost.  So I suggested a drive to the exotic land of…


Okay, it’s not as awesome as going to Africa, like a certain blogger around here did, but it was a nice weekend and despite my Southern accent, that is actually the state I consider to be home.  First, on Friday night we left town and drove up to Gettysburg.  That’s really not very far from me—about a two and a half hour drive.  The next morning we woke up early and went on a horseback tour of the battlefield.  That part was for the wifey, because she absolutely loves any excuse to ride a horse.

We got out there at 9 in the morning, before things got too hot.  For some reason they gave me the biggest horse I ever set eyes on, named “Stormin’ Normin.”  I swear to God it was four foot wide under the saddle.  Afterward, I could barely walk I felt so overstretched.  So yeah, I am not exactly a cowboy despite having spent some years in Texas.

And I don’t mind giving the company that did it a little free publicity.  And it truly is free publicity—I paid full price like anyone else, not even mentioning that I might write about it on a nationally read blog.  It was frankly a little pricy compared to other horse rides I had done in the past, but otherwise it was pretty much as advertised.

Later in the day, we drove over to Lancaster and had a chance to do something I had wanted to do for a long time.  Anyone who knows me long enough will learn that one of my constitutional heroes is Thaddeus Stevens.  The fact that most lay persons don’t even know his name only makes me more passionate in trying to get the word out.  This video, although containing a few inaccuracies, gives a decent summary of his life and advertises for a worthy cause, The Stevens & Smith Historic Site preservation project.

Thaddeus Stevens was a tireless advocate for equality of opportunity in life.  Primarily he dealt with the issue of racial discrimination, first being an ardent abolitionist, then after the slaves were freed being an advocate for complete social, legal and political equality of opportunity for the races.  His greatest impact on the Constitution was in being the Father of the Fourteenth Amendment.  That amendment not only banned state-based discrimination—particularly racial discrimination—but also made the Bill of Rights applicable to the states.

And when I went to Lancaster, I wanted to visit his tombstone, because I had read that it was special.  This is a picture of it that my wife took.

It is literally a monument to his commitment to racial equality.  You see, before he died, he learned that the first plot he purchased for himself was in a racially segregated cemetery.  So he sold it, and bought the plot you see in the picture, in a desegregated cemetery.  I don’t know who decided to make it into a monument, but I know that Stevens did ask that this inscription mark his grave:

Its not easy to read, I admit.  But it says:

I repose in this quiet and secluded spot

not from any natural preference for solitude

but finding other cemeteries limited as to race

by charter rules

I have chosen this that I might illustrate

in my death the principles which I advocated

through a long life


We as a people owe him so much. Indeed, but for the Equal Protection Clause I might not have been able to marry my wife in Virginia seven years ago.  In the very appropriately named case of Loving v. Virginia (the couple was actually named Richard and Mildred Loving, imagine that), the Supreme Court cited the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment when striking down that state’s miscegenation laws.  This was Stevens work, living on, and I wanted to pay my respects to him.

After that, we took some time in Amish country.

Actually I think they weren’t full Amish, given that one of them was using a gas powered milking machine with his cows.  Feel free to help me out on this in the comments (like you need any encouragement).  And then retired to our hotel room in Gettysburg.

The next day we decided to take a car tour of the battlefield.  We actually bought this guide (again, completely free advertisement—they gave no consideration in order to get this mention), and it was a very nice experience.  I could go on and on, but I thought I would highlight the particularly touching story of Sallie the dog.

You can read a lot more about the dog here, but she was a pug-nosed brindle bull terrier who became the companion and mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.  She was said to bark at only three things: Rebels, Democrats and women.  On the first day of fighting at Gettysburg, she was separated from her unit.  But eventually she found her way back to their last position, at Oak Ridge where some laid dead and other laid wounded.  She remained there, steadfast, licking the wounds of the injured and protecting the bodies of the dead, for three days, with no food or water, until she was found by another unit and returned to her own.

She later died in the fighting in Spotsylvania, Virginia, shot through the head.  Her companions buried her where she fell, under enemy fire.  And when it came time to honor those who fought at Gettysburg, they made sure to honor her, too.  This is a picture of the monument for the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

And at the base, you can see their statue of Sallie.

Yes, visitors have left dog biscuits in her honor.

And that night we returned home.

We owe our freedom and the republic that defends it, to those who came before us—leaders like Thaddeus Stevens, and ordinary soldiers who gave their last full measure of devotion on battlefields like this.  Perhaps even to simple dogs who died with the men they unconditionally loved.  You owe it to yourself, if you haven’t already, to visit a site like this and pay your respects to those who gave you this precious inheritance.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

35 Responses to “My History-Geek Anniversary Trip (With Photos!)”

  1. Sallie is an interesting footnote to American history, to be sure — especially if you are a doting pet parent like me.

    And she also serves as a reminder on the importance of resisting those who would ban her and others of her breed today — for you see, in modern parlance, Sallie was a pit bull.

    Rhymes With Right (8e1e35)

  2. Nice post.

    Patterico (f724ca)

  3. Happy anniversary, Aaron. And I said hello to Eli for you.

    Simon Jester (d93244)

  4. If only our current Thaddeus could gain traction.

    When I consider sacrifices like those at Gettysburg, I become quite angry when fools like Jackson-Lee and Waters spout their venomous ignorance under the Capitol. When a freaking Speaker of the House does not have the fortitude to even tell the public what is in a bill of epic proportion, I want to throttle someone.

    Then, I consider if I would be found worthy.

    Ed from SFV (7d7851)

  5. This is a wonderful posting about Thaddeus Stevens and you didn’t get any information wrong about him, which is rare. I particularly appreciated you calling him the Father of the 14th Amendment — his greatest legacy. The picture of his grave was very nice and this was because of the recent restoration work done on the cemetery. In previous decades, the cemetery had been sorely neglected. The Thaddeus Stevens Society, which helped in the restoration, is dedicated to promoting Stevens’s memory. If you would like to help, visit our website at We can use all the help we can get to remember such a great man.

    Ross Hetrick (4abcf6)

  6. This is a nice post, and great pics, too.

    Horses… as a kid, used to ride them every other summer when my family would make the trek from OC in SoCal up to the Provo, Utah area. Various aunts and uncles and cousins with horses… from shetland ponies when I was ages 5 through 8 to the big ‘uns as I grew older. Rode gentle horses and ornery horses. Stopped riding when I was about 15.

    The next and last time I rode was when I was a young father at the age of 29. I just remember sitting in the saddle atop a humungous horse and thinking this is a huge and powerful animal that could seriously eff me up if it had a mind to.

    Now I just appreciate them for their beauty.

    ColonelHaiku (d1f5ff)

  7. oh… and congrats on your anniversary, Aaron!

    ColonelHaiku (d1f5ff)

  8. Happy anniversary to you and your wife, Aaron.

    Great post – always glad to see Thaddeus Stevens getting his due (hadn’t known who Lydia Hamilton Smith was so it was nice to learn about her).

    no one you know (4a2353)

  9. Congratulations on the Anniversary Aaron. Nice post.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  10. Hello

    I saw above photographs,they were so nice.Really it’s true that photos remember us about old days,our history and that lovely moments of our life….

    Thank you 🙂

    wedding photographer charlotte (808a1c)

  11. what are the monies for?

    happyfeet (3c92a1)

  12. “She was said to bark at only three things: Rebels, Democrats and women.”

    Sounds like a good dog to have, if you want to keep trouble out of your life.

    Just kidding, ladies.

    Dave Surls (f998fb)

  13. probably for if you forgot your dog biscuit I would guess

    happyfeet (3c92a1)

  14. Central Pennsylvania is a great place to visit, and a graeat place to live. I live near Gettysburg and Lancaster.

    Amphipolis (e01538)

  15. Trips than combine beautiful scenery and visits to interesting historical sites and enjoying local food specialties are the best. And you can do this in almost every state of the union. Glad your anniversary jaunt turned out so well Aaron, and thanks for sharing some of the highlights in this post.

    elissa (725ce9)

  16. elissa – Can you say scrapple? Of course you can.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  17. daley–praise the lard and pass the scrapple!

    elissa (725ce9)

  18. Full Amish? You never go full Amish!

    Birdbath (19803d)

  19. Although Simple Jack could be the name of the hardworking patriarch of an Amish clan too, now that I think of it.

    Birdbath (19803d)

  20. Great point at comment #1.

    I love reading about other people’s travels, so this was very appreciated, Aaron. Reading yours (and others’) adventures helps sooth the raging wanderlust until it’s my turn to wander again. Happy Anniversary, too!

    I’ve been reading Nina Camich (Law prof at UofW) for years and this week she shares her marvelous trek on the International Appalachian Trail at the Gaspe Peninsula.

    Dana (4eca6e)

  21. ______________________________________________

    Indeed, but for the Equal Protection Clause I might not have been able to marry my wife in Virginia seven years ago.

    Interesting how societies swing from one extreme to the other. But perhaps more extreme today from a standpoint of rhetoric and politics than when anti-miscegenation laws existed.

    Over 40 or more years ago, I don’t believe there ever was a big roiling national debate and media-blaring controversy about the dismantling of laws — mainly through judicial decisionmaking — that banned the marriage of a man and woman of different races. I don’t recall ever hearing about a big shout-out and effort several decades in the past to place before the voters propositions that would re-institute such laws.

    I’m sure Thaddeus Stevens would have resented those laws, but he probably would have scoffed at the notion that American society decades into the future, in the 21st century, would be normalizing the concept of a husband marrying a husband, a wife marrying a wife. Even he couldn’t have envisioned the proverbial slippery slope being that slippery.

    Mark (411533)

  22. My fiancee and I were in Gettysburg and the Amish country for a week last month. Gettysburg was a humbling experience, to actually stand where so much history was made. It saddens me to see how the freedoms fought for there have been perverted by civil rights poverty pimps.

    Gbear (c38e2b)

  23. Regarding the milking machines and other modern technologies, the Mennonites and some Amish use propane to power refrigeration and engines for power. Complicated culture underlies the simple life.

    Gbear (c38e2b)

  24. Aaron, I’ve seen two haunted places in my life.

    The Gettysburg battlefield, and Glen Coe in the Scottish highlands.

    TANSTAAFL (bb1ee7)

  25. “I become quite angry when fools like Jackson-Lee and Waters spout their venomous ignorance under the Capitol.”

    But they are the true legacy of Stevens and the Radical Republicans. Notice that Mr Worthington didn’t take his vacation in John Conyer’s Detroit, or Maxine Water’s South Central Los Angeles.

    stari_momak (5fd7ae)

  26. Stari – your not-so-veiled racism never gets tired.

    JD (318f81)

  27. Stevens and the Radical Republicans were also terribly unfair.

    Think about this, they force the Southern states back into the Union, and then deny a good percentage of the white population the right to vote momentous issues like the 14th amendment. That is just pure dictatorship.

    stari_momak (5fd7ae)

  28. My favorite story about Stevens is about his clash with Simon Cameron, another Pennsylvania Republican. Cameron was a notorious hack, but he controlled the Pennsylvania delegation at the 1860 convention. In return for his support (which gave Lincoln the nomination) he had extorted the promise of a Cabinet post from Lincoln’s managers. So Lincoln, under enormous pressure, made Cameron Secretary of War.

    Stevens openly expressed his disgust when he heard about it. Someone then asked him whether he thought Cameron would steal.

    “Well,” said Stevens, “I don’t think he would steal a red-hot stove.”

    Of course, the story was all over Washington and Cameron took deep offense. He confronted Stevens and demanded that he “retract the calumny”.

    “Very well,” said Stevens. “I said you would not steal a red-hot stove. I retract that statement.”

    Rich Rostrom (d34a68)

  29. stari attempts to put a veil over his racism?

    Who knew?

    Icy Texan (aeef33)

  30. stari stari blight
    paint yourself in blue and gray
    and then kiss my ass

    ColonelHaiku (d1f5ff)

  31. Sounds like ‘the colonel’ and Stevens had about the same level of ‘wit’.

    stari_momak (5fd7ae)

  32. The picture isn’t clear enough to read the words on the monument, but I think if you had experimented you might have been able to take a picture where it could be read.

    Thaddeus Stevens is one of the most famous of the “Radical Republicans”

    Sammy Finkelman (d3de3a)

  33. Gotta keep it at your level, stari… lowest common denominator. ^..^~~~~~@—

    ColonelHaiku (8211ab)

  34. Stari your one to talk about dictatorships.

    DohBiden (d54602)

  35. For the record, I come from a long line of Yankee rebel haters. And I think it’s none of my business who X decides to wed.

    At the same time, given the last 30-40-50 years of experience, I can see where ‘Southern Man’ was coming from. For example, this:

    Fact is, many blacks in the South did alright doring ‘Jim Crow’. They had there own towns and banks and schools.

    stari_momak (5fd7ae)

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