I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Fort Lee. When I was desperate to leave teaching and sloshing my way towards high-functioning alcoholism, Ft. Lee was my first step towards redemption. It was the place that restored my faith in my own abilities. Coming back to this place is a little like coming home to mama. It is one of those little pieces of geography that gives me a warm fuzzy. I am a firm believer that there are certain places, geographic locations that have a huge impact on who we become as people. I’m not going so far as arguing that geography makes the man (although there are some interesting theories floating around), just that it has an influence.
I’m sitting here 1000 yards from where Grant broke the rebel line at Petersburg in the last great battle of our Civil Way. After Petersburg, the worst of the conflict was over, though peace would come only after the fall of Richmond and the long march to Appomattox. After Petersburg, normal was still a long way off. There remained the struggle of national Reconstruction and decades of Jim Crowe. The Republic had endured the dark threat of disunion and although Gettysburg is remembered as the battle that turned the tide, it was Petersburg that finally broke the back of the rebellion. This is where the process of restoring faith in the Union began in earnest.
In so many ways, Petersburg did the same thing for me. There’s something about the symmetry that I like.