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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Connection with Battleship

As I have mentioned previously, my choice to read and review Battleship by Dorothy Ours was based on a personal connection to this horse’s story. I wanted to share this story with you all.

When I went to Virginia last summer my favorite place that we visited was Montpelier, the home of James and Dolley Madison. Before arriving at the visitor’s center, I had no idea that another family had lived there following the Madison’s before it was given to the historical society – never mind that it was the well-known DuPont family. Even if I had known that the DuPont’s had lived there, I would never have made a connection with horse racing. So you might be able to imagine my confusion when we were driving up the long driveway and were passing a horse racetrack off to the right hand side – I remember asking, “I wonder what that is for?”.

Starting gate of the racecourse
Photo Credits: Heather Rieseck, 2012

During my walk around the grounds I did a little “off-the-map” exploring. We were standing at the stone temple area and as I looked off to the side I saw a series of three gravestones. Since I knew the family cemetery and the slave cemetery were at the other end of the property (which were marked on the map), I couldn’t imagine what they would be for. When I arrived I noticed that the names were Annapolis, Battleship, and a third whose name I cannot remember. Eventually I put together the racetrack, DuPont’s ownership of horses, and the gravesites together to realize that these were where some of their favorite/prize winning horses were buried.

gravestones horses
Battleship’s gravestone is the one in the middle.  At the time, the horse cemetery didn’t mean anything to me, so I didn’t take any better pictures.
Photo Credits: Heather Rieseck, 2012

While reading, Battleship, the following two passages really brought me back to my experience at Montpelier and the author really got the description right:

“She would move Battleship and Annapolis to one side of Montpelier’s front lawn, about half a furlong from the house. Battleship was laid to rest on a path of particular honor, set along a straight line to James Madison’s meditation temple and Montpelier’s front door.” (Kindle location 4432-34)

“She had the letters and numbers on Battleship’s simple headstone carved deeply enough to last a thousand years.” (Kindle location 4434).

Now I have one more connection to my fabulous Virginia trip!

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