Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Visit to Woodstock and West Point

We spent four days in the Catskills of New York and are already putting it on our must return to list. There is just too much to do for a short visit.  The first two places we visited could not be more of a contrast; Bethel, the site of the 1969 Woodstock music festival and West Point, the United States Military Academy.
The Museum at Bethel Woods, on the grounds where the festival was held, has exhibits about the 60's ending with a large section about the music festival.  For people like us who grew up during that time it was a walk down memory lane.
There are several exhibits about the civil rights movement, music, styles and the Vietnam War and how they all combined to change America.  This display of transistor radios, which allowed people to carry music with them for the first time, really hit home with me.  I remember when I got my first one for Christmas and immediately being able to go outside and listen to music on a radio that was not plugged in.  Boy was I cool:)    
The psychedelic style and music where a big part of my life.  I remember seeing Santana and Melanie, who where both at Woodstock, at the Fillmore in San Francisco.  Still my biggest musical regret is getting out of a very long line at Fillmore and miss seeing Janice Joplin.
The Magic Bus became a symbol of the times as hippies traveled around the country.  Many people came to Woodstock in one of these.
The displays has all 32 acts that preformed and the songs they played for their set.  Because of the rainy weather and the logistics of getting the bands to the site the schedule got very far behind.  The Who ended up playing their 23 song set starting at 3 AM and the Jefferson Airplane, the final Saturday act, played at dawn on Sunday.
Of course the exhibits about the war also talked about the peace movement.  As someone who was on both sides, army draftee followed by protester to bring the troops home, it was very enlightening.
Clothes and guitar used by Richie Havens who was the first act.  He played for three hours because the next act was stuck in traffic.  The display includes a ticket, $8.00, for each day.  Since they were expecting 50,000 and 400,000 showed up (most without tickets) the concert became a free event.
We picked a great time to be there.  This was the crowd for the short movie about the music and the musicians.

The event was held on Max Yasgur's farm and his quote sums up the whole weekend.  While we did not attend Woodstock, we were busy planning our wedding, we have seen the movie and some of the acts, Jimi Hendrix, Canned Heat and Richie Havens, live. 
This is the site where the concert was held.  The stage was at the bottom on the left and the people filled the bowl around it.  If you grew up in the 60's as a lover of rock and roll a stop at Bethel, New York needs to be added to your to do list.
The next day we went to West Point for a tour.  Once again our timing was great.  This is the only other person on our 45 passenger tour bus.  Teri is a track coach at Penn State who coached Laila Brock who went to school in WashPA.  Small world. 
Cadet Chapel is one of seven for various denominations at West Point.  Until 1973 all cadets were required to attend Sunday services here regardless of their faith.  The chapel which was dedicated in 1910 has the worlds largest church pipe organ.  It sure would be great to hear that organ some time. 
The chapel is built in the Gothic style with high vaulted ceilings and arches supporting the walls.  In typical military fashion even the hymnals and bibles are arranged in the right left right order.  
The statue of Washington and the hall that bares his name.  The hall is the cafeteria where the more than 4000 cadets eat their meals.  The buildings on each side of the hall are dorms (barracks).  A new dorm is being built to accommodate increasing enrollment.
Homes of the superintendent and commandant (now occupied by a woman for the first time) overlook The Plain where all cadets assembly each day.  Admission to the academy is by Congressional or legacy appointment.  After graduation officers must serve five years of active and three years of reserve duty.
Thirteen links of the chain that was used to block the British from moving on the Hudson during the Revolutionary War represent the original 13 states.  The chain is part of Trophy Point where cannons captured from enemies during the first 100 years of the academy are displayed.
West Point was a army post located at the narrowest point on the Hudson River, a strategic spot during the war.  In 1801 it became the first military academy in the new United States.  It is one of the most beautiful views in the Hudson River Valley.
The Battle Monument is dedicated to the 2,230 Regular Army officers and soldiers who died supporting the Union during the Civil War.  The names are inscribed on eight bronze straps flanked by cannons with the name of the battle where they died.  The torches around the bottom of the column and the cannons in the ground around the monument are upside down as symbols that academy grads will never fight against each other again.  Grant and Lee were both West Point grads. 
The Sedgwick Monument honors Union General John Sedgwick who was killed at Spotsylvania Court House.  The statue was cast with the metal of a cannon he had captured in an earlier battle.  Academy legend holds that if a cadet is academically deficient they should sneak out before midnight in full dress uniform and spin Sedgwick's spur and they will pass the test.
The West Point Museum has a collection of over 60,000 Army historical artifacts.  It is interesting that the uniforms have changed very little over the years.
Sylvanus Thayer is know as the Father of West Point.  He was a graduate of Dartmouth in 1807 and West Point in 1808 after only one year.  He was an early superintendent who advocated for the academy to be a four year program and an engineering school. He created many academy traditions.
One thing I found interesting is the tradition of grads tossing their hats in the air.  I have always wondered how they find their hats after the ceremony.  The answer is simple, they don't.  They don't need them because they are done with the white cadet hat and now get the blue Army officer hat.  The hats are left on The Plain for visiting children to pick up.  The cadets often leave something special tucked inside for the lucky child that scores a hat.
Some of the trophies taken in later wars.  There is also an interesting exhibit of changing military strategies throughout history. 
The Above and Beyond the Call of Duty exhibit honors those West Point grads who have received the highest military honor in the United States, the Medal of Honor.
This artifact is the last dispatch sent by Gen. George Custer before the Battle of the Little Big Horn where he and all his troops were killed.  Custer's troop had already been cut off from the other troops when the order was received so it was never carried out.  
This is Custer's grave in the West Point Cemetery.
The fenced grave of General Winfield Scott.  The stone on the left marks the grave of John S. D. Eisenhower, the son of Ike and the father of David who is married to Julie Nixon.  John is buried in this spot because he also wrote a biography on Scott.
The real reason I wanted to come to West Point was to find the grave of John Caldwell Tidball whose biography, No Disgrace to My Country, spiked my interest in the Tidball family tree.  I have an extract of the Tidball genealogy John prepared between 1885 and 1899 that documents my branch of the family.  There are eight Tidball relatives of John buried in the West Point Cemetery.
John was a grad of the Class of 1848, an artillery officer during the Civil War and wrote the Army manual on heavy artillery after the war. Some sources give him credit for being the first officer to have Taps played at the funeral of a fallen soldier.  He also served as commandant of West Point for a number of years.  All this during a forty year military career.  He has been honored with Tidball Trail on the Antietam Battlefield that we have visited and Fort Tidball on Kodiak Island in Alaska was named for him.
 Me getting a rubbing of John's tombstone.  While I do not have a big interest in genealogy, finding all this information about John who was born in Washington County where I lived for most of my life and following his life as we have traveled around the U.S. has been very neat.   

Woodstock and West Point sure are different, but both are worth a visit if you are in this part of New York.  We also tour the home of Franklin Roosevelt in Hyde Park during this stay.  Blog post of that visit to follow.


heyduke50 said...

yep, quite the contrast for spots to visit!

heyduke50 said...

yep, quite the contrast for spots to visit!!!

Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

Wow what a great post!