Local Williamsburg history doesn’t just stop with the historic district and Jamestown. Williamsburg is rich with the stories of the families, people, and lives that have inhabited it for the past 400 years. In this article our own Trish Thomas is cited with some very interesting information on a house that was put on the market in Williamsburg.
If you live in Williamsburg Virginia and want to learn about your homes potential history, or the surrounding history of your neighborhood, give us a call! We love to research tidbits of information about our local history.
Our daily tours are a perfect thing for your family to do during this time of closures and safety precautions. Our tours are outdoors, where you will be able to walk along the streets and historic sites of Williamsburg to learn about the history of our nation and it’s residents. We offer an activity that will get your body exercise, let you learn new things about the history and culture of our nation, all while still letting your family keep social distancing! Be sure to call in advance to reserve your spot!
The cotton plant is a perennial that naturally grows around the world between 47 degrees north and 37 degrees south latitude. Neolithic farmers domesticated cotton about 10,000 years ago and through archeological evidence we know the people of India began weaving cotton around 2,000 B.C. Soon cotton cultivation and processing spread to Egypt and down the east coast of Africa. By 1100 A.D. the people of West Africa were growing and weaving cotton cloth.
Engraving From 1867 Featuring The American Inventor Of The Cotton Gin, Eli Whitney. Whitney Lived From 1765 Until 1825.
In West Africa, by 1312, the Empire of Mali was being ruled by Mansa Musa; he is considered to be the richest man who ever lived. In 1324 Mansa Musa along with 60,000 people and 100 camels loaded with gold went on the Pilgrimage to Mecca (in Saudi Arabia.) A man named Ibn Fadl witnessed Mansa Musa’s arrival in Cairo, Egypt and he wrote, “Their cloth is white and made of cotton which they cultivate and weave in the most excellent fashion.” It was also said Mansa Musa wore cotton cloth woven with gold thread.
On the other side of the world cotton was also growing in Peru. Cotton has been cultivated in Peru for thousands of years; Francisco Pizarro found it being widely used in Peru in 1532. The Spanish noted this but paid little attention to it as gold was their primary interest.
In 1492 when Columbus landed in the West Indies, he saw that people wore cotton, and wrote 19 times in his journal about cotton. On November 6, 1492 he wrote (the ship’s crew) “saw a great quantity of cotton that had been spun and worked – in one house alone more than twelve thousand pounds of it.”
With cotton being cultivated all around the world since ancient times, someone had to find, make or invent a tool to separate the cotton from the seeds. Who was inventing such a tool? Everyone.
A Buddhist painting in the Ajunta Caves, Maharashtra, India shows the earliest evidence of a single roller cotton gin. The painting is from 500 A.D. The cotton gin in India was known as a Churka. Between the 12th and 14th centuries double-roller Churka gins appeared in India and China. In some areas these Churkas were foot powered or water powered.
This Cotton Gin illustration was published in 1881 “Popular history of the united states”
European Churkas were brought to the West Indies as cotton and tobacco were the cash crops of the Carribean Islands before sugar took over in the 1660s.
Most churkas or cotton gins were a roller style. In the 18th century many people in the American colonies were modifying the cotton gin; most of these modifications are still within the roller style of gins. What Eli Whitney did was to get rid of the rollers and replace them with metal rods. This was called a saw gin. Eli Whitney’s gin processed more cotton in a day than any previous gin, but it sacrificed quality for quantity. Whitney’s gin damaged the cotton fiber.
It can be seen that Eli Whitney did not invent the cotton gin. He was just one more person modifying an already existing machine.
On land that is now occupied by Cheatham Annex, about six miles from Colonial Williamsburg, there was once a thriving little village known as Penniman. This village was originally founded in 1916 by the Dupont Company to make dynamite, but World War I changed their plan and the sole industry in Penniman became the manufacture of TNT.
The wages being paid were so high that people from all over came to work at Penniman’s factories, yet local farmers found it hard to find laborers to work in the fields. The village had electricity, sewer, water and hard roads, all at a time when pigs roamed free on muddy Duke of Gloucester Street. The population grew to about 20,000 with 10,000 of them working in the plant.
Because so many men were in the military, women were the obvious choice for factory workers, encouraged to step out of their traditional roles and work at the plant to support “The Boys at the Front.”
Stuff one for the Kaiser! became a recruiting slogan, and the women came. Their job was to load powdered TNT into artillery shells. The TNT was as finely powdered as talcum, and it didn’t take long for it to poison the women. TNT poisoning turned their skin and nails dark yellow and turned their lips purple. The women were soon called “The Canary Girls.” The skin and nail discoloration weren’t the only effects; their bone marrow and their livers were damaged. The women suffered dizziness and nausea but the worst effect was that their immune systems were compromised.
The name Canary Girls was not a compliment or a term of endearment; these women were shunned by the people in the village and by the other workers. The Canary Girls were not allowed to sit with other people in the cafeteria; they were “socially distanced” from everyone else.
In spite of the poisoning the work went on, the village boomed, townspeople had to wait in long lines for a seat at one of the local restaurants, the bank, and the post office. Penniman was the most modern town in rural Virginia.
It all came to a halt in 1918 when the Spanish Flu came to the Peninsula — and to Penniman.
Because of the pandemic, public gatherings became illegal, schools were closed to children and reopened as hospitals, and public funerals were outlawed. People were told to wear a gauze mask whenever they went outside.
On October 13, 1918 a reporter at the Daily Press newspaper on the Peninsula wrote, “A Williamsburg undertaker had to requisition a truck to haul bodies from Penniman this morning… There is a scarcity of coffins here, the dealers having in hand only a small stock prior to the grip of epidemic.”
By October 18, 1918, around 6,000 Virginians had died of the Spanish Flu. On that day another reporter wrote that the undertakers in the Williamsburg area were being kept very busy, and that “baggage cars are always full of caskets.”
Locals later recalled seeing coffins stacked to the ceiling at the rail depot. So many died that the plant ran out of burial space, forcing the bu
rial of many at a local undertaker’s farm. There is no record of exactly how many died at Penniman; the only reference I have found was in a newspaper where a local reporter said the number he saw was “so large as to be unthinkable.”
World War l ended November 11, 1918, the TNT plant at Penninman closed and the majority of employees still living were packed on trains and sent to their respective home towns. The employees who remained immediately started to dismantle the town. Equipment was sold as salvage; houses were moved or torn down.
By 1920 the village of Penniman was gone, disappeared as quickly as it had appeared, a victim of war, manmade calamity and widespread fatal disease.
From her earliest memories of grade school, Trish Thomas has always loved history. “I was the strange child who read every biography,” she says. She grew up in Virginia Beach and embraced the history of the area. She followed her passion by majoring in history and cultural anthropology at Old Dominion University.
She met her husband, David, also a history buff, in a yoga class. While Trish worked at a variety of jobs including working for Barnes & Noble, she enjoyed working in museums and historic sites the most. As their children, Emily and Ben, grew up the family participated in Revolutionary War re-enactments as a hobby. Later, Ben also became a Civil War re-enactor. Once, Trish saw him standing asleep on a Civil War battlefield. “That was very authentic,” she says. “Conditions were so harsh that soldiers often slept standing up.” Ben, now 26, works as an electrician.
Emily played fiddles and the hammered dulcimer. She is now 28 and works as a costume designer, a skill she learned from Trish. “We took ballet from the same instructor. A Russian ballet costumer taught me how to make cosBy Susan Williamson tumes, and I shared with my daughter,” Trish says. “Emily makes mostly anime costumes.” For ten years, Trish worked at historic houses in Virginia Beach. An older woman at one of the houses encouraged her to learn to “dress” flax, the process by which one readies flax for the spinner, so that the art would continue. The steps involved are to ret it, break it, skutch it and hackle it.
“In the 18th century, a young girl would be expected to pull ten pounds of flax per day which would make enough linen for a man’s shirt. Linen was a poor man’s fabric; the rich wore wool and cotton. The flax is planted at the first of March. When the seed pods turn down, or after 100 days for really fine linen, the stalks are pulled. The retting process, which separates out the fiber, takes up to a week.”
Trish processes her flax in a horse trough and changes the water every 48 hours. The flax is then dried before breaking it, skutching it and finally combing it with a hackle. By the end of July, the hair-like fiber is ready for the spinning wheel. Trish has tried spinning linen in and says it requires moist fingers. Once spun, the linen yarn is ready for the loom.
In today’s world flax is either grown for seed or fiber, but usually not both, since the stalk is very woody by the time the seed is fully formed. Commercial flax is harvested by machine. Nebraska is one of the leading producers. The plant blooms briefly before forming seed pods and Trish speaks of the beauty of a flax field in bloom with its blue flowers.
Trish often demonstrated the dressing process at historic houses. An audience of older Romanian women at Polar Forest remembered dressing flax in their youth. As a result, Trish was interviewed for a Romanian magazine, although she has never seen the article. Trish worked at the Old Coast Guard Station in Virginia Beach, First Landing State Park and the Chrysler Museum and often gave presentations at small museums.
In 2011, Trish and David moved to Williamsburg and decided to start their own historic tour company, Williamsburg Walking Tours, which opened in 2012. Trish says, “I wanted to portray history accurately, and tell stories about the good and the bad.”
They currently offer three tours: Walkabout History, which covers 1699 through the restoration of Williamsburg; Civil War Tours; and African American History in Williamsburg, 1619 through Reconstruction. The Williamsburg Walkabout tour becomes Williamsburg Door-to-Door Christmas for the month of December. The one and a half hour tours are available 12 months a year. As Trish shares her stories, she admits that the tours sometimes go overtime. Her enthusiasm and wealth of knowledge bubbles out as she speaks.
Among Trish’s favorite clients are the students from the Virginia Department for the Blind and Visually Impaired School in Richmond. Local Lion’s Club member Jack Trotter, along with other local Lions come to assist this tour each year. “Many of the students are just learning to use their sticks and the terrain mix of grass, pavement and cobblestones can be overwhelming,” Trish says. Trish and David were honored to be invited to graduation ceremonies at the school.
Their company also takes PowerPoint presentations of their tours on the road and frequently present customized programs to family reunions of families with history connected to the area. “Often, elderly members are not able to walk very far, so we bring the tour to them,” Trish says. “We research connections to their family or to a particular state or location.”
Trish and David added the Civil War tour after she read the book, Defend This Old Town by Carol Kenttenburg Dobbs. “During the Civil War, Williamsburg was full of amazing single women. Their everyday stories are both funny and tragic.” Williamsburg was a closed city and considered a safe place, but food was scarce and many of the formerly prominent families became insolvent.
Trish says, “A visitor in 1870 noted that many houses had been torn down for kindling, firewood and bricks. Those who left their homes lost them. Union soldiers took what they wanted.”
Today, Trish notes, Colonial Williamsburg continues to evolve from its beginnings. “One of the things I like is that Colonial Williamsburg will change things as new historical records are unearthed.” She says some people like to take a tour before buying a ticket to Colonial Williamsburg, while others tour after visiting the historic buildings, summarizing the importance of what they have seen.
Trish says Williamsburg before Rockefeller was a pleasant 20th century town, as can be seen in the Harvard Archives film, shot in 1930. In 2014, a Colonial Williamsburg photographer videoed the same route. The two films can be seen side-by-side in the video, Williamsburg Then and Now which is available on YouTube. Local reaction to the restoration was mixed and Rockefeller was, after all, a Yankee. But as some local women were quoted, “Yes, but he’s our Yankee.”
By using stories such as this, Trish and David augment the mission of Colonial Williamsburg and the sharing of subsequent history. Trish is a lifelong learner and continues to research local history through letters, papers and journals, always looking for more stories. She is fascinated with the people of the area and stories of how they lived and she is equally interested in the people who join the tours. “My favorite part,” she says, “is that by the end of the tour, I have always learned something new.”
For Trish Thomas, lifelong learning about history is a passion. Today, she and David use their knowledge and enthusiasm to make history come alive for others.
Article written by Susan Williamson January 2020 edition of The Williamsburg Next Door Neighbor publication.
So much of African American history is unknown or forgotten. One place where this is prevalent is in American Revolutionary War history. The contributions of African American soldiers date back to the earliest days of this nation. One such historical figure emerges out of Lord Dunsmore’s Ethiopian regiment. That figure was an escaped slave from New Jersey named Titus. This man would join up with Lord Dunsmore. In time, he would come to be known as Colonel Tye.
Meet Colonel Tye: African American Revolutionary War Officer
Colonel Tye would go on to become a capable soldier of the Revolutionary War. Those on the battlefield would know him by his use of unconventional and aggressive tactics. By modern terms Tye used these guerrilla style strategies to wage war against the Colonial Patriots. Tye would command hundreds of soldiers on raids that freed slaves, captured supplies, and inflicted casualties against the rebellion by the thirteen colonies.
He Was Promoted To The Rank Of Captain Of The Ethiopian Regiment And Commander Of The Black Brigade
Colonel Tye used his knowledge of the American countryside and his commando style abilities to damage the progress of the Colonial Army against the British. This made him a formidable tactician for the loyalists. His actual rank was that of captain, and he served under Lord Dunmore. Tye also worked with the Queen’s Rangers, another guerilla style loyalist band, to keep military pressure on the Colonial Army.
Freeing Slaves During The Revolutionary War
Colonel Tye commandeered loyalists to free other slaves on the American continent. In addition to raids against Colonial positions and troops, Tye used his bravado and position as a military officer to help the enslaved who also were in a different type of fight for freedom. Regardless of the outcome of the war, Tye’s contributions helped free the disenfranchised, making him a true American hero.
Tye sustained an injury on an attack in 1780. He would contract lockjaw from the laceration. This eventually cost him his life.
The holiday season is a magical time of year, especially in Williamsburg. The entire season sparkles with glistening lights and ornate wreaths beginning in late November. When you visit Williamsburg, be sure to head to Colonial Williamsburg to take a tour of the historic homes decorated in the traditional colonial style.
Christmas in Williamsburg
At Williamsburg’s historic Colonial Williamsburg, the holiday traditions of the 17th and 18th century come to life. As you browse the historic area, take a look at the charming decorations that adorn the recreated homes and businesses. For a more in-depth look at Colonial Williamsburg’s holiday traditions, take the Christmas Past/Present Tour with Williamsburg Walking Tours.
Williamsburg Walking Tours’ Christmas Tour
Williamsburg Walking Tours is one of the area’s highest rated historical tours. Williamsburg Walking Tours offers several tours of Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area, including the Christmas Past/Present Tour.
From Thanksgiving weekend through New Year’s Eve, take Williamsburg Walking Tours’ Christmas Past/Present Tour. Trish, Williamsburg Walking Tours’ friendly and knowledgeable tour guide, takes visitors on a stroll along Colonial Williamsburg’s festively embellished streets.
Along the way, you’ll learn how Christmas was celebrated by Colonial Virginians, and how their traditions differ from ours, through well-researched and often little-told stories. You’ll also get an up-close look at the intricately decorated homes and businesses within Colonial Williamsburg.
More Information about the Christmas Past/Present Tour
The Christmas Past/Present Tour by Williamsburg Walking Tours lasts 90 minutes, departing from the Bruton Parish Church on Duke of Gloucester Street. Tours depart at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. every day of the week, from Thanksgiving weekend to New Year’s Eve, except on Christmas Day.
Advance ticket purchase is required for this tour. Tickets are $19 for adults, $16 for children 7–13 and children under 6 are free. Tickets can be purchased online.
African American Soldiers And The Revolutionary War In Virginia
In November 1775, Lord Dunmore, the last royal Governor of Virginia signed a proclamation stating that any able bodied slave of a rebel master could run to his Royal Ethiopian regiment to fight the Americans and gain their freedom. Dunmore did not free the enslaved workers belonging to Loyalist Masters and he did not free his own slaves.
300 Enslaved African Americans Join Dunmore’s Army
Within a week of Dunmore signing the proclamation, over 300 enslaved workers ran to Norfolk, Virginia to join his army. The Patriots were terrified knowing their runaway slaves would now have guns. The Virginia Gazette advised slaves to “cling to your kind masters.” But in the end, around 800 runaway slaves fought in Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment. Their uniforms were emblazoned with the words, “Liberty to Slaves.”
The Attack On Great Bridge In Chesapeake Virginia
On November 15, Lord Dunmore called in his British troops to Kemp’s Landing to defend a large store of gunpowder that had been recently moved there from Norfolk. Militia companies from Princess Anne County, Virginia (present-day Virginia Beach) assembled to fight the British. Virginia’s inexperienced Militia fired too soon. Lord Dunmore’s disciplined regulars returned fire and most of the Patriot Militia scattered. This clear victory for the British made Lord Dunmore overconfident. He decided to attack the Patriots at Great Bridge (in present-day Chesapeake, Virginia.)
Early in the morning on December 10, 1775, The Royal Ethiopian regiment marched across the bridge with the other British troops. The British troops were within fifty feet of the Patriots who were hiding. The Patriots revealed themselves and fired rapidly, decimating the ranks, and the attack quickly turned into a panicked retreat. The battle lasted less than an hour. By the time it was over 100 British soldiers were dead or wounded. Lord Dunmore retreated to Norfolk and boarded his ships.
Lord Dunmore and his troops stayed on these ships in and around Norfolk until May, when he eventually retreated to Gwynn’s Island near the mouth of the Rappahannock River in the Chesapeake Bay. Being on these ships in the cold and damp weather caused a great deal of sickness, including smallpox. Smallpox was widespread in Great Britain — nearly all the British troops in America had caught it as children and those that hadn’t were inoculated before they left England. The enslaved that ran to the Royal Ethiopian Regiment had no immunity to the disease. This meant that smallpox was quickly an epidemic among the runaways. The situation on Gwynn’s Island became worse when typhoid fever also broke out. Slaves continued to run to Lord Dunmore’s Regiment, but because the high mortality rate among the Runaway slaves was so high the Royal Ethiopian Regiment never had more that 150 effective men.
The Fate Of African American Soldiers In The Royal Ethiopian Regiment
By July the remains of Dunmore’s forces sailed north to New York. The Patriot forces then took over the island and the scene that greeted them was a grisly one. Bodies of the Royal Ethiopian soldiers littered the coastline, smallpox victims thrown from the British ships as they sailed away. On the island itself the scene was even worse. One eyewitness wrote, “The deplorable condition of the miserable wretches left behind is beyond description.” The island now belonged to the dead and dying. The sick soldiers were lying out in the open or in brush tents, many of those in the tents were burned alive as soldiers sought to control the smallpox. Lord Dunmore’s Royal Ethiopian Regiment was gone, only in existence for one year. However, not all of the Royal Ethiopian Regiment died on Gwynn’s Island — one of the survivors was Titus Cornelius or, as he was later known, Colonel Tye. His story will be told in the next blog.
The Peninsula Campaign And The Battle Of Williamsburg
The Civil War Battle Of Williamsburg..was a key part of the Peninsula Campaign. The civil war’s early days set the tone for the bloody struggle that would cause so much trauma to not one nation, but two. The Peninsula Campaign was the campaign that encompassed the Battle Of Williamsburg. The Union plan to flank Richmond from the East would be marked with logistical struggles and human tragedy.
In many ways the Peninsula Campaign was a continuation of Union woes. A hesitant Union commander named George McClellan was not aggressive enough to really challenge the tactical expertise of the Confederates and as such never really commandeered the battlefields of the lush woodlands of Eastern Virginia.
Like so many Union offensives, it represented a slow beleaguered advance toward an objective. A key point in that objective was the Battle of Williamsburg.
Union Strategic Goal Of The Peninsula Campaign: Get To Richmond
On paper the Union Army strategic goal seems very simple. Attack the east flank Of The Confederacy in the vicinity of the Confederate Capital. Use larger manpower to overpower the Confederacy and force them to defend a critical strategic position. From there use siege tactics to grind the Confederate capital and army into submission. Of course the devil is in the details.
It would take the prodding of the President Of The United States to get General McClellan Of the Union to even go on the offensive. McClellan’s natural tendency was to dig in and not aggressively pursue his enemy. Regardless the Peninsula Campaign would quickly fade into the backdrop as the Confederates pursued future strategic moves of their own.
Find Out The Truth
Williamsburg Walking Tours focuses on what actually happened at the Battle Of Williamsburg during the Peninsula Campaign. This is history as it actually was, not historical marketing that sugarcoats the truth.
Go To The Battlefield Or Bring The Battlefield To You
Learn About The Civil War Peninsula Campaign At Your School Or Business. We can bring the tour to you.
More On The Battle Of Williamsburg And The Peninsula Campaign
Here are more articles on the Battle Of Williamsburg:
Williamsburg Walking Tours Hosts Blind Students from DBVI
For the third year, Williamsburg Walking Tours hosted 30 students from the Virginia Department for the Blind and Visually Impaired for a special 1 ½-hr. tour. On Saturday, July 20, 2019, Co-Owner and Master Storyteller Trish
Thomas entertained the group with little-known facts about Williamsburg drawn from the company’s repertoire of stories from its tours which include:
Trish has spent a lifetime studying history, especially the history of Virginia, and is a master storyteller. She’s from Virginia Beach, and for years gave tours on the boardwalk about shipwrecks, pirates and the heroic Coast Guard lifesaving stations. She regularly appeared at the historic houses of Virginia Beach, and was a docent at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk.
Co-Owner Of Williamsburg Walking Tours
Co-owner of Williamsburg Walking Tours since 2011, she offers guided tours of Williamsburg’s history, the African American experience in Williamsburg, and the Civil War in Williamsburg.
Private Group Tours And On-Site Presentations
Trish is available for private group tours as well as on-site presentations at regional schools and church events, and at family reunions and conventions in the Williamsburg area.
To understand the occupation of Williamsburg put yourself in these shoes..
A year ago you lived as a free woman in peace. You went to the market, to church, and to your home without any thought of safety, food, or your future. Times were good. Food was plentiful and you are healthy. Now it is 1862.
A Foreign Army Is Occupying Williamsburg
This is the reality of your hometown of Williamsburg Virginia. It is occupied by troops you despise. They wear a different color than those of the soldiers you support. They are in every street, every public building, and every place you go. They are your sworn enemy. The town is filled with refugees from Hampton, victims of the conflict caused by this invading army. They hang a flag you do not pledge allegiance too. It is the flag of the army that has invaded your town. The flag of the enemy is the stars and stripes of the United States Of America. They are the invaders of the South, or so this how you see it.
Welcome To The Occupation Of Williamsburg
The difference between whether it was the occupation of Williamsburg or the protection of the United States is a matter of perspective. To the local population of Williamsburg, Virginia the overall allegiance was to a new government and an old way of life. Many would say the Town of Williamsburg, Virginia pledged their allegiance to the Confederate States Of America. Many in the Union occupying army would tell you that the town was a nest of traitors, sworn enemies of the United States of America.
The Confederate Army In Williamsburg
The Confederate Army held Williamsburg for a very short time. Regardless, the territory, and a large number of the people that were denizens there, were loyal to the Confederacy. The true impact of this becomes very clear when you see daily life for the average Williamsburg citizen who lived most of the war under Union occupation.
Many citizens had open hostility and aggression toward the occupying Union Army. Many sympathizers would find ways to signal the Confederates of Union positions and movements. At times this aggression would come into the open with raids on Union positions in Williamsburg. There was limited interaction between many citizens and the uniformed representatives of the occupying Northern Army.
Learn About These Perspectives On Our Civil War Tour
Williamsburg Walking Tours helps you discover the truth, one story at a time. Our Civil War Tour, known as Richmond Was A Hard Road To Travel illuminates history in its plainest and often most honest perspective. From stories of struggle, to insights on the battle itself, you will discover history in a new way.
Mark St. John Erickson. (2013, April 26). Rebel raids, Yankee occupation. Retrieved from https://www.dailypress.com/features/history/civilwar/dp-civil-war-williamsburg-20130114-story.html
The boundaries or battlefield area of the Battle of Williamsburg stretched from Jamestown to Yorktown. The apex of the battlefield would be Fort Magruder in Williamsburg. This would be the South’s position that they would have to hold in the Williamsburg Conflict.
How The Battle Of Williamsburg Boundaries Formed
The Battle of Williamsburg boundaries form as the Union, centered around Fort Monroe, threaten to move up the Virignia Peninsula. This would start in Hampton and move progressively West through the Peninsula towns of Newport News, Yorktown, and subsequently, Williamsburg.
From The Peninsula To Richmond..
With Richmond, the current confederate capital in 1862, only 51 miles away, the need to block this advance was critical. Thus, the Battle of Williamsburg would be a key conflict point between the two armies.
Battle of Williamsburg: Key Point In The Peninsula Campaign
The Peninsula Campaign is the bigger picture in this Williamsburg Civil War clash. The Battle of Williamsburg marks a key clash in the Union’s advance towards Richmond. The Union goal was to come up the Eastern Peninsula to get to the Confederate Capital in Richmond. The Confederates slowed this advance by clashing in Wiliamsburg. The Union pursued them but was unable to foil their tactical retreat back up the Peninsula. Other battles would ensue but ultimately the Union would come up short in their quest of a Richmond conquest and Confederate defeat in 1862.
Looking for more information on the Battle of Williamsburg?
Check out our tour, Richmond Was A Hard Road To Travel for an in depth, on site look at this often forgotten key to the Peninsula Campaign. Also check out this article on the Battle of Williamsburg for a quick strategic overview of the strategic impact of this Virginia Civil War conflict.
Williamsburg Walking Tours Is Offering A New Civil War Tour. The Name of the tour is Richmond Is A Hard Road To Travel.
The Civil War Comes To Williamsburg
It is based upon a song written during the war The song is…”Richmond is a Hard Road to Travel.” There are many versions each slightly different but one famous rendition is the from the 97th Regimental Strings. The 97Th Regimental String Band sings songs of the Civil War Era, which can often show a different perspective of what the actual solider really felt about the events occurring around them.
You can see the song and hear the lyrics at this Youtube clip
Tour The Civil War In Williamsburg
Come explore The Battle Of Williamsburg Tour. Come explore new insights in a tour where you see events that lead to a greater escalation of the war.
Around midnight on August 7,1861 General Magruder and 500 Confederate soldiers entered the city of Hampton and set fire to the buildings. It was estimated that Hampton had around 500 buildings, by sunrise on August 8 only seven or eight remained standing. The reason for this was so the Union troops would have no place to live.
The Civil War Peninsula Campaign: New Tactics In A Long War
In March 1862, seeking to avoid an overland route to Richmond,( the Battle of Manasses did not work out well) the Union Army transported 130,000 troops,15,000 horses, 1,100 wagons and 44 artillery batteries down the Chesapeake Bay to Fort Monroe.
The goal of the Union army was to take Richmond by going up the Peninsula. After Hampton was burned the only city close to Richmond (from the south) was Williamsburg. Refugees from Hampton fled to Williamsburg.
After the Battle of Williamsburg, May 5,1862, Williamsburg became a Union occupied town until the end of the war.
Tour Williamsburg’s Civil War History From A Human Perspective
The Civil war was known as brother versus brother. But it was also schoolmate versus schoolmate, friend versus friend, and solider versus officer. The soldiers, including enlisted and officer alike had served in ONE United States Army. They had fought together in Mexico and served all over the United States as colleagues and friends. Now they were pitted against one another in a civil war death struggle. As time passed generations forget how human this war really was. And among those many stories you may not know..George Armstrong Custer.
Learn About Lieutenant Armstrong Custer And The Battle Of Williamsburg
In researching the history one story can change the way you see those men and women, who in old photographs appear as statuesque soldiers stoically posed for the camera. Among them Lt. Armstrong Custer (Union) found a confederate friend on the battlefield and made sure he was taken to a private house to recover. This friend ended up marrying the daughter of the house and Lt. Custer was invited and attended the wedding.
And It All Culminates At The Battle Of Williamsburg
The Battle Of Williamsburg is often overlooked due to the tidal size carnage that followed in battles like Antietam and Gettysburg. These battles certainly lived up to their reputation but the Williamsburg tour has significance as well. Some of the things to consider are:
Turning Point For Civil War Strategy?
The battle marks some key changes in the civil war. The Union changes it’s strategy from a Northern assault to Richmond after the disasters at Bull Run. The Union Army shows their resolve by using their strengths in logistics and maneuvere by traversing the wet,muddy marshy flatlands of the Virginia Eastern Peninsula. The Confederate strategy changes as well. The South realizes that unchecked, the Union army will eventually power there way to Richmond. A strategy of all out assaults on the North would follow in years to come at places like Antietam and Gettysburg. And the groundwork for this can be traced back to events transpiring out of the Battle Of Willamsburg.
The Confederates Are Forced To Respond
Only hours from Richmond, Williamsburg Virginia is a strategic vantage point to assault Richmond. A Union intrusion to this flank position forces the Confederates to bolster their Eastern Defense. It also draws the Confederates to battle…forcing them to use energy to conform to Union plans. But what happens next?
Learn What Happens.. Experiencing It For Yourself
Join us for a Civil War Tour In Williamsburg and experience parts of America’s Second Revolution in the same place as it’s first!
There is no end to the fascination with pirates. The idea of men without country, charter, law or government fascinate the American public and the world. No such historical character embodies the visceral and romantic qualities of the pirate captain like Blackbeard.
Just the mention of that name evokes a response among the emotionally less shock able denizens of the 21st century. In today’s morally open, heavily armed, entertainment driven culture, you would think naval outlaws are not that shocking or interesting. Movies and televisions however, and the public’s consumption of such tales and historical accounts, say otherwise.
Blackbeard aka Edward Teach
Blackbeard is like the stage name of one of history’s most infamous pirates, Edward Teach. The name itself is almost like a media brand or a Hollywood persona, combining his stature and mannerism with a dubious reputation for tyrannical psychology and violence. But this was not Hollywood, but cold well calculated military psychology.
November will mark the 300th anniversary of Teach’s life. Unlike so many people, his life could have been a movie plot. Here are some things which just scream Hollywood action movie that are actually true..
Complete with costuming and stage presence
He was an imposing figure with big hat and manicured beard. He would become famous for his captain like regalia. It was this image that led to his reputation and legend, no doubt inspired by his Royal military heritage.
A Great Back Story And A Good Side
A great drama or action movie has a believable backstory. Blackbeard’s starts as a privateer in the Royal navy, serving in the conflicts of what would be the dominant empire of the day. But we all know that a great military is built with indomitable men. Men who can command and conquer their enemies, by land and of course by sea. It was this backdrop that helped groom young Teach to be a great solider and commander, the backdrop of any great pirate commander.
Like all great villains, fictional or real, this brush with legitimacy gives him depth. He is not pure evil or hapless pragmatist. At one point he even tries to live the honest life after a pardon from a territorial governor, but this quickly goes array.
Even political dealings evoked a certain drama
Like any great action drama the pardon quickly fades into the human paradigm of hypocrisy as the corrupt North Carolina governor accepts a bounty from Blackbeard’s continuing adventures into piracy at the high seas. His one chance to live the honest life is gone and now the very system that is supposed to protect us from criminals, is enabling one. And I think this allows us to build some empathy with a man like Blackbeard. He has tried to go straight but the corrupt world system draws him back in.
Dark psychology on enemies and envoys
But all great villains have a dark side. This makes history sway us that this was not a hero but anti-hero. He was brutal to anyone who did not surrender once attacked and was noted to be ferocious in battle, even to the end. But he would spare those who did not fight against him. This application of mercy makes it hard for us to completely write off this man as a byproduct of what is wrong with human nature.
Complicated personal life and drama
We cannot simply dismiss this man as just another miscreant. His story is too serendipitous. His journey to exciting. His moral compass more wildly sporadic than can be neatly judged in the confines of 17th century justice. In a place where things like slavery and Governors cavorting with pirates is acceptable, we have trouble not liking him a little.
Happy 300th Blackbeard
Now on his birthday we salute this larger than live anti hero, delivering a life that carved out as much from imagination as it did from historical truth.
September 11 is day of infamy. No American citizen could ever forget this day. In fact, most Americans could tell you exactly where they were. That is the impact of a national trauma and a day in which thousands of Americans would lose their lives when the Trade Towers and Pentagon were attacked.
On September 11, 2001 our enemies dealt us a shocking and painful blow. But two strategic things did not happen. They did not achieve all their goals, as Americans rose up to fight the flight destined for the White House or the Capital. The other was that in spite of a huge breech into the American mainland, the attack did not break our spirit or our resolve to fight this kind of tyranny, regardless of whatever form it takes.
Not The First American Attack On September 11
But this was not the first day where American was crushed on September 11. In fact, it is also the day of a rout of American Colonial forces by the British at the Battle of Brandywine. Many people do not realize what happened and what could have happened on this tenuous September day. To put it in perspective, I will set the stage.
In 1778 the British are driving toward Philadelphia to occupy the city. All that stands between them is a poorly equipped army of farmers, frontiersmen, and tradesmen led by an aggressive general named George Washington. They are all volunteers against a seasoned and well trained British force anchored by General Howe and General Cornwallis. Oh and they outnumber the Colonials 18,000 troops to 11,000.
Positioned against Chads Creek, General Washington plans to engage Howe head on at the creek. Little does he know that a trap is being set. One that will encircle his army, destroy it, and end the American Revolution, leaving the British as victors.
All through the morning General Cornwallis leads a detachment of soldiers around Washington’s right flank. To make matters worse part of Washington’s army begins to cross the creek, oblivious to the British slowly suffocating their movement.
Defeat But Not Destruction
But the Americans get wind of the flanking maneuver. They are forced to retreat. They give ground to the British and lose Philadelphia. It is an embarrassment as we almost lose an entire army. But it wasn’t.
American Resolve Did Not Waiver
In spite of the setback and the loss or capture of over thousand American soldiers, we are able to regroup. Our will to fight is not broken and we continue engaging the British for years to come. The sting of embarrassment does not diminish our spirits. In fact, if anything it strengthens our resolve
Back to the events of September 11, 2001
The times changed. The tactics changed. The amount of human loss was unimaginable. But our resolve to fight tyrants, in any form, has not changed. We came together to fight after the attack and have prevented a major attack on US soil ever since.
Our character at Brandywine was shaped by tragedy. But we begin to develop a determination that would be part of who we are as a nation until the present day. Regardless of what a day like September 11 has or could bring, we are a strong nation that will never stop fighting to stay free against those who want to conquer or destroy us.
If you have ever thought Hollywood is searching for scripts when you see tired run of the mill cookie cutter action movies, I can tell you one place they should be looking. The place..the relatively unexplored annals of Black History or African American history.
Bass Reeves is a movie that is begging to be made into major motion picture and I have read of famous actors who have made this a goal. Yes, it was a lower budget production but I just want to see an Academy Award winning actor bring this person to life
The movie being made into a larger budget production is probably inevitable but I do have a few concerns. With most stories Hollywood has to exaggerate to make it more exciting. If you read the historical account of Bass Reeves amazing life, you might realize Hollywood couldn’t include it all. And if they did, who would believe it.
Believe it..here are a few amazing facts that could show a Hollywood script writer a few things or two..by just telling the historical account.
He was a slave turned One Of The First Deputy Marshalls in history
He had over 3,000 arrests
He spoke multiple Native American Languages
He fled captivity after beating up his slave master during a card game
He was an excellent marksman
He was a big man over 6 feet tall
It is said he was calm, cool, and collected
He was an excellent detective
If you want a detailed account of Reeves check out this clip.
Some historical clips
In depth look at Bass Reeves
A little dry but loaded with information
5 Facts About Bass Reeves
Some more interesting tidbits about this life
Learn Real African American History…Starting In Williamsburg
Real African American History Is Everywhere. Williamsburg, Virginia, and our African American History Tour, is a great diving off point to learn truth. Start your journey here with us
Williamsburg is a crossroad point of America. It is a physical location that encompasses a historic journey of freedom that memorialized a young Colonial nation breaking away from their dominating origin country. This theme is played out throughout the entire United States, encompassing battlefields, museums, books, personal accounts, and the struggle of many people, especially the African American population.
Understanding American history or African American history will take you on many twists and turns down roads that were forgotten, overlooked, or even just more significant than you may have realized. June is the historical month that the 54th Massachusetts African American Infantry was commissioned and created to fight in the Civil War.
The story was brought into the public forefront more than a century after the war with the movie Glory. It is a great story of the struggle of individuals on a bigger stage against the backdrop of a divided racist nation, battling over the moral and political direction of thousands.
One thing black history in Williamsburg, or the United States can attest to is:
Freedom is not free
There is always a fight. The 54th Massachusetts African American Infantry embodied this both historically and symbolically. As the regiment was populated by many freed slaves as well as led by those whose views were heavily abolitionist, the fight for freedom was an active struggle both
On the battlefields of the Civil War and in the society that would have to accept the African American population as legal citizens and contributors to the society
Taking up the call to fight in a war for your country is one of the purest and most visceral responsibilities of citizenship. The 54th answered the call as harbingers of a people who would become new citizens of a hostile nation. The battlefield for African American citizenship would end victoriously in 1865. The battle for total acceptance into American society had just started…
African American History is a definitely one where you have to approach it is a detective. And not just do you have to investigate untruths but also what I call convenient historical absences. By absences I mean things that just seemed to get forgotten by the history books. African American History suffers heavily from significant contributions that mysteriously do not get publicized in the rich pageant known as American history. I guess that is why a historians work is really never done.
April..Jackie Robinson Breaks The Race Barrier In Sports
Nevertheless sometimes history gets it right with respect to black history in Williamsburg and America. Once such place where the overall public perception is very good would be the Jackie Robinson story. Why I am pulling this story out of the hundreds, if not thousands of potential stories that feature African American historical people and stories. Well, the answer is simple..It is April and this is the month Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.
A Rich Historical Account
That alone is a pretty well known fact. Our National pastime, baseball, and America, would be forever changed by this humble historical figure. Ok, that is totally true. He would become one of the best players ever. That is documented. But his life was so much richer, in achievement and historical significance than really gets relayed in a sound bite or two. But for history sake let us go into some quick detail that really builds the dimension of this black historical sports icon.
So I pulled some facts I didn’t know that I wanted to mention here that may not be as well known. Here we go:
Jackie Robinson was an Officer in the US Army During World War 2. Something of huge notoriety in itself
He was not allowed to serve in combat because he refused to sit in a segregated section of a bus in America
He was rookie of the year his first year of Major League Baseball
His number is retired from ALL of baseball..Not Just a Team. This is a huge honor
He received the Presidential Medal Of Freedom, the highest award an American can receive out of the military
He was a huge figure in fighting for civil rights, even after his retirement from baseball
He struggled with diabetes
He was the first African American Vice President of an American Corporation..Chock Full Of Nuts
Every MLB must wear number 42 on Jackie Robinson day, which honors him
He was the first African American TV Sports Analyst On Television For ABC
And there is a lot more..
I could probably go on for about ten more pages, but I think I have done this article justice. Jackie Robinson strove for excellence and justice in just about everything he did. What an incredible American.
The Williamsburg Walking Tour African American Tour
Our African American Tour Of Williamsburg looks at Black history through the interpretation of historical data. By data a true complete history of what actually happened and not historical marketing. Cutting, pasting, and omitting history to create a new history is not tolerable. Our tour is open and honest about the true African American experience in Williamsburg, Colonial America, and beyond.
42 FACTS ABOUT JACKIE ROBINSON
In-text: (Mentalfloss.com, 2018)
Your Bibliography: Mentalfloss.com. (2018). 42 Facts About Jackie Robinson. [online] Available at: http://mentalfloss.com/article/50059/42-facts-about-jackie-robinson [Accessed 23 Mar. 2018].
African American or Black History is a critical, and often inconvenient, expose of true unbiased American history. A history that does not paint America or Colonial Williamsburg as a bastion of freedom, but as a hypocritical battle zone of ideals falling way short of historical data.
Mistruths, historical spins, and suspicious omissions concerning Williamsburg Black or African American history make it critical to peruse through multiple sources, accounts, and critical thinking from multiple viewpoints. Luckily these resources exist for an accurate depiction of African American History, its role in Williamsburg Virginia and the United States.
Too Big A Task For One Article…Or Even Ten Historical Articles
History is a funny thing, I have often hear that history is written by the victors. By victors, those that got away with murder, lies, deceit, and a host of other things which make them more criminal then historian. Unfortunately they can omit that viewpoint. If you came out on top in history why would you want to sully that with something as inconvenient as the truth. But that is not history…that is marketing or historical marketing.
Here are some good starting points I found that give an unconventional viewpoint of African American history in the Pre-Revolutionary period concerning the plight of African Americans in this country. Here are some really notable finds from History.org. This particular history sight can give you links to some significant viewpoints and historical information to develop an understanding of African American historical data.
Finding Shocking Facts In Unexpected African American History
One section I would key in on is the section on finding slaves in unexpected places. A quick click of this link will quickly give you a new inconvenient perspective on how prevalent slavery was in the entire Colonies including the Northern States, which have often been historically recognized as bastions of freedom. Historical record shows that there were thousands of enslaved African Americans in towns like Boston and Philadelphia. Even more shocking is you find out that Benjamin Franklin was a slave owner. And apparently historical accounts showed that many slave owners had moral reservations about it. I guess truth is stranger than fiction.
Take Up Your Rifle And Fight.. Freedom Optional
Another article link that was well worth the click was that talking about African Americans who fought in the Revolutionary War. Even with a proclamation allowing the enslaved Africans to win freedom by fighting for the Colonial cause, this really wasn’t the case. Many fought for both sides, as slaves, and stayed that way at the end of the war. In 18th Century America, the British believed in the institution of slavery just as their Colonial brethren.
I guess freedom is very selective, even for those who die on the battlefield, winning it for others.
Wiliamsburg African American History Tour
Our most popular tour by far. This is, in many ways, for the reasons we have talked here. In a world where historical re-enactments seem so convincing, how do you know you are getting the whole story. Unfortunately you don’t. Let us be that contrasting viewpoint to a very convincing display of Colonial American history. Make sure that the people, accounts, and period costumes making that seem so convincing, are accurate.
Williamsburg History Tour
We also offer a walk about history tour of Williamsburg Virginia. This is a fantastic journey into the history of this Colonial microcosm of 17th century life around the political birth of our nation.