This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Boston and New York City with my brother and grandmother. As a history major, I couldn’t think of a more perfect vacation, and I wanted to share some of my discoveries with y’all.
- There are pickup trucks in the Northeast.
This was a huge shock for me. I thought that trucks were just a southern thing. But, no, I was wrong. The Yanks have ‘em too.
- The Empire State Building is crowded 24/7.
I am not okay with being stuffed into an elevator with 50 of my newest friends. I’m small and easily crushed, thank you very much. But, not gonna lie, the view is spectacular.
- If you have a chance, get a local to show you around.
My great aunt and uncle live in Boston, and my uncle took it upon himself to be our personal tour guide. It was great because he knew our interests, so he catered to them. He showed us MIT and Harvard, and introduced us to the GREATEST hot cocoa shop in Cambridge. I was basically drinking melted chocolate. 10/10 would recommend.
- If you didn’t try street vendor food in NYC, did you actually go?
There’s a cart selling hot dogs, or pretzels, or gyros every 50 feet.
- Stop and look at the street art. Buy one that strikes your fancy.
My sister really encouraged me to do this. She gets a small picture wherever she travels. I got a painting of Literary Walk in Central Park, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s my favorite piece of décor in my room.
- Do a day trip out of the city.
My great grandfather graduated from West Point, and my grandmother had always wanted to see her father’s alma mater. It’s a little intimidating at first. Because it’s a military base, as well as a university, we had to go through security checkpoints.
A little background on West Point. It’s located in a little town about an hour and a half away from NYC. Situated on a hill above the Hudson River, George Washington chose it for its impregnable position. The Continental Army occupied it on January 27, 1778. Since that day, West Point has always had military personnel present, making it the oldest American military post. One of its claims to fame is the Hudson River Chain. The Hudson River was vital to the war effort; whoever controlled the river controlled the war. Both the British and Americans knew this. So, Washington concocted a little plan. Two iron posts were constructed on both banks of the river. Then, a giant iron chain could be attached to the posts. Should a British ship sail through the chain, it would have its hull ripped in two (remember, all ships were constructed out of wood). The chain threw a huge wrench into the British army’s plan. The chain prevented them from sailing upriver.
Pieces of the chain survive to this day, and one link on the chain is 2 feet in length, weighing 114 pounds. That’s just one link! In total, it was 600 yards long.
Maybe you’ve heard of Benedict Arnold? Yup, he has to do with West Point too. Washington held routine checkups at the base, just to make sure that everything was running smoothly. Arnold was commander of West Point in 1780. He was upset at Washington; he felt like the general didn’t appreciate him enough. So, he sold the plans of the base to the British, and tipped them off that Washington was going to be in town soon for one of his inspections. Unfortunately for Arnold, the spy to whom he sold the plans to was captured and eventually hung for treason. Arnold, once he learned the spy was compromised, fled to the British side.
- Don’t be afraid to stop and take it all in.
There were a lot of stops in our trip that I just couldn’t believe. While in Boston, we followed the Freedom Trail, which is a red line running through Boston, connecting all the various Revolutionary War landmarks, like the Green Dragon Tavern, where the Sons of Liberty met, or the Old North Church, where the lanterns were hung to warn revolutionaries about the approaching British.
One of the stops was the U.S.S Constitution. Built in 1794 and launched in 1797, the Constitution’s nickname was “Old Ironsides”. During this time period, all ships were built out of wood. But America had a secret ingredient to their ships. Oak. If you don’t know, oak is super tough, and the only place to get it at the time was in Georgia. It’s reported that during a skirmish with the British navy in the War of 1812, cannonballs seemed to bounce off the Constitution’s sides. She was retired in 1881, and in 1907 became a museum.
I was able to walk on the Constitution’s deck. I got to go into the hull of the ship and touch some of the original cannons. I was touching history, and I had a minor freak out. At West Point, I was rendered utterly speechless over the fact that I was walking where George Washington walked. I won’t tell you about Paul Revere’s house. I’m a little embarrassed about that. Long story short, I had a fangirl moment, and I apologize to everyone in a 50-yard radius.
All joking aside, I hope this post has instilled in you the desire to go. To submerge yourself in history. To spend the day reliving someone’s steps. To see things from their perspective. Would you have done the same thing if it had been you? Would you have been loyal to the king, or to your fellow colonists? Would you have ridden to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock about the approaching British, or would you have traded your commander for your own pride?
Being able to see the things that they saw, to walk where they walked, helps answer these questions, at least for me. It’s important for us to remember where we came from, and maybe looking to the past will help us figure out the future.
Photos: Jess Lucas
History: The amazing tour guides at West Point and the U.S.S. Constitution