The historic church parking lot that I left from this morning looked a lot like the church parking lots I have passed almost every morning for the past week and I was having flashbacks from my last visit to England, except there were no cathedrals, and I don’t think there were any dead poets buried under the floors. Newton Grove came and went fairly quickly and then I had the opportunity today to walk through history.
I’m from North Carolina and I thought I was pretty well versed in its ins and outs. I knew a lot of its secrets. Well, at least as much as my 8th grade History of North Carolina class taught me. I still thought I had a grasp on the magnitude of how the Civil War had affected my home state. I did not until I traveled the land that surrounded the Bentonville Battleground site – home of one of the most decisive Union victories towards the end of the Civil War. General Sherman brought his forces up after burning large swathes through Georgia pitted his forces against General Johnston and outflanked the Confederates at almost every turn. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomatox less than three weeks after the end of this three-day battle.
Despite the brevity of this battle, it devastated the region for decades, and changed the collective memories of the soldiers and civilians that survived the live through the aftermath. Even now, over 150 years later, the enormity of it lingers and is evidenced by more than just the slew of signs, headstones and memorials. It permeates the entire town of Bentonville and possibly the remainder of Johnston County.
I was able to knock out 20 miles at my steady but slow pace and listened to Jennifer Pharr Davis read her book about people much more gifted than me and how they overcame physical adversity. Dean bounced in and out of view as I think he was even more excited about seeing something new than I was. I had to remind him that I’d probably need a ride home at the end of the day.
Edges of the battlefield, war hospitals and civil war era stomping grounds lingered for miles. Signs would pop up every so often describing what had happened there several generations ago. It slowly faded away as I saw more hills, and less sand. Almost immediately it seems like I found the piedmont of North Carolina.
I think I’m right – I should cross the Neuse River tomorrow and hopefully will find and actual dirt trail! My feet can’t wait.
Pay attention. You’ll still screw up, but when you do, you’ll know who’s going to say “I told you so”.
Keep moving forward.