Sunrise over Gettysburg.

I’m back from another great weekend excursion that took me to the rolling hills of Virginia and included my two favorite things: Horses and History.

On Saturday at a little before 6 a.m., I headed South, but slammed on my breaks and took this picture on my way out of Gettysburg.

When I looked to my left and saw the sun coming up, it made me realize how much we take for granted. I’m glad I had time to appreciate this beautiful view of the sun coming up beside Big Round Top!

As you can see, there was a mist rising from the low spots of the landscape, making it look especially tranquil. It was taken on Bullfrog Road looking east.

Breakfast for Ripple.

When I pulled into the long driveway of Hunter’s Rest Farm in Flint Hill, Va., the first thing that greeted my eyes was a foal that had been born just five hours earlier.

What a little sweetheart! It’s just amazing to watch a horse that young grow accustomed to its long legs. Of course, when turned out in the pasture, this one went for a large rock and climbed on top of it. It had acres and acres of grass, and decided to explore the footing on top of a rock!

While the owner was busy with the vet, I groomed the horse I was going to ride and saddled him up for a trail ride with the local hunt club.

Fox hunting is still very big in this part of Virginia. Everyone owns horses, and everyone is doing something with their horses every weekend, whether it’s polo, trail riding, showing, eventing, fox hunting or steeplechasing.


My horse’s name was Brook, a retired police horse that was an absolute delight to ride. During the ride, we forded the Jordan River about five times, rode up and down hills, across fields, over fallen trees, and saw some of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.

One of the paths was called “Mountain Laurel Trail” and was bursting with Mountain Laurel and wild Azaleas which were in full bloom.

After the ride,we had a great lunch, and then I helped load a horse that did not like the idea of getting on the trailer to go home. With a little bit of persuasion she decided she did want to go home, and walked right on.

Brandy Station Battlefield.

On Sunday, we loaded up the horses and drove to the Brandy Station Battlefield near Culpeper, the site of the largest cavalry battle during the Civil War.

The ride benefited a local animal rescue organization, which made it even more appealing. (People for Pets).

For a little background on the battle, at first light on June 9, 1863, roughly 8,000 Union cavalrymen crossed the Rappahannock River and attacked a like number of Confederate cavalry under the command of Major General Jeb Stuart. This battle was to become the opening battle of the Gettysburg Campaign and the largest cavalry battle of the Civil War.

Brandy Station Battlefield.

Today, much of the ground that was fought upon on June 9, 1863, is owned by the Civil War Trust and the Brandy Station Foundation, and is open to the public.

These photos were taken on a hill that overlooks an area that was scheduled to become a Formula 1 racetrack until the Civil War Trust stepped in and bought the property.

It’s hard for me to imagine a few hundred horses in a battle, let alone almost 20,000! The scenery on the battlefield is beautiful and peaceful, which makes it even harder to imagine a battle raging there.

View from the kitchen window
of Hunter’s Rest B&B.

On the way home, I just happened to hit an antique fair going on in Lucketts, Va. Wish I had had time to shop a little more, but I was tired! It was a great weekend and one I’ll always remember.

Now it’s back to work! I have three book signings coming up. One this Saturday May 26, at the National Park Service Museum Bookstore in Gettysburg; one at the Civil War Museum Gift Shop on Steinwehr Avenue in Gettysburg on June 8; and one at the antique shop 17 on the Square on June 15.

Stop by and say hello!

Jessica James


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