…Continued from Part VI:
Yorktown Battlefield Colonial National Historic Park – The Siege on Yorktown was the last land battle of the American Revolution, and was pivotal in decreasing the support for the war in Great Britain. 18,900 French and American soldiers defeated the British, and would end up capturing 7,000 British soldiers, and over 240 of their cannons and other weapons. What you might remember most in this battle was the surrender from Cornwallis. The surrender took place on October 19, 1781 – but Cornwallis claimed to be ill, and sent his second in command to complete the surrender.
When you travel to Yorktown, be prepared to spend at least a half-day here. We enjoyed lunch at the Yorktown Marina area, and spent four hours driving through the battle site and visiting the museum. The museum has the actual tent George Washington used to set up his camp. The battlefield drive has 12 stops, which includes: French Battery, British Redoubts 9 & 10, the Moore House (which is were the surrender terms were discussed), the Surrender field, George Washington’s Headquarters, French Cemetery, and both American and French encampments area. When you get to each site, you can get out of the car and explore the area. The Moore House has limited seasonal hours – so do you homework before you go. There is a Victory Monument a short walk from the Visitor Center dedicated to the men who lost their lives. You can also explore the town of Yorktown, where the British occupied nearby houses. The entire area of Yorktown is small, cute and friendly.
Williamsburg – Williamsburg became Virginia’s capital in 1705 after Jamestown had burned down (again) and remained the capital until 1779 when it moved to Richmond. Williamsburg is also the home of the prestigious College of William and Mary. Virginia’s House of Burgesses was the first legislative assembly of elected representatives in North America, starting in 1619. During its course to 1776, the house included Peyton Randolph, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry. Williamsburg’s Governor’s Palace was home to the Royal Governors, and two post-colonial Governors Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, as well as hospital for the Continental Army during the Siege of Yorktown.
With all the historical significance, you can spend a few days in Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg is the “Disneyland” of historical sites. They offer tours throughout the city: Governor’s Palace, the Capitol building, and various shops. They offer shows, guided tours and lectures throughout the day and night. Most buildings are open from 9am-5pm. We enjoyed seeing the military reenactments throughout the day, as well as going into the Palace, Capitol and numerous workshops (watching them shape silver was awesome). You can download the Colonial Williamsburg App to view the shows they offer daily. They also offer various local Virginian beers for a fair price. If you stay at an official Colonial Williamsburg hotel, you can get a discounted ticket.
Jamestown Colonial National Historic Park – The Jamestown settlement was the first English settlement in North America in 1607. Those early years were a desperate time for the settlers. The “starving time” occurred in the winter of 1609-1610 when some settlers even resorted to cannibalism. Only 50 of 600 settlers survived this terrible period. If Jamestown didn’t become a profitable venture their funding would be cut off from the Virginia Company of London. Luckily, they found the golden leaf – Tobacco. Virginia became profitable, and a lucrative opportunity for those ready to make a fresh start. Jamestown is where the first House of Burgesses met, and where the fundamentals of democracy started. Jamestown had its share of issues: disease, starvation, conflict with the local tribes, and the town burning down (numerous times). The story of Jamestown also gave us legends: Captain John Smith, Pocahontas, and John Rolfe – all fascinating in their own right. After the statehouse burned down (again) in 1698, the capital was moved to Williamsburg, and Jamestown soon became a ghost town. By the 1750s the land that Jamestown was on became cultivated and used for farming.
Today, you can visit Historic Jamestown, but don’t expect a town. Instead, you will come across archaeology digs, monuments and museums. We enjoyed seeing this living history. In the archaearium, you will find thousands of artifacts displayed from Fort James: plates, cups, weapons and more. They also found Native American artifacts that was believed was traded into the fort. There are also remains of bodies. One of which is believed to be a 14 year old, and suspect she was eaten shortly after her death. We walked around and saw the Jamestown Monument, the statue honoring Captain John Smith, and the one for Pocahontas. We also did the five-mile island drive, to really get a feel for what Jamestown looked like before civilization. We were taken back at the beauty of beach, birds and nature, but couldn’t get over how humid and swampy it is. After our island drive we visited the glass shop, where still today they make glass as they did centuries ago, in the same area where they dug up the glass shop artifacts.
**To be continued…**