I know how hard it is to get young kids out of the house to go somewhere - even quick outings require you to pack enough snacks, diapers, and toys to make you think you’ll be gone for a week. And who wants to wrestle kids in and out of carseats just to find out that your destination isn’t kid-friendly? That’s why I’ve decided to visit Triangle area sites to see if they’re worth your trip. I won’t use a rating system but I’ll try to describe what you’ll see well enough for you to decide if your kids would find it interesting. I’ll also give you the heads up on bathrooms, stroller accessibility and any other SNAFUs I encounter.


Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site - Four Oaks

Visitor's Center

Bentonville Website

       This bloody battle, which has been somewhat eclipsed by the ensuing surrender at Bennett Place,  now consists of a Visitor's Center, the Harper House, and a driving tour of the battlefield.

      The small Visitor's Center contains period firearms and munitions as well as other artifacts from soldiers. The placards around the room are text heavy and if you have small children like I do you probably won't be able to read all of them. There is a short orientation film that the tour guide on duty can start for you at any time. The film begins with the mounting tension that caused the War and progresses through the War's significant events. We weren't able to see the whole film because my toddler was surprisingly not in the mood to watch a movie. There is also a small gift shop in the Center with the expected Civil War paraphernalia - flags, currency, toy guns. My toddler had a great time marching around waving the small flags. The highlight of the Visitor's Center is the audio-visual map that details the progression of the battle via moving colored lights and narration. 

      Restrooms are located in a separate building behind the Visitor's Center and to the right. A picnic shelter is also located next to the restrooms.

Harper House

      The Harper House is a very short walk to the left of the Visitor's Center. Only ten years old at the time, the house served as a makeshift hospital for Union and Confederate wounded. The Harper Family was forced to move to the upstairs so that the downstairs could be used to treat the wounded. The House is setup much the way it would have looked at the time of the battle. The rooms downstairs are arrayed with makeshift operating tables and blood stained bandages strewn helter-skelter as if the House's occupants had just fled. The upstairs features a cramped living room and bedroom to illustrate the tight living space that the family endured during the House's occupation as a hospital.

     Behind the House is the kitchen building which is from the period but originally resided on a neighboring home site. The inside is sparsely decorated with a loom and a few other household tools.

     Built in a similar manner to the kitchen and very near it is the slave's cabin (the Harper family had three slaves). This building was also moved from the same site as the kitchen. The cabin's interior features a table and two beds - one of which is one half of a bunk bed set.

      I was pleasantly surprised with how well my toddler behaved during the tour of the House and outbuildings. Perhaps he was tired, but he stayed in my arms or held my hand during the tour. Maybe my little man is growing up, or this could have been a fluke.

     The driving tour of the battlefield is well marked and pleasant. You need to keep a lookout for the gray square markers that usually sit on the right side of the road - occasionally they can sneak up on you. For most of the markers there is no shoulder to pull onto so I guess locals have gotten used to drivers stopping along the road to read. There are four stops a long the tour that offer driveways where you can pull off the road. There are a couple of places where you can get out of your car and hike to see remaining earthworks, but my preschooler was too tired to do it. If you begin the driving tour at the Visitor's Center you will see the Confederate cemetery across the road. My preschooler may share her father's fascination with historic cemeteries because throughout the rest of the tour she made me promise to tell her if I saw any more graves.

     We made this trip on a day when the heat wasn't as toxic, so standing outside to visit the outbuildings wasn't so uncomfortable. There isn't a lot of walking required at this site - unless you want to see earthworks - so it's good for young children who can't trek long distances. The House tour was quick - probably because the guide figured my young ones wouldn't stay focused for very long. Overall, this wasn't the most kid-friendly site I've taken my kids but it wasn't the least kid-friendly site either. If you have a passionate interest in Civil War sites then I would highly recommend Bentonville.

No comments:

Post a Comment