Sweet Virginia - Saving Our Nation More than Once
Ahh, Virginia. Where British Colonialism began, and where it ended. Not to mention where the United States was saved from itself in 1865.
Appomattox Court House National Historic Park
That's the McLean House in Appomattox Court House, Virginia. So, why is the McLean house important?
Early that morning, Confederate forces formed a line of battle at Appomattox Court House. Lee was determined to make one last attempt to escape the closing Union pincers and reach his supplies at Lynchburg. At dawn, the Confederates advanced, initially gaining ground against General Philip Sheridan’s cavalry. The arrival of Union infantry, however, stopped the advance in its tracks. The Confederate army was now surrounded on three sides. Union General Grant had checkmate, and Lee surrendered. It was the last battle in Virginia and the end of the American Civil War.
This was a humbling visit to Appomattox Court House National Historic Park. The park features a museum and several other buildings, that you can enter on your walking tour.
Not all the buildings are original, as some have been reconstructed.
But there are several original's, like the Clover Hill Tavern which dates back to 1819.
Meeks Mercantile dates back to 1852 and was a fun place to go inside. For a list of the 'original buildings' still standing, see the National Parks Service website here.
This is a beautiful area, and well worth an educational visit to walk around historic Appomattox Court House. You'll find many historical markers in and around the park.
While stopping to take a picture of these cannon wagons on the way out, we found a historical marker totally unrelated to War.
Did you know the Banjo has its roots in West Africa? The forerunner to the Banjo, made by free and enslaved Africans, captured the attention of Joel Walker Sweeney, a local white musician, who was taught by nearby black residents, and in turn, brought international fame to the Banjo and Sweeney. African American banjoists in Virginia shaped the diverse world of American Music, as the banjo became a mainstay of pop culture by the end of the 1800s.
For more information on the historic park, see the National Park Service Website for Appomattox Court House.
Begin your learning experience about America's darkest time on our Civil War main page.
Williamsburg, VA - Governors PalaceThe capitol building at Colonial Williamsburg, the world's largest living-history museum, in Williamsburg, Virginia. It housed the House of Burgesses from 1705, when the government of Britain’s Virginia Colony was relocated there from Jamestown, until 1779, when Richmond became the capital. Colonial Williamsburg is the world's largest living-history museum, boasting more than 600 buildings (88 of them original 18th-Century), more than 40 demonstration sites and trades, four historic taverns, and two art museums.
Serving as Virginia’s capital from 1699 to 1780, Williamsburg was the center of government, education, and culture, where important figures such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, James Monroe, James Madison, George Wythe, Peyton Randolph, and others worked first for the British government and later to form the new United States.
Today, Colonial Williamsburg is a living history museum that comprises the Williamsburg, Virginia Historic District.
Williamsburg, VA - Tailor ShopMaster tailor Mark Hutter (left) and apprentice Tim Logue demonstrate their craft in the Tailor Shop at Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia. They are costumed but are not actors, but rather skilled tradesmen who explain their period craft to visitors. Colonial Williamsburg is the world's largest living-history museum, boasting more than 600 buildings (88 of them original 18th-Century) and more than 40 trades and demonstration sites.
The 301-acre Historic Area includes buildings from the 17th through the 19th century and re-created buildings related to its colonial and American Revolutionary War history. It is one of the most ambitious restoration projects in the country.
Williamsburg, VA - Peyton Randolph HouseThe Peyton Randolph House at Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia. Built in 1715, the house was restored by Colonial Williamsburg over three years, ending in 1940. The living-history museum is the world's largest, boasting 200 buildings (88 of them original 18th-Century), more than 40 demonstration sites and trades, four historic taverns, and two art museums.
The Williamsburg Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark District on October 9, 1960, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.
Williamsburg-Jamestown, VA - Colonial Parkway
Today it is Virginia's busiest tourist attraction and the cornerstone of the Historic Triangle, with Jamestown and Yorktown, joined by the Colonial Parkway. For more information and to plan your visit, see the official website of Colonial Williamsburg here.
Don't be the confused tourist like me. Know where you are when you go to historic Jamestown.
Jamestown, VA - Jamestown Settlement Museum
The first place you will see is Jamestown Settlement Museum. But you are not at the original Jamestown colony/fort yet. Jamestown Settlement museum is an immersive learning experience that includes film, gallery exhibits, and outdoor living history.
We chose to bypass the museum and head straight for the Jamestown Historic Site just beyond. On our way, we caught a glimpse of the Jamestown Historic Ship Museum.
From the visitors center at Jamestown National Historic Site, you'll take a nice leisurely stroll along a footbridge into the original site of the colony.
Historic Jamestown is the site of the first permanent English settlement in North America and represents the very foundations of whom and what we are as a nation. Although there were other European settlements in America before Jamestown, our language, customs, and laws come from our English ancestry. Jamestown is the beginning of America.
Captain John Smith established Jamestown as the first permanent English settlement for the Virginia Company, which funded the venture. Smith would play an important role in the exploration of Virginia and Chesapeake Bay. He was also pretty braggadocious, making it difficult to determine which parts of his life are fact, and which are, well...BS.
This is Matoaka, daughter of a powerful Powhatan Indian Chief, Wahunsunacawh. According to Captain John Smith, she virtually saved him after being captured and put through rituals by the tribe. She would have been 11 at the time. You know her as Pocahontas, her nickname adopted at a young age, which means Little-wanton. Pocahontas, who visited Jamestown several times to see her new friend John, would go on to become a pop culture "Indian Princess". Read more about her here.
Archeological studies from the early 1900s exposed foundations of the 17th Century churches that once stood here. A new church to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Jamestown was built in 1907 next took the church tower which had been standing since the 1600s.
There continue to be active digs around the original Jamestown settlement. In 2019 the Memorial Church reopened after being closed for two years for excavations within the building. During that time, archaeologists re-examined the foundations of the 17th-century churches that once stood on the site. Following completion of the digging, a new floor and wooden framing reflecting the footprint and structure of the 1617 church were installed. Additional exhibit components explain more about the original church and the significance of the First Assembly.
The Ambler Mansion ruins outside of the original fort walls are the only remains from the Amber family's 1750s plantation estate. The house was burned down in two wars, and after a third fire in 1895, it was abandoned.
There is a lot to see and learn here. Make sure you plan a full day to explore the museums and original site of the colony. For information and status see the National Park Service website here.
If Jamestown was the beginning of English Colonialism, Yorktown was the beginning of the end for the British. It had been six years since the beginning of the Revolutionary War with England when with help from the French, General George Washington outmaneuvered British General Clinton and trapped British General Lord Earl Cornwallis here at Yorktown. By the end of September 1781, approximately 17,600 American and French soldiers were gathered in Williamsburg, while 8,300 British soldiers were occupying Yorktown.
As the American Patriots moved in, Cornwallis realized it was over, and on October 17, he sent a drummer and officer with a white flag to request a cease-fire. On October 18, officers from both sides met at the Moore House, a mile outside of Yorktown to settle the terms of surrender.
Although over 25,000 British Troops remained in America, the defeat was a huge, celebrated victory for a new nation, and with England already stretched thin through other military struggles in India, Ireland, and other colonies, the British government passed a resolution that next March to discontinue the war with the United States. The final treaty was signed in September 1783.
It didn't take long for the Continental Congress to recognize the glorious victory in Yorktown, and on October 29, 1781, they passed a resolution for a monument.
"That the United States in Congress assembled, will cause to be erected at york, in Virginia, a marble column, adorned with emblems of the alliance between the United States and his Most Christian Majesty; and inscribed with a succinct narrative of the surrender of earl Cornwallis to his excellency General Washington, Commander in Chief of the combined forces of America and France; to his excellency the Count de Rochambeau, commanding the Auxilliary troops of his most Christian Majesty in America, and his excellency the Count de Grasse, commanding in chief the naval army of France in the Chesapeake."
However, in a typical political fashion, the monument wasn't started until 100 years later when the Order of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons laid the cornerstone on October 18, 1881.
There's a lot to see at the Yorktown Battlefield, part of the Colonial National Historic Park. Like the Dudley Digges home built around 1760. It was heavily damaged during the Battle but restored in 1960. Today it is used as an office for park employees. Digges's first wife Martha died giving birth to a child here. No wonder it's said she still haunts the house.
It was a beautiful October day for a stroll in Yorktown. The building on the left is the Sessions-Pope-Shield House built in 1691.
Yorktown also had involvement in the Civil War, as it was again the site of major siege operations during the Peninsula Campaign of 1862.
See more about Yorktown Battlefield via the National Park Service website here.
While making our adventure through Colonial National Historic Park, we stayed at the Colonial Pines Campground at Williamsburg Christian Retreat Center. This was a very nice RV Park and one we would recommend checking out. See their availability and information via their website here.
Cya on the Road,
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