Fortifications of Québec National Historic Site, Canada

The French began fortifying the western approaches to Québec in the seventeenth century. By the time of the last French and Indian War in the middle of the eighteenth century, they had completed the western wall, leaving natural barriers (escarpments and the St. Charles and St. Lawrence Rivers) to protect the rest of the town’s perimeter. The wall was, however, considered inadequate by most French officers, and Montcalm’s strategy during the siege of the town in 1759 was to keep tQuebeche British army well away from approaching the town by land. British General James Wolfe’s surprise landing at the Anse au Foulon and his appearance on the Plains of Abraham just outside the wall disrupted this strategy, and after Montcalm’s death in the ensuing battle, the town quickly surrendered rather than attempting to withstand a siege behind the walls. During the next few deacdes, the British improved the French walls and expanded the fortifications around the rest of the Upper Town on top of Québec’ famous escarpment. Québec is now the only remaining fortified city in North America, and the walls around its old city certainly contribute to the charm which has led to its designation as a World Heritage City. The Fortifications of Québec National Historic Site preserves the city’s fortifications. For those who are interested in the history and the engineering of fortifications in the early modern era, a walk around the wall at Québec is one of the great treats in North America. Even those who do not share such arcance interests will appreciate wall’s aesthetic contribution to one of the finest city’s in the world.

Location and Directions

Links: Fortifications of Quebec National Historic Site Parks Canada

History of Canada: Fortifications of Quebec


William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak, Mississippi

Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s beloved antebellum home and refuge, attracts enthusiasts from around the world. He purchased the home in 1930 and named it “Rowan Oak” after Scottish lore that promised good fortune to homeowners who displayed a rowan oak branch on their door. A major figure in American literature, William Faulkner (1897-1962) was inspired by his Oxford surroundings when he created the fictional characters of his Yoknapatawpha County. For his accumulated work he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1950 and the Pulitzer Price in 1955 and posthumously in 1963. Today, Rowan Oak is owned by the University of Mississippi and open to visitors.

Location and Directions

Links: Rowan Oak

Aztalan State Park, Wisconsin

Aztalan is a prehistoric Native American archaeological site that is incorporated into Aztalan State Park located in southeastern Wisconsin. Archaeological evidence indicates that this was a stockaded village site, occupied between 1100-1300 AD. It is the largest site of its kind in Wisconsin, and is considered to be the northernmost extension of the Middle Mississippian culture group. In other words, attributes of this site were influenced by or similar to a group of prehistoric Native American sites located south of here in an area that covers the central Mississippi River Valley, the lower Ohio River Valley, and most of the Mid-South area, including western and central Kentucky, western Tennessee, and northern Alabama and Mississippi. These sites share many culture attributes including large ceremonial mounds, residential complexes that are sometimes enclosed by stockades or ramparts, extensive trade networks and advanced agricultural practices. The two major Middle Mississippian sites are Cahokia in Illinois and Moundville in Alabama.

Since Azatlan’s discovery in 1836, there has been intermittent archaeological activity, with the most important excavation in 1919. After the site became a state park in 1948, efforts were made to reconstruct parts of the ancient village. Today, visitors may tour this National Historic Landmark site and explore its partially restored stockade enclosure and famous mounds. Aztalan is open daily, April through October.

Tippecanoe Battlefield Grounds and Museum, Indiana

The Battle of Tippecanoe made William Henry Harrison president almost 30 years later (“Tippecanoe and Tyler too”). At the time of the battle in 1811, Harrison was governor of the Indiana Territory. The battle was his showdown with the Native American followers of the Shawnee leader, Tecumseh, and his brother, Tenskwatawa, also known as the Prophet. Tecumseh and the Prophet proclaimed an alliance across all the Native American tribes to renew their way of life and to drive the Europeans from their lands. In May 1808, the brothers settled at the junction of the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers, founding a village that became known as “Prophet’s Town.” From there they hoped to organize their Indian confederacy. As the following of Tecumseh and the Prophet grew, Harrison organized a small army to march on the village. He had the good fortune of being able to force the confrontation while Tecumseh was away recruiting new supporters and thus unable to curb his brother’s rashness. When Harrison’s army camped near the town, the Prophet ordered an attack at dawn. Harrison, however, had posted sentinels to give the alert, and the Indian attack was broken. The prophet was discredited, and Tecumseh drifted into an alliance with the British against the Americans in the War of 1812. He was killed in 1813 at the Battle of the Thames in Ontario, where Harrison again commanded the America forces. The Tippecanoe County Historical Association maintains the battlefield grounds and museum today.

Location and Directions

Links: Tippecanoe Battlefield Museum

Port Hudson State Historic Site, Louisiana

Port Hudson was a crucial site in the struggle for control of the Mississippi River during the Civil War. After New Orleans fell to the Federals in late April 1862, the Confederate army needed river batteries below the mouth of the Red River to supplement its fortifications on the river bluffs at Vicksburg, Mississippi. The bluffs near the small town of Port Hudson were the perfect site for the river batteries. Batteries were constructed along the bluffs in 1862, along with a 4 and 1/2 mile line of earthworks to protect the approaches by land. Taking the Port Hudson batteries, of course, soon became a key Union military objective in the West. The Union siege of Port Hudson began on May 23, 1863 with about 30,000 Union troops under the command of Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, against 6,800 Confederates under the command of Major General Franklin Gardner. Port Hudson surrendered on July 9, 1863, after 48 days of siege and thousands of casualties. The state historic site at Port Hudson now includes the northern portion of the battlefield and features an elevated boardwalk over the breastworks. The park also has three observation towers, six miles of trails, and a museum.

Location and Directions

Links: Port Hudson State Historic Site


B & O Railroad Museum, Baltimore

Take our word for it: the B & O Railroad Museum is one of the most interesting museums you will ever visit. The museum is located in the Mt. Clare neighborhood of Baltimore, where America’s railroad history began. It was at Mt. Clare that the first mile of long distance rail was laid. From there, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad would extend west to the first station stop at Ellicott’s Mills (itself now the site of a fine little railroad museum), and across the Appalachian Mountains, into the Ohio River Valley. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad built the first major railroad yard at Mt. Clare, including the spectacular Roundhouse, which now holds the heart of the museum’s collection, consisting of historic steam diesel, and electric locomotives, as well as rare 19th and 20th century passenger and freight equipment. The museum’s wonderful collection of artifactsB and O Railroad includes textiles, lanterns, dining car china, silver, as well as communication devices, signals, and shop equipment. Also on display are hundreds of models ranging from early patent and prototype models to modern commercial model railroad kits. The museum includes the Hays T. Watkins Research Library, whose holdings include B&O Railroad business records, manuscript collections, maps, mechanical and engineering drawings, trade catalogues, periodicals, microforms, paper ephemera, as well as video tapes and motion picture films. Plan to take your time here, folks. And if you’re a railroad buff, we have to warn you that your loved ones may have trouble tearing you away. For a great day (or better, two days) of railroad history immersion, combine a visit to the B&O Railroad Museum with a trip to the Ellicott City B&O Railroad Station Museum in the nearby suburb of Ellicott City. Also, be sure to consult our information on the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

Location and Directions

Links B & O Railroad Museum

Edison National Historic Site, New Jersey

The name Thomas Alva Edison is practically synonomous with “inventor.” For forty years, Edison worked in a laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey, where he and his research colleagues created the motion picture camera, vastly improved phonographs, sound recordings, silent and sound movies and the nickel-iron alkaline electric storage battery. Edison National Historic Site Edison’s research laboratory and his home, Glenmont. Among many other attractions, the site now features an exciting new audio preservation studio that will make it possible to transfer many of rarest and fragile historic sound recordings at the Edison laboratory from their original formats to a modern, archival-quality audio format.

Location and Directions

Links Edison National Historic Site

Lewis and Clark State Memorial, Camp Dubois, Illinois

2013-04-29_11-47-55_959Arriving in St. Louis in December, 1803, Lewis and Clark were busily engaged in acquiring the final supplies needed for the voyage. It was their intention to make a winter camp at La Charrette, on the Missouri. The local Spanish authority, however, would not allow them to enter the Louisiana territory as he had not yet received official documents transferring title of the territory. The Captains were therefore forced to make camp on the east side of the Mississippi River, at the mouth of the Wood River. This camp was named Camp Dubois, and is also known as Camp Wood. The expedition spent the winter months training, preparing for the journey and running afoul of the Captains, as discipline during the first winter was lacking. The actual campsite has been destroyed by river channel migration. A monument to the camp is located in Lewis and Clark State Memorial Park.

Location and Directions

Links: Lewis and Clark State Memorial, Camp Dubois, Illinois

Jamestown Colonial National Historical Park, Virginia

Jamestown, the site of the first permanent English colony in America, celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2007. The colony’s mere survival in its first years was a near-run thing: drought, disease, poor organization, and the hostility of the local Native Americans nearly brought Jamestown to the same fate as its short-lived predecessor at Roanoke. But mere survival was enough, and Virginia has been the fulcrum of American history ever since. Thomas Jefferson learned the philosophy that animated the Declaration of Independence at the College of William and Mary in nearby Williamsburg, and George Washington secured that independence across the peninsula at Yorktown. Jamestown settlers also bought “20 and odd Negroes” from a Dutch ship in 1619, and their Confederate descendants erected fortifications on the site of the old settlement during the Peninsula Campaign in 1862. Changes to the landscape and the shoreline had long made the exact site of the Jamestown settlement uncertain, but four recent seasons of excavation have uncovered 170 feet of palisade line, the east bulwark, three large trash pits, and a building, all part of the original James Fort. Currently three institutions interpret Jamestown: the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, the National Park Service, and Jamestown Settlement. Check the Web site above for activities related to the newest archaeological discoveries.

Location Information and Directions


Jamestown Colonial National Historical Park
Jamestown Settlement

Fort Ticonderoga, New York

The French hurriedly built the fort at Ticonderoga at the beginning of the last French and Indian War in 1755 at the portage between Lake George and Lake Champlain. The fort, which they called Carillon, was originally constructed of earthen ramparts with log facings. The timber was gradually replaced by stone. Despite withstanding the rash attack by James Abercromby in 1758 (Ambercromby ordered a frontal assault againstFt Ticonderoga well-entrenched positions in front of the fort without waiting for his artillery to be brought forward), the French were forced to abandon the fort in 1759. The British garrisoned it until after the American revolution, and it fell into ruins thereafter. The fort was grandly reconstructed in 1908, and has been maintained by a private, not-for-profit educational institution since 1909. There is a fine museum (and an excellent bookstore) in the site. In addition to its historical interest, Ticonderoga enjoys a picturesque setting above the lower end of Lake Champlain.

Location Information and Directions


Links: Fort Ticonderoga