In 7th grade, maybe 8th, I was assigned a report on Benjamin Franklin. I don't remember much about the report itself, only that I went wild in my research. It started out with a collection of small books from the library (yes, we actually used books as references, I'm ancient). These books were more than enough to fulfill the assignment, and I tore through them rapidly. Wanting to find out more, I checked out the fattest Benjamin Franklin book I could find and read that too--cover to cover. He was a fascinating dude and I was genuinely interested in learning as much as I could.
As I've grown older, I don't dive that wholly into new subjects or ideas as often as I'd like. Part of it is an issue of time. After sharpening skills required for my profession, nurturing my relationships, investing in my health, and doing etc...there's not much time left in the day for exploring new topics that pique my interest.
I'm always excited when I can explore a new topic while on vacation, as that's when all the other demands for my time lighten up. Plus, sometimes your vacation destination itself invites immersing yourself in a new subject or idea. Last year, on a trip to Washington DC, for example, Chase and I went to both Smithsonian Air and Space museums (the one downtown and the one out in Chantilly), he gave me a crash course in aerodynamics.
On a weekend trip to Boston last fall, we did much the same thing. Of course, our primary motivation for the trip was to see our friends that live there, but they were excited to take us out and showcase their new city. One day, we walked the Freedom Trail and learned a little bit more about the leaders that shaped our nation.
One of the highlights from the Freedom Trail was seeing good ol' Iron Sides. You remember ol'Iron Sides, right? From your history books? First launched in 1797, it is one of the original 6 frigates of the US Navy. The nickname didn't come until the War of 1812, during a battle with a British warship, Guerriere. During that battle, the Guerriere shot 18 lb iron cannons into the USS Constitution, but they just seemed to bounce off of the oak and copper hull of the USS Constitution. One British soldier allegedly called out: "Huzza! Her sides are made of iron!" which gave birth to the nickname.
Our timing could have not been more perfect--from 2015 - 2017, the USS Constitution is being dry docked for another large-scale restoration. We got to see right before that happened! With the ship in the water and a crisp fall day as a backdrop, I felt like we were back in 1797, seeing the ship launched in all of its glory.
Although it is not officially part of the Freedom Trail, another highlight for us was seeing the USS Cassin Young, which is an example of the destroyers that were built at the Charleston Navy Yard in the early 1940s.
These ships are clearly machines of war. On board are torpedoes and several types of artillery that I couldn't identify but I'm sure have menacing names. The USS Cassin Young fought in the Pacific campaign of World War II, rescuing men from sinking aircraft carriers in the Philippines and shooting down kamikaze planes off Okinawa. The heroic track record of the destroyer mirrors the heroism of its namesake, Cassin Young. Cassin Young received the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery earlier in the war, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in fact. Serving on one of these ships in World War II must have been high on fear and low on personal space; it makes me admire the bravery and respect the sacrifice of our Navy.
As for the rest of the trail, we felt a part of history walking by Paul Revere's house, the Old Church ("one if by land, two if by sea"), and the Bunker Hill Monument, to name a few.
I thoroughly enjoyed exploring US history with our friends while crossing off another state in the mission to visit all 50. I have no doubt that we will be back to Boston. After all of my junior high research on Benjamin Franklin, we didn't have much time to dedicate to "his" sites. For shame. Next time!